The tower that rises above Trnava's main square could be dismissed as belonging to yet another of the town's many churches. But it is, in fact, the original City tower, built in1574 and today undergoing an expensive restoration.
While the spire bearing the Immaculata - the virgin Mary - is already finished, the dome is still wreathed in scaffolding. Unusual scenes of spiritual growth are enacted as workers are elevated in a dirty construction elevator that clings to the side of the tower towards their patron, who smiles own at them in her placid, golden splendor from the spire.
The City tower is just one of the many historical Trnava monuments under reconstruction at the moment. Synagogues, churches and old public buildings are all being rescued from oblivion as the city's rich past gets a modern face.
The local workers putting the new roof on the City tower dome say it is a reconstruction project unlike any other, with a tradition and rituals of its own. A time capsule, containing a written message and a few pieces of articles of everyday life, like coins and bank notes, have been entombed in the spire as a bequest to future generations.
St. Nicolas Church is probably the best-known religious monument in town. Its two pear-shaped domes can be seen on the horizon from City tower, and draw visitors like a lodestar through the town's ancient cobbled streets. It too is under reconstruction, but unlike the City tower, does not lie on the main town square or in the glare of public attention. I must confess, at this point, to a fascination with old towers and their musty, timeless interiors. And when I saw the workmen on the St. Nicolaus reconstruction project snake their climbing ropes down the tower, I had a sudden inspiration.
Juraj, one of the workers, understood my request and seemed to approve of my climbing ambitions. He agreed to take me on a guided tour, risking his job in the process.
In the dim light of the church interior, heaps of soil lay scattered with bones that looked ominously human. And so they were - as I later discovered, an archeological excavation was going on at the former cemetery that the church contained.
Averting my eyes, I followed Juraj through the side nave and the choir stalls, then up and up and round and round the wooden railing-less staircase at the base of the tower.
Windows screened with nets provided us with periodic glimpses of the town from an ever rising height . Finally, we reached the belfry and walked out on to its old beam floor, which was covered in pigeon feathers that rippled and fluttered in the dry wind. This was where the staircase ended.
Three massive bells hung cold and still. Above our heads yawned the black hole of the dome, supported by sturdy beams that thrust up confusedly into the darkness. A narrow cone of grey daylight drifted down from a small dormer open somewhere at the peak.
That belfry felt like the belly of Jonah's whale, except for the heaps of pigeon guano underfoot. Throwing caution to the wind, I started to climb the series of ladders and rickety plankways through the beams.
My heart pounded with excitement as I wormed my way towards the steeple roof. There's not much to hold on to at that height. But the view from the dormer window sets your soul in flight across Trnava's rooftops and empty, level fields, giving a foretaste of what the view will be like when all visitors are finally allowed up the tower.
20. Nov 1997 at 0:00 | Martin Pokluda