Vlkolinec is a remarkably intact unitary settlement of a characteristic central European type with log-built architecture, which is often found in mountainous areas. The layout of the town has remained virtually unchanged and the architectural style has been fully retained. There are 45 unaltered buildings in the ensemble, retaining many early constructional features. It is the best preserved and most comprehensive set of traditional vernacular buildings in the Slovak Republic. It has preserved its ancient appearance with remarkable fidelity: although it is now in its 19th-century guise, Vlkolinec is essentially the same as it has been for a much longer period.
There was an early Slav settlement on the site from the Burgwall (walled settlement) period (10th-12th centuries AD). The first documentary record dates from 1376, and in a document of 1469 reference is made to five named streets. In 1675 there were only four homesteads and five residences of servants of the nearby Likava manor, of which Vlkolinec always seems to have been a fief. A decree of 1630 suggests that the name derives from the important charge laid upon the villagers to maintain the wolf-pits in good order. The present settlement consists almost entirely of buildings from the 19th century.
The characteristic houses of Vlkolinec are situated on the street frontages of narrow holdings, with stables, smaller outbuildings, and barns ranged behind them. The main street, which is on a comparatively steep slope, forks in the centre of the village. Parts of the northern end of the village were destroyed by fire in the Second World War and have not been rebuilt. A canalized stream flows through the village. The houses are of the traditional central Slovak timber-built (Blockbau) type. This consists of log walls on stone footings, the walls being coated with clay and whitewashed or painted blue. Over 50% of them have three rooms; some are smaller and others double. The roofs are pitched and semi-hipped, and were originally covered with wooden shingles. They are entered from elongated yards shared with several other houses.
There are 47 traditional farmhouses of this type and a shop and schoolhouse from the end of the 19th century. The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary dates from 1875, but the belfry was built in 1770.
One especially interesting feature of the settlement is the fact that the parcels of land that surround it retain the elongated strip shape characteristic of medieval land allotment over most of feudal Europe. Outside these lie the areas of common land and forest which are also essential elements of the feudal landscape (although these have been substantially altered in later centuries through forestry and pasturage).
Vlkolínec has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993.References:
Sweetheart Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her. Their son, also John, became king of Scotland but his reign was tragic and short. The depredations suffered by the Abbey in subsequent periods, have caused both the graves to be lost. The abbey, built in deep-red, local sandstone, was founded as a daughter house to Dundrennan Abbey; this Novum Monasterium (New Monastery), became known as the New Abbey.
The immediate abbey precincts extended to 120,000 m2 and sections of the surrounding wall can still be seen today. The Cistercian order, also known as the White Monks because of the white habit, over which they wore a black scapular or apron, built many great abbeys after their establishment around 1100. Like many of their abbeys, the New Abbey's interests lay not only in prayer and contemplation but in the farming and commercial activity of the area, making it the centre of local life. The abbey ruins dominate the skyline today and one can only imagine how it and the monks would have dominated early medieval life as farmers, agriculturalists, horse and cattle breeders. Surrounded by rich and fertile grazing and arable land, they became increasingly expert and systematic in their farming and breeding methods. Like all Cistercian abbeys, they made their mark, not only on the religious life of the district but on the ways of local farmers and influenced agriculture in the surrounding areas.
The village which stands next to the ruins today, is now known as New Abbey. At the other end of the main street is Monksmill, a corn mill. Although the present buildings date from the late eighteenth century, there was an earlier mill built by and for the monks of the abbey which serviced the surrounding farms.