Cicmianske Domy: The Houses of Cicmany Village

Čičmianske Domy: The Houses of Čičmany Village

Feb 06, 2017

Čičmany Village is located in the Zilina Region of northern Slovakia. The area is bordered by mountains. It has a long and rich history in which its people have lived a rural life enriched by artisanship. The village is the first folk architecture reserve in the world. Its houses are unique structures painted with distinctive folk art motifs.

This site was the inspiration of a series of photographs taken by Jaroslav Horečný. An exhibition of these photos, titled Čičmianske Domy: The Houses of Čičmany Village, is open now through May 7, 2017 at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (NCSML) in Cedar Rapids, IA. Horečný utilized distinctive compositions that highlight the uniqueness of each building’s details in interesting ways.

house-no-62.jpg house-no-93.jpg
House No. 62, Jaroslav Horečný House No. 93, Jaroslav Horečný


Čičmany Village has attracted artists and travelers since the early 19th century with its unique buildings and distinctive costumes. Even today, the village is rich with living heritage where past is brought into the present.

The domy (local word for houses) are straight-forward rectangular homes made of black timber with pitched, tile roofs. Over 200 years ago, the use of bright lime pigment was used to preserve damaged wood, but over time, it was also used to create elaborate designs. Each building is unique from its neighbor with these details.

Exploring the decorative motifs of the domy more closely, their relationship to the folk art heritage of the village itself is obvious. Čičmany is renowned for its fine embroideries, and the domy motifs borrow from a similar inclination.

An example of a woman’s dress from Čičmany. Photo courtesy of Jan Letowski,

Until the early 20th century, villagers wore long, pleated arm sleeves, a double apron costume, and leather or canvas shoes. Traditionally, the costumes were made from homemade white linen. The women also wore their hair in unique styles that would visibly signify their marital status. In their spare moments, the women would sew the dresses with decorations. Both practical and decorative, the designs were often placed near the seams or hems. In the oldest examples, the embroidery is less dense and simpler. Later, it became more colorful and elaborate. Čičmany design is distinctive from others because of its inclination to use red, yellow, and orange-based tints nearly exclusively, lending to a character that makes it unique from over 60 varieties of folk costumes in the Slovak tradition. On festival and celebration days, many locals will put on their traditional garb and it is like a place frozen in time.

The embroidery patterns themselves are based on a thread-counting principle. The various motifs are grouped into larger compositions. The square-like structure may seem purely ornamental and symmetrically-pleasing, but it is also symbolic. The shapes are symbols with meaning, such as: paths, flowers, stars, hearts, and a variety of animals. The ram’s horn and cockerels are especially popular and echo back to the rural lifestyle of the people who stitched the patterns.

Traditional folk carnival celebration in Čičmany. Dancers are wearing traditional costumes in front of the domy.

We see these symbols and pattern-similarities in the domy designs photographed by Horečný as well. Through this expression, an appreciation of a long history of celebrating a unique culture unfolds. It’s easy to understand why the site has attracted so many travelers and artisans, and why today it remains a popular attraction.

Visit Čičmianske Domy: The Houses of Čičmany Village at the NCSML to reflect on the folk art of the region and how Horečný has photographed it. More information about the exhibition can be learned at

Sources for this article were generously provided by the NCSML:

  • Čičmianske Domy: The Houses of Čičmany Village, published by the Embassy of the Slovak Republic.
  • Alive with Beauty: Čičmany Traditional Costume, Bc. Lenka Zubekova, 2004.
  • Folk Art Production in Slovakia, published by the Centre of Folk Art Production.
  • Folk Traditions in Slovakia, published by Slovak Agency for Tourism.

Western Fraternal Life is the proud to be the lead sponsor for this exhibition.

Category: Czech Connection

Cindy Motsinger

Communications Coordinator

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