The Town Hall Square (Radničné námestie) in Bardejov
|Elevation||283 m (928 ft)|
|Area||72.78 km2 (28.1 sq mi)|
|Density||454 / km2 (1,176 / sq mi)|
|- summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Name||Bardejov Town Conservation Reserve|
|Region||Europe and North America|
|Wikimedia Commons: Bardejov|
Bardejov ( pronunciation (help·info); German: Bartfeld, Hungarian: Bártfa, Rusyn: Бардеёв, Polish: Bardiów) is a town in North-Eastern Slovakia. It is situated in the Šariš region on a floodplain terrace of the Topľa River, in the hills of the Beskyd Mountains. It exhibits numerous cultural monuments in its completely intact medieval town center. The town is one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites and currently maintains a population of about 30,000 inhabitants.
The Hungarian name of the town comes from the word "bárd" (English: "chopper"), which indicated an amount of forested territory which could be chopped down by one man in one day. In the Hungarian name (Bártfa), the "fa" (English: "tree") suffix came later, and it also changed the last letter of "bárd" to "bárt", for easier pronunciation.
The territory of present-day Bardejov has attracted settlers since the Stone Age. Traces of human settlements in Bardejov can be traced back to around 20,000 B.C. However, the first written reference to the town dates back to 1247, when monks from Bardejov complained to King Béla IV about a violation of the town’s borders by Prešov, a neighbouring city. There is mention of German settlers coming up from Prešov in these records as well. The city is mentioned in Hypatian Codex for 1240 when in the fall Daniel of Galicia passed it traveling from Hungary to Poland.
In 1320, King Charles Robert granted the settlers extensive city privileges and the town speedily began to grow. The main business of the people was trade, farming and crafts. Bardejov was a convenient center of trade due to its location on the road between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. In 1352, the town was granted the privilege to set up an annual fair (jarmok) dedicated to St. Aegidius on September 1. The deed mentions a new construction of the town of Bardejov with an order by king Louis I to fortify it. The entire defensive circuit was completed, with three gates on the main routes and bastions at strategic points. In 1376, the king Ladislaus I granted Bardejov the status of a free royal town. More than 50 guilds controlled the flourishing economy. Zigmund of Luxemburg granted the town storage privileges in 1402, for the goods brought here by the Russian and Polish merchants. Bardejov merchants were also free to travel across the entire country as far as Dalmatia without paying duty or royal taxes. There was a second phase of fortification between 1420 and 1474.
By the 15th century, Bardejov was a busy town with large economic growth. There were approximately 500 houses and a population of 3000. The linen production and sales to which the town had a monopoly surpassed any activity. In 1455, the king granted the town the privilege of linen bleaching and sale. At that time only Bratislava, Košice and Levoča had larger number of craftsmen and guilds than Bardejov. Beside the linen and weaver's guild that was in existence from 1423, the dressmaker's guild from 1435, the furrier's guild from 1457, and the potter’s guild from 1485 (the first potter's guild in Slovakia), there were guilds such as: locksmith's, fisher's, butcher's, blacksmith's, boot-maker's, cloth's, sword-maker's, and many others. The town flourished and was able to acquire 14 serf villages and vineyards in the Tokaj region. Many important structures were built, including the monastery and the church of the Augustinian order. A slaughterhouse was built in close vicinity of the monastery and the town bath was built too. There were also mills, winery, saw-mills, brickwork's, bleaching house, pressing shop, linen warehouse, brewery jail and others. However, by the late 15th century, the town had lost its linen monopoly and the linen trade gradually deteriorated.
In the early 16th century, the city built a Latin school. During the reformation, the acclaimed humanist Leonard Stockel, Martin Luther's disciple (referred to as the Teacher of Hungary), taught at the school beginning in 1539. He gradually turned the school into a significant center of education in what was then north-eastern Hungary. Georg Henisch was one of the student there and, at present, one of the town trade school is named after him. The Reformation and Humanism elevated nationally and culturally not only the German-speaking population, but also the Slovak Protestants. In this spirit, Gutgesell's print shop of Bardejov printed Luther’s Catechism, the first book to be printed in Biblical Czech in 1581.
The early 16th century saw more development: the town hall was rebuilt and a school was built alongside the church. The final phase of fortification took place in the early 16th century, with the modernization of the bastions and digging of a water-filled moat. However, unrest within the old Hungarian Kingdom during the first half of the 16th century saw Bardejov entering into a period of recession. Bardejov’s golden age ended at the end of 16th century, when several wars, pandemics, and other disasters plagued the country. Counter reformation actions of the Emperor's army against the Kuruc in the 17th century had a grave effect on the town's life. The plundering of the town and its vicinity, as well as the town’s financial contributions to the war efforts, brought the one-time prosperous Bardejov to the brink of poverty. The plague of 1710 made the situation even more critical. The German and Hungarian populations, decimated by the war and the plague, were slowly replaced by the Slovak population.
Beginning in the first quarter of the 18th century, the situation began to improve. Slovaks and Hasidic Jews came into Bardejov in large numbers. By the end of the century, the population of the town had regained the level of the 16th century. The burghers' houses were rebuilt or modified in keeping with current architectural fashion. A Jewish quarter with a synagogue, slaughterhouse, and ritual baths developed in the north-western suburbs. New churches and bridges were built, as well.
Despite further fires in the last quarter of the 19th century, the town continued to thrive, thanks to major industrialization projects in the region. In 1893, a railway was opened connecting Presov to Bardejov. However, it declined again following the establishment of the first Czechoslovak Republic and became a backward farming region. World War II saw a worsening in the economic situation, though little damage from bombardment. Bardejov was taken by Soviet troops of the 1st Guards Army on 20 January 1945.
In 1950, Bardejov was declared a protected city core and extensive restoration of its cultural heritage began. These efforts culminated in Bardejov receiving the European Gold Medal by the International Board of Trustees in Hamburg in 1986 – the first town in Czechoslovakia to receive the award. On November 20, 2000, Bardejov was selected by UNESCO as one of its World Heritage Sites, recognized for its Jewish Suburbia and historic town center. In November 2010, the city marked the 10th anniversary of its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Today, Bardejov is known mainly for its authentic old town square, which due to extensive restoration and preservation of its Medieval, Renaissance, and Gothic architecture has made Bardejov a popular tourist destination. The town draws on its rich heritage to further develop cultural traditions, such as an annual trade fair and the Roland Games (commemorating its medieval past).
Jewish Presence in Bardejov
The presence of Jews in Bardejov dates from the early Middle Ages. Expelled from Bardejov in 1631, Jews from Galicia resettled there in the mid-18th century. These descendants of the Galician Hasidic dynasty founded by Rabbi Chaim Halberstam lived northeast of the marketplace and worked initially as farmers in nearby villages. By 1806 they began to establish community buildings. Eventually they built a thriving, self-contained complex north of the town center, which was planned according to Talmudic regulation and included a large synagogue (consecrated in 1830), a congregational building, a slaughterhouse, and a ritual bath. In 1869 some restrictions against the Jews were lifted and the Jewish population grew to 1,011 (out of a total population of 5,307). Most were store owners, businessmen, and artisans. The Jewish community contributed to the overall economy of the town and to its distinguished printing history.
By 1900, Bardejov’s Jews had established a Hebrew printing press, becoming one of the last centers of Hebrew printing to be established in Europe before the Holocaust. From 1900 to 1938, two Hebrew presses at Bardejov printed over 100 volumes. Nearly all were rabbinic or Hasidic texts, reflecting the town’s cultural and religious distinction as the seat of one branch of the Halberstam Hasidic dynasty. By 1919, the Jewish population in Bardejov had reached 2,119, with 40 settlements surrounding the Jewish quarter and united under the local rabbinate. Although by the 1940s Jewish children attended public schools and there were a large number of Jewish municipal council members, most of Bardejov’s Jews maintained an Orthodox way of life, praying in numerous synagogues established in the town.
By 1940, many of the town’s 2,441 Jews had been pushed out of their businesses by the Slovakian state; 200 were sent to labor camps. As World War II escalated, refugees arrived from nearby Jewish ghettos in German occupied Poland. On April 18, 1942, approximately 400 Jews in Bardejov were deported to Auschwitz via Žilina. Jews from the surrounding areas were brought to Bardejov. From May 15 to May 24, they were deported with Bardejov Jews to Lublin. Of the 3,280 Jews deported from the region in 1942, 2,100 were from Bardejov. Although the lives of a few hundred Jews were spared to become workers, many of them were killed or deported in 1944.
After liberation by the Soviet army in January 1945, seven Jews emerged from their hiding place in a wine cellar of a store in the main square. Some Jews returned from the Polish forests. The town became a center for refugees and for immigration to Palestine. By 1949, Bardejov’s Jews had re-established a small community of 200. After more than two hundred and sixty years of continuous Jewish presence in Bardejov, there are currently no Jews living in the town. 
In March 2006, the Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee was founded as a non-profit organization by Emil Fish, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp who was born in Bardejov. In July 2005, Mr. Fish returned to Bardejov with his wife and son for the first time since 1949. His response to the disrepair and dilapidation of the synagogues and the Jewish cemetery was a resolve to restore and preserve these properties. The committee is composed of Bardejov survivors, their descendants and friends, and others interested in commemorating the vanishing Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. Today, the committee's stated mission is to: "restore the Jewish properties of Bardejov, Slovakia"; "build awareness of the cultural and historical significance of Jewish life in Bardejov and Slovakia"; and "advance knowledge of Jewish ancestry and heritage." 
Bardejov is dominated by the monumental Church of Sv. Aegidius, mentioned for the first time in 1247. A three nave basilica with multiple chapels was completed in 1464. It hosts eleven precious Gothic winged altars with panel paintings. The central square (Slovak: Radničné námestie), which used to be the town’s medieval marketplace, is now surrounded by well-preserved Gothic and Renaissance burghers’ houses.
One of the most interesting buildings is the town hall, built in 1505. The lower part was built in the Gothic style, while the upper part was finished in the Renaissance style. This was the headquarters of the city council and also the center of the town's economic, social, and cultural life. In 1903, the town hall was adapted to serve as Saris Župa Museum, the oldest museum in Slovakia.
The fortification system and town walls date from the 14th and 15th centuries and are listed by the European Fund of Cultural Heritage as one of the most elaborate and best preserved medieval fortifications in Slovakia.
About 2.5 km (1.6 mi) north of Bardejov is the spa town Bardejovské Kúpele. The therapeutic mineral water springs are claimed to be beneficial to people with oncological, blood circulation, and digestive tract problems. It also hosts an open-air museum of folk architecture (skansen). The spa has played host to a number of dignitaries, including Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma (the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte), Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary.
The town consists of the following boroughs:
- Bardejovská Nová Ves
- Bardejovská Zábava
- Bardejovské Kúpele (local spa town)
- Dlhá Lúka (annexed in 1971)
Bardejov has a population of 33,020 (as of December 31, 2010). According to the 2001 census, 91.3% of inhabitants were Slovaks, 2.6% Romani, 2.5% Rusyns, and 1.4% Ukrainians. The religious make-up was 63.2% Roman Catholics, 16.9% Greek Catholics, 7.6% Lutherans and 4.3% Eastern Orthodox.
Twin towns – sister cities
Bardejov is twinned with:
- "Bardejov". Slovakheritage.org. 1994-06-17. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
- "Spa of Bardejov". webcache.googleusercontent.com. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
- "Municipal Statistics". Statistical Office of the Slovak republic. Archived from the original on 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2007-05-03.
- "Miasta partnerskie – Zamość". Urząd Miasta Zamość (in Polish). Retrieved 2013-07-26.
The records for genealogical research are available at the state archive "Statny Archiv in Presov, Slovakia"
- Roman Catholic church records (births/marriages/deaths): 1671–1899 (parish A)
- Greek Catholic church records (births/marriages/deaths): 1753–1906 (parish B)
- Lutheran church records (births/marriages/deaths): 1592–1896 (parish A)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bardejov.|
- Official website
- Info website
- UNESCO site about Bardejov
- Organization of World Heritage Cities: Bardejov
- Surnames of living people in Bardejov