The Love Bank, a popular tourist attraction in the historical centre of Banská Štiavnica, has been destroyed after the old building in which this unique bank is housed went up in flames on Saturday morning.
Due to the strong wind, hilly terrain, narrow streets and old houses attached to one another, the fire spread across several structures along the roofs. It lasted several hours before firefighters managed to contain the fire.
The cause of the fire is not yet known. The Banská Bystrica Region Police said it was probably a short circuit. Some people on Facebook suggested that the fire could have been prevented if the electrical system maintenance in the building had not been neglected.
Many volunteers, soldiers and firefighters, both from Banská Štiavnica and nearby towns, tried to put out the fire in the UNESCO town on Saturday.
Banská Štiavnica, with a rich mining history, and the surrounding technical monuments, were inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1993.
Soon after the fire broke out, the central Slovak town asked local people via Facebook to come and help save exhibits from the Jozef Kollár Art Gallery. The gallery is located several metres from the Love Bank. The Denník N daily estimates that up to 300 people created a human chain to help save the exhibits. They are now stored in the Old Castle. Volunteers also helped save valuable exhibits from the Slovak Mining Archives, a building right next to the Love Bank.
The Love Bank is located on Holy Trinity Square, the town’s main square. Several other buildings caught fire, including a music school, pizzeria, and the Eleuzína cultural centre . The centre is located above the Love Bank and offers a splendid view of the hilly town.
“Up to now, five roofs belonging to national cultural monuments have already burned down,” the interim Culture Minister Natália Milanová said on Saturday afternoon. “The Slovak Mining Museum and one gallery remain in acute danger.”
Shortly before 17:00, interim PM Eduard Heger announced that the major fire was under control, the TASR news agency wrote. Seven buildings in total caught fire and are now damaged, the interim prime minister added. Firefighters will remain in the area until Sunday morning.
On Saturday, the Donio fundraising website launched an initiative to raise money for the town. Heger also said that his cabinet will hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss how the interim government will help.
“[Banská Štiavnica] is a jewel of our cultural heritage, many tourists come to visit,” Heger said. “We want this town to continue to prosper from tourism.”
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský tweeted on Saturday that Czechia is ready to help as well.
For now, the centre of Banská Štiavnica remains closed to the public until further notice, the town said.
The Love Bank, the only such bank in the world, stores several thousands of love stories from around the world. The project is inspired by and devoted to the longest love poem in the world. Written in 1844 by Slovak poet Andrej Sládkovič, “Marína” is 2,900 verses long.