The charming Calvary of Bardejov is located in the impressive surroundings on a steep hill not far from the town center. There are thirteen chapels hidden in the woods lining a meandering pathway, leading up to the Church of the Saint Cross on the top of the hill. Built in the eclectic historicist style, the Church attracts attention from afar due to its prominent facade, which gives it a truly original appearance.

The Calvary was built between 1863 and 1869 thanks to the efforts of a Catholic priest named Eduard Kacvinský. The construction of the Calvary was funded by donations and built by the local craftsmen and other inhabitants, including non-Catholics, who did not ask to be paid for their work. Rich and poor, old and young, ladies and gentlemen and their servants – all of these were being seen carrying bricks and stones up the hill, digging, pushing wheelbarrows, and doing other manual jobs. It was indeed a very unique social phenomenon.

In 1868, the Church of the Saint Cross was finished. Inside, visitors can find an altar depicting Jesus being taken off the cross, as well as the original Calvary paintings. In the choir, there is a plaque commemorating the founder of the Calvary in Bardejov – Eduard Kacvinský. Kacvinský is buried in a tomb underneath the Church. The statue of the archangel Gabriel is placed between the church towers. The picturesque temple creates a beautiful scenery above the city.

In 1869, the Calvary was consecrated. The temple used to have two bells back then, which were made in the manufacture of Ján Šmilniak in Bardejov.

The smaller bell, named Štefan, was named after the first Hungarian king. The larger one, Eduard, was named after Eduard Kacvinský. In 1904, another bell was added to the church inventory. This bell was named Anton. During the World War I, bells Štefan and Eduard were seized for military purposes.

There is a wide plateau outside the temple, which was artificially made during the construction. From the right side, the plateau is supported by a stone wall, which serves as an entrance to the subterranean chapel of Saint Mary Magdalene. Inside the chapel lies the Holy Sepulchre and the altar of Mary Magdalene.

Outside the chapel lies a cemetery, where the people of Bardejov used to bury important citizens, such as the priest and former mayor Gejza Žebrácky, Hungarian cartographer Jozef Homolka, biologist Kornel Chyzer and many others. The people who help build the Calvary are also buried there.

The inherent part of the Calvary are the chapels symbolizing 14 Stations of the Cross. However, there are only 13 chapels on the Calvary, because the seventh and the eight stations are placed in a conjoined chapel. The chapels are located on a hillside along the serpentine pathway. They were built thanks to donations. The donors, by contributing to the construction of the Calvary, gained the right to bury their deceased family members in the tombs inside the chapels.

The last eight stations of the Way of the Cross (VII – XIV) were built before 1868. The first six stations were being built gradually up until the beginning of the 20th century.

The chapels used to be locked and used for serving mass. Today they are only protected by iron sheets, while the oil paintings depicting individual stations are no longer there.

Fifty years after the Calvary was built, a major reconstruction of the church was needed, since it was extensively damaged by the time and the war. The reconstruction, which lasted from 1920 to 1921, was handled by the vicar Gejza Žebrácky. Among the innovations were was the new roof was built, newly painted walls of the church, a new altar painting, painted windows and the marble cross outside the temple. The new windows were made thanks to donations of individual families from Bardejov.

The reconstruction was possible due to voluntary donations of members of numerous parishes. Žebrácky also mobilized expats in the US. Their donations allowed for the purchase of two new bells, which were made in the Czech town of Broumov. The following major reconstruction was carried out between 1991 and 1993.

The location of the Calvary is very deliberate, since is used to be possible to see the temple from several surrounding villages. However, this dominance is nowadays eliminated by the thick foliage. Pilgrimages take place three times per year, on Sunday after the Feast of the Cross, Sunday after the Feast of the Cross Discovery, and Sunday after the commemoration of Mary Magdalene.

Translated by:
Zuzana Šottová, M.A.