Liptov and Slovakia's wooden treasure

06-09-2003

The Liptov region is a cradle of Slovak national identity. Dancing, bryndza cheese and fujara, a long wooden pipe-like musical instrument, are what Slovaks in Liptov will offer visitors. But many travellers are now discovering another attraction of the region - the Saint Cross wooden church. Martina Grenova dropped in for a look....

The Saint Cross Church was built for Lutheran believers in the 17th century. At that time the king allowed Protestants to build churches on the outskirts of bigger towns. However, they were not allowed to build their churches out of stone and iron, so they built them from wood.

Today there are only four other churches like Saint Cross left standing in Slovakia. But it is still the biggest wooden Lutheran church in central Europe: The cross-shaped place of worship is 43 metres long and is filled with impressive stain glass windows.

"It is said that in those days about 6,000 people could be squeezed in here. They used to be smaller and thinner, so there could be some truth in that. I don't think they would have been squeezed in if they had been the same size as me though."

Olga Palkova is one of the retired ladies looking after the tourists who come to admire the beauty of this monument. I met another one of them from Bratislava, the Slovak capital, climbing the old staircase.

The building is really beautiful, but for you it must be a little problem to walk around here because you are too tall and the ceilings are too low.

Tourist: "No, it's not a problem. I'm used to this from everyday life... I really enjoy this building and its architecture. The best thing is that it is made of wood so it just fits in the nature and the surrounding area, in the forest. It's simply a part of it."

Every year about 2,000 believers come to celebrate religious holidays in this church. They come despite the fact there is not and never will be any heating installed in this unique building. It is a popular place for newly weds as well. Not only Slovak, but also foreign couples come here to declare "I do". Some traditions, however, have to be brushed aside to allow for the wishes of oriental couples. So, for example, a bride from Hong Kong's request for no wild roses to be included in the decoration still makes the conservative ladies on the door smile.

Olga Palkova: "We are here at the tourists' beck and call. Every day two pensioners come here so that the tourists do not come in vain to a closed building. "

To come here and not get inside would be shame. The church is impressive both from the outside and the inside. Bursting with light, the vast wooden space turns into a heavenly seat of God.

06-09-2003