Slovakia Genealogy Research Strategies
English Translation by Ron Matviyak
Note from the Translator
The following is from an English summary of a chapter in "Lidová Stavební Kultura", from Nakladatesltví Blok Brné 1981. I have taken liberties with length and wording. The German language summary is often much better than the English, so I changed a few passages and deleted others. Sometimes Europeans will translate to English „stone" when they mean „brick". I had trouble with the spell checker and ther may be a residual c that should be e and perhaps l an i. That is a problem with scanning some fonts and having a word processor that skips what it thinks is Slovak.
Excerpt from: "The building culture of the villages in Slovakia at the beginning and the climax of the Middle Ages on the basis of archaeological research" By Alexander Ruttkay, Archeologický ústav SAV, Nitra.
“The building culture of the villages in Slovakia at the beginning and the climax of the Middle Ages on the basis of archaeological researches. The author gives a brief summary survey of the current <1981> knowledge of village archaeology in Slovakia from the 9th/10th centuries up to the 15th century.The sources are severely limited by objective methodical and interpretative problems, and by the still developing research of medieval villages. A more profound research of microregions is necessary. …the great number of researches however, did not entirely uncover any one village, a certain disproportion is evident both from a geographical point of view (there are still relatively few researches in mountainous areas) and from a chronological point of view (a small number of researches of villages in the period from the 14th century to the 16th century). …the application of the pieces of medievalistic research (ethnography, historical geography), gives only mosaic conclusions for the time being.
The author points out the significance of the geographic-ecological phenomenon in the development of settlement. He states that the basic criterion is a division into a mountain (northern) part and a lowland (southern) part. The importance of ethnic determinants (in this period predominantly the relations between Slavonic and Hungarian inhabitants in southern Slovakia) was only a secondary factor as to this problem. As early as in the 11th century ethnic aspects in the characterization of a village receded almost entirely and a dominant position was occupied by the vertical social division into the sphere of exploiters and that of feudal subjects.
There were about 3,200 villages in the second half of the 13th century in Slovakia and in the 15th century about 2,800 villages. There were many structural changes in their lay-out and mutual relations. For example about 1,500 villages disappeared as they were destroyed or became depopulated or they became a part of other villages. Archaeological excavations give evidence of the existence of more than 1,000 medieval villages; archeological research has - been done only in 48 of these. In the 10th-13th centuries „zahloubené" and „nezahloubené" houses (houses with a lowered floor) existed side by side. According to the author the „zahloubené" houses occurred in lowlands and the „nezahlubené" in mountainous areas. However, he also speaks about exceptions, for example local hydrological situations or by adaptation of the inhabitants of newly founded villages to local conditions. In the period wood was the main and almost the only material which was used for the building of both the types of houses.
A log cabin construction and also various form of woodpile construction of walls and local verities of trees of this area were used for this purpose. From the 9th century there are, however, evidence of the rafting of needle-leaved trees from mountainous areas. The author writes about the relatively long lasting importance and many-sided application of wood even in the architecture of the feudal class. The decrease of wood in lowland areas led to the codification of the transport of wood down the rivers as early as the 12th-13th centuries and this fact gave rise to a new feudal duty. As to the log cabin village architecture in the mountain environment, it existed in various forms even in the recent past, and from the 14th century to the 15th century a stone/brick sustaining wall can be found. Builders of village houses, owing to a considerable scarcity of wood. tried to find and use new materials. The number of „zahloubené" houses decreased. The foundation of the new type of houses arc usually built of clay (the technique of „nabíjeni" - clay is bedded in a wooden frame) <half-timbered or Tudor> as to the walls of these house, their builders used both a wooden wickered construction and a clay construction. Fitted bricks we re also used for this purpose.
The author also mentions the problems concerning the social structure of a medieval village. As early as in the 13th century the development of a striking difference in property ownership between the inhabitants living in one village could be felt. The appearance of the houses of wealthier farmers could often compete with the buildings of petty feudals. In this sense the author calls attention to the fact that It is necessary to do research of the houses and farm buildings of subjects on the one hand and the researches of the buildings of feudals and the sacral buildings on the other hand.
As early as in the 9th century there were two-room or three-room houses (palaces) in the feudal environment of Slovakia. As to the folk-architecture from the 12th century, we can exceptionally find a workshop room later built to the living-part of the house. The two- room and three-room houses appear in the folk-environment from the 14th century; this was in connection with the changes in construction and building materials. The dynamísm of the development and the forms of the realization of this process cannot be reliably determined for the time being. It is beyond doubt that the process was neither similar nor simultaneous from region to region. It is evident that a decisive factor influencing the application of the types of constructions is determined by the striking social differentiation of a feudal village from the 13th century to the 14th century.
The author further deals with the problem of the inner furnishings of houses. There were two possibilities of heating a house: a) a stone fireplace, b) a cupola oven hollowed in a clay floor in the corner of the house or in the exterior. A new contribution is that the second type of the oven is not of a nomadic origin (as is usually supposed), but that the earliest period of its occurrence in the Slavonic environment is the 9th century. The way to get rid of smoke was not perfect in either case. Many solutions how to rationalize the mentioned problem - how to remove smoke from the living-part of the house - appeared as early as in the 9th century. However, all the improvements, the most successful of which was the invention of a chimney, were realized only in the environment of feudals for a long time, from the end of the 14th century, however, simple variants of a tiled oven can be found even in the houses of wealthier farmers.
The construction of the roofs of houses was a saddle one; straw, grass or reeds were used as their roofing. In connection with the problems of an entrance door into the houses of farmers the author mentions a relatively "wide constructive register of various safety mechanisms and keys which evidences the tenacious protection of the many-a-time relatively ample private property of some farmers. Light penetrated into village houses mostly through their entrances. There were probably also window slots there, about which, however, there are written documents only from the 15th century.
In connection with the inner arrangement of a one-room house it is possible to make out that the room was sometimes divided into a sleeping part and a kitchen part. As to the furniture, little hollows can be sporadically found on the floor as a consequence of the legs of furniture (probably benches). A multi-room house is divided into an entrance room, a larder and a living- part. From the 14th century greater demands were made on the inner furnishings of the house - a chest which fulfilled the function of a vault <closet> can be found in the families of wealthier farmers.
The vertical structure consisted only in a one storied house till the 14th-15th centuries is changed and a new element appears; it is a cellar corridor with warehousing, defensive and shelter functions. Multi-storied buildings known in the feudal environment did not appear in the milieu of medieval village houses.
Further objects found in the precinct of medieval villages are for example ovens in an open area, the so-called bread ovens, mining, supply <storage> or grain pits and the remains of various fences, channels and troughs. A direct comparison with various out buildings in the neighborhood of farmers' houses (these buildings are mentioned in documents) is not possible for the time being. We also lack a more accurate survey of the relative size of each historically known part of an inner plot (a house, a court, a garden). The author mentions particular pieces of information in connection with the ground plans of investigated villages. The typical forms of the period before the 14th century are scattered forms; eventually, within the framework of the mentioned system.
Groups of several houses tended to form a one-sided street front. During the 13th century and the 14th century scattered forms of settlement are concentrated in a smaller space of land (usually very near the church or the residence of a feudal lord). However, the most typical types of street villages <cannot be firmly established as yet>. It may be supposed that a clearer expression of town planning can be found in such villages which came into existence owing to a planned system during both the inner <domestic> and outer <foreign> colonization of less intensively inhabited parts of Slovakia during the period from the 14th century to the 16th century. However, the iconographical material gives evidence that the scattered form of villages are usual in the period from the 16th century to the 17th century as well as various types of street villages.”
Credit: A hearty "Thank you!" to Ron Matviyak for his generosity in translating these passages.
Photo: One of two remaining thatched-roof homes in Nova Sedlica, Slovakia. Credit to Mick Sura.
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