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AROUND SLOVAKIA: ŽILINA

Archaeologists discover lost castle

ŽILINA has found a castle which had been misplaced for centuries. It unexpectedly turned up in the town centre, on the site of a huge new shopping complex planned by businessman George Trabelssie, the Pravda daily reported.

ŽILINA has found a castle which had been misplaced for centuries. It unexpectedly turned up in the town centre, on the site of a huge new shopping complex planned by businessman George Trabelssie, the Pravda daily reported.

Trabelssie's plans were somewhat complicated by the discovery, but he has quickly found a way to benefit from it.

Archaeologists started their investigation on June 9, close to a site known as Farské Schody, or Parochial Stairs. They expected to find the archaeologically insignificant foundations of houses which had been torn down in 1974. Instead, just beneath the surface, they found a round medieval tower which probably dates back to the 13th century.

Historians have discussed the existence of a castle in Žilina for years. Some denied it; others claimed that Žilina arose as the settlement around it. None of the historical sources mentioned when it was standing, when it was first constructed, or where it stood.

The castle's discovery was credited to the archaeologist Jozef Hoššo, the head of the Department of Archaeology at the Faculty of Philosophy of Comenius University in Bratislava.

"It is not important at all, whether we find any treasure inside the tower. The tower itself is worth more than a pot full of coins," he said. Hoššo says that nobody dared to expect to find Žilina Castle on such a site.

Already, early research has revealed that the medieval tower was residential. It had the shape of an ellipse, with walls more than three metres thick, and an eight metre-wide interior. According to the archaeologists, it may have had three floors, and stood up to 20 metres high. As many as three metres of that has probably survived, but the archaeologists will only know for sure after they have dug down, by hand, to its foundations. This is expected to take at least six weeks.

For Trabelssie himself, the discovery of the castle not only delays construction, but also complicates the entire project. The tower stands on a site where he had planned to enlarge a public car park which he owns together with the town of Žilina. He said that expanding the car park would not now be possible and that parking for the shopping centre will have to be resolved in some different way.

However, he said he is not dismayed by the discovery. He immediately gave the project's architects instructions to incorporate the tower into the plans.

"This increases the cost of construction, but also the number of visitors. The Aupark shopping centre, which is being built nearby, will not have any similar attraction," says the Žilina businessman.

Until recently, Źilina had no castle; now it has two of them. Last year, experts discovered that the medieval origins of Budatín, a baroque chateau, in fact go back much further than had originally been thought. Remarkably, the ground plan and form of the newly-discovered tower appear to be almost identical to the one at Budatín. Unlike other Slovak medieval towns, Žilina was not surrounded by stone walls. Hoššo, the archaeologist, expects that further excavation will reveal only the remains of a wooden palisade around the newly-discovered defensive tower.

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