The Spiš Chapter
Welcome to the Spiš Chapter, an ancient church town, whose history is being written since the end of the 12th century. The visitors of this place are sometimes surprised by its name, which resulted from the traditions of the deep Middle Ages. The name Spišská Kapitula is derived from the name of the chapter of canonists. It was a choir, a convent of clergy who lived partly as religious (originally they shared the same accommodation, had obligations to pray together the so-called liturgy of the hours, ie breviary, they served the convent masses together, etc.), they also partly held the roles of secular priests (they had a lot of other tasks, in connection with their own work, and also managed sorrounding villages as pastors. And this chapter of canonists gave the name also to this place – their seat.
The provost was the head of the collegiate chapter of canons until the 1776. It was not nowadays commonly used church rank, which was lower than the bishop at the level of the hierarchy. The jurisdiction of Spiš Provost Office applied to the population of the historic Spiš County, whose borders interfered with the church territory called the Spiš provostship. At the same time, the Spiš provost responded to Archbishop of Esztergom as Spiš provostship was part of Archdiecese of Esztergom. The oldest preserved written mention of the Spiš provosts is a document of Hungarian king Ondrej II. from 1209, where provost Adolf is mentioned. He probably lived somewhere in the area of today´s Spiš Chapter. 45 ecclesiastical provosts gradually were in the lead of this ecclesiastical institution after Adolf.
The situation has changed in 1776, when empress Mary Theresa and pope Pius VI. added historical counties Liptov and Orava to the territory of Spiš provostship and established the Spiš diocese. It has preserved its original borders to these days. Spiš Chapter became the seat of Spiš bishops and the cathedral chapter of canonists. 14 bishops have led the Spiš Chapter and Spiš diocese since 1776 to these days. The currant bishop of the Spiš diocese is Mons. Štefan Sečka.
In the history of Spiš Chapter, in addition to the establishment of the diocese, many other events took place, which affected not only the architectural development of this town, but also the history of wider surrounding area. At least some of them should be mentioned.
The peak of the medieval architectural development in Spiš Chapter was between the 13th and 15th century. The Chapter with the nearby Spiš Castle were royal institutions at that time. As such, both complexes enjoyed the direct attention of the court of the Hungarian kings of the Arpád and Anjou families (let’s mention at least Koloman of Galicia, Elizabeth Kumánska, Ondrej III., or Karol Róbert from Anjou), but also of the magnate family of Zápoľsky. The following 16th century marked the stagnation of Catholicism in Spiš, it was caused because of the spreading of the Reformation. Even despite the problems, Spiš Chapter remained one of the few Catholic institutions in Spiš. The renewal of the Catholic spirit in the 17th century occurred as a result of the arrival of the Jesuits, who settled in the Spiš Chapter in 1648 and founded a well-known high school in a wide area.
The Jesuit order was canceled for a while in 1773. Their property and buildings were given to the newly edited diocese, which was established in the already mentioned year 1776. This was followed by further development of the local cultural and educational institutions. First of all, in the 1815 the Spiš Priest Seminary was established, for which the former Jesuit monastery was adapted. In 1819, the Teacher´s Institute in the Spiš Chapter was established in the building of the original Jesuit high schol, which was the first of its kind in Hungar. After the prommising beginnings of the 20th century, the two world wars came. However, it did not affect the Spiš Chapter. A worse situation occurred after 1948 and in the beginning of the totalitarian regime. This brought not only ideological but also direct physical pressure, which resulted in persecution and violent extinction of almost all ecclesiastical institutions of the Spiš Chapter. The buildings of the Priest Seminary and the Teacher´s Institute were first occupied by Czechoslovak People´s Army and later by the National Security Corps, who placed here a school for its officers. The canonical houses were confiscated and converted into lower standard accommodation capacities for JRD/ Unified farmer´s cooperative. The gradual restoration of individual institutions and neglected monuments began only after 1989 and continues to this day.
Spiš Chapter is a complex of buildings. It consists of late Romanesque Cathedral of st. Martin from the beginning of the 13th century, rebuilt to the Gothic style at the end of the 15th century, a former palace of provost from the end of the 13th century, rebuilt in the 18th century into current form of bishop´s residence, also ten houses of canonists from the 14th century to the 18th century, chaplain house. From the 17th century, a former Jesuit monastery also from the 17th century, which was in 1815 rebuilt into the Spiš Priestly Seminary and the functionalist building of the Teacher’s Institute, which was built for this school in 1933. All these buildings are arranged in the shape of a street in a west-east direction. In 1665, the whole complex of buildings was surrounded by unified walls, which are entered by three main gates, located in the east and west.
Spiš Chapter was an independent community until 1948, when it became a street of Spišské Podhradie town. It is a historical town monument and together with Spiš Castle and the Church of the Holy Spirit in nearby Žehra, it was for its unique monument values inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List already in 1993.