Štiavnica, once called “Silver town”, is like a textbook of history, architecture and landscaping. Metal mining was practiced here already by Celts and Slavs. In the 12th century, Hungarian king Gejza II called German miners here. The town privileges were bestowed on Štiavnica by king Belo IV – likely at the same time as he did in Stoličný Belehrad and Trnava, in 1244 at the latest.
Štiavnica was an “Eldorado”, where gold was sought after by adventurers from Europe and Turkey, as well as by robber barons. For several centuries, the city was a treasury of Austro-Hungarian Empire. Rich miners built palaces here; it hosted the “ministry of mining” of central Hungary. Several architects and artists of European renown worked here. It was the third largest city of Hungarian Empire and a place of origin of the first university institute of technology in Europe. It was a proud city, known throughout the Old Continent.
Štiavnica was giving, so long as it had something to give – only to become poor itself. Once the natural resources ran out, Štiavnica kept going for a while because of its renowned Academy. When the Academy moved away – upon formation of Czechoslovakia – Štiavnica became subject to gradual decline. Its fall was as deep as its rise was glorious. In 1970s, the city centre was in ruins – it was a ghost town. Like several times before, Štiavnica survived, as it were, by a miracle. Today, everything is different. The city centre was, under the supervision of conservationists, restored to its original state. The local artificial water reservoirs (called “Tajchs”) and the remains of mining activity became part of the land, which in turn contributed to its unique character. As time went by, tourists started to come, and the glorious history begins to shine through again.
An important milestone was the year 1993, when the historic city centre was, along with the technological monuments of the region, enlisted in the UNESCO’s World Heritage list.