A CHURCH is a place of worship. Or at least that is the narrow understanding of what a church should be – quite widespread among Slovakia’s prevailingly Roman Catholic believers. To melt the ice that freezes some people whenever they enter a church, many churches across Slovakia took part in the first-ever Night of Churches, an event that opened the doors of small churches as well as the country’s biggest cathedrals, including their hidden corners, to music, dance, arts and discussions.
The idea of Slovakia’s Night of Churches was inspired by Austrian churches which have been opening their doors for such events since 2005. It was first planned only for the Trnava diocese in Slovakia but the idea spread quickly to nearly all parts of the country and dozens of churches participated on the evening of May 27.
The Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Trnava, also known as the University Church, was at the heart of the night, which began at 18:00 with the tolling of the church bells, followed by an ecumenical prayer by members of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Slovakia.
The programme lasted until midnight and offered a mixture of activities throughout Trnava. In the cathedral itself, knowledge-hungry visitors could take part in a guided tour or enjoy a concert by one of Trnava’s most-eminent jazz groups, the H Projekt; participate in a discussion about restoration of the church and then listen to a concert by a Pop Idol-winner turned jazz singer.
Michal Žitňanský, who works as a Trnava tour guide and gave the evening guided tour of the cathedral, said in an interview with The Slovak Spectator that it was a special experience for him to speak to the packed church at that rather unusual time of the evening and that he was pleased with the atmosphere.
“When I came here I expected a dark cathedral with dim lights but there were a lot of children, everybody was merry and jabbering could be heard everywhere,” he said, adding that he felt the church was really alive on that night.
“Beside the fact that it still serves as a place of worship, which I believe is alpha and omega for a church – something that gives sense to its existence, it was also open to people who might come here only very rarely and despite that they could enjoy everything it offers,” Žitňanský said. He believes the Night of Churches definitely fulfilled its aim – to open churches to the people, adding that this was aided by the excellent selection of guests who participated in the programme, such as Maroš Kuffa, a priest from Žakovce who leads a special programme for the homeless, who was invited for a discussion in one of Trnava’s smaller churches.
“I have found so many things here that I wish the night lasted for two or three days because one evening is not enough to see all the things I’d like to see,” Žitňanský said as he headed off to see the crypts of Trnava’s churches that were open for the night and to attend a lecture by Max Kašparú, a deacon and psychologist.
Despite the rainy and stormy weather, numerous groups of people could be seen running from church to church in Trnava on that Friday night – and to see places that are not normally accessible to ordinary folk. These included St Nicolas Basilica’s tower, the newly-opened crypts and an ossuary – basilica staff reported people queuing for over 20 minutes just to make it inside its doors and around 1,000 people were reported to have climbed its tower. The Cathedral of St John the Baptist was reportedly visited by as many as 1,600 people over the course of the evening and hundreds of others visited smaller churches within the city and in villages within the diocese.
6. Jun 2011 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani