Photo: Jakub Halun

The old city of Bártfa (Bardejov, Bartfeld) is located in the Upper Lands / Horná Zem / Felvidék, it is in Slovakia. Bártfa is situated on the Polish border. Here is a video (in Hungarian) about the city:  http://https\://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJ7ye-xZSEQ

Photo: Jakub Halun

The city was founded by Polish Cistercian monks in the 13th century. Then, the town was surrounded by a wall and its main square is one of the nicest Saxon town centers among the Carpathian Mountains. Its name derives from the Hungarian “bárd” or pole-ax as it can be seen in the town’s coat of arms.

Photo: Doko Ing. Mgr. Jozef Kotulic

The Germans settled there after the destruction of the Mongols in 1242. The city received privileges and rights from King Lajos (Louis) I in the 14th century. Bártfa became a so-called “free royal town”.  King Lajos gave the order to build walls around the town in 1352. However, the best thing the burghers got from him was the right to hold 8-day-long markets; this right had been granted by King Károly Róbert in 1320 and King Louis reinforced it. This right was extended by King Zsigmond in 1403 who allowed them to hold the market for 16 days, and he let them hold one more yearly market as well in 1427.

Bártfa had an important role in trade, its connections with the Polish Biecz were very strong. General Hunyadi János, Governor of Hungary defeated the army of the Bohemian Hussites led by Talafusz at the city in 1435. Yet, the Hussites took it back five years later. The town was famous for its medieval mystery plays. The mystery play developed, in some places, into a series of plays dealing with all the major events in the Christian calendar, from the Creation to the Day of Judgment. By the end of the 15th century, the practice of acting these plays in cycles on festival days was established in several parts of Europe. Bártfa has perhaps the oldest such tradition in the Kingdom of Hungary.

Photo: J.Dncsn

The town embraced the Evangelic faith in the 16th century. It was Leonard Stöckel, the friend of Melanchthon, who developed its high school in 1539. The Lutherans of Upper Hungary held their first synod there in 1590. The linen industry was very famous in Bártfa. The town suffered a pesticide epidemic three times in the 17th century and burned down in 1686.

Photo: Jakub Halun

The town had been sacked and destroyed many times between 1670 and 1680 by the mercenaries of the Habsburgs or by the rebelling Hungarian troops. Its town hall is a Gothic building, it was built in 1505. The St. Egyed Cathedral dates back to the 15th century.

Photo: Michal Rawlik

When Poland was partitioned, the trading function of Bártfa began to decline. Now, you can still see many sections of the town wall around the city center, along with nice and intact bastions. No wonder, that the town is on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. The long Main Square is simply wonderful. It is the most romantic town I have ever traveled to.

Photo: Antekbojar

I had a chance to visit it in 1985 and I fell in love with its beauty. A huge dark storm from the Carpathians was about to sweep through the ancient city, grackles were chatting around the cathedral and a man was looking out of the window of an old Saxon house. It is a must to visit.

In Bártfa


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Photo: Jan Lipak

Here are a few more pictures of Bártfa: