A Short History of Brezová pod Bradlom

This history was written by Vera Seplak, who used as her source the book Brezová pod Bradlom. This article was published in Slovakia, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Spring 1995), page 4. Reprinted by permission of Vera Seplak and Helene Cincebeaux.

The town of Brezová pod Bradlom nestles in a picturesque setting surrounded by the peaks of Bradlo and Klenová, and the hill country of Myjava in the Small Carpathian Mountains. The area bears evidence of inhabitants during the Bronze and Stone Ages. The name Brezová is first mentioned in 1236 A.D. in a land grant to King Bela IV. Brezová was part of old Nitra County in western Slovakia.

People settled in Brezová early in the 1500s as they fled from Turk invaders. Further mention of Brezová appears in 1565 when this area was ruled by the aristocracy (pánstvo). Definite borders were established in 1655 and familiar names of Brezovani began to appear - the first being that of Matej NOSKO. There were 386 inhabitants then. By 1837 there were 6325 residents - 5937 Lutherans, 246 Catholics and 142 Jews.

The Catholic church was built in the 1600s, a rugged building with an interesting, primitive interior of hand-hewn wood and old works of art. It remains standing today next to the town's cemetery. The Jewish Synagogue was erected in the late 1600s.

The struggle for nationalism and religious freedom played a major part in Brezová's history. In 1729 resolutions were passed to restrict religious freedom in Slovakia. The Catholic prelate Bishop ENDODY appeared in Brezová, confronted the Lutheran minister and turned his church keys over to the Catholic clergy. Unfortunately, Lutheran baptismal and genealogy records were destroyed in the takeover. All Protestants were forced to worship secretly, outside the town proper.

Great turmoil and violence were the norm at this time. The situation became critical with the invasion of the Austrian Army. Brezová was emerging as an important political center for the movement toward Slovak nationalism and religious freedom. Five hundred of Brezová's young men were caught between two flanks of the invading army and the aristocracy in the meadows of Brezová. Armed only with tanner's knives, they fought a violent and bloody battle.

Over 140 years later, in 1873, the largest Lutheran church in Slovakia was erected in Brezová. It stands proudly on a hilltop dominating the town's landscape. This stately church houses one of the five most famous historic organs in Slovakia. The Brezová organ is known for its tonal qualities thanks to Martin ŠAŠKO (1807-1892), a highly talented musician and organist. The beautifully carved altar was also the work of local artisans.

Overlooking Brezová, atop the peak of Bradlo, is the stately monument and final resting place of General Milan Rastislav ŠTEFÁNIK, local idol, war hero, Slovak national hero, champion of democracy, international diplomat, Ph.D., astronomer, and pilot. General ŠTEFÁNIK was born in the shadow of Bradlo Mountain, in close proximity to Brezová. He was born in poverty and spent his childhood in Kosariská, a village in the shadow of his beloved Bradlo. The year 1994 marked the 75th anniversary of his untimely and tragic death in a plane crash. It is fitting that he is thus honored atop his beloved Bradlo overlooking Brezová whose residents have always championed freedom and democracy.

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