Katarínka project

The St Catherine’s Monastery preservation project is intended for young volunteers aged from 17 from all over Slovakia. The four two-week summer camps in July and August take place every year. This project is planned to last till the completion of the neglected site’s conservation.

The project’s organizer

KATARÍNKA n.g.o. (a civic association) in cooperation with the Association of the Christian Youth Communities (ZKSM) – an apolitical youth organization based on smaller Christian communities all over Slovakia. ZKSM organizes various events such as Akadem – gatherings of academic youth, Dubova Colonorum and Bzovík – summer preservation camps, Muráň-Levoča pilgrimage etc..

St Catherine’s Monastery preservation project is organized by Katarínka n.g.o. and ZKSM not only for young Christians, but for all young volunteers from Slovakia, in close collaboration with the Preservation Office in Trnava, the Dechtice municipal authority, the State Forest Enterprise “Forests of the Slovak Republic” in Smolenice, the Regional Studies Museum in Hlohovec, the Western Slovakian Museum in Trnava (at the beginning also with Archeological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Nitra), and the Franciscan Order.

The project is supported by subsidies from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic and by numerous sponsors.

Our goals are

  • Preservation and conservation of the ruins plus its complex archeological, historical, preservation and geophysical research
  • Clearing and maintenance of the surrounding nature reserve Katarína (keeping order, education path, elimination of fireplaces…)
  • Giving young people a chance to spend two weeks in the wild far from civilization
  • Proving that enthusiastic and determined young volunteers are able to preserve valuable cultural monumen

We certainly do not intend to rebuild the monastery, but to preserve it in its present condition for two reasons:

  • restricted financial budget
  • make an effort to keep its present image and romantic atmosphere

History of the project

  • August 1994 – Peter Herceg with his team first got the idea of organizing summer camps on the site. Consultations with experts started in autumn
  • July 1995 – first campworks done by almost 70 volunteers from all over Slovakia. They built campsite buildings, cleared the interior parts of the ruins and made the land survey of the area.
  • Since 1996 – summer camps in July and August have been organized every year, hundreds of volunteers have been at St Catherine’s until now 1996 and 1999 – the project documentation regarding the proper conservation of the ruins was worked out (in cooperation with PRODIS Bratislava – a company permanently supervising conservation works)
  • 1996 – a necessary terrain adjustment was carried out in the area, clearing of trouble-making trees and vegetation in the walls
  • Since 1997 – archaeological research on the site (excavations, documentation and presentation of the findings) has been carried out – in 1997-2000: Baroque chapel near the church, in 2000: monastery’s entrance, in 2000-2001: crypt in the church’s nave, in 2003-2005: foundations and exploration of the Gothic chapel in the church’s chancel, in 2004: remains of the main Baroque altar with the sculptures of St. Catherine, St. Tekla and the angel’s torso in the chancel
  • Since 1996 – intensive conservation and masonry works on the monastery walls, windows and pillars of the church 2000 and 2004 – The mysteries of St Catherine’s monastery – our representative exhibition in the crypt and rooms of the Western Slovakian Museum in Trnava
  • 2001-2003: reconstruction of window arches, the original lawn was planted on the top wall layer
  • 2004 – conservation of the front church`s gable (22m high), its windows and inserting handmade oak timbers which substitute for the old original ones in the stonewall. We are grateful to ASSA Profi company, Bratislava, for the scaffolding.
  • 2005 – church’s tower (30m high) was conserved and deep breach in its corner was statically secured because urgent collapse of tower threatened
  • in 2006-2009: complete reconstruction of all church walls including pillars and window holes
  • in 2002-2009: the archaeological research continued on the oldest parts of locality: the grounds of the Gothic chapel and buildings standing there before the monastery was founded, as well as the new- found Baroque parts of church – e.g. an altar made of stone, including the statues of St. Catherine and St. Thecla
  • 2010 – the church’s side ark was rebuilt with a precious stucco decoration, the tower was been repairing, and a bucket was constructed to lift the heavy tower loads in the way of historical facilities.
  • in 2010-2016: the reconstruction of the tower and its floors continues for the future sightseeting purpose. During this period, the masonry and the tower windows were preserved, the beams were laid to repair its floors, and a hand-drawn bucket was constructed to lift heavy tower loads – a way of lifting equipment.
  • the sightseeing tower was made available for public, as well as to continue the preservation of the secluded parts of the monastery.

During the project run since 1995, dozens of young volunteers have been trained every year as new organizers of the camps. The project has also been presented in mass media, at some youth gatherings and, last but not least, at the regular expert exhibition Nostalgia Expo as well as at conferences on monument preservation.

Our plans for the future

  • To finish the conservation of the remaining ground parts of the walls and arches in the monastery.
  • To continue with systematic archaeological research and conservation of its findings
  • To cooperate with the officials from the Protected Landscape Area of the Little Carpathians Mountains in cultivation of the nature reserve Katarína.

Camp daily routine

  • Living in the wild, away from the civilization
  • Using nor watches neither mobile phones
  • Working half of the day – till lunch
  • Having fun in the afternoon – adventures, games and sports
  • Campfire, fun and singing in the evening
  • History-oriented program of the camp activities, trying to imitate the lifestyle of the seventeenth-century Franciscan monks

Annual reports (Slovak only)

What is the “Order of St. Catherine – the order of the preservationists”?

  • All the volunteer participants become automatically members of the order
  • During two weeks the members get to taste the medieval monks’ life without the unnecessary modern gizmos and gadgets
  • The ceremonial clothing is a habit made of sackcloth
  • There are also some rites which bring the members closer to the life of original monks at St Catherine’s.
  • We obey the “Rules of the Order of St. Catherine – the preservationists”

4 pillars of Katarínka

Katarínka as a project is supported by these 4 pillars:

  • Work
  • Spirituality
  • Community
  • Genius loci (The spirit of the place)

These pillars also form the vision of the Katarínka project. We balance the pillars and try not to promote any pillar. It is not just about work, but without work on Katarínka, the goal of the Katarinka project would not make sense.

How we work

  • Inserting the missing parts of walls and pillars with the masonry in order to prevent its structural damage
  • Conserving weathered or broken top wall layers by taking them to pieces and repairing again and fixed by lime mortar, keeping the original image and ruin character
  • Providing gap-fixing up on the walls where it is needed
  • Inserting handmade oak timbers which substitute for the old original ones in the stonewall
  • Mowing the surrounding meadows and the monastery grounds
  • Running the archeological excavations on the site under the supervision of relevant authorities

The camp is situated near the ruin, beyond the Nature Reserve of Katarínka.
Location of the camp:

  • N 48 o 33,284″
  • E 17 o 32,325″ (GPS accuracy 10m).

Map and other information about the location: Where is Katarinka?