Weather in Zagreb has been dry and unseasonably warm the last few days, so I decided to visit remarkable Mirogoj Cemetery – not only “the last resting place of the deceased,” but also a “wonderful open-air art gallery and museum“. I visited the cemetery during a previous trip to Croatia, but my memory of it was foggy. Many graves were adorned with Christmas flower arrangements and candles. Most of the photos taken are uncaptioned.
Visitors are welcome to tour the grounds and enjoy the “peace, beauty, and orderliness of the cemetery in its entirety”. The property includes well-maintained parks, flower beds, and abundant trees”. It’s beautiful during all seasons of the year. An electric car is available to drive visitors with mobility issues around the cemetery and Gaj Urni Crematorium.
Mirogoj opened in 1876. Built along the lower slopes of Medvednica Mountain, it’s on land that was the former estate of Dr. Ljudevit Gaj. Dr. Gaj, a Croatian “politician, linguist, ideologist, journalist, and writer,” was a central figure of the Croatian National Revival and Illyrian Movement. He died in 1872. At his request, the “city municipality has not altered Gaj’s lawn, and the rows of linden, wild chestnut, maple, and spruce trees planted along cemetery roads”.
“The Mirogoj complex is the largest and most valuable monument of Zagreb’s nineteenth-century architecture.”
Mirogoj is one of the most beautiful cemeteries I’ve seen. It rivals Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. The cemetery is a “general collective place for members of all religions”. Each religion is “allocated a special space suitable to the number of its followers, with members of all religions having equal rights and duties”. Unlike other Zagreb cemeteries owned by churches, the city municipality is the keeper of Mirogoj.
Outer and Inner Divisions
The cemetery consists of “outer and inner parts that together form a whole”. There’s a division according to religion:
- A designated for Catholics
- B for Orthodox Christians
- C for Protestants
- D for followers of the Jewish faith
The Mirogoj Statutes guarantee “each legally recognized religion – Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Latter Day Saints, irreligious, etc. – complete and unlimited performance of religious rites at the burial of the dead in the cemetery”.
The “inner department is separated from the outer towards the west along its entire length by a magnificent building consisting of tombs under arcades, portals, and churches for various religious ceremonies”. gradskagroblja.hr
Types of Graves
Within the cemetery there are “four types of graves – personal extraordinary, regular family, own, and general”. Each grave type is located in a specified area within the cemetery.
Statutes stipulate the placement of monuments, maintenance, and aesthetics. Some “coffins placed in graves must be made of sheet metal and hermetically sealed, while others are allowed to be wooden”. As the cemetery expanded over the years, Statutes had to be revised.
“Due to the large number of buried famous people, Mirogoj is called the Croatian Pantheon.” justzagreb.com/mirogoj-cemetery
Historicism and Architect Herman Bollé
After Mirogoj received its Statute as a city communal facility, “people began to think about the arrangement of the cemetery itself”. This task was entrusted to Croatian architect Herman Bollé, “Zagreb’s first urban planner, and most famous architect”.
“Bollé took advantage of the opportunity given to him. He imagined and largely realized a superb monumental architectural-urbanistic-sculptural complex with a clear creative conception, which, built over decades, would become a monument to the dead and the living for centuries to come.”
Bollé chose Neo-Renaissance style, because of its “clarity and purity,” which is “extremely suitable for grave architecture”. “The main construction material is brick, and the bases, cornices, and some elements of architectural plastic are made of stone. All domes are covered with copper sheet. It’s important to emphasize that Bollé reached for contemporary construction materials – steel with reinforced concrete.”
If you’re in Zagreb, I highly recommend a visit to this magnificent historical cemetery – a “place of eternal peace and beauty” as well as iconic architecture.