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HISTORY TALKS...

The land of mills

MILLING has a long history in Slovakia, with significant activity recorded as early as the 13th century. Due to the abundance of rivers and streams, watermills have operated successfully here ever since. In the 19th century there were 4,800 mills in operation, the highest number at any time in the territory’s history.

MILLING has a long history in Slovakia, with significant activity recorded as early as the 13th century. Due to the abundance of rivers and streams, watermills have operated successfully here ever since. In the 19th century there were 4,800 mills in operation, the highest number at any time in the territory’s history.

Initially, only monasteries or religious institutions were allowed to build mills, and later, the nobility. For a landowner, a mill was a significant source of income, as the subjects were obliged to bring their grain to him to be milled, and pay him for it.

Milling was passed down through families. A father would teach his son about the mill’s mechanical operation, as well as how to mill the grain, how to repair the mill and how to build a new mill from scratch. It would have been virtually impossible for someone to become a miller without spending years working in a mill.

Despite the fact that mills could be found in every corner of the country, millers were only rarely associated in guilds. This was because mills were usually located on the outskirts of municipalities, but also because of the low concentration of millers in each settlement. The patron saint of millers is St Catherine, the martyr who was executed by being thrown into the water with a mill wheel tied around her neck.

This postcard from the 1930s shows the watermill in Hrochoť Valley in central Slovakia.

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