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Levoča, the 'pearl of Spiš', is a wonderfully preserved mediaeval town set in an area of exceptional natural beauty and historical richness. Its unique qualities have led UNESCO to declare it as a World Heritage Site in June 2009.
The area was inhabited as early as the Stone Age and after the Mongol invasions of 1241/1242, was settled by German colonists. The oldest written reference to the city dates back to 1249.
In a lurid sequence of events in 1700, the mayor of the town was accidentally wounded by a local nobleman during a hunt, generating a series of revenge attacks, finally resulting in the murder of the mayor, Karol Kramler. The mayor's arm was then cut off, embalmed, and preserved in the town hall as a call to further revenge. This became the subject of a novel about the town, "The Black City", by the Hungarian writer Kálmán Mikszáth.
The economic importance of the town was further diminished in 1871 when a new important railway line was built, bypassing Levoca, on its inconvenient hill site, in favour of the nearby town of Spišská Nová Ves, which lies in the plain. After the Treaty of Trianon the city became part of the newly formed Czechoslovakia and its traditional Slovak name of Levoca was formally adopted.
Today the main entrance to the old town, which is still almost completely encircled by its ancient walls, is via the monumental Košice Gate (15th century) behind which is located the ornate baroque Church of the Holy Spirit and the New Minorite Monastery (c. 1750).
The town square boasts three major monuments; the quaint Old Town Hall (15th-17th century) which now contains a museum, the Lutheran church (1837) and the 14th century Church of St. Jakub. This houses a magnificent Gothic carved and painted wooden altar, the largest in Europe, (18.62 m. in height), created by Master Pavol around 1520. The square is well preserved and restored (despite one or two modern incursions) and contains a number of striking buildings which were the town-houses of the local nobility in the late middle ages. Other buildings on the square house a historical museum and a museum dedicated to the work of Master Pavol. Another encloses a beautiful late 18th-century miniature theatre, seating only 200 people.
Behind the square in Klástorška Street are the 14th century church and remains of the old monastery of the Minorites, now incorporated into a Church grammar school. Nearby is the town's Polish Gate, a Gothic construction of the 15th century.
This page uses material from: "Levoca." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. , accessed 23 Sep 2007 .