Attention that doesn’t please
Tartars and castellans
If you think that Banská Štiavnica was threatened by raiding foreigners only, for example by the Tartars (1241 – 1242), we will mend this notion of yours a little. The danger sometimes lurked in the vicinity, for example, at the Castle of Šášov. There were several times when its castellans violently occupied some settlements around Štiavnica (Kopanice, Kerling, Sigelsberg, Banská Belá, Žakýl and Banský Studenec). The first such seizure happened before 1352. The people of Štiavnica fought to get the settlements back, the last time being against the greedy family of Dóczis, at the end of the 15th c., but only Banská Belá was recaptured.
Melichar and the forty thieves
In the first half of the 16th c., carts filled with precious ore travelled weekly from Štiavnica to the mint in Kremnica. The marauding knight, Melichar Balaša, who owned the castle in Levice and managed to conquer Sitno Castle, was after these carts full of treasure. Ferdinand I of Habsburg became so upset with the attacks by Balaš that the Emperor sent an army, led by an experienced life-long soldier, general Nicholas von Salm, against the marauding Balaš. The general seized the Sitno castle, but did not find the stolen gold.
The Ottomans and even greater hooligans
Although the Ottomans managed to spread fear in Štiavnica’s surroundings for a long 150 years, they never got into the town. A real danger for the town arose only when the Ottomans allied with local rebels who fought against the Habsburgs. Then attacks, kidnappings, ransoms, money levies to Ottoman offices, even casualties were on the daily programme. The rebels pretended that they fought for religious freedoms, but the truth was they wanted to subdue the Kingdom of Hungary.
Until plague do us part
The end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th centuries did not bring peace to the people of Štiavnica either. Imrich Tököly’s troops broke into the lower part of the town, looting and setting the Chamber Court, and other houses, on fire. In 1703, Štiavnica saved itself from Rákóczi’s troops only by paying a high ransom. But as soon as Rákóczi pulled his feet out of central Slovakia, the royal army marched into Štiavnica, acting like an enemy. This suffering of Štiavnica’s people was interrupted by the plague epidemic (1710) and the Treaty of Szátmár (1711), after which a time of peace and prosperity began.
Under the protection of the red monks
Since Banská Štiavnica was a source of wealth for the royal treasury, the rulers were sensitive to reports of thefts and robberies in the town’s surroundings. So, it was understandable when, blessed by His Majesty, a troop of so-called “red monks” came to the town in the 15th c. to provide security.
Some say that they were Templars; however, trustworthy resources claim that the red monks were from the Johanniter order. Johanniters were the members of the Knights Order of St. John the Baptist of Jerusalem. The legend says that about 50 of them came to the town and the people of Štiavnica welcomed them with open arms. They needed the monk’s protection, for the precious metals that were mined here attracted also people of merciless behaviour. It is said that the red monks soon controlled the main roads as well as the forest paths, checking every nook and cranny in the area. If someone seemed suspicious and had no witness to verify their good reputation, the red monks engaged such person in work – in the mine, or at the reconstruction of a monastery to castle. God forbid that the poor thing would try to escape the work, for when caught by the monks once again, the most pleasant thing that he could have prayed for was the gallows. Apparently, a few cases were enough to alert people, for it is said that Štiavnica became a town free of crime within a year, and bandits stayed a safe distance from the town. In the end, however, the fame of the red monks was buried by their own misdoings. Abducting four women, the monks hoped to secure themselves financially. It is said that the commander was hanged and the others driven out of town. Whether this story is true and that the monks actually had their hermitage near the saddle Červená studňa (Red well), nobody knows. It is certain, however, that Johanniters once truly lived in Štiavnica. This is proven by a record from March 1494, which was made by the notary Lucian Cole, who was also the secretary of the Johanniters’ General Prior. The document credibly attests to the fact that the monks of this order lived and worked in central Slovakian mining towns.
How come the Ottomans never conquered Banská Štiavnica?
The town of Štiavnica, full of silver and gold, was very attractive to the conquerors from the Ottoman Empire. All the more difficult is it, then, to believe that they never got hold of Banská Štiavnica, although it was among their priorities and they had an entire 150 years to do so.
After the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the doors to the Kingdom of Hungary were opened for the Ottomans. They managed to get as far as the Hont region, the area where Banská Štiavnica was located. From May 1544, when they plundered the villages of Ilija and Žibritov, the Ottomans regularly exhibited their power so that the people of Štiavnica could see it, attacking Banská Belá five times, killing six people in Banský Studenec and dragging into captivity 70 others, burning houses in Štefultov, and invading Sigelsberg (today, part of Štiavnické Bane). In 1571, the Emperor Maximilian II lost his patience, and sent an angry letter to the people of Štiavnica, asking them to finally do something. So, the people of Štiavnica embarked on building a double-circular fortification, the centre of which was the Old Castle – St. Mary’s Church rebuilt into a fortress. Both the outer and inner circles had gates that you will have difficulty finding today – they were located at the upper part of the Holy Trinity Square, at the beginning of Horná (Upper) and Dolná (Lower) ružová streets, at the entrance stairs to the Forestry High School, and also in the upper part of Radničné square. The gates that remain are the Piarg Gate and the Lower Gate (the Church of St. Elisabeth today). In the Kammerhof (the Chamber Court building), two 16th c. bastions have been preserved – they are proof that the State properly protected its stocks of precious metals. In the lower part of the town, Pavol Rothan – Rubigall built a fortified farmstead. And we should not forget the New Castle. It served as a fortified observation point, and relayed signal fires between Mount Sitno, Pri pekných lipách (At nice lindens) hill, and the castle above the town of Sklené Teplice. This all cost a lot of effort and money. So, although the Ottomans never entered the streets of Banská Štiavnica, the locals must have been justifiably furious about their presence in the region.