What is Bratislava’s most valuable historical monument? Very few people would mention the Water Tower, even though the landmark would be a valid guess.
“This is precisely the spot that gave rise to Bratislava,” said Ivo Štassel, art historian and director of the Municipal Institute of Monuments Protection in Bratislava. He affectionately calls Vodná Veža or Water Tower, “our diamond”.
Here beneath the Castle Hill, for a millennia, a single ford across the Danube was far and wide as its meandering flow spilled into the inland delta elsewhere. This ford was the source of wealth of every settlement that used to stand here. Without the tower, Bratislava would only be a small town today, claims Štassel.
Bratislava’s strategic site
- The tower stood on the ford across the Danube River, which was used from prehistoric times to the 15th century
- The Water Tower itself was built in the 11th century at the latest
- The Water Tower’s area served as a toll station and was part of the Podhradie fortifications, i.e. the area below the castle and the city
- The Water Tower lost its function of a toll station after the construction of wooden bridges across the Danube in the 15th century
- The area was blown up in 1620
- The Water Tower’s area was divided into three plots on which burghers built their residential houses
- The Water Tower’s remnants were located in the 1960s during the demolition of Vydrica
- The current appearance of the site is the result of a restoration in the 1980s
- The Water Tower was declared a protected national cultural monument in 2004
The Water Tower is part of Vydrica, an ancient settlement that used to sprawl below the Castle Hill for centuries. The neighbourhood survived for ages only to be demolished along with the neighbouring Zuckermandel in the 1960s. A hole separating the historic city centre from the Danube embankment remained at the foot of the castle hill for decades. Now it will be filled with the new Vydrica development, a combination of residential buildings, public and administrative premises, and shops. The developer, Vydrica Development, plans to build the centre of the new development around the Water Tower. It also claims that it is ready to financially support its restoration and revitalisation.
The ford was used from prehistoric times to the 15th century, when locals started building the first wooden bridges over the Danube. It was a strategic place, a crossing of important mediaeval trade routes – the Amber and Danube. Naturally, such a place offered great potential for growth for the coming settlement. The hill above was ideal for building a fort.
“There was the geographic assumption that a major city would rise here,” said Štassel.
The Water Tower built at the ford served as a toll station on the international trade route and as a western fortification, important for the defence of the city and the castle.
The oldest architecture?
The Water Tower was assumed to be the oldest preserved archaeological site in the city until 2008. Then during the construction of the underground garages under Bratislava Castle, archaeologists discovered walled 1st century Celtic-Roman villas from the 1st century BC, when the local population was still dwelling in log cabins.
“It was a top-notch architecture no one expected here,” said Štassel. Experts discovered that these luxury two-storey villas were built by Roman masters for the wealthy Celtic nobility in those times.
24. May 2019 at 12:55 | Jana Liptáková