Kláštorisko dnes

Kláštorisko nowadays

The mountain landscape of the Spiš-Gemer mountain range, also referred to as Slovak Paradise for its considerable riches in both surface and underground forms, has been declared a national park. The „Kláštorisko” plateau is located in its central part at an altitude between 750 and 800 m above sea level offering a breathtaking view over the entire Spiš basin. Such a strategic position soon a$racted aboriginal natives of the Spiš area, who fortified two of the relatively more easily accessible sides to protect an area of about 480 m x 200 – 300 m. Recent research has established continuous setlement from as far back as the Hallsta$ period (around 500 B.C.) at this fortification-like site, presumably intended to provide refuge. Continuous setlement has also been established in the northern limits of the Slovak Paradise.

Sometime throughout the 12th century, a new fortification – encircled by two front walls – was built on the site of an older one. This fortification protected the more accessible western part of the rocky massif. A freely standing guarding wooden tower was discovered on the opposite northeastern side, containing abundant clay artifacts dating back to the 12th and 13th century (3,6 m x 4,6 m). Pursuant to wri$en sources, this locality was called „Guarding Hill” (Mons Speculationis) and later „Rock of Refuge” (Lapis Refugii).

Listina priora Andreja z roku 1520

A document of prior Andrej from year 1520

Around the mid13th century the Spiš (Scepusian) Saxons started to build a new 1000 meter long and 1,5 – 1,7 meter thick lime-mortar wall to fortify the hill. This large fortress, circling an area of 90 ha, provided protection during the destructive incursions of the Mongolians (Tatars). That is why the hill received its Latin name „Lapis Refugii” (The Rock of Refuge). A church, which eventually became the first religious centre of the Carthusians, was built next to the bulwark. As the foundation document dated back in 1299 indicate, the Spiš Saxons gave this place to the Carthusians to build a monastery „in order to commemorate the fact that the area has been spared from the Tatars”. The first Carthusian monks, Rector Andrej and his companions – who had come from Seitz (present-day Žiče in Slovenia) – supervised the construction works between 1305 and 1307. The site was explicitly selected for the Carthusians because it resembled the Grand Charterhouse near Grenoble in the Alps, where St. Bruno had founded the Order in 1084.

Model kláštora

Model of the monastery

The complex of the monastery lies in receding reforest ground spreading over an area of approximately 1 ha. It was protected by a one-meter thick wall with two entrances: a northern 2,5 m wide one intended for carriages, and a southern one open even to laymen. It was flanked by a three-room hospice, a church and other premises. The upper part, known as central monastery, copies the typical Benedictine scheme consisting of a cross-shaped ambit connected to a sanctuary. Next to it were the rectory, the refectory and a series of buildings accommodating the converts. The only exceptions in the strict simplicity imposed by the Order rules concerned the church and the monastic library. The plan of the church itself shows a rectangular hall of 30 x 6,5 m ending in a polygonal presbytery in which archeological excavations have uncovered the foundations of an altar. The church nave, divided by a partition wall, can be accessed through a door from the ambit. On the southern side of the presbytery was the sacristy. In its corner there was a winding stone staircase that led to a room on the first floor, which served as archive. The church had a net vault and a choir lo% in its western part. The floor was paved with square quarry tiles. Archaeological research has produced a large amount of remarkable architectural artifacts of stone, many of which endured at their original place, such as girders or window and door coatings. The architecture of the lower monastery, formed by a vast court (40 x 40 m) framed by an impressive ambit, was fully conceived to serve the Carthusians’ life style and fundamental principles. Nine individual cells of Carthusian fathers adjoin the corridor. These cells have an almost perfect square shape (10 x 10 m) separated from each other by a garden. The remains of two artificial ponds, an indispensable element of every Carthusian monastery, can be found in its proximity. No castle sheds have been found so far, but findings of horseshoes and blacksmith tools prove that the monastery had its own forge as well as stables for draught-horses. The monastery saw its brightest and most prosperous days at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries a%er becoming a self-sufficient and functioning outfit. The 15th century, however, brought about fire and destruction; first from the hands of the Hussites, later from those of the Bohemian Brothers who had settled in the nearby castle of Marcel at „Zelená hura”. With the consent of the General Chapter, the community moved to Levoča and built a new monastery within the town walls but did not stay there long. Indeed, as an anonymous chronicler puts it: „…they preferred a secluded place and the silence of solitude to serving God in towns.” And so they returned to the Rock of Refuge and set to reconstructing it in 1478. At the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, the restoration works were in charge of experienced cra%smen who had built many luxurious sepulchral chapels of the Zápoľskýs (Zápolya) in Spišský Štvrtok and Spišská Kapitula, what can be seen in many details such as gate and window coatings, vault ribs, etc., made of sandstone, conglomerate and other stone material available in the region. Many of them bear the marks of the corresponding stonemasonry. This time, even the floors were changed (by mortar at some places, but mostly by quarry tiles) and the former fireplaces were replaced by more efficient tiled stoves.

The rules of the Order determined every aspect of its life, including food, clothing and even the furnishing of the different buildings. Poverty was of primary importance for monastic life, something the findings give clear testimony of. Besides ordinary every-day pottery and tools, archeological research has produced a rather rich collection of book binds, buckles and bookbinding tools. The order’s proverbial love for books is reflected in its very rules. In the middle ages, Carthusian monasteries were among the best-known scriptoriums and Klaštorisko was no exception indeed.

It was here that books were transcribed (this was the duty of scribes), illuminated, bound and repaired. A chronicler pointed out the two most important scribes: Konrad from the beginning of the 14th century and Jodokus from the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries. However, the core of their contemplative life was love for God, which found one of its most beautiful expressions in the prayer His incessant praise and exaltation. Their only objective was to be the first step towards Heaven on Earth, that is, Paradise. That is why even the places they se$led at were referred to as „Paradise” (as in the case of Klaštorisko!) or „Garden” (e.g. the Charterhouse in Prague). The symbol of paradise is frequently represented in works of art. In the early 16th century, the monastery on the Rock of Refuge lost its reason to be. The political situation in the Hungarian Kingdom, especially a%er the Ba$le of Moháč (Mohács), affected the monastery as well. In 1530, all its possessions were handed over to the town of Kežmarok. A few years later, in 1543, the monastery was a$acked by Matej Bašo, a squire of the pad and captain of Muráň castle, who plundered and re-shaped it to fit his military purposes. The monks had to move to the Carthusian monastery in Lechnica, by the Dunajec River. The monastery was
demolished by order of the General Chapter.