History of Slovakia Midlands – UNESCO Banska Stiavnica

August 9, 2015

Banska Stiavnica is a really charming place located in the middle of Stiavnica Mountains right in the centre of Slovakia. We went there a few weeks ago and as the weather was great we enjoyed it a lot. Banska Stiavnica is one of the most beautiful and historically most interesting towns in Slovakia. It got the highest international acknowledgement in 1993 when it was, together with the technical monuments in its vicinity, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The history of Banska Stiavnica is closely associated with the history of mining in Slovakia. The town’s coat of arms is a blue shield with a silver fortification and gold mining tools on it. The history of the town started in 1238 when it was given the privilege of a royal town and the right of mining gold, silver and other precious metals became a part of the privilege. This period is known as a period of German colonization during which, to strengthen the economy of the Hungarian monarchy after the devastating Tartar invasion, German mineworkers were invited to the region by the king Belo IV. The colonialists brought in new system of management, law and culture. They got many other royal privileges which ensured rapid economic, social and cultural development of Germans in the Hungarian monarchy. Among the most important privileges was the right to organize street markets, vote own mayor and town council, build the town fortification, exemption from paying toll, etc. It was in Banska Stiavnica where gun powder was used in a mine for the first time ever in 1627.



Banska Stiavnica went trough its truly golden ages in the 17th century when mining of gold and silver reached its highest amounts. Together with the economic and technical development the town also reached a stunning cultural and building boom and became the centre of social and cultural life. In the 18th century Banska Stiavnica was the 3rd largest city in the Hungarian monarchy.




A significant milestone in the history of the town was the establishment of the Mining Academy in 1762 by the Hungarian queen Maria Theresa. The Academy was the first institution of higher technical education in the world. Banska Stiavnica became the European centre for the development of mining science and technology. Over the centuries, many world famous scientists and experts came to work here and many technical and scientific inventions were born thanks to the work of the teachers, scholars and students of the Academy who contributed to its fame. The Mining Academy later merged with the Forestry Institute and together they became Mining and Forestry Academy in Banska Stiavnica. Many mining experts studied at the Academy and many of them participated in the introduction of new methods and procedures of mining ore worldwide. Gold and silver was mined here until the end of the 18th century; the region was the most productive gold and silver mining region in Europe.


The Mining Academy is seen in the left upper corner, the Forestry Institute in the right upper corner.

source: www.mikovini.sk

The whole town centre is astonishing with the streets in the hillside and full of awesome architecture. Not only chapels, churches and public buildings, it is lined with splendid Gothic and Renaissance burgher houses belonging to the then mine owners and important mine shareholders, merchants and craftsmen. The urban centre blends into the surrounding landscape which contains vital relics of the mining and metallurgical activities of the past.








If you feel like visiting a real mine, there are various mines open to the public in Banska Stiavnica and the surrounding region. The Open Air Mining Museum is just about 1 km from the town centre. You will enter the Bartolomej Shaft and enjoy these very interesting above-ground exhibits including the relocated original mining buildings, a chapel, machines and facilities as evidence of the rich mining history of the area; the underground spaces showcase various ways of mining and mining works from the 17th to the 19th centuries, as well as unique mining mechanisms. I can assure you this will be an unforgettable experience.

Bartolomej 1

You may ask a question “who found gold and silver there?” There is a story about a shepherd Jan, who, as every day, walked through the hills with his sheep. There were only deep forests, meadows and peaceful pristine landscape covering the area back then with just a few little settlements. It was a sunny day so Jan sat on a rock and started playing his whistle. Suddenly, he spotted two lizards basking on the rock in front of him. They were very rare, he had never seen such lizards before. They were shining brightly, one looked golden and the other one silver. Jan wanted to have a closer look at them but as he approached the rock they had hidden under it. After a while of struggle trying to lift and move the rock he finally did it. He could not believe what he saw. There were no lizards but a massive lump of gold underneath! Jan said about his finding to everyone and soon people from all around the country came to see for themselves. They dug shafts and mines, built more settlements, later beautiful houses, churches, schools and gave rise to the rich and famous town of Banska Stiavnica. This is why the second coat of arms of the town depicts two lizards basking on a rock.

Znak BS 2

Znak BS 3

There had been a unique mining water management system of artificial lakes and canals built in and around Banska Stiavnica by the half of the 18th century. The system was used for draining water and moving various devices. It consisted of 60 water reservoirs (lakes). They are no longer in use but many of them belong to the popular centres of summer holidays at present. Although the lakes were created artificially, they fit remarkably well into the picturesque mountainous landscape of Stiavnica Mountains. So if you happen to be in the region during the hot summer day do not hesitate; after visiting the beautiful town of Banska Stiavnica have a good swim in one of the lakes, you will definitely enjoy both the historical architecture and the nature.


If you decide to come and visit Slovakia midlands, especially this amazing place I would recommend visiting these major attractions: the Plaza of St. Trinity with the plague column, rich townsmen houses, Old Castle, New Castle, Piarg Gateway, The Town Hall and the Church of St. Catherine, Kammerhof, Clapper House, The Calvary, Open-air Mining Museum, and of course, the surrounding lakes and the beautiful nature.

Have a great day folks and don’t forget: Visit Bratislava – Visit Slovakia