A Baroque statue standing in the middle of Mariánske Square comes from 1738. Jozef Matulaj, the Žilina senator donated to the town the money for the wages of a priest, chaplain, professors, spital and for construction and maintenance of the Immaculata statue. The statue was carved by the woodcarver Jozef Veisman from Frýdek and stone-cutter and sculptor Václav Petráš from Řetechov at Uhorský Brod.
The pedestal is decorated by a relief of St. Florian, the patron saint of fire fighters, fire, and chimney sweeps. Originally there was a Latin inscription saying: In veneration of the Virgin Mary and God, built by the Earl (Juraj Erdődy) and the town council. The statue was restored several times, in 1852, 1900, and 1913. During one restoration a new Hungarian-Slovak inscription was added: Your original beauty was restored by Juraj Tvrdý, a canon and an abbot from Nitra, your glorifier. During restoration in 1940 the inscription was changed to: Your beauty was restored by the town Žilina under the mayor Vojtech Tvrdý.
During the attempts to rename the town to Stalinovo the statue was about to be removed to another place in 1953. However, after a stone cutter had fallen from a scaffold and died, nobody else ever tried removing the statue. It took a long time until the scaffolds were removed. The statue of the Virgin Mary – Immaculata – is standing on a slightly shaped pedestal with a relief of St. Florian on it. The pedestal is decorated by angels and supported by volutes. The Immaculata stands on Earth and on a half moon with a human profile, and she is stepping on a snake. Her dress is gathered, slightly flaring, her hands are upraised and eyes turned up to the skies. Her hair is flowing and is decorated by 12 stars. The statue was restored also in 1988-1990, 2001-2002 and recently in 2014. The statue is impacted by adverse impacts of the environment and in particular by the nearby linden trees. And so the symbol of the Catholic revival of the Žilina inhabitants must be repaired regularly and the damaged surface must be reinforced by restorers.
During summer months and at the beginning of autumn in 1995, the town decided to reconstruct the whole area of Mariánske square. It included planned archaeological research. The research started at the end of August and ended at the end of November. Several brick and wooden structures from the 13th century until the beginning of the 18th century were discovered right in front of the Immaculata statue. There is no relevant information about such structures so far. None of the newly discovered objects is drawn on the old map of Žilina from 1747 (Ruttkay’s map) or on a drawing of the square by a geometry student named Hauer from 1779. Only two wells, a pillory and the Immaculata statue are shown on the map. The objects were uncovered gradually, in mutual superposition, so that it was possible to track their town sequence according to the preservation level or overlapping. The oldest one was a burnt object situated right under the statue and dated back to the 13th century according to fragments of ceramics found. Then there was a smaller wooden structure with dimensions 4 x 3.5 metres also damaged by fire. Its floor was made of thick boards and many pieces of medieval ceramics were found in it. The object had been partially explored already in 1966, when it was identified as a cellar – so-called ratúza – of a town house – the town hall. With regard to its small dimensions and poor preservation level, it was certainly not an important building, but perhaps one of the first objects used for the storage of goods during annual markets that were organized in Žilina from 1357. Based on the discovered ceramics that were perfectly crafted also on potter's wheel, the object is dated back to the 14th century.
Two stone structures, one above another, were discovered right next to it. The bigger one had dimensions 8.5 x 7.5 metres and the floor was made of large sandstone boards. A wall built of big stones without any mortar was found on the southern side and partially on the western side of the structure, and this structure was up to the level of the basalt pavement laid in the square at the beginning of the 20th century. Both structures were overlapping, only the quality of the construction was different. While the lower one was bigger, had fixed foundations with solid lime mortar, the upper one was built of big stones without any mortar. Both were damaged by the fountain built at the end of the 30’s of the 20th century, since half of the ground plan of both structures interfered with the fountain pool. The archaeologists wanted to dig as deep as the foundations footing the bottom of the newly discovered buildings, and down there they discovered foundations of another stone structure with a ground plan similar to that of building No. 2. The structure of the walls was different. It consisted of big sandstone pieces joined with very solid lime mortar, and the whole object was built in green clay subsoil. The north-eastern corner of the older building was overlapping the second floor of the big structure No. 2.
The time sequence of the stone structures was probably as follows: building No. 3 – the deepest one in the clay subsoil was built at the end of the 15th century or at the beginning of the 16th century. The building No. 2 with dimensions 8.5 x 7.5 metres was built after the older building was destroyed, probably at the end of the 16th century or at the beginning of the 17th century and it was rebuilt twice, because it had two interior floors – the upper one made of flat sandstone and the lower one made of river boulders. Many fragments of modern ceramics and glass products, in particular glasses of various shapes and sizes, and even a Meissen china cup dated back to the beginning of the 18th century (1706-1720) according to its mark, were discovered. The newest building marked as the building No. 1 was built without any mortar at the end of the 17th century or in the first third of the 18th century perhaps in order to stabilise the Immaculata statue on the unstable clay subsoil in case of possible movements of the statue foundations. The position of the building walls in relation to two square pavements built from boulders brought important findings. While the boulders of the first pavement 50 cm under the basalt pavement were laid directly at the top of the southern wall of the newest building, the second boulder pavement - deeper by another 50 cm - was disturbed by the wall of the building No. 1. Therefore it can be assumed that it was laid at the beginning of the 18th century. Two copper coins were found on top of the boulders – one coin by Jozef II from 1790 and the other one by Francis II Rakoczi from 1706. So, the square had been paved gradually during the 18th century. The upper pavement - the younger one - was laid in the middle of the 19th century. Copper coins by Francis Joseph I from 1860 and 1868 were found on the boulders of the upper pavement, too. The streets starting at the square were paved gradually, too. A document says that every inhabitant of such streets must participate in laying of the pavement by paying one fathom (approximately 1.8 metre) of the pavement, while the remaining sum would had been paid by the town. Franz Šubert, the paver, was paid 65 pennies for 1 m² of pavement, including the material.
What was the purpose of the buildings discovered in the middle of Mariánske Square? Medieval and modern ceramics of high quality, glass and even Meissen china was found in the buildings. Except for carbon from several wood species, other plant remains discovered in individual layers of the square included seeds of vine, strawberry, alfalfa, poppy, plums, European elder, clover and others. Fish vertebrae and fish scales were found. It means the square was used as a trading area – a market, which was the original name of the area as well. The above mentioned crop was traded there, as well as home made goods, pottery and other products. In the middle of the 14th century Žilina was given the right to organise annual markets and so the discovered buildings could had been used for storing or selling the goods brought by the sellers and craftsmen, who were arriving regularly from near and from far. Several markets were organised throughout the period and many rulers granted other benefits to the town inhabitants.
It was found out that there was no corridor connecting the Church of the Holy Trinity situated outside the square and the Church of Paul’s Conversion at the St. Paul’s Square. This was an important finding since a rumour about such interconnection had been circulating around Žilina since old times. However, it was not proven. Also the so-called “Žilina catacombs” that were supposed to be situated under the whole square, seem to be only a rumour. The only fact that was really verified is that all the houses on Mariánske Square had cellars. Some of them are even interconnected but none of them stretches inside the square. The big cellar premises under the Jesuit monastery are also situated only under the building and do not stretch inside the square. We should respect the verified facts and not make up stories to misguide people. Žilina – the old medieval town with a rich history does not deserve any devaluation by false glorification, or even by misinterpreting the history only to make it more attractive for a certain circle of people in their pursuit of sensations.
The settlement Žilina – Selinan was mentioned for the very first time in 1208; in 1312 the documents mention a town – civitas. The town, which is one of the biggest and the most important towns in Slovakia at present, was formed in less than a century. It is an important road and railway crossing and a seat of many important plants that are important for the town and for the whole Slovakia as well.
Source: Mgr. Peter Štanský and Mgr. Milan Novák
It can be visited
■ exterior during a guided tour of TIO Žilina.
Location of the monument on the map: B4