Reconstruction of St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral is nearing completion

The aim of the investment project of the non-profit making organisation, Pearls of the Gothic Route, is to make Košice more attractive via reconstruction and restoration works to the interior of St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral and its southern tower – Matthias Tower. It is being implemented within measure 7.1 of the priority axis “European Capital of Culture Košice 2013″ of the Regional Operational Programme. The project is co-financed by the European Union by 85% from the European Regional Development Fund and 10% by the Slovak Republic from the State budget. The maximum total investment cost represents a sum of almost €3.171m.

“The national cultural site, St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral, which visited annually by more than 100,000 tourists, doesn’t just dominate Košice but at the same time, it’s the largest church in Slovakia and also the easternmost cathedral of a western type in Europe. We founded the non-profit making organisation in July 2004 with the aim of obtaining financial means for saving this most valuable Gothic site in the city, including St. Michael’s Chapel and St. Urban Tower,” reminded the Project Manager of the non-profit making organisation, Pearls of the Gothic Route, Ing. Mária Bartková. As she stressed, five per cent co-financing of the project, which in this case is €158,000, is coming from sponsor’s donations, charities and public collections. Thanks to this, many citizens of the city and the whole of Slovakia are contributing towards the restoration of the Cathedral. “After the great reconstruction of St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral from 1877 to 1896, this is currently its most significant renovation. The interior and exterior of Matthias Tower has not been restored since its construction was completed in 1477,” reminded the Head of the Board of the non-profit making organisation, Mgr. Ján Kožuško, of the significance of the project.

Restoration works started on 14th July 2012. “The whole of the current, complex restoration is based on the restoration proposal which was objectified under the supervision of the Regional Monuments Board in Košice. The project was divided into several stages, and due to a shortage of time we are operating in a special regime – in some places we are ready, in some places we are doing surface finishing and in some places we are painting. However, it’s a good method because we can already see the results. We are currently nearing completion and we want 99 per cent of the nave and transepts of Cathedral to be ready by the end of the year. This is our aim and we are making every effort to reach it,” said Academic Sculptor, Vladimír Višváder. According to him, nothing can get in the way of St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral becoming a place for significant events in 2013 within the European Capital of Culture project. It will also include a musical event on 2013, a concert entitled The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross from Joseph Haydn, which will be conducted by the world famous Spanish conductor, Jordi Savall, with his ensemble.

On behalf of the investor, Ing. Bartková confirmed that works on the interior are not behind and they are proceeding in accordance with the schedule. However, on the recommendation from conservationists, they contacted the Ministry of Culture to request an extension of time for renovating the exterior. “We are able to do everything but we need time. A technological break will be inevitable during the winter months, frost and other weather conditions will not allow us to apply the selected technology since it could damage the national cultural site,” added V. Višváder.

A total of over 40 specialists licensed to carry out restoration works as well as specialists to support the restoration works are working on the Cathedral. “It is exceptionally demanding work on a large scale. Literally centimetre by centimetre, we need to clean the stone, desalinate, reinforce, add missing parts of the original material or ornamental fragments, preserve the restored areas as well as repair the stained glass and carry out a lot of other specialist works. The size of 4,280m² illustrates the scope of the works in the developed area of the restored interior,” he said.

According to the well-known guide and promoter of Košice and the history of Košice, Milan Kolcun, it is admirable how the restoration team have managed to find a common language with the parish. “Despite the intensive works, visitors to the city haven’t lost the opportunity to attend holy mass during their stay and tourists, in each phase of the reconstruction, will only lose a maximum of a quarter of the interior viewing area. A good guide will even use the temporary reconstruction period to show the restorers’ work, present the recently restored parts or compare the parts which haven’t yet been restored with those which have already undergone restoration. These days the Cathedral changes from week to week and is therefore perhaps even more interesting,” added M. Kolcun.

Due to the necessary scope of the St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral restoration, implementation of another two projects is currently taking place within cross-border cooperation with Hungary and Ukraine. In the previous programming period, we similarly succeeded in restoring the Rákoczi tomb, and the non-profit making organisation, Pearls of the Gothic Route, is preparing other projects. 

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