The Stations of the Cross: Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia

rural slovakia stations of the cross Banska Stiavnica

In the middle of nowhere stood this…

Last week, I noticed my Facebook page photo is different from my standard social media picture. As I looked at it, I recalled Ryan’s words, “Hey mom, you need a new picture – don’t use one from work, OK? Take one of you actually doing something interesting.”

We lived in Slovakia at the time. “Something interesting” shouldn’t be all that hard, right?

picture of me at the stations of the cross

Where Pat took my picture (is this OK, Ryan?)

Two years ago, Igor and Vlasta invited us to join them on a weekend get away to the small central Slovakian town of Banská Štiavnica. They had a free place to stay and a friend who was staging a festival – two nights of classical music at the castle. “Of course we’ll go.” When I mentioned the plans to a friend at work, they sighed, “To me, that village is magical.”

For some reason, I never wrote a blog about the trip, even though we attended two nights of music, investigated the village – a UNESCO site – with its museums and churches, and ate cake (Igor is a cake enthusiast… “Hey everybody, is it time for a cake?”). Yet the details are murky. The trip flickers  through my mind like a poor quality home video fading in and out.

The day we arrived, we exited the highway and snaked up the hillside for 20 or 30 minutes. As we entered the village, I thought this could be Vermont – at least if you removed the 500 year old Slovak houses and plague monument in the main square. The types of trees and hills – which bordered on “mountains”, or at least foothills – all evoked memories of summer holidays in New England.

row of tombstones station of the cross rural slovakia

A row of tombstones led the way…

Saturday morning, we drove well above town looking for the top of a ski resort. Igor led the way, following his gut instincts and a general sense of direction. We parked in a dusty lot overlooking a dilapidated factory but not much else. In a short while, we stumbled upon a row of identical tombstones lined in formation under an archway of green, leafy boughs.

Initially, I mistook these for some type of perfectly linear cemetery – 14 identical tombstones evenly spaced and leading to a clearing. We scampered up the trail and discovered a metal “sculpture”, for lack of a better word – a life size depiction of the crucifixion of Christ. Here, Pat snapped my picture.

detailed stations of the cross in Banska Stiavnica

and each told the story

Although I was familiar with the stations of the cross inside a Catholic church, I never realized they could exist – in fact did exist – near a lonely dirt road well beyond the nearest town, or even house. Igor rattled off a list of more famous ones across Slovakia, including a second more opulent set of stations leading to a hill top church back in Banská Štiavnica.

As I think back on this, I realize I have not seen another outdoor stations of the cross since this weekend. For me, this one remains unrivaled.

Our last morning, a Sunday, Pat and I leaned on Igor’s car as we waited to load up and head home. The bells in a small church just above our apartment began to chime. I noted to Pat, as I always do, how much I love the sound of church bells. Then, Pat and I looked at each other and giggled. In this small Slovak village, the Kenny Rodger’s tune, “You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille” called the townspeople to worship.

For that reason alone, I should have written a blog about Banská Štiavnica. But I didn’t. Among all the details of the trip which I have forgotten, the exact reason for omitting this blog is equally elusive. Yet as I looked at my Facebook picture, I realized, it’s never too late – at least to tell a piece of the story.

Categories: Central/Eastern Europe

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1 reply


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