Čičmany is one of the most distinctive Slovak villages, which attracts general public and professional ethnologists by its specific folklore, traditional architecture and beautiful landscape.
The rich drawings on exterior walls are a unique phenomenon in the Central Europe and were firstly used more than 250 years ago. Originally, paint was used to protect the carved log beams against moisture. White paint was applied firstly on baulk cut surfaces at the corners of buildings, and on door and window lining. Later on, the ornaments filled the entire surface of the room. Paintings were done by women by using clay, later lime and became a matter of prestige. Some sources claim, that ornaments had also a magical power to protect the house from evil. Each house was decorated with different patterns, inspired by ornamental embroidery. The patterns consist of few basic shapes, each of them having a special name (forks, round flowers, half-heart, joint hearts, chicken assess, vertigo…)
The village has the population of 150 residents and the majority of houses are used as holiday residences. I had a short pleasant talk with a family from Bratislava, while they were repairing the paintings. Houses have to be paint black every 10 years and the ornaments have to be restored every 2 years. Lime is firstly carefully removed and new ornaments are painted according to the original ones. A tourist passing by joined the conversation and asked, why they simply don’t use the synthetic paint and save themselves days of work. The resident replied:
We aim to keep the house as original as possible. Our grandparents built the house themselves, respecting the nature. If we break that tradition, the house would lose its meaning and spirit. It would simply not be the same.
The family is generally very happy with the house, what they
see as the biggest problem is heating. The house is not permanently used and it
takes two days to heat the house during winter holidays. Woodworm can also
become a problem and the house must be therefore regularly maintained. The only
part which was additionally added is the bathroom. The toilet was originally
separated from the house and located in the courtyard.
I was also told, that all wooden houses originally laid on a small stone plate without a prober stone base. The wood started rotted and by the end of the 20th century, all houses had to remove the bottom rotted parts. The whole house was lifted up and the stone or concrete plinth was newly built.Some restoration were not so successful.
Many original houses have been destroyed during the fire in 1921 and timber construction in approximately half of the village houses was replaced by masonry walls. In 1977, part of Čičmany was declared Historical Reservation of Folk Architecture and 33 wooden houses have been declared National Cultural Monuments.
New recreational houses aim to follow local typologies and construction techniques. Some are not that successful.
The log construction is the most common construction technique in Slovak folk architecture. This brings me back to my early trip to Switzerland, where I explored log buildings by Caminada and Zumthor, who manage to combine a traditional technique with new construction trends.
Back to my early articles:
Folk architecture in Čičmany inspired many architects, especially Dušan Jurkovič, the most influential Slovak architect of the 20th century. In his architecture, he emphasized the importance of developing local traditions and use of local materials.
Source: https://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libuš%C3%ADn_(Pustevny) [17/07/2017]
Typical Čičmany’s motive is still used by ceramics and art
pieces. It decorates the clotihing of Slovak sportsmen during Olympic Games.