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The Cathedral and the churches of Zagreb

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The Cathedral and the churches of Zagreb

About the site

Corridor: Diagonal Road
Country: Croatia, Zagreb
Type: Christian religious centre
Epoch: Modern Times, Middle Ages
World Heritage:
Modern TimesMiddle AgesChristian religious centre

The Zagreb Cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is 77 meters long and 46.20 meters wide. The north tower is 105 meters in height, while the south tower is 104 meters. The internal area is 1617 sq.m and up to 5000 people can attend mass in the Cathedral.
The Zagreb Diocese was founded by the Hungarian King Ladislas in about 1093-94, when he ordered that a cathedral be built. The construction likely began after 1102 and was dedicated in 1217. It was built in the Romanesque transitional style. The new cathedral was heavily damaged in the 1242 attack by the Tartars, and was renovated in 1264 and 1284 by Bishop Timothy in the Gothic style. At that time, the eastern, basilica section of the cathedral was built. The western, manor section, with equally high vaults in all three naves was built throughout the 14 and 15th centuries and into the 16th century. From the second half of the 15th century to the first half of the 16th century, the fortress walls and towers were built around the Cathedral to defend against the Turks. In the 17th century, the Cathedral was damaged in two large fires.
The restoration lasted until the second half of the 17th century. As part of the final works, the massive bell tower was built on the south side, and also served as a watchtower. At the end of the 17th and 18th centuries, the Cathedral received marble elements: the pulpit in 1698 and the remaining 32 altars – very valuable examples of the Baroque style. In the 19th century, during the period of Bishop Juraj Haulika, the sanctuary (presbytery) was renovated: a new neo-Gothic wooden altar was added from the sculptor Sickinger from Munich. The organ builder Walcker from Ludwigsburg created the new organ, which today is still found in the Cathedral. It is considered to be among the ten most significant in the world.

The Jesuit church of St Catherine in Zagreb, begun in 1620, was followed by the church of the Assumption in Varazdin (architect J. Mattota, 1642) and the Franciscan church in the same city (architect P. Rabba of Graz). The same spatial scheme of a nave flanked by three chapels on either side was adopted by H. Allio of Celje for the church of St Anastasia in Samobor (1675), but with the eclectic use of a polygonal Gothic sanctuary with counterforts. However, all these reduced the complexity and mass of the new Jesuit-type church by omitting the dome. St Catherine's in Zagreb is assumed to have been designed as a standard type project in Rome. This is the most outstanding example of Jesuit architecture in northern Croatia with its elaborate architectural and colouristic treatment of all the wall surfaces, its ornate stucco ceiling by A. Quadria (1721) with frescoed openings revealing the heavenly heights by G. Quaglio, the huge trompe l'oeil fresco by A. Jelovsek (1762) behind the altar opening up a deep perspective of painted architecture and landscape, and its six chapels each with two altars, the finest of which is the altar by Francesco Robba.

The Church of St. Mark’s is one of the oldest architectural monuments of the City of Zagreb, and is the oldest parish church in the city. It is located on Mark’s Square in the Upper Town. Its first historical reference was in 1256; however, the basic form is from the Romanesque period. Today’s St. Mark’s Church stems back to the 14-15th century, and it was renovated in the 19th century (by Schmidt), when the Church received its internal appearance. As of the Schmidt renovation, the church has three altars, previously it had more (8 in the 15th cent., 12 in the 17th cent.). In the period between the two World Wars, the church was further ornamented under the leadership of Joze Kljakovic (1936-37). Ivan Mestrovic also had significant influence in the renovation.
The church has three naves, each ending in an apse. It is 36 meters long and 15.5 meters wide. The vaults were gilded in the 1937 renovation. The floor was once brick, but at the end of the 17th century, the brick was replaced with stone. The choir deck was once walled and narrow, standing upon four stone pillars. Schmidt expanded it, while Mestrovic removed it and replaced it with a wooden choir. The Church of St. Mark has already possessed an organ in the 14th century. On the exterior of the northwestern wall is a stone-carved crest of the City of Zagreb from 1499. Schmidt covered the roof with coloured tiles, and created a new roof structure for the nave and sacristy. The south side of the roof was ornamented with two crests: the crest of the Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia and the crest of the City of Zagreb. Through the centuries, the bell tower was heavily damaged in earthquakes and was always rebuilt, destroyed several times by fire, and again rebuilt. The basis is Gothic. It received its current Baroque appearance in the period 1677-1725, and in 1841 it was covered in copper. The bells date back to 1706.

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