Časopis ARS 52 (2019) 1

Bibiana Pomfyová

Stredoveká architektúra klarisiek na Slovensku


In the Middle Ages, Clarissine monasteries only existed in two places of what is the present-day Slovakia – in Bratislava and Trnava. The older of the two Clarissine monasteries was built in Trnava. Constructed in the very first years of the Order’s complicated existence – when St. Clare was still alive – the monastery in Trnava was established before 20th May 1239, which is the date of the earliest written evidence of its existence. At that time, Pope Gregory IX took the already established convent under his protection. The founder of the monastery is unknown. Some historians believe the Czech Queen Constance, who owned Trnava for some time, to be its founder. Other explorers believe that the monastery was founded by the Hungarian King Belo IV. The nuns in Trnava were given various different names in the sources dating back to the 13th century: members of the Order of Poor Ladies of San Damiano (1239, 1251, 1255), or the sisters of the St. Francis Order (1240, 1247, 1256, 1271). Written sources indicate different patrons for their monastery:St. Elizabeth (1251, 1255, 1275, 1297) and the Virgin Mary (for the first time probably in 1292). This inconsistency in the written records led the historian J. Roháč to the conclusion that there used to be two convents in Trnava in the 13th century: one of them being the Poor Ladies of San Damiano, devoted to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and the other being the Convent of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The presented study rejects this view and explains that the different names attributed to the convent in the sources from the 13th century result from the complex formation of the Order of St. Clare, initially called the Order of Poor Ladies of San Damiano. The change of patron might have been the result of the construction of the new monastery church, with the older patron, St. Elisabeth and the new patron, the Virgin Mary, coexisting for a time. The initial location of the monastery is uncertain. No later than the mid-13th century, when the nuns’ enclosure was explicitly documented, the Poor Ladies of San Damiano/Poor Clares in Trnava were probably settled on the South-East edge of the town near to the town walls and one of the town gates (the town was fortified in the course of 13th century), i.e. where the many times reconstructed area of the former Clarissine monastery has stood ever since (the present-day Museum of Western Slovakia). Initially the existing monastery church was built of brick, it had a longitudinal nave and narrow rectangular presbytery with a single bay rib groin vault. Several churches of mendicant orders in Medieval Hungary built before and around the mid-13th century were constructed in a similar fashion. Similar parallels may also be found outside the territory of Hungary, mainly in the architecture of women’s monasteries. However, similar building methods may also be seen in numerous village churches built in the 13th (especially the second half) and the 14th century (e.g. the Parish Church of St. Elisabeth in Kaplna after 1244). The oldest version of the Clarissine church in Trnava found so far has been dated mainly through the alleged first occurrence of the patronage of the Virgin Mary in 1255, which is not correct. The first occurrence of the patronage of the Virgin Mary was provided by the terminus ante quem no earlier than 1292. More reliable information that supports the date of this stage of construction has yet to be found. The oldest identified convent building was built at approximately the same time as the church. It stood to the south of the church and its longitudinal axis was oriented towards its Western part, where it is plausible that the liturgical choir of nuns may have been situated. The convent building was shaped like a square prism with at least two floors (as had the church) and was constructed using un-plastered brick. Some time after the first stage of construction (that has been discovered so far), a rood screen was built in the Eastern part of the church nave, in front of the triumphal arch (today there are only marks left from the rood screen on the side walls). In the first half of the 14th century (possibly before 1335) the church burnt down, which may have been the reason for the progressive and vast reconstruction of the convent building as well as the church. The original Western section of the convent building was rebuilt with two more wings – probably in two stages of construction – the Southern (which was certainly comprised of two floors) and the Eastern. This formed the typical closed monastery construction with a central viridarium and cloister. The reconstruction of the church, dated from the turn of 14th and 15th century, in particular introduced a prolonged presbytery with a polygonal finish and new vaulting to the presbytery. The church nave was left un-vaulted. The Clarissine monastery in Bratislava also has a less well-known more ancient history. It is wellknown that there was a women’s religious order before 1235, incorporated in that year into the Order of Cistercians on the request of the Pope. Certain historians assume that the presence of the Poor Clares in Bratislava is proven by documents from 1238 and 1244; however, these refer to the Cistercian nuns. The last mention of the Cistercians in Bratislava dates back to 1290. In 1297, their monastery had already been abandoned and the property of the former Cistercian monastery was allocated to the Poor Clares. Testimony to the arrival of the Poor Clares to Bratislava in 1297 can be found in two documents. It is often assumed that not only did the Poor Clares receive the property formerly held by the Cistercians, but also that they settled in the former Cistercian monastery. However, this is not so certain. It is equally possible that the Clarissine monastery was built on top of a former town manor house. Of all the medieval monastery buildings of the Poor Clares in Bratislava, today only the church is still standing. It is disposed of a longitudinal nave and an equally broad and polygonal presbytery. This building was constructed in a single stage of construction. From the beginning it was intended that both the nave and church would be vaulted, even though certain corrections were made over the course of the construction process (e.g. instead of a high barrel vault, a lower rib groin vault was eventually constructed). Questions arise when observing the Eastern vault bay of the nave, whose realisation (the width of the vault bay, size of the Southern window, the remaining verges of the vaults) corresponds more to the forms of the presbytery than to the remaining bays of the nave. There are three hypotheses that attempt to account for this phenomenon: 1. The Eastern vault bay of the nave was supposed to be an integral part of the presbytery and only as a result of construction changes (the shift of the triumphal arch) did it become a part of the nave; 2. A rood screen stood in the Eastern vault bay; 3. A long matroneum (for the liturgical nun’s choir) stood in the nave; this affected the shape of the windows and vaulting in the remaining vault bays of the nave. The church’s construction may be dated to a point between the first half and the middle of the 14th century. According to recent analyses, its most recent part – the richly decorated tower – was created around the mid-14th century and its sculpted decorations share the style of the sculpted decorations of the so-called Albertine choir of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna.