The town of Bytča
The town of Bytča is located in the Bytča basin, which is surrounded by the mountain range Javorníky in the northwest and Súľov Hills in the southeast. The first written mention of Bytča dates back to the first half of the 13th century. The first owners and residents of Bytča - Rode, Boleslav, Kračun and Mykud are mentioned in a document from 1234. Bytča is mentioned in 1378 as a town with an advanced self administration. The peak period in the history of the town, was during the Thurzo era, especially in the period of George Thurzo’s regency. At the turn of the 16th and 17th century, Bytča became a Renaissance centre. At the time of the Reformation, the majority of the population of Bytča were converted to the new religion. During the re-Catholicisation, Jesuits came to the town and in the mid-17th century, the population returned to the Catholic faith. During the 16th and early 17th century, vibrant building activities dominated the town, thanks to the Italian architect John Kilian de Syroth from Milan, who along with craftsmen and artisans finished the construction of the Renaissance manor house between 1571 - 1574, later the utility building and the Wedding Palace.
Flourishing craft production in the town
The economic background of Bytča was centred around agriculture and crafts. The second half of the 17th century was a period of flourishing craft production in the town. There were over 90 craft masters, the most important area of work being drapery. There was a gradual growth in population and as recently as the latter half of the 19th century, Bytča had a higher population than Žilina. At the beginning of the 19th century, a brick factory, which produced about 20 thousand bricks per year and a glass factory were operational. Apart from written evidence of a brewery, in 1592, there were also other industries, a woodworking business being just one example. In 1878, entrepreneurs Reich and Steiner founded the oldest match factory in Slovakia.
Place to visit in the town of Bytča
One of the remarkable places in the town is the square (Protected Historic District , 1991), which still retains its original layout. The historical housing was developed north of the Parish Church, which closes the square in the southern part. The construction of the church dates back to the second half of the 13th century. The church has undergone several modifications, the most important adjustment was the Thurzo Renaissance reconstruction. A precise dating of the Thurzo reconstruction of the church can be found on the stone, a richly decorated main portal semi-circle, vaulted and embellished with plastic, which bears the inscription: "Oh mighty God, I, George Thurzo, moved by holy zeal, dedicate thee this house. Let people listen here, let unerring faith shine on the path to the stars Anno Domini 1590". The inscription is accompanied by a mosaic from the first half of the 20th century, showing the blessing of Christ. The original medieval interior of the church has not been preserved. The newer Baroque interior, constructed in a unifying style is characterized by a broad iconographic programme. Another reconstruction of the church, particularly of its towers, based on a project by the architect M. Harminc, took place in 1939.
Most of the historical signs on the houses in the Bytča Square date from the 18th century. The oldest buildings are the medieval burgher houses No. 135 and 163 from the 16th century. The houses No155 and No.156 on the eastern side of the square with a stone vault in the basement and the baroque facade, have a medieval theme. Around the square a network of streets was formed. During the time of feudalism, the streets already had Slovak names. There were the streets Stolárska (Carpenters‘), Kováčska (Blacksmiths‘) and Upper Street. Podzámocká Street (also known as the Alley), and Obora (Game Park) became part of the town after 1848. Until then they had had independent mayors.
Jews in the town of Bytča
The monumental building of the Synagogue near Bytča castle is closely related to the large number of Jewish people who lived in Bytča mainly in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and participated actively in the economic and cultural development of the town. There was already a brick building synagogue in Bytča in 1801, but its current appearance in the neo-Romanesque style is the result of construction activities of the Jewish religious community in the early 20th century. The block building with a T shaped floor plan has differing height level of various materials and a pentaprism (5-sides) polygonal closure. The front facade of the building is richly structured in materials, including detailed plastic designs and motifs, based on Neo-Romanesque architecture. The interior of the synagogue consists of a hall space of three naves with a gallery (Emporia) on the sides and over the entrance, which also creates the vestibule of the building with cross vaults.The Popper family were responsible for all aspects of development in the Jewish community, and were not only the most influential family in Bytča but were also one of the richest families throughout the Empire.
Today the synagogue belongs to a civic association the Biblical Centre, which campaigns for its reconstruction. The sensitive technical condition of the building does not allow a tour of the synagogue interior. Another monument in the Jewish part of Bytča is a cemetery in Hliník nad Váhom (part of the town). The cemetery has decayed in the last century. Its partial reconstruction began in 2006, when the first phase of repairs of the impressive tomb of the Popper family was carried out. Also, on the southern outskirts of the town was located a Jewish cemetery, destroyed during communism. In its place there is now a monument with an inscription in Slovak, English and Hebrew.
Source: TIO Žilina (researched from academic literature).