It's Zagreb's most recognizable monument. The neo-Gothic spires of the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary punctuate Zagreb's Upper Town, rising 108m (or 105m, depending on whom you ask) into the sky. It's Croatia's largest sacral building and a must-see Zagreb sight.
The story of the Zagreb Cathedral begins late in the 11th century shortly after the establishment of the Zagreb bishopric in 1094. This early church built in neo-Romanesque style was consecrated in 1217. It was badly damaged in 1242 during the Mongol invasion but reconstruction begin soon after. From 1264 to 1284 the eastern part of the Cathedral arose in Gothic style with lower vaults in side aisles.
From 1366 to 1433 western walls were constructed along with lower sections of the two belfries. From 1500 to 1510 vaults of equal height in all three aisles and the elevated choir was built. The nave was modified and heightened. By this time the expansion of the Ottoman Empire put Zagreb under serious threat. To fortify the Cathedral a turreted outer wall was constructed which remains one of the best-preserved Renaissance defenses in Europe.
In 1624 two catastrophic fires damaged the church. Along with the reconstruction, a Renaissance-style bell tower was built on the southern side by Master Ivan Albertal.
In the 18th century the Gothic cathedral acquired more baroque ornamentation with a baroque pulpit and richly decorated altars. Now that the Turkish threat had passed, the defensive walls on the south and east side were rebuilt and became the Archbishop's palace.
In 1880 a massive earthquake damaged the Cathedral. The job of redesign and reconstruction was awarded to the celebrated architect Hermann Bollé, known now for his design of Mirogoj cemetery. Bollé had a lot of ideas for his new design, none of which included the baroque-Renaissance mishmash that had emerged over the centuries. He removed the original ribbed vaulting and the original 1640 portal which was the only extant work by the Slovenian stonemason Kozmas Müller.
Bollé's renovation envisioned a grand but stripped-down interior. Surviving works include the Renaissance pews, the late baroque marble pulpit by Mihael Kusse, a painting of the Virgin by Carlo Bononi and the 18th-century altars by Francesco Robba. It was also at this time that the neo-Gothic bell towers were erected. (It may have been the last time the towers were not cocooned in scaffolding.)
The baroque pulpit dating from 1688
The neo-gothic altar of Saints Cyril and Methodius
Last Supper and Saint Luke baroque altars from 1703
Baroque choir stalls from the 17th century
Organ dating from 1855 with 6068 pipes and 78 registers
Cardinal Stepinac tomb The Cardinal's actions during WWII provoked controversy but he remains a national hero in Croatia. The tomb was carved by Ivan Mestrovic.
14th-century frescoes in the sacristy
Ivory plenarium in the Treasury Illustrated with 10 scenes from the life of Jesus, this invaluable work dates from the 11th century.
Around the Cathedral
Virgin Mary with Angels Fountain
Just outside the Archbishop's Palace (which cannot be visited) and the Cathedral is this neo-Gothic fountain designed by Hermann Bollé. The gold-plated statues were designed by Anton von Fernkorn and the four angels represent Faith, Hope, Innocence and Humility.
The Cathedral is free and open for visits Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 1pm-5pm. Shorts are not permitted and don't forget to turn off the cellphone!
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