Farming Village Vlkolinec (World Heritage)

Vlkolínec is a medieval village on a high plateau on the western edge of the Great Fatra. It has a closed ensemble of around 45 wooden buildings, most of which date from the 19th century. Characteristic features are the stone plinths, the brightly painted clay walls and the wooden shingle roofs. The World Heritage honors them as an example of the traditional rural architecture of the region.

Peasant village Vlkolinec: facts

Official title: Vlkolínec farming village
Cultural monument: An ensemble of 45 barely changed farmhouses with stone plinths, clay walls and clapboard roofing in the 718 m high cluster village of Vlkolínec, whose name is derived from »vlk« (»wolf«)
Continent: Europe
Country: Slovak Republic, western edge of the High Tatras
Location: Vlkolínec, between Banská Bystrica and Ruzomberok
Appointment: 1993
Meaning: traditional farming village as a jewel of the folk architecture of Central Eastern Europe

Peasant village Vlkolinec: history

1376 first documentary mention
1551 Village with only four properties
1630 Ordinance on the establishment of wolf pits
1770 Construction of the bell house
1775 Construction of the wooden Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1944 partial destruction in the course of retaliatory measures by the German armed forces
1977 placed under monument protection

Slovak soul and regional awareness

A village green in the Carpathian Mountains as a world heritage? One takes note of this with a little surprise, because after all it is predominantly venerable churches, magnificent castles, palaces and museums that serve as symbols of national cultural identity. Revered, contested and threatened, they often develop international significance as national “showpieces”. Is it any wonder that representatives of the supposedly “common” everyday culture, endowed with the rustic charm of the log cabin, are clearly underrepresented in the ranks of the international world heritage?

Living conditions, still shaped by the Middle Ages at their core, bear eloquent testimony to the continuous course of that “great history” which an insignificant rural community may have carelessly touched on in the course of history, but which it certainly did not take notice of. It takes all sorts of happy circumstances to secure the solemn status of a “living museum” for a friendly village like Vlkolínec.

Taken in isolation, there is hardly a single detail of this rural community, which was slowly becoming extinct under the conditions of the late 20th century. Even the rock-solid architecture, perfectly adapted to the severe mountain climate, does not come up with exaggerated craftsmanship, but with needs-based simplicity in this region, which is largely isolated from changing cultural influences. It is not the cosmopolitan character or architectural-historical cabinet pieces that impress, but the unique atmosphere of the authentically preserved village ensemble: a piece of Slovak soul survives the past, peacefully and unsuspectingly.

The delicate structure of the lovingly cared-for wooden houses essentially dates back to the 19th century: Almost all of the log-built wooden houses, which used to be painted twice a year with a blue, but also reddish or white lime paint, correspond to the three-room house type. The floor in the vestibule and in the chamber is made of tamped clay, and only in the room is there a floorboard. The stove, the smoke of which escapes through an opening in the shingled gable roof, is located in the anteroom. Even if the foundations were made of field stones, the cellars are mostly missing.

And as paradoxical as it may sound, the Vlkolínec of today clearly bears the traits of the somewhat mysterious development of the late 1970s that took place in Europe and to some extent worldwide: New thinking and regional awareness strengthened, surprisingly both before and after “Iron Curtain”. A final rebellion of cultural identity blocked the final sell-off of individual village culture.

The new appreciation of this village living environment without a standardized “wet room” and traffic-friendly infrastructure created a refuge with the result that houses and farms that were threatened were permanently “preserved”. Sometimes the disappearance of a house from its original place turned out not to be an irreversible demolition, but rather an organized “evacuation”, which in each case followed the much larger undertaking to save the Egyptian temple complex of Abu Simbel on a small scale.

Resembling defiant wagon castles against urbanization, such evidence of rural architecture is scattered all over Europe as only a few tourist attractions have been discovered so far. The intelligent “capitulation” of the preservation of monuments to the relentless fact-creating reality was never entirely undisputed. The prescribed »fresh cell cure«, to which the wooden houses of the Vlkolínec community, which have survived on their original site, owe their existence – presumably largely artificially maintained in the foreseeable future – shows that baroque castles and log houses have at least one thing in common: measured against today’s general (living -) Standard, largely uninhabitable witnesses of the past with bizarre recreational value.

Farming Village Vlkolinec (World Heritage)