A walk through the history of mining city
The valley of river Hnilec, which originates under Král'ova Hol'a mountain and flows approximately 75 km through a romantic valley up to Margecany, merging there with river Hornád, belongs to those places in Slovakia, which tourists like the most. The centre of the Hnilec valley is city Gelnica. The city is surrounded by zone offorested mountains, which belong to the Spis-Gemer ore-mountains. It is stretched over both riverbanks of river Hnilec alongside of the railway Margecany - Cervena Skala - Zvolen. It is located at 375 meters above sea level, but surrounding zone of mountains reaches heights from 655 to 1030 m above sea level.
Archaeological findings in Nalepkovo and in Svedlar testify about prehistoric information of the Hnilec valley, which document a settlement in Stone and Bronze Ages. The name Gelnica, derived from the name of the river Gnilec (Hnilec) from which was later created German name Gollnitz and from it also Slovak name Gelnica, evidence about Slavic origin and about settlement of valley Hnilec by Slavonians before arrival of German colonists to Spis in 12-13 century. The fact that Gelnica was nominated already to city during the reign of Belo IV. (1235-1270) confirm that it had to be in 13" century developed village. Significant expansion of original village occurred soon after incursion of Tartars in 1241. After this event Gelnica and neighbourhood were colonised by Germans from Bavaria, Thurin and Rhineland on contrary to the earlier colonisation flow to Sasov and Spis. Next to Spis, Sasov province in the Hnilec valley was created community of mining villages, centre of which has become Gelnica. With arrival of Germans, Gelnica started its development very quickly into city organism and in 1264 it received city rights from king of Hungary - Belo IV. Original city rights of Gelnica have not been recovered although we know them from restituted privilege of Ladislav IV. in 1276, which confirms rights granted by Belo IV. and Stephan V. In this privilege Gelnica is mentioned as developed city -" ivitas" with its self-administration and own court. Fast development of royal mining city was supported also by construction of a new castle in the first half of 13" century (1234) and by establishment of Dominican monastery in 1288.
In 14" and 15" century Gelnica was in its peak of bloom. In Gelnica and its vicinity were mined not only copper and silver materials but also gold, mercury, lead and iron ore. There were working approximately 350-400 miners there. Gelnica as a centre of upper Hungary mining industry had originally its own Gelnica law, footprints of which have been found in Gelnica mining law from 15" century. However, in 1317 they were forced to adopt mining law from Banska Stiavnica.
City rights were extended and confmned to Gelnica by King Charles I. in 1317, and by King Ľudovit I. in 1359 and by emperor Zigmund in 1435. Based on these rights Gelnica has become free royal mining city. The oldest city seal was preserved on deed from 1497, which is now located in the castle archive in Vienna.
In 1726 there was recovered union of seven mining cities in Hnilec valley (Gelnica, Smolnik, Štós, Švedlár, Mnisek, Medzev and Vondrisel). Gelnica had its mining commissariat. In the second half of 19. century manufacturing of nails and chains became the most profitable business and nails and chains from Gelnica were well known all around Hungary. In 1870 there were nails manufactured by 360 foremen, 90 journeymen and 95 scholars. During 1865-1875 Gelnica manufacturing represented 90 million nails per year, which is approx. 27 wagons. Iron manufacturing was concentrated in the family of Walkovs who together with O. Hennel and L. Anthony were pioneers of factory production in Gelnica. Until its abatement there were several prosperous guilds in Gelnica as smith guild (in 1847 it had 257 foremen), guild of butchers, furriers, sewers, tailors and other guilds, which represented together form of various communities even in 20" century. In 1854 there was issued new mining law, which abated old privileges of labour miners achieved during 13 –14 century.
On 28 October 1918 the Czechoslovak Republic was declared. In 1919 Gelnica was the centre of Slovak Republic in the region of South-East em Spis, there was also place of brigade headquarter and Gelnica labour council with directorate were the highest body of all district. Similarly in 1920 Gelnica became the organisation centre of December General Strike in Hnilecka dolina, concentration and activity of which indicate 112 arrested leaders and labour confidants of strike. During 1921-23 Czechoslovak economy was damaged by crises, which was the start of elimination of iron-works industry and it significantly affected the whole Hnilecka valley.
Mining companies in Maria Huta remained after 1. World War in hands of Austrian Mining and Metallurgical, which has changed its name to Banska a hutna spoločnosť (Mining and Metallurgical Company). Due to out of date and low yield means of mining was company oriented towards processing of ore from abroad and consequently stopped its production in years 1921-23. Inherent effect of this situation was emigration of its residents abroad. Hnilecka Valley was called as a Hunger Valley. In the period of World Economy Crisis unemployment rapidly increased and plants of Banska a Hutna Company again interrupted its operation in Maria Huta. In 1934 there was terminated Gelnica factory of Walkov's. In operation remained only company Antony and Son, which employed 80 people. Gelnica workers worked for low salaries on a railway from Cervena Skala to Margecany, due to which there were organised riots and strikes in 1931. On 8. June 1932 approx. 3000 workers stopped its work along the whole route. Despite of intervention against strikers, owners had to fulfil requirements of workers and to increase their salaries on average from 15 to 25 per cent.
On 21. January 1945 was Gelnica liberated by Russian Army. Consequently the work was recovered in manufacturing companies. Mines in Maria Huta owned by Banska a hutna spoločnosť were nationalized and Antony's factory and Kucera's saw-mill were conformed by national administration. Antony's factory, temporarily manufacturing mechanical toys, changed its program to manufacturing machines for food industry. In the framework of Slovak recovery there were also development in other industry fields which also significantly improved the employment of inhabitants.
Gelnica with its individual natural beauties and cultural-historical remains reminding stage of bloom in liberal royal city of miners, despite of its modem neighbourhood, preserved its ancient nature. City and its surroundings is mainly recently becoming exposed to tourist rush.