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The Pathway of Mária Széchy – Girls´ cemetery

There was a story at the beginning. The story was flawlessly romantic. Her, a beautiful and rich woman, him, a powerful and famous man, second only after the king. But what remained from all these things? Nothing. Or something? A story and the places where all of this had begun. A story about the Venus from Muráň and the hiking trail of Mária Széchy.

            A red and marked hiking trail – A trail of Mária Széchy follows original trail from year 1644 in between Fiľakovo and Muráň castles. The trail was named after Palatin František Wesselényi’s second wife, Mária Széchy, also known as Venus of Muráň. She was the second dame right after the queen for many years in Hungary. The trail starts on Muráň castle, continues over the hill Tŕstie to Rimavská Sobota, then through the Cerova Highlands and ends in Fiľakovo. There are numerous sacred monuments, castles and eminent archeological locations to be seen on the way. You can find out interesting information about the history that happened around the trail near Hnúšťa which has been created by the town administration.

            The Mária Széchy trail copies the original trail which in history was a relatively busy way surrounded by homesteads, thrall villages and solitary houses. Today’s trails are made in the most passable way through mountain ranges. In 1644 the trail went here through tops of mountains. No one knows why. Probably the trails were at that time better passable through mountain tops. To get over the rivers they used fords which were not usually passable. Going through mountain tops was also more safe because the traveller could see approaching danger from a long distance. It was in the middle of the 17th. century – the century which was full of wars and war encounters. Apart from continuous attacks of the Osman Reign and the persisting 30-year war, Hungary had been tossed by gentry uprising. The forests were full of lone wolves from defeated armies, deserters and groups of knights who were robbing and looting. This place can appear as a normal one at first glance. But maybe just over here Mária Széchy stopped with her horse and scouted both valleys of the Rimava and Blh rivers. After she was certain that there were no threats in the distance, she continued on her 83-kilometer long journey to Fiľakovo castle, to visit her beloved Hungarian palatin. The story is so moving and well-known that it hasn’t disappeared from people’s minds even after a long time. The steadfastness of their love is still alive even today. You can learn about the whole story on table number 4 in the Brezina saddle. The trail of Mária Széchy criss crosses another interesting place in our history. 400 years before the story of Mária Széchy happened, at the time of the Tatar attacks, a sad story happened there. A story based on legend has been composed by Ján Poničany in a novel named Skaza hradu. An event happened in the days when the Hungarian king Belo IV was escaping from the Tatar army after defeat at the river Slaná. This battle happened on 11th. of April 1241 and the Tatars with their clever tactics literally crushed king Belo’s IV 60,000-man army. King Belo IV managed to escape with his wife from the Slaná river to the north straight into the mountains. Our story happened only a few days after the battle at the river Slaná, after which the Tatar duke Džebe decided to follow King Belo IV. Go ahead and read the 780-year-old legend.

 

Girls' cemetery, chapter from the work of Jan Poničan:
Destruction of the castle / shortened /:

 

Džabe now attacked the black castles of Turni and Drienovec, then against the flow of the river Slana he arrived at the strong, white-stoned castle Gemer and conquered it right after king Bela had left it. Garrison and everyone who sought shelter inside the castle was slaughtered. The villages and settlements he went through were burned; whomever his troops captured died. Only those who hid inside caves and mountains in the high, inaccessible plains of the Kras area, escaped. From the prisoners he learned that king Belo spent the night there. After the fall of the castle, the prisoners revealed the direction of the king's next escape. Džebe went after him towards Teplý Vrch and then he turned north towards Rimavská Baňa. Villages in the settlement had learned about his arrival from refugees and they escaped to the mountains. The Tatars found only abandoned houses. They camped there for the night.

 

In the morning, without the news about the king's route, they headed up a wide valley next to Rimava. Behind them, wooden houses with thatched roofs were burning terribly. On the bumpy road, the hooves of horses echoed. Otherwise, silence was all around. When the sun came out of the mist, it shone on the high side of Snina and a road with the wild horde silent, and therefore even more terrible than the surrounding mountains. They swept through the valley like a haunting cloud, bringing only destruction and death.

 

They reached Rimavské Brezovo. There they were greeted by dead silence. They jumped off their horses and started running through the houses: empty, not a single soul inside. Džebe was furious. He called the scouts.

 

“They escaped, Christian dogs! They think that I do not dare to follow them into the mountains. But they are mistaken. They barely hid there, it is far,” he pointed to the high, but distant Senec, “You will go to the opposite side. Be like foxes, walk quietly and carefully, track them down and then you will lead us.”

 

The scouts carried out the order without hesitation. They disappeared into the thicket; the young beech forest devoured them like the ground when mice jump inside their holes. They will return after around two hours.

 

-“We found them, gracious baatur! On a rocky hill they have a stone fence and hideouts in it. Like mole holes.”

-“Are they armed?”

-“Wooden clubs, a small number of bows and spears, and some of them have scythes and axes. There are a lot of old people, women and children. And an evil spirit has made them mad, because they lit a fire and smoke revealed them from far away.”

 

Inside the settlement, only a small part of the army was left to cover the escape route, and the rest of the army was divided by Džebe according to the instructions from the spies. Džebe led his unit along a steep forest path that snaked into the thicket. They felt a fresh breeze on their cheeks; the breeze was blowing from above the meadow, like water flowing down a gutter. To the right, they saw an uneven plain, below it a settlement and the tower of a wooden church. It was Kyjatice. The Tatars turned to thickets with a low beech forest. Behind it there is again a meadow, and narrow as a bridge, a low stone fence at the top of the hill stood out from it.

 

-“Fools,” Džebe hissed from behind his teeth like a snake, “They did not set up guards either.”

 

He hurried the horse, other men behind him like a stormy cloud. Their hats, wild faces and strained bows, sharp spears appeared above the fence like monsters.  They surprised the women around the fires so much they did not even scream.  They stood there as stone, and just stared with their eyes wide open. Then they started to scream, and threw themselves on the ground. They dragged torn children with them; only a few resourceful people started to crawl to the hideouts located under the stone fence. There, however, they collided with the boys jumping out from the ground, wooden clubs in hand, with a few spears here and there, scythes, tied up to handle and axes over their heads.

 

The Tatars stood over the fence like a wall. The horses pursed their lips, but stood petrified.

 

-“Firstly the guys!” Džebe´s comment in the silence sounded like the sound of a whip, and at once he revived the motionless lines of warriors above the fence.

 

The arrows were shot out like wicked birds with long shining beaks, with the flowing feathers at the end. The boys were falling to the ground, women screaming, the children's cries were mixed with their cries of death. The more skillful and self-collected hid behind the trusses of the hideout from truncated shells; they crouched under the fence. Some of the Tatars even jumped down from their horses and silently, expertly, rolled out stones from the fence and with a thump they threw them down from the hillside. Soon, riders could jump over the lowered fence and start working with spears and crooked sabers. The Tatars without a single word stabbed women and children lying on the ground and boys that were desperately attacking the ruthless murderers. Those that were more daring managed to hit a few attackers with long scythes and spears. But then the Tatars infantry started to appear from everywhere, throwing one another over what was left of the stone fence and they jumped on the defenseless like hungry wolves.

 

But the battle continued; the attacked were defending themselves. They jumped at the riders even with their bare hands, when the tatars´ sabres knocked the scythes or spears out from their hands. Desperation multiplied their forces, savage bravery, and skillfulness. Some of them managed to pull the riders to the ground, where they grabbed them around the belt, bit into their throats, rolled in the grass, beating them with their fists. But Tatars were helped by riders who chopped with curved sabres and stabbed them with sharp spearheads.

 

The screams, women's screeching and children's crying, and the rattle of the wounded behind the barrier were falling silent slowly, whereas the sounds of the merciless killing and desperate defence were echoing from the underground shelters. The echoing was the biggest and loudest from the bunker at the end of the barrier. Džebe went there, put the horse aside and listened with the ears of a lurking predator. There must have been a ruthless battle there. But what is that? Only women's voices are heard from there. His warriors are fighting with women, then. Immediately he waved to two Tatars and they promptly jumped off the horses and entered the bunker. The noise stopped. From the entrance, the heads of three girls with fair hair, braided into thick braids, appeared step by step. Their faces were burning, the chest was lifting heavily, but on their dresses there were no signs of battle. The first girl looked around and saw bodies in front of her. She straightened and in a flash she pulled a knife from the folds of her dress.  She jumped on Džebe thinking that he is the leader of the attacking horde.

 

She was stopped by the spears that Džebe´s bodyguards aimed at her chest.  This way they welcomed the two other girls, just as beautiful and brave as their sister. Behind the girls, two warriors appeared, whom Džebe had sent to the bunker, and then two more, breathless and bleeding.

 

  • “Beasts! Cruel dogs!” the first girl shouted with a ringing voice. Her sisters joined her:
  • “Worse than wolves!”

 

Džebe stared at the wild girls, young and desperate, but heroic and beautiful, with admiration. Then he questioningly turned to the translator - What are the bitches barking about? - he did not let himself be gripped by admiration of the unexpected behavior of the girls.

 

The translator interpreted everything with fear. He knew how Džebe accepts unpleasant news. The anger caused by their offensive words could turn against him, the innocent, if the "merciful brother" got furious.

 

A grin ran across Džebe´s face. The translator stepped aside, further and further from the whip.

 

Džebe didn't even look at the translator.

 

  • “What happened there?” he asked the warriors. From his voice, in which he obviously suppressed anger, came out dread.
  • “In the underground shelter are the dead bodies of our three warriors.”
  • “You killed our weak parents, an innocent brother and sister!” the first girl shouted, threatening him with her fist.

Džebe waved at the translator calmly.  He interpreted it again. Džebe angrily gazed at him and then yelled at the two Tatars with spears:

  • “What happened, Borču? Speak, Chudu!”

 

Borču, slim and tall, was afraid to look at Džebe. He answered with a hoarse voice:

 

  • “Those three got inside before us and  didn't come back. We went after them. In the bunker we found bodies - an old man, old lady, two children and our three warriors. These tigresses drove us into the corner with axes and they cut one of us.

They killed their parents and children, Džebe figured out.

  • “Is that how it was, Chudu?”
  • “Yes,” answered Chudu with a bowed gaze. Despite being a strong man, he was shaking.

 

Džebe´s anger bursted out with all its might. He turned pale. A look at his deadly paleness was even worse.

  • “Cowards! ‘Nojani’ and they can't even cope with girls! Hand in your weapons, you don't deserve to carry them. Take off their belts and take their horses,” he ordered his bodyguards and again, he turned at those two, who were standing there like beaten dogs. “From now on, you will shepherd sheep and prepare ‘kumys’ with the women for your lords. That's it!”

 

 Then he shouted at the girls:

  • “And you, young she-wolves, now you will find out what it means to touch a Mongolian warrior. You will separate the carcasses of Christian dogs from ours. You will bury them and cover them with stones. And for these bitches, dig a hole between the dead bodies,” he ordered the warriors.

 

The Tatars just got to work. At one end of the castle, they dug a grave for their own, buried them, and made a pile of rocks on their grave that they brought from the castle. Then they dug a pit between the dead bodies of Christians and brought the handcuffed girls to it. They thought they'd bury the dead in it, but the Tatars pushed them out of nowhere into the pit. The falling of the lumps of dirt on their powerlessly writhing bodies was long, accompanied by
a desperate cry that slowly quieted, until it was silent.

When the Tatars left, the ones who hadsaved themselves in the mountains buried their dead, took the rocks out of the tomb of the Tatars, and put them above the grave of the girls. The place where they died, where they lie, was named the Girls Cemetery.

Unprotected Hungary was left to the mercy of looting and slaughtering hordes. Fortunately, it only took a few months. The damage-causing Tatars were halted by an unexpected report of the death of the great Ogotai Khan. The Mongolian leader Batuchan chose to return with the entire military to intervene in the decision-making of the successor to the great khan.

 

The Tatar invasion left serious consequences for the functioning of the country. The several-month invasion of the Tatars meant that people could not engage in agricultural work, or their fields and crops were destroyed. Subsequent famines killed as many people as the Tatars themselves. Some areas were literally depopulated, so Belo IV invited German colonists from Saxony, who settled mainly in mining towns. The Tatar invasion also brought other valuable lessons. In the period after 1241, a relatively massive fortification activity began in our territory. Most Slovak castles and fortified buildings in the Middle Age were built in this period.

 

The story of the Girls Cemetery occurred somewhere in these places on the border of the territories of villages Rimavské Brezovo, Hnúšťa and Kyjatice. There were a lot of legends told and by oral tradition a lot was also embellished with passing down from generation to generation. The story of Ján Poničan is most likely true; it faithfully coincides with substantiated historical events.

Somewhere here under your feet lie the bones of three brave girls, men, children and old men from Rimavské Brezovo, who passed away 780 years ago during the Tatar persecution of the Hungarian king. And who knows, maybe even this delay of the Tatars helped Belo IV to escape. Maybe that's where history was written.

 

Other attractions in the vicinity

Burial ground of Kyjatic culture

 

The burial ground in Kyjatice, in which more than 200 cremation graves were discovered, gave its name to the whole culture, which inhabited the area from Krupina to the Slovak Ore Mountains in the years 1100 - 700 BC. They processed bronze on the fortified higher settlements and the lowland settlements were agriculturally oriented.  Kyjatic culture was characterized by ritual burning of the dead, which is why it left behind many cremation burials in the form of the so-called ashtray fields. The first archaeological research was carried out by professor Vojtech Budinský-Krička in 1941. Near the site is a monument to the nation of Kyjat culture in the form of a mini archaeological museum. There is a reconstruction of the funeral border, a tomb box, or replicas of archaeological finds in the archaeological museum.

 

Medieval Lutheran church in Kyjatice

The Gothic church was built sometime in the late 13th century as a single nave building with a square presbytery vaulted by a simple barrel vault. The interior is decorated with Gothic frescoes from the 14th and 15th centuries. In the presbytery we find scenes of apostles, several saints and prophets in medallions, on the reveal of the triumphal arch the figures of wise and unwise virgins. There are scenes from Christ's life: the Kiss of Judas, Christ before Pilate, Christ carrying the cross, the Crucifixion and Pieta on the triumphal arch. The main part of building is dominated by a unique depiction of the Last Judgment in the form of a large circle, centered on Jesus in the almond tree.

The painting resembles the illustrations in the manuscripts of St. Hildegarda from Bingen. The painting is also dated, but the experts do not agree whether it is 1426, 1446 or even 1486.

 

Kyjatice toys

The history of the production of these wooden folk toys has been associated with the village of Kyjatice for over 150 years. The wooden figures, most often made out of beech wood, were colorful and richly decorated. Typical for them is a circular ornament or ellipse, engraved with a special compass. The production of toys in Kyjatice gradually began to disappear after World War II. Today, the only follower of the last toy manufacturer in the region, Mr. Stehlík, is Ladislav Hedvigi from Rimavské Zalužany, who is engaged in  the production of these traditional wooden products full-time. His aim is to maintain the 150-year-old toy manufacturing practices. The production area is located in the village Kyjatice just below the Gothic Church.

 Medieval Evangelical Church, Rimavské Brezovo

The Gothic church dates from the 13th century. In the 14th century, the church received quality frescoes whose author or authors, according to the style of painting, originated from the workshop of the famous Master of the Ochtiná presbytery. During the Reformation, the church was taken over by evangelicals who still use it today. In 1893, a large reconstruction was held, which gave the building its present appearance. The south wall of the Gothic nave was demolished and a new south nave was added to the church. Despite the modern reconstruction, we find a medieval presbytery in the church in almost its original form with wall paintings and a cross rib vault. The experts date the scene of the Last Judgement exposed on the west side of the north wall of the original nave to the first half of the 14th century. The interior of the presbytery was decorated primarily with dimensional scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. On the vault are paintings of Christ in Mandorle, four evangelists, four church fathers, and angels. The original medieval stone paving was discovered and exposed in the presbytery, and a stone baptistery from the 14th century has been preserved.

Excel Madon Equestrian Club

It is the only equestrian club in the vicinity of the town of Hnúšťa, which has dedicated its activities to horse breeding and hippotherapy. In addition to the riding itself, club members learn how to care for the horses and communicate with these animals. Visitors have the opportunity to ride horses in the club area and in the surrounding forests. Horseback riding for beginners can be completed in the summer daily from 2.00 to 8.00 pm, always after the previous telephone agreement. Equestrian club operators are also qualified for hippotherapy, for children from 2 years to seniors.

Raspberry orchard in Prievady

The raspberry orchard was founded by the Dovala family in 2015. Today, a small family farm grows hundreds of kilograms of organic raspberries a year without any chemical treatment or growth support. Pollination is provided by their own beekeeping. In the season from May to November you can buy 7 different varieties of raspberries here in the form of an order and self-picking. The rarest is the Polka variety, a late variety with large sweet fruits, which bear until November.

Mineral spring, Rimavské Brezovo

At the bend of the main road between Rimavské Brezovo and Kyjatice, notice the wooden shelter in the forest. It is a mineral spring of "Divá kyslá", one of several that locals call "Šťavica.” The water is significantly ferruginous. For locals, it  serves as a substitute for mineral water and it is recommended to drink it even for stomach problems to support digestion. The village regularly cleans and disinfects  mineral springs.

The building of the "Rimamuráň" society

The former residence of the Rimava coalition still stands in the village of Rimavské Brezovo, where  a glasswork and later the ironwork existed in the 18th century. Later, the building was taken over by its successor, the Rima-muránska iron company. The company's capital was €3.8 million in gold and  was the largest producer in Hungary at that time. It was located right here, in the now forgotten part of "Hámor" in Rimavské Brezovo. In front of the building in Rimavské Brezovo is a cast iron monument to Martin Sturman, who was at both company establishments. The owner of the building built in 1808 is the company Forests of the Slovak Republic, which acquired it in its  management in 1975. Since then, the building has decayed, although at the beginning of 2021, the state-owned enterprise announced that it wants to try to save it.

 

Preklad: PaedDr. Zuzana Vojteková, študenti EGT Tisovec (bezplatný preklad v rámci štúdia)