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The Slovak Bethlehem 
"Slovensky Betlehem" at Rajecka Lesna
, Slovakia
Photos by Roman & Alice 2003 - Updated 2014
(Alice 1919-2009)

My brief notes & images provide a quick digest of sculptured themes.
The sculpted figures move on tracks showing daily life & work

***You must view the link on the bottom of the page for the animation***

         Click  images for full view                       credits

This welcome sign leads to the Slovak Bethlehem in Rajecka Lesna, a small town located about 30 kilometers south of Zilina. 

This building houses the Slovak Bethlehem,  a sculptural panorama, with moving wooden figures representing the trades and culture of Slovakia. This cultural tradition includes a Bethlehem scene that remains, to this day, an important cultural practice represented in the Folk art of Slovakia.  

This woodcarving, a monumental work by Jozef Pekara, from Rajecke Teplice,  was begun in 1980 and completed in 1998. It measures 8.5 meters wide, 2.5 meters deep and 3 meters high.  

This panaorama contains 150 animal figures and 170 human figures. Some are playing and dancing in folk costumes while others are practicing trades or presented as pilgrims  symbolizing  Slovak devotion. The sculptor integrated  images of the Slovak people into a biblical milieu that includes the three Kings  followed by  Sts. Cyril and Methodius and other personalities of Slovak history.  

The central section includes the castle and St. Martin's Cathedral at Bratislava,  one of the peaks (Krivan) of the high Tatra mountains,  Domestic life and other regional scenes. 

This central nativity scene, set in Rajeska Lesna, includes a moving procession of  common people and historic figures who devoutly turn to the Newborn Child as they pass. Figures are mounted on a moving track that moves in a continuous circuitous journey. Various pulleys and mechanical levers lend a remarkable life to the Behtlehem. 

Celebration and devotion emerge with traditional folk music and dance.

Domestic life with its occupations and home environment suggest peace, contentment and fulfillment with everyday life. 

The sculptor presented a range of crafts suggesting that the industry and skill of workers give meaning to his Bethlehem.

Wine-making. Top to bottom: gathering grapes, pressing and processing, tasting in the wine cellar.

Farming, timbering, and coal mining are presented with a  view of churches in the distance that includes the Cathedral of St. Elizabeth in Kosice and Bardejov's Church of St. Gilles.

 These coal miners at work are a detail from the lower left section of the  larger panorama shown above. Mining in Slovakia has a long tradition represented here at  Banska Bystrica.



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Credit notes:

In September 2003, Alice and I visited sites in Eastern Slovakia where my grandparents were born.  Martin Sperka, from the University in Bratislava traveled with us and led us to interesting monuments along the way. Returning to Bratislava via the High Tatras we came upon signs leading us to this interesting site. We were impressed with the charm of the panoramic presentation. It demonstrates that  patience, skill and inventive imagination can, over a period of time, achieve remarkably engaging work. Using digital photos from our trip I made this web page with encouragement and critical help from Alice. 

Roman Verostko, Minneapolis 2003    


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