The history of the Basilica dates back to the end of 13th century. The earliest written record about the church is from 1383. In the parchment we read that on the location of the present church there used to be a wooden chapel.
April 25, 1433 was the beginning of some hard days. On this day – St. Mark’s Day – Kežmarok was attacked by the Hussites. The plundering was followed by a massive fire and later the same year by an earthquake. This destruction damaged the church to such an extent, that complete reconstruction was necessary.
A document of the Esztergom’s archbishop from 1444 grants 40-day indulgences to everyone who visits the church and donates to its rebuilding. The town also helped with finances, but the largest sponsor of the church’s reconstruction was the Zápoľský family.
The Basilica of the Holy Cross belongs to the largest gothic three-nave churches in the Spiš region. The dominant feature of the church is the tower built around 1320. In the same period there was extensive reconstruction, during which the small chapel and the sacristy were built.
INTERIOR WHICH PLEASES THE EYE AND COMFORTS THE SOUL
In the rich interior the gothic arches will especially catch your attention. The most interesting are the two pilasters ending in mascarons. The face of a man symbolizes day, light, truth and faith. The face of a woman on the northern wall is an allegory of night. Together they represent the medieval world’s polarity.
The parts of the main altar are from the period around 1450. The dating is based on the painted boards. The gothic baptismal font from 1472 was made in the ironmaster workshop of master Mathias in Spišská Nová Ves. The year 1518 is carved on the beautiful senator’s bench. Only a couple years later, during the reformation, a baldachin was added over the pulpit. The Protestants have also used the church. They made some adjustments, but they did not remove the side altars.
The dominant feature of the church is the main altar with the crucified Christ. Until the end of 18th century the sculpture of Jesus was in the middle of the church. When someone wanted to move it, it allegedly spoke: “Man, if you did not bring me here, do not move me away.” This same legend was recorded by both Evangelical and Catholic historians. According to art historians the sculptor is Master Paul from Levoča.
One curiosity is a small positive organ with nine registers. Today it is one of the most valuable musical relics in Slovakia because it is so well-preserved and is still functional.
In 1998, the church was promoted to BASILICA MINOR – by Pope John Paul II. It also became the first non-Marian Basilica in Slovakia.
This was the name of the Belfry because of its once golden sgraffito ornaments. It is rightfully regarded as the most beautiful campanile in the Spiš region. The Renaissance Belfry, with its square base, stands right beside the Basilica of the Holy Cross. There are three bells hanging from the wooden construction in the interior. The oldest bell, from 1525, has a 20 centimeters crack. Today it produces an unclear C tone.
The legend says that one of the bells flies on Maundy Thursday to Rome. According to preserved documents, in 1674 Michal Kupecký, a student from Kežmarok, flew like this to the eternal city and never returned to his hometown.
WHAT IS WORTH SEEING
In the proximity is Starý trh (Old Market – the oldest populated part of the town), which you can easily walk to through a nearby street. To the south of the Basilica you can find the town hall, with a new fountain. For lovers of antique beauty, we recommend the historical route, which will lead you to the most beautiful and valuable areas that Kežmarok can offer you.