HISTORY TALKS...

The Habans of Sobotište

THE HOUSES in the picture might remind someone of Switzerland or Germany. The truth, however, is that this is the small town of Sobotište in the Záhorie region. In the 16th century, Anabaptists were persecuted nearly everywhere in Europe and some refugees from Switzerland came to settle in Záhorie. Their enclave in Sobotište was even considered a kind of centre of Haban culture in all of the Hungarian empire. They received the name Habans from local residents who distorted the word ‘haushaben’ – to have a house. The Habans found the name pejorative and allegedly asked the Emperor to ban its use.

THE HOUSES in the picture might remind someone of Switzerland or Germany. The truth, however, is that this is the small town of Sobotište in the Záhorie region. In the 16th century, Anabaptists were persecuted nearly everywhere in Europe and some refugees from Switzerland came to settle in Záhorie. Their enclave in Sobotište was even considered a kind of centre of Haban culture in all of the Hungarian empire. They received the name Habans from local residents who distorted the word ‘haushaben’ – to have a house. The Habans found the name pejorative and allegedly asked the Emperor to ban its use.

Habans became famous for their mastery of pottery. Less about their spiritual and intellectual life is known but they did produce extraordinary books. For example, in the 16th and 17th centuries, long after typography was invented, their scribes continued to handwrite books. Though producing mostly religious literature the community also produced expert medical texts, having secretly brought many originals from western Europe. Unfortunately, most of them were destroyed during the prosecution by Jesuits from Skalica within the re-Catholicism of Slovakia.

It is interesting that ‘Haban Court’ in Sobotište looks much the same as in this postcard from the 1920s as all the buildings still stand, only in much worse condition.


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