In medieval times, there was a Latin saying “Ora et labora”, which encouraged people to “pray and work”. These words echo in one’s mind during a visit to Skalka, which is a place of deep thoughts and meditation, a world away from the city noise. It was here that the two Saints Svorad and Benedict alighted in the 11th century, and where they achieved their aim of absolute asceticism.
Skalka is only a few kilometres away from the centre of Trenčín, and although it is almost impossibly quiet most of the time, it is also known as one of the oldest pilgrimage destination in Slovakia, to which about 15,000 pilgrims head each year, some from the Czech Republic and Poland. Their target is a complex of sacral buildings spread across the neighbouring villages of Veľká and Malá Skalka (Big and Small Skalka).
On arrival from Trenčín, the first sight for visitors is St Benedict’s Church on the top of a hill in Small Skalka. Legend has it that the church was built in the memory of St Benedict, who was murdered by robbers in 1033. The thieves believed that Benedict had been counting gold, when really he had been counting only nuts. The church, which features two towers in the Romanesque style, was mentioned for the first time in 1208. It is built on the area from which the robbers are said to have thrown Benedict’s body into the Váh River. On the opposite side of church, there is now a calvary.
One kilometre away is Big Skalka, where the alleged murder took place. In 1224, a small church was built on the site, which neighbours a Benedictine monastery, and a cave in the rock where the two hermits, and future saints, are reported to have lived. The monks in the monastery were also entirely self-sufficient and had their own masons, kitchen and pantries. These days it is a steep but rewarding walk to see such a peaceful place.
Benediktínsky kláštor Skalka (Skalka Benedictine Abbey)
The abbey is located
on a cliff 9 km from
Trenčín (in the direction of Zamarovce);
Driving from Trenčín: 9 km / 12 mins; Public transport from Trenčín to Skalka nad Váhom (www.cp.sk) Bus: 9 km / 20 mins
Pilgrimage on the Saints Day of St Svorad and Benedict every year around July 17