Spišský hrad (Spiš Castle)

    The name "Spiš" was derived from the name of the local castle ("Spiš Castle") that dominates in this region. It was built already in the 12. century. It stays on ruins of a former Celtic (later Slavic) hill-fort that had existed here already a long time before. Its surprisingly large area and a monumental architecture makes it the second largest castle in the Central Europe and one of the largest castles in Europe. It was a seat of the most important feudal lords of the Spiš region. It was inhabited till the end of the 17-th century. The Csáky family (the owners) moved later to more modern manor houses in the villages Bijacovce, Hodkovce etc.
    At the hill, opposite to the castle, there is situated a small village Spišská Kapitula. It is characteristic by its cathedral and two Roman towers. Since 1776 it has been a seat of the Spiš bishop see. Among all the cultural monuments the following ones are the most interesting: a Roman statue of a "white lion", altar in the Zápoľský chapel, wonderful renaissance epitaphs of Imrich and Štefan Zápoľský. The beauty and importance of Kapitula and its link with the Slovak nation was expressed in paintings of a famous Slovak painter, Martin Benka.
    Spišské Podhradie was a live industrial town. Already in the 17-th century you could find there a hospital and a monastery of Merciful Brothers. Only few paintings and a gothic baptistery remained from its originally quite a rich interior. About 600 Jews lived in the town. A synagogue still stays in the centre. Right below the Spiš Castle in the villages Hodkovce and Bijakovce, there are other manor houses of the Csáky family and a gothic church with a Roman rotunda as well.
    An old village, Žehra, is situated below the castle, too. Its church is known by high quality wall paintings from the Middle-Ages. The whole area is surrounded by the Branisko mountain, numerous beautiful natural formations and travertine areas at the neighbouring Dreveník and Sivá Brada (Grey Beard).


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