Since the days of the Hungarian king Koloman (1095 -1116), the dead could only be buried on holy ground, i.e. alongside religious buildings / churches. In the Middle Ages, there were only two such places in Žilina: the Church of St Stephen the King, founded around the beginning of the thirteenth century, and the parish church, now the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Horný val, founded some time after 1250. According to archaeological excavations, the oldest graves around the Church of St Stephen the King can be dated back to the turn of the thirteenth century. The oldest graves around the parish church have not been discovered, since they were damaged by frequent repeated burials very close to the church walls; only loose skulls were found, the deepest being 3m underground next to a pillar consolidating the southern wall of the rectangular shrine of the older church. Burials around the parish church came to an end in 1879.
The municipal cemetery – today’s old cemetery – was founded in 1707 and extended in 1898. Burials took place in the grounds of the cemetery since 1697, when the town was hit by a plague epidemic and 150 bodies had to be buried outside the town. They were laid down on fields belonging to the town, at Šefranica. A chapel to St Margaret was built here, where Andrej Hutko, from Divina, placed a picture of the Virgin Mary of Loreto brought from Rome in 1719. At the beginning of the twentieth century (1901), a new morgue was built here. The wider grounds which had originally intended to be used to expand the cemetery were taken, however, for the construction of the Sokolovna, the residential estate of Svojdomov etc. The Chapel of Rest, designed by the architect Bauer in 1958 is a significant architectural monument, listed from 2008 in first place in the List of Monuments of the City. The five mosaic windows in the ceremonial hall were made to designs by the painter Fero Kráľ and Andrej Barčík. The artist behind the interior decorations and furnishing is the architect Cimmermannová.
From 1914, the old cemetery included a military cemetery. Victims of the cholera epidemic which killed not only soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian army, but others too, including prisoners who were lodged in so-called “cholera houses”, were buried here. A monument was built in 1914 to the first victims from the cholera houses, bearing the symbolic title “First victims of the World War 1914”. The number of dead soldiers and prisoners accommodated in Žilina’s cholera houses was so great that there was not enough room in the municipal cemetery. In 1915, a new military cemetery was opened to the west of the original one, on a former pasture along the Žilina – Rajec rail track. This one had all the features of a military cemetery; weeping willows and thujas, in whose shade rest for eternity up to 1,276 soldiers, victims of merciless battles between the three powers of Russian, Germany and Austro-Hungary, added beauty and dignity to this perfectly maintained cemetery. The most imposing feature of the military cemetery was the grand central monument built in 1920 in honour of all the soldiers lying in the cemetery in Žilina. All Saints’ Day was celebrated here each year, and candles were lit on all the tombs. The Žilina military cemetery became widely known to the public; every year, visitors came from Slovakia and from abroad. Brigadier General Karel Urbánek (1878 – 1937) was also buried in this cemetery, the legionnaire of the Czechoslovak legion in Russian and commander of the Žilina garrison and eighteenth infantry brigade. A “new” cemetery gradually appeared alongside the old cemetery, as the town itself grew and began to expand westwards towards the military cemetery, until burials were being carried out on the site of the original military graves. The final blow to the cemetery for victims of the First World War was the construction of the 1st stage of the flyover. Not only was a large part of the military graves section taken over, but the central monument also met its fate. Originally, it was supposed to be relocated to the new cemetery under Hradisko, but in the end it was completely destroyed. Only the remains of general Urbánek and a few other soldiers were transferred to the new cemetery.
Source: Mgr. Jozef Moravčík, Mgr. Peter Štanský
It can be visited
■ exterior during a guided tour of TIO Žilina.
Position of the monument on the map: A4