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A Brief History of Nitra
NITRA - NOVEMBER 8-11, 1998

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The 'Mother of Slovak Towns' possesses beauty, a colorful history and a thriving present, offering visitors an experience of Slovakia that is both ancient and modern

Few towns are endowed with such beautiful surroundings and such an ideal location as Nitra.

They say that Nitra, like Rome, was founded on seven hills. Its name is connected with the beginnings of the history of Slovakia, with the names of Pribina, Svatopluk, Saints Cyril and Methodus and even even with the mention of the first Christian church on the territory of Slovakia and with the introduction of the old Slavonic alphabet.

Nitra, with symbolic significance for Slovakia as the "The Mother of Slovak towns," is beautifully located on the northern border of the Danubian lowlands, right below the majestic Mount Zobor. The natural scenery is complemented by the river Nitra and a few mountains which have been sites of fortifications surrounded by settlements.

The beginnings of its settlement go back as far as the earliest times, as has been documented by numerous archeological finds on the town's territory. This area was a densely populated region some 3,000 years ago. The first peasant settlements were on the territory of the town some 6,000 years ago. In the fourth century B.C. the territory of Slovakia was inhabited by the Celts who remained here for a long period of time. They were skillful smelters and smiths whose huts and workshops were found at the foot of Martinsky vrch (Martin hill). Even the Dacians left some traces bihind here.

The Slavic history of Nitra started near the end of the 5th century when the first Slavs arrived. As early as the first half of the 7th century, some western sources mention a state formation of Slavs, the Samo Empire. The Samo Empire was a predecessor of the subsequent state formation -- the Great Moravian Empire, the foundations of the renowned fame of ancient Christian Nitra were laid, as was recorded in extremely precious documents from the 9th century. One of these fortified settlements may have been the residence of Prince Pribina under whose rule Nitra was an important political, military and economic centre. Pribina showed great wisdom as a statesman and had great insight into European politics, when in about 828 A.D.,he, being a heathen himself, allowed the first Christian church in Nitra to be consecrated. This act was performed by Adalram, the Archbishop of Salzburg. The Pribina church is the first historically documented witness to the Christianity of the Slavs on the territory of Slovakia. This great event is mentioned in a document "Conversione Bagoariorum et Carantanorum" dating back to 870-871. Unfortunately, the exact site of the shrine has not as yet been located, but it is probable that the church did not stand on today's Castle Hill.

In its later development, the Nitra principality was forcibly annexed by Mojmir to the Moravian principality in about 833, and a new state entity was formed which is mentioned in sources under the name Great Moravia. After the dethronement of Mojmir, Rastislav became the ruler of Great Moravia. His reign is connected with a very important event, namely the comming of the Byzantine missionaries, Constantine-Cyril and Methodius, in 863. Constantine-Cyril developed the first Slavic alphabet, which was called "glagolitic", he also translated the first liturgical texts into Old Slavonic. Methodius, whom Pope Hadrian II had authorized to be consecrated as a bihop in 870 and later as archbishop, was named as a papal legate for Pannonia and for the Upper Danubian Slavs.

Nitra was at the height of its fame during the reign of King Svatopluk. In one of the most valuable written documents for Slovak history, in the letter from Pope John VII to Svatopluk dating back to 880, "Indistriae tuae," Svatopluk is addressed as king and the Pope informs him of the appointment of Viching as bishop of Nitra. By then, Nitra probably had a municipal character, and it consisted of five fortified settlements and 20 communities where skilled craftsmen plied their trade.

Until the beginning of the 14th century Nitra remained the residential town of the principality that bordered the newly formed Hungarian monarchy. Also, during the Middle Ages, it was the site of important historical events, and it was often plundered by various armies. The Benedictines took up the organization of ecclesiastical life, their monastery of St. Hyppolite on the slope of Mount Zobor was the oldest in Slovakia. Since the 10th century Nitra became a duke's residence which was a significant institution in the first centuries of the Hungarian state. In the 11th to 13th centuries it ranked among the most significant towns in the Hungarian kingdom. In 1248 the Hungarian ruler Bela IV, in appreciation for protection from the Tartars, promoted Nitra to the status of free-royal town with privileges similar to those of Szekesfehervar, then the capital city of the Hungarian state. Medieval Nitra was divided into several separate parts, each with its own aldeman and local seals. Four new independent parishes came into being in connection with the churches of St. Michael in the square Navrsku, St. James in the central square, St. Stephen in Parovce, and Our Lady on Calvary Hill.

From the second half of the 18th century, Nitra escaped from military hardships, this made possible the renovation of the town and modifications to the castle and especially the Cathedral. Peaceful times made construction of several buildings in the Upper Town possible. As a result of the town's development, the population grew beyond 10,000, in the 19th century. In 1873 Nitra became the town with its municipality presided over by a mayor and by numerous public councilmen. Further development of the town was strongly influenced by two World Wars.

The ancient Nitra is today a modern town with a nucleus formed by urban constructions built particularly in the last 50 years. The historical dominant building, the Castle of Nitra, complements the baroque Upper Town.

There are several churches in Nitra of great artistic value from the Romanesque period up to the 18th and 19th centuries. Each has its own history but monumental secular buildings from the 19th century also contribute to the cityscape, as do the discoveries of archaeological investigations, which have unearthed and made accessible to the public much of Nitra’s ancient history. trailers/mainaudem.trailer buttons/audem.main.buttons 28-August-1998