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Interior facelift for Trnava’s cathedral

RÓBERT BEZÁK, Archbishop of Trnava, has invited Otmar Oliva, an academic sculptor from Velehrad in the Czech Republic, to spend the next three years reconstructing Trnava’s Cathedral of St John the Baptist together with stonemason Petr Novák.

RÓBERT BEZÁK, Archbishop of Trnava, has invited Otmar Oliva, an academic sculptor from Velehrad in the Czech Republic, to spend the next three years reconstructing Trnava’s Cathedral of St John the Baptist together with stonemason Petr Novák.

Renovation of the interior officially started on October 9 with an exhibition of the sculptor’s working plans. The reconstruction will include a new sacrificial table, cross, chandeliers, baptistery, and additional statues. These statues will reflect both the Baroque style of the church as well as more modern styles. The TASR newswire wrote that the reconstruction will raise the value of this important historical building in Trnava.

Oliva earned fame across Europe when he decorated the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican at the request of Pope John Paul II, as well as for his sculptures in the interior of the St Mary Mother of Mercy Franciscan church in Maribor, Slovenia. His professional procedures include rich modelling, lost-wax casting of metals (sometimes called by the French name for the process, cire perdue), sculpting with precious materials, and using coloured glass which stresses the play of light and shadows on highly polished surfaces.

Apart from its decorative character, light has a highly symbolic meaning as it did in early Medieval Christian art. Oliva also typically casts items from nature, such as leaves, fruit, and mussels, which represent special themes.

The Cathedral of St John the Baptist is one of the most valuable historical monuments in Trnava and was the first sacral building of early Baroque style and composition in Slovakia. The church’s sponsor, Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy, authorised Italian masters Antonio and Pietro Spazza to oversee its construction in 1629 and it was consecrated in 1637, still unfinished.

The gem of the interior is a colossal main altar made solely of wood that was completed between 1637 and 1640 by Vienna masters B. Knilling and V. Knoth, aided by V. Stadler from Trnava and master Ferdinand from the nearby town of Cífer. The altar is 20.3 metres tall, 14.8 metres wide and is one of the largest of its kind in Europe.


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