Medieval literature

The early shaping of literary culture in Slovakia was linked to the Greek Byzantine mission of Constantine and Methodius (863-885) who, in addition to the Eastern Rite, also introduced into the liturgy religious texts written in the Glagolitic script and translated into the Macedonian dialect used in the vicinity of the Greek city of Solun. This dialect, known as Old Slavonic or Church Slavonic, did not become the language of literary works created by the Great-Moravian Slavs. What was crucial however was the written heritage created in this language as well as in the Early Cyrillic Alphabet, which became part of the verbal culture of those Slavic nations which belonged to the Byzantine-Orthodox Church.
Among the more important surviving texts connected with Great Moravia are the later transcriptions of legends called Život Konštantína (Life of Constantine) and Život Metoda (Life of Methodius). These works are typical examples of the hagiographic literary genre, which is characterised by its stylistic and poetic features. In fact these texts comprise predominantly religious defences and disputes which depict in their background the key stages of the activity of both Christian missionaries.

After the collapse of the Great Moravian Empire, Slovakia became part of the Hungarian Kingdom, and Slovak literature and culture began to form itself within the political, social and cultural boundaries of Medieval Europe and Western Christianity. During this period the monastic communities belonging to the Benedictine, Cistercian, Dominican and Franciscan monastic orders played a crucial role in promoting Slovak literature and culture. The abbeys, monastery schools, monastic scriptoria and bibliothecas became natural centres for Slovak literature which sought to promote ancient literature and to develop intercultural dialogue within Medieval Central, Western and Eastern Europe. The oldest Slovak medieval legend written in Latin, O svetom Svoradovi a svetom Benediktovi (About St Svorad and St Benedict) by Pécs Bishop Maurus, was created during this period.
The emergence and development of urban culture produced a new type of lay writer, represented by John from Turiec, about whom a record was made in the Hungarian Chronicle (1488). New genres developed in the literature of this period and it was the medieval Latin anthem, goliard poetry and from the 14th century also Czech religious poetry that took roots in Slovak literature. The most famous literary heritage, which was created in the 14th century Slovakia, was the hymn Vítaj, milý Spasiteľu (Welcome, Dear Saviour), which was typical for its simple yet captivating poetic language. A high rhetoric and poetic language culture distinct from plebeian language is represented by Chváloreč na básnické umenie (‘Ode on Poetic Art’, 1461), written in Latin by Kristof Petschmessing. It was this work which paved the way for the advent of Humanism and Renaissance within the conditions of Slovak literature and culture.