The origins of painting

The origins of application and art-historical creation of a monumental mural in Slovakia, specifically the phenomenon of medieval Christian visual art in Slovakia, date back to the period of the 9th century. A relatively small amount of plaster fragments of already lapsed sacral monuments have been maintained from the historically important (for Slovakia) key state-building period of Great Moravia (Moravia Magna, 833 – 907), the first state and territorial settlement of ancient Slavs. Today, therefore, their original painted decorations are not relevantly constructed. The only surviving building from the 9th and early 10th century is the Church of Saint Margita Antiochijská near Kopčany (region of Skalica). The church is typologically related to St. George’s Church at Kostoľany under Tríbeč, whose dating to this period should be further clarified by later research. During the Great Moravian Empire, which included the territory of today’s Slovakia, painting as an artistic activity probably did not develop.

The development of painting in Slovakia is dated with certainty by art historians to the period of Pre-Romanesque and mostly Romanesque styles in Europe. In its later period (about 1000 AD) there appear murals almost exclusively on rural sacral buildings. They are preserved, unfortunately, only in fragments, although art historians and restorers in their reconstruction, expressing the view that in their original state there should have been a monumental and coherent iconographic and form-expressive (style) representation.

With regards to the iconographical and artistically exceptional, as well as the oldest Romanesque paintings in Slovakia there is included a set of murals in Kostoľany under Tríbeč (the Zlaté Moravce region) in Saint George’s Church from the Pre-Romanesque period (turn of the 10th and 11th centuries). In the presbytery there is the unique Majestas Domini scene and the narrative scenes of the Marian-Christological cycle in connection with New Testament iconography units in the nave of the church. These precious Romanesque murals in Slovakia are also among the oldest in Central Europe.

The fragmentary preserved part of murals are also found in Párovce near Nitra (from the 11th century). This mural cycle also includes painted Passion scenes in the All Saints Church in Dechtice (dated after 1260), where, in the context of older paintings there also appears a Franciscan theme that suggests its later creation.

Other unique monuments of Romanesque murals are the painting rotunda of the Twelve Apostles in Bíňa (Nové Zámky region) in Southern Slovakia, where the apostles were skillfully represented. Their typological composition, color, decoration and schematic scene sequencing refers unambiguously to the Byzantine painting influence, which also arrived in our territory at that time.