Rožňava locals repurpose a Franciscan monastery as a cultural centre

A bookstore and a café have already moved into the Rožňava monastery.

Franciscan monastery in the centre of Rožňava, Košice Region.Franciscan monastery in the centre of Rožňava, Košice Region. (Source: TASR)

A group of enthusiasts from the civic association Otvor dvor (Open the Yard) has been restoring an abandoned Franciscan monastery in the centre of Rožňava over the last six years, and its rooms are coming back to life.

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After the expulsion of the Franciscans, the monastery served as a hospice and then fell into disrepair for years. Now, the association is turning it into a cultural and creative hub for local people that can also be used by artists seeking inspiration in the Gemer region as a gateway, as reported by the My Novohrad daily.

“When we established the association in 2012, we began to shape the public space in Rožňava. We organised cultural events, we created the Rožňavské Radiály cycle, where artists from all over Slovakia performed. However, we lacked the most important thing - our own space,” said Tomáš Székely, a member of the association.

Otvor dvor’s bold intention won the local government’s support in 2016. The association can use the monastery for twenty years if they transform it into a functioning cultural hub. After this period, the town will take over the building.

Cooperation with labour office

Using public funding, the group of enthusiasts has cleaned the monastery of “socialist deposits,” replaced the windows, removed oil paint from the walls, and restored the original paintings in the former dining room.

“It has become the main common room where events take place,” Székely said, adding the reconstruction is going well thanks to their cooperation with a local labour office. “We got the necessary workers. It was an invaluable help.”

Thanks to the reconstruction, a stylish bookstore and the Rajský dvor café have moved into the monastery. Other spaces on the ground floor are being renovated too. Small shops should open here at a later stage. Upstairs, accommodation is available for residents or performers, a tailor’s workshop, a coworking centre and studios.

Active citizenship

“We have not given up on the initial goal to create the urban public space in a broad sense,” said Székely, adding he would like to teach people that events will always take place in town, even if they do not follow any structure in terms of content at present.

“We also want to motivate citizens to volunteer so that they realise a public space is what we need.”

Today, more people are helping to revive life in the monastery, but the pandemic complicates the works on the historical building, especially when it comes to money.

“Perhaps there will now be an even greater need for active citizenship that will replace some institutions in the education of cultural audiences,” Székely concluded.

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