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Levoca, Slovakia

Levo?a is a town in the Spiš region of eastern Slovakia with a population of 14,600. The town has a historic center with a well preserved town wall, a Renaissance church with the highest wooden altar in Europe, carved by Master Paul of Levo?a, and many other Renaissance buildings. On 28 June 2009, Levo?a was added by UNESCO to its World Heritage List.

The old town is picturesquely sited and still surrounded by most of its ancient walls. In associating the town with Spiš Castle and Zehra in June 2009 as the renamed World Heritage Site of “Levo?a, Spišský Hrad, and the Associated Cultural Monuments”, UNESCO cites the town’s historic center, its fortifications, and the works of Master Paul of Levo?a preserved in the town. The main entrance to the old town is via the monumental Košice Gate (15th century) behind which is located the ornate baroque Church of the Holy Spirit and the New Minorite Monastery (c. 1750).

The town square (Námestie Majstra Pavla – Master Paul’s Square) boasts three major monuments; the quaint Old Town Hall (15th-17th century) which now contains a museum, the domed Evangelical Lutheran Church (1837) and the 14th centuryRoman Catholic Church of St. James (in Slovak: Chrám svätého Jakuba, often mistakenly referred to in English as St. Jacob’s). It houses a magnificently carved and painted wooden Gothic altar, the largest in Europe, (18.62 m (61.09 ft) in height), created by Master Paul around 1520. The square is very well preserved (despite one or two modern incursions) and contains a number of striking buildings which were the townhouses of the local nobility in the late Middle Ages. Also notable in the square is the wrought iron “Cage of Shame”, dating back to the 17th century, used for public punishment of miscreants.

A plaque on one of the houses records the printing and publication in the town of the most famous work of Comenius, the Orbis Pictus. Other buildings on the square house a historical museum and a museum dedicated to the work of Master Paul. Behind the square on Kláštorská Street are the 14th century church and remains of the old monastery of the Minorites, now incorporated into a Church grammar school. Nearby is the town’s Polish Gate, a Gothic construction of the 15th century. From the 16th century to the end of 1922, Levoca was the administrative center of the province of Szepes (Spiš). Between 1806 – 1826, the Hungarian architect from Eger Antal Povolny built a grandiose administration building, the Large Provincial House, as the seat of the town’s administration. He adjusted its Classicist style to Levoca’s Renaissance character by emphasizing the building’s horizontal lines. The House is considered the most beautiful Provincial House in the former Kingdom of Hungary. Today, it is reconstructed and it is a seat of the administration.

The State Regional Archives (Štátny oblastný archív) are in a tan stone building on the north side of the square at nám. Majstra Pavla 60.

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