Monday, April 14, 2008

Bratislava's St Martin's Cathedral: A Nerd's Eye View challenge

Monday morning seems like a good time for a challenge, and here's one I found at the Nerd's Eye View blog: to tell a building's story in less than 200 words. Here's my attempt.

To most visitors to Bratislava, this is simply St Martin’s Cathedral, an attractive Romanesque church with Gothic and Baroque twists added over the centuries. Now on the edge of the Old Town, it was in the center before the Russians destroyed the Jewish section and built an ugly bridge through the middle, separating the cathedral from the hill leading to Bratislava Castle.

To me, this cathedral is Roman’s cathedral. An academic friend-of-a-friend with a passion for entertaining tourists with tales of bygone Bratislava, on the day I first met Roman he told me about the New Year bells. He said that during communist days when churches and cathedrals were technically off limits, a university friend of his appointed himself responsible for winding the clock of St Martin’s each day, to ensure it chimed every hour as expected.

One December, this friend took a skiing holiday and asked Roman to wind the clock. Half of Bratislava was out in the Old Town waiting for the midnight bells to chime in the New Year. Roman tried to wind the clock as midnight approached. Something broke. The bells chimed ten minutes earlier, and Bratislava entered the New Year ahead of time.

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