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We are glad to announce that our project was awarded two prizes. One of them, Fenix – Cultural landmark of the year 2017 , for our work on restoration and conservation of the tower of the ruin of St. Catherine’s Church that was once part of St. Catherine’s Monastery dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, near Dechtice village. Our project representatives were awarded by this prize on November 29th, 2018, by the Minister of Culture of the Slovak Republic. The second prize that we were awarded, is the Most picturesque restored cultural landmark of the year, a public voting contest organized by SPP and SPP foundation.
The appraised tower restoration, which we realized between 2010 – 2017, is a truly unique accomplishment. Hundreds of our volunteers from all parts of Slovakia and even from abroad participated in this restoration without any expectation of financial compensation, using traditional methods, which were used back in the days when the tower was originally built between 1700 – 1714. The tower was opened to public in the summer of 2017 and can be visited during the summer season with our tourist guides. The lookout at the top of the tower (30 meters high) provides some very spectacular views.
These awards further prove that our project is an example of partnership between volunteers and professionals. The restoration was realized in partnership with researcher and preservationist Jaroslava Žuffová, structural designer Vladimír Kohút, archaeologists Ivana Kvetánová and Michal Slivka, carpenters Miroslav Čársky and Michal Hrčka and many others. For the village Dechtice, this is the second Fenix award awarded for a monument located within their municipality. In 2015, the rotunda of the Church of All Saints in Dechtice was awarded, dating back to the 12th century.
The year 2018 is marked by the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of establishment of St. Catherine’s Monastery in 1618 by the count Krištof Erdödy and his wife Barbora Thurzova. Public celebrations were held during the summer on 5th of July during the Katarínka Open Door Day. Further celebrations were held just a couple of days ago, on November 17th, in the historic manor house in Chtelnica, where the house of Erdödy lived and where they signed the establishing documents.
Besides 40 professionals and invited public figures, more than 120 of our volunteers participated. As a part of the celebrations a professional convention was held, summarizing 24 years of work, which included very interesting results from archaeology, history, art, geophysics, anthropology and other fields.
See this article with images in Slovak language.
The work season at Katarínka was finished with completion of almost all planned targets that were outlined in the article with the plan for season 2017.
Due to the fact that at the beginning of the season the tower was made available to public, the work in it was adjusted to avoid disturbing the guided visits. We were pointing windows arches and jambs on the first and second floor of the tower, mainly from the outer side (see picture comparison below).
The head of the pillar in the north-east corner of the church nave was repaired and grassed over. Next to it, there is the last remaining pillar that will be repaired the next season. In both the interior and exterior of the church, plasters were being fixed and holes filled with mortar, including the entry to the tower.
The southern chancel wall was deeply re-pointed from both sides, its top was disassembled and masoned anew. The masonry at the top was covered with a clay layer covered with grass clumps in order to protect the new mortar from frost and other weather conditions (see picture comparison below).
In the monastery, the work was carried out mostly in the last three cells and in the corridor. The work included pointing, fixing of plasters and repairing jambs of doors and windows.
Archaeology was carried out on a large scale; the entrance to Erdődy crypt and its side wall were discovered. During the excavation for lightning conductor, pieces of floor were found in the church nave and the pedestal of big Calvary statue (that was after the monastery dissolution moved to Dechtice) was discovered to the left of the monastery entrance.
In the middle of summer, during the weekend July 21-23, the long awaited lime slaking was done; the lime hole was filled with nine tons of lime. After the season, in autumn, window shutters were installed to protect the 5th tower floor from snow and rain.
This article is available only in Slovak language.
The work season on Katarínka is already slowly going to its end. The so-called búračka is taking place, i.e. the camp is taken apart and stored until the next year, when it will be put together again. Currently (in the week between 29th August and 4th September), there is approximately 50 to 60 young volunteers present…
Considering work, it is mainly about realising tasks that were mentioned in advance in the previous news that covered the work plan for year 2016.
It was necessary to restore the capitals of the pillars (picture on the left) while moving the scaffolding multiple times in the nave of the church, as there are 8 pillars in it.
The work on the reconstruction of the segmental arch, which was mainly done in the middle of August this year, is being finished (picture on the left). In the picture on the right, there are two young masons, who underpin one of the walls of the monastery to avoid a possible fall of the wall that could happen otherwise.
In the chancel (picture on the left), south-eastern wall was renewed by filling in missing stones and conserving its stable parts.
In the south-western part, the wall was recreated only from bricks, without any wet binder (picture on the right). The reason for not using groat on this wall is that we can not precisely estimate in which way the wall from the chancel continued. This will have to be discovered by the historical and archeological exploration in the future.
The last carpenter and conservation works in the tower are being finished. More detailed information concerning the opening of the view tower of the church will be published in September or October.
Regular virgilous masses are served throughout the summer at Katarínka, as well as voluntary morning and evening prayers of volunteers, as it was customary for the monks, who lived in this monastery in 17th and 18th century.
Katarínka would not be itself if there were not the people of the “same blood group”, space for acceptance, understanding, self-knowing, getting to know others, adventures, delicious food, relaxation in the nature etc.
The summer season at Katarínka has been successfully completed. This, however, does not mean that Katarínka cannot be visited anymore. Quite the contrary: right now, when the autumn is so beautiful and multicoloured, the place is really worth visiting.
We would like to share with you a summary of how we got on and what we have managed so far. Here is some brief information on our most important summer (especially working) activities.
Conservation works on the tower
The masonry and grouting took place on the crown of the tower – on its roof at the height of 363 metres above sea level, 30 metres above the ground. On the highest 6th floor, it was necessary to ensure the static equilibrium and fix the wall that will be used as a railing of the tower.
The masonry was also done on the individual storeys inside the tower. All storeys are already completed and masoned (there are 5 storeys plus the roof). The masonry was done on the spots where the bearing beams of the storeys were embedded – in stripes of 50 cm above and 50 cm below the floor – in order to complete the floors and to make a ladder.
In the next few years, our task will be to do the grouting on the mezzanine level.
We managed to craft the stairs (some are fitted between the 4th and 5th floor, others are prepared). The floors were done too – the ones on the fourth and fifth floors are already installed thanks to the intensive planing of wooden boards during our two-week summer camps.
The presbytery and the crypt were discovered. “We have it! Finally, in the crypt…” Elorien and our archaeologist Ivana Kvetánová were both very pleased. The ceiling of the crypt was crushed, and the whole crypt was buried under the debris. We found the remains of the marble altar, which is likely to have been situated above the crypt . Occasionally, we came across some bones and splinters. The crypt is divided into two storeys with two internal partition walls. Six grave sites were probably situated there. Based on the historical sources, we can assume that the crypt was robbed several times in the past, or that the descendants transferred their ancestors’ remains elsewhere.
Conservation of the monastery
After a couple of years, we came back to work on the monastery. It was the drilling and anchoring of the statically vulnerable parts – the internal partition walls. We also did the complete re-masoning of the crowns of the walls and the grouting of the monastery, which is to be continued next year.
The highlight of this season was the disassembling and the re-vaulting of the destroyed arches, the repair of the brick shutters and the grassing of the crowns of all the repaired walls.
See also photos – The monastery before and after. Especially the completely disintegrated vault, whose possible fall during the winter 2012/2013 was the subject of a bet. It did not fall at last 😉
Of course, Katarinka is not just about work. It’s about all of its 4 pillars, that is the people, community, spirituality as well as the place itself, which got prettier again last year.