Regions, cities and towns: Zagreb #001
Katedrala Uznesenja Blažene Djevice Marija i sv. Stjepana i Ladislava
Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Stjepan and Ladislav
At 108 m, the Zagreb Cathedral is the second highest building in Croatia, a long way short of the highest: the 169 m Zagreb TV tower perched on top of the mountain Slijeme behind Zagreb.
It is the most obvious landmark in Zagreb, being visible from kilometres away in all directions. If you make your way by site toward the cathedral, (apart from the fact that lots of one-way streets will mess with your direction) you will be heading directly toward the very centre of Zagreb.
The cathedral is located in an area (and street) called Kaptol, just up from the main square (Trg bana Josipa Jelačića), across the road (Kaptol) from the Dolac market, and at the bottom of the upper town (Gornji Grad).
The cathedral is an imposing, and instantly recognizable, structure .....
What's going on? What illusion is this
What’s going on? Well, that’s a long story ……. about 800 years long. Behind these photos is a continuing story of damage and destruction, followed by restoration.
Na početku ….
The Diocese of Zagreb was declared (actually moved from Sisak) by King Ladislaus of Hungary in 1093. A cathedral to replace the previously re-existing church was finished and consecrated in 1217.
In 1242, invading Mongols didn’t like it much, and destroyed it.
Ne daj se!
Back to work! Bishop Timothy had it rebuilt in the late 13th century. The single-tower cathedral stood the test of time (more or less) for 600 years, partly because of surrounding fortifications constructed to defend against invading Ottomans at the end of the 15th century – some of which are still intact.
In 1624 lightning stuck the cathedral, causing a fire that burned the roof and destroyed the vault.
Restoration was still in progress when, in 1646, a fire in the roof was so intense that, among other damage, the bells melted.
Chicken feed compared with what happened 234 years later ….
Katastrofa i onda obnova ….
1880 brought disaster in the form of a massive earthquake which destroyed the tower and badly damaged the main nave.
Reconstruction in neo-Gothic style included the two spires that are present today.
Restoration work to counter visible deterioration was continuous from 1968.
Because of poor quality stone used in the reconstruction after the 1880 earthquake, renovation to repair deterioration of the two towers was commenced in 1990. This involved erection of scaffolding around one or other, or both, of the towers at various times.
So we have an explanation for the apparent illusion in the two photographs above. I took the photo on the right win 2004, and that on the left in 2018. Work was underway on the North tower in 2004, but had progressed to other some time before 2018.
It has been estimated that at least 60% of the citizens of Zagreb, because of (relatively) recent birth, or recent arrival, have never seen the Zagreb cathedral without a dress on at least one of the spires.
Katastrofa nakon katostrofe ….
Recall February 2020. How could we not! The corona virus arrives. Not as visible as the Mongols or Ottomans centuries earlier, but just as potent. As if that is not enough ….
At 06:24 on the morning of 22 March, 2020, an earthquake of magnitude 5.3 occurred with epicentre 7 kilometres north of Zagreb city centre. This is followed over days by aftershocks with intensity up to 5.0. You can read details in Wikipedia about the 2020 Zagreb earthquake.
Damage to the city centre, including to many of its historic and architecturally noteworthy buildings was enormous, and reconstruction and renovation will be taking place for years to come.
And what of the cathedral?
The tip of its southern spire (on the right looking toward the portal of the cathedral) was dislodged, and fell onto the roof of the adjacent Bishop’s Palace.
The other spire was assessed to be in danger of falling, so was removed with the assistance of explosives installed by military personnel.
A sada (kolovoz 2023. g)?
Well, both towers are surrounded by a huge scaffolding network which is quite impressive technically and artistically.
I imagine that it will be an occasion of great significance to the purgers when the scaffolding is eventually removed to expose the full beauty of the cathedral.
A story of disaster and sadness, or a symbol of resilience and future?
Many regard the ongoing story of the cathedral as a symbol of promise.
You might like to read the online article: Save your tears for the cathedral, its promise is a greater symbol of Zagreb than its towers.
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