Košice: Historical centre
Košice disposes with the largest town monument reserve in Slovakia. The most of historical monuments or sights are located in the Main Street (Hlavná ulica). The street is bordered by two squares. As the north limit, there is the Peace Marathon Square (Námestie Maratónu mieru). The present name was given to this place in 1960 according the second oldest town marathon in the world called International Peace Marathon that had been organized since 1924. A monument with a striking marathon runner as well as a complete list of both male and female winners was built there, and official opening ceremony of every year of this marathon starts there. The Square of the Liberators (Námestie osloboditeľov) is the south limit of the Main Street. Right now it is a place of enormous construction progress. The square was named in tribute to Soviet soldiers who liberated the city from the German troops at the end of World War II. A monument was built there in observance of this story.
The historical centre consists of several other streets – e.g. Elizabeth's Street (Alžbetina ulica), Mill Street (Mlynská ulica), Blacksmiths' Street (Kováčska ulica), Butchers' Street (Mäsiarska ulica), Potters' Street (Hrnčiarska ulica), Bellfounders' Street (Zvonárska ulica), University Street (Univerzitná ulica), White Street (Biela ulica), Eagle Street (Orlia ulica), Bastion Street (Baštová ulica), Fortification Street (Hradbová ulica), Franciscans' Street (Františkánska ulica), Ursulines' Street (Uršulínska ulica) etc. – and the tourists can find several interesting sights in these streets as well. From the tourism perspective it should be mentioned that a pedestrian zone covers nearly all of them.
Probably the most important and the most interesting monument of Košice is the gothic St. Elisabeth's Cathedral (Dóm sv. Alžbety). It is considered the easternmost high gothic style cathedral in Europe and it is the biggest church in Slovakia (its outside length is 60 m, its outside width is 36 m, and height of the northern tower is more than 59 m). Before the cathedral, a sacral edifice consecrated also to St. Elisabeth had been located at the same place but this church burned down in 1370. The St. Elisabeth's Cathedral was being built from 1378-1508, and consequently it was necessary to renovate it several times due to various calamities. Probably the most extensive restoration works took place in the last quarter of 19th century. The interior of St. Elizabeth's Cathedral is very valuable from historical and cultural perspective too.
Just several meters from the St. Elizabeth's Cathedral is located St. Michael's Chapel (Kaplnka sv. Michala). Originally it was built in the 14th century as a cemetery chapel. An extensive restoration works took place in the years 1998-2006, and after them the chapel was again consecrated in 2006. The building of the chapel is a nice example of gothic architecture, and together with a few other objects – e.g. the St Elizabeth's Cathedral, the St. Urban's Tower, the State Theatre etc. – significantly forms a shape of the city centre.
Very close to the St. Michael's Chapel was located Monument of the Coat of arms of Košice. On the top of the monument, there is a sculpture of the present coat of arms of Košice that comes from 1502. At the stand of the monument, there are three previous versions of this coat of arms: the one from 1369, the one from 1423, and the one from 1453.
St. Urban's Tower (Urbanova veža) was originally a gothic prismatic campanile with a pyramidal roof dating back to the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1557 was in the tower installed church bell (its weight is 7 tons) which has been dedicated to St. Urban. In the early 19th century around the tower was constructed arcade with some small shops. The tower was in 1966 damaged by fire, which destroyed the roofing and the bells. Therefore was the tower a subject of restoration and renovation in 1967-1971. Moreover, the Bell of St. Urban was renovated and located on the ground in front of the tower. Concerning the present utilization of the tower, there is a wax museum situated inside the tower.
Another interesting building is the building of the State Theatre of Košice (Štátne divadlo v Košiciach) that is situated several metres from the St. Elizabeth's Cathedral. It was built in a Neo-baroque style during the years 1879-1899. The interior of the theatre building is richly decorated with plaster ornaments and the stage is lyre-shaped. The ceiling of the theatre's building is decorated with scenes from Shakespeare's tragedies Othello, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and A Midsummer Night's Dream. One can find on the building also a memorial tablet dedicated to Janko Borodáč who was the first director of the theatre after the World War II.
Singing fountain is situated between the St. Elizabeth Cathedral and the State Theatre of Košice. It was built in 1985 under the twinning contract between Vladimir, the town located in the Soviet Union, and Košice, and it became the oldest singing fountain that was built on the territory of former Czechoslovakia. Its modernisation was accomplished in 1997. Its unique character is based on a fact that it can react on any sound source – 25 water pumps, 750 water jets, and 134 coloured lamps are regulated by computer, and its software can be applied to any sound. The highest spurts reach 17 metres height. Next to the fountain, there is an electric chime. It contains 22 bells that symbolize 22 city parts. While, the biggest bell weighs 230 kilograms, the smallest one weighs just 6 kilograms. The tourists have been listening to several programmed melodies every hour since 1997 when it was built.
In 1722-1723, the Plague pillar of Immaculata was built in order to commemorate the end of the plague of 1710-1711. It was built in Baroque style in a place where an official town place of execution had been situated. It had to be reconstructed several times due to various damages (the last reconstruction works took place at the end of the 1990s). In the basement of the 14-metres-high pillar, the sculptures of St. Joseph, St. Sebastian, and St. Ladislaus are placed, and a sculpture of Virgin Mary is placed on the top of this pillar. In addition, the pillar is fenced, and on the tops of fence pillars, there are other sculptures, namely sculptures of St. Gabriel, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Margaret, St. Michael the Archangel, and St. Barbara.
Between the building of the State Theatre of Košice and the Plague pillar of Immaculata, a small park is located. In the centre of this park, there is the Fountain with signs of zodiac. Although the fountain is small, it is very popular especially among the young people and parents with small children, since several colour fish swim every summer in the fountain basin.
The Main Street as well as other streets of the historical centre is full of the former burghers' houses. Most of them were built in the 16th and 17th century, and consequently rebuilt in Baroque style, Classicistic style or in style of Art Nouveau.
In the historical centre the tourists can see also the rests of various fortification constructions, for instance Executioner's Bastion (a semicircular building with eight cannon chambers), Mill Bastion etc.
Obviously, there are several more valuable buildings in the historical centre of Košice. Some of them are churches, some of them were built as palaces of the important noble families, and some of them were erected as buildings for administrative purposes.
Old Town Hall is two-storey building in the Baroque and the Classicistic style of town's palace type. It was erected in 1779-1780 and the town hall (Curia Civitatis) was located within the building. The facade is richly decorated and it includes also the coat of arms of Košice. Ceremonial rooms are situated on the first floor of this building, and they are used for instance by mayor of the city.
Wife of Georg Rakoczi II, Sofia Bathory, decided to make up for sin of the troops of Georg Rakoczi I who had tortured to death three Jesuits. She bought the ruins of the former Royal House, and founded a new church for the Jesuits. The construction works were finished in 1681 but Bishop Benedict Kisdy had found the first Košice University (Universitas Cassoviensis) already in 1657 there. Since 1811, when the church was given to Premonstratesians, the church has been known as the Premonstratesians' Church of the Holy Trinity.
Levoča House was built in Gothic style in the second half of 15th century. In the period of 1542-1569 it was a property of town Levoča, and this point is a starting point of its present name. Košice bought the building from Levoča for 400 pieces of gold in 1569. Quite long time the best inn was located there, and in the first half of the 17th century the first print-house of the town was established within a part of the building. Next to the Levoča House, there is Hotel Slávia that is easily recognizable thanks to its superior secessionist facade (it is considered the most beautiful secessionist building in Košice). Construction works of the hotel building started in 1900, and it was erected in the place of former burgher's house. The building was recognized as a national cultural monument at the end of the 20th century. Hotel and famous coffee-bar is located in the building now (previously the hotel was called as Savoy or Royal).
Andrassy's Palace that was erected in the very end of 1890s in Neo-Baroque style can be identified from a long distance due to its bright red coloured walls. At present a popular patisserie is located within the building.
Pongrácz-Forgács' Palace was built in the 19th century Empire style. Despite its courtyard was not covered with a roof, in the years 1939-1940 this state was changed, and the courtyard was provided with a ball-shaped roof. A seat of the Regional State Library is located in the palace nowadays.
Beggar's House is attached with a legend about a beggar who was begging during whole his life, and after the death his children found out that he had been very rich man in fact. Therefore they decided to return back a part of the proceeds of his begging to the inhabitants of Košice, and they built the house. On the facade part of the roof, a statue of beggar in a salutary position is located there in order to remind the legend. The house foundation comes from the 14th century, and the house was rebuilt in the 18th century. An allegorical mural was found in 1994 (it had been hidden for decades under the facade rendering) but after the restoration works it became one of the most attractive facades in the Main Street.
The building of Jakab's Palace was erected in 1899 in the pseudo-Gothic style constructed from discarded stones from the St. Elizabeth's Cathedral. It was named after the first owner of the building, Arpad Jakab. In 1945 from April to May the palace was the seat of the president of Czechoslovakia. In 1992-2000 the British Council had its seat in the building. At present the building is used for important social and cultural events, for instance for various art varnishing-days.
The oldest well-preserved church in Košice was built in about 1290 by the Dominicans. It was built in Roman-Gothic style, and it was consecrated to the Ascension of Virgin Mary. In the half of the 16th century it burned out, and at the turn of the 17th and 18th century it was reconstructed in a Baroque style. A space under the church was utilized as a place for crypts, and during the World War II the Jews and other proscribed persons find a refuge there. A tower of the Church of Ascension of Virgin Mary was rebuilt in the 1960s, and with 68-meters-heigth it became the highest church tower of the city centre.
The biggest neolog synagogue that was built in Košice in 1927 provided six hundred places for men and five hundred places for women. Its height is 37 meters, and although it is not visible at the first sight, a ball-shaped roof is an ellipse-shaped roof in fact. Due to developments of town Jewish population in the World War II, the building was utilized as a corn storehouse. In the 1960's the building was renewed and reconstructed, and a brand new concert hall was built inside then. It has become a residence of State Philharmonic Orchestra of Košice, and it is officially called House of Art nowadays. However the most of Košice inhabitants calls it simply “Bužňa” yet (this dialect word means synagogue).
In Moyzes's Street, the Greek-Catholic Church of Virgin Mary's Birth is located. Greek Catholics started to settle in Košice in the 17th century as late as 1852 their Bishop established a chapel. About 1880, the community disposed with substantial savings and they were able to buy grounds near the chapel and to build the church in Neo-Romanesque style in the years 1882-1886. After the World War II, the church was given to the Orthodox Church that was officially supported by the Communist regime. However, after 1990, it was returned back to the original owners and the church was restored and repaired.