When I visit Bratislava Castle, it is always for the views from the hill it is standing on. I’ve been to the castle once and it was very boring. The views are free and you can see across the Danube into Austria on one side and onto the expanse of paneláks of Peterzalka on the other, along with some pretty views over Bratislava’s old town.
On my way down the castle hill, I usually take the path leading past St. Nicolas Church. To be honest, I only recently found out its name. Up till now, it’s always been referred to as the small church on the way down the hill from the castle. The one I always believed to be abandoned because of the graffiti and empty beer bottles and trash littering its surroundings.
Nevertheless, I always found it charming. It has a very simple baroque facade, with clean lines and a wooden bell tower and a black ornate iron bolted shut. And I was intrigued by it’s hint of mystery.
Why was abandoned? Was it abandoned? – I once dared to look through the black iron keyhole but all I could see was light streaming in through a stained glass window onto a chair covered in plenty of dust.
And so for years when I walked past I assumed it was abandoned. But then one day we walked past to find the door open and we quickly slipped in.
The air was musty and damp and the space felt cave-like but at the same time, sublime.
We found ourselves surrounded by shimmering icons carefully laid out on wooden alters. The intricately carved religious pieces that decorated the space were stunning. I could somewhat make out the interior architectural features of the church but the years of neglect had taken their toll.
Despite this, the space had a liminal quality to it. Its many contrasts – the shimmer mixed in with the earthy decay along with all the symbolism – was very moving. It felt religious, private, intimate.
I learned later on that the small church was built in 1661 by Countess Frances who died in 1672. It’s consecrated to St. Nicolas, the patron of sailors, whose statue stands in the stone niche above the main iron door.