CHURCH OF ST. LADISLAVThe church of St. Ladislav with its dominant tower defines the visual silhouette of Rajec. In the distant past the tower was an important landmark for both locals and wayfarers. The monumental triple-naved building is located outside of the historic centre and is no longer part of the monument zone. Nevertheless, it significantly complements the town’s monument fund.
The church bears the patronage of St. Ladislav, the Hungarian monarch, who ruled in the years 1077 – 1095. St. Ladislav was the co-patron saint of Hungary (the other was the Virgin Mary) and the patron saint of its kings. In the Roman Catholic Church Ladislav was considered a saint for his zeal, piety and moral life. The exact date of the church’s construction is unknown, but there are indications that it stands on the site of an older Romanesque sacral building which may have existed in the 12th century. The current church most likely dates from the first half of the 14th century. Only the lower part of the tower, part of the perimeter masonry with western and southern Gothic stone portals and a bricked window have been preserved from this period. The church was rebuilt into its present form as a triple-naved basilica at the beginning of the 17th century as its secular patrons, the Turza family, adopted the idea of the Reformation. On their initiative the building underwent a fundamental Renaissance modification. The ceiling had cross vaults, triforiums were gradually added to the naves and the presbytery was given a polygonal shape. The builders installed a new stone portal in the basement and in 1647 they added a tower and a southern vestibule to the present building. The late Renaissance painted plant frieze which is situated under the crown cornice of the church also dates from this period. Evangelicals used the church until 1672 when it passed into the hands of the Roman Catholic Church for a short time. They finally got it back at the beginning of the 18th century. The hereditary lords of the Lietava estate had the right of patronage over the church. During the 18th century, the vault of the sanctuary was due to some static problems modified, the tower received a typical Baroque onion-shaped finish and a large ridge turret was added to the roof of the presbytery. The turn of the 19th and 20th centuries left significant traces especially in the interior of the church. Almost all the furniture was replaced, the original Renaissance plaster with wall paintings were removed to a large extent, new paving was laid on the old one and the crypts were completely closed. At the end of the 20th century, a few renovations without the approval of the Institution of monuments preservation were done. The church’s truss was replaced, the roof was repaired and its façade was restored in such an inappropriate way that most of the original plaster was completely destroyed.
Several construction interventions in the interior and exterior of the church, which took place during the 20th century, greatly degraded its original architectural and artistic value. This was also the reason why at the beginning of the new millennium a revision of some inappropriate building modifications and a restoration of already lost art elements and details began. The internal renovation of the church began in 2009 and since 2017 the gradual exterior renovation has been underway. This time, all construction and restoration work is carried out on the basis of precise restoration research and after thorough consultation with preservationists. Research has already brought many interesting and rare discoveries, for example a Gothic gate that welcomed the faithful in the entrance hall in the Middle Ages, painted Renaissance window mounts where each window has its own decor, painted sundial on the south façade and fragments of a painted attic strip that lined the sanctuary and the church itself. All these rare decorative elements are gradually being restored and today they can be admired by the faithful during services as well as by the general lay and professional public.
The church of St. Ladislav became a national cultural monument in 1963. During its existence it underwent many building modifications which in the spirit of the historical period, period needs and opinions of the owner were not always positively reflected in its external form and internal design. Especially the last century has left unfavourable traces in its architecture. The ongoing comprehensive renovation is gradually trying to eliminate them and restore the original state as much as possible.