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The city of waldburgers

THIS AWE-inspiring 1930s postcard shows the entrance to the Beniczky House, one of the most beautiful structures in Banská Bystrica. The gate is adorned with the coat of arms of the Szentiványi family, which incorporates into its design two miners, illustrating the important role mining played in the city.

THIS AWE-inspiring 1930s postcard shows the entrance to the Beniczky House, one of the most beautiful structures in Banská Bystrica. The gate is adorned with the coat of arms of the Szentiványi family, which incorporates into its design two miners, illustrating the important role mining played in the city.

In the past, most of the houses in the city square were owned by so-called ringburgers, or waldburgers, many of whom owned or operated the city’s mines and steelworks. Banská Bystrica’s mines were located eight to 18 kilometres away from the city itself, unlike Banská Štiavnica or Kremnica, whose mines were beneath the city. Thus, owners of the mining enterprises spent most working days in the forests of the surrounding hills. This is where the word “wald”, i.e. forest, comes from, while the second part of the name stems from the fact that their families lived in the middle of town, as “burger”, or burgher, means city dweller.

For mining towns, meat supplies were crucial: it was important to secure food for the large number of miners and their families, but some of the animal by-products were also necessary for the operation of the mills and mines. For example tallow was used to make candles for lighting, fat for preserving bags and ropes, and ox skins for the production of blowpipes, transport bags and buckets.

Villages around the outskirts of Banská Bystrica participated in supplying the city with goods. For example, in 1521 these included 42 butchers from 15 villages. Butchers’ counters once lined Hronská (today’s Kapitulská) Street, and a slaughterhouse was located nearby. Cattle were slaughtered close to the river, into which went blood and anything else that was not used. An entire butchers’
neighbourhood gradually developed there, and the closest bastion of the city’s fortifications bears the name Mäsiarska, which means butcher.

Apart from the coat of arms and the sign “Thomas Beniczky de Miczina”, period advertisements on the house’s wall are also of interest.

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