Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cathedral of the Assumption - Zagreb, Croatia

Cathedral of the Assumption, or Zagreb Cathedral, is Roman Catholic and the tallest building in Croatia.
Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Side view of the cathedral.
King Ladislaus (Ladislav in Croatian) of Hungary (who later extended his rule over Croatia), was born in 1045 and King from 1077 until his death in 1095. Ladislaus founded the Archdiocese of Zagreb, appointed the first bishop and started to build a small church in 1093. It was added to and completed in 1217, when it was consecrated by King Andrew II of Hungary and Croatia (who reigned from 1205 to 1235) when he came through on the Fifth Crusade. The cathedral was destroyed by the Mongols and Tartars in 1242. Rebuilding of the cathedral began later in the 13th century, using part of the remains of the old cathedral, and building a central and two lateral apses. It was dedicated to St. Stephen, King of Hungary, from 1000 to 1038.  The Ottomans invaded at the end of the 15th century and defensive fortifications were built around the cathedral, some of which still exist. The last of the fortifications were finished in 1517. In the 17th century a watchtower was built on the south side and used as a military observation point. 
Watchtower and fortifications around the cathedral.
In 1880 an earthquake collapsed the entire ceiling, smashing the main altar. The cathedral was thereafter restored in Neo-Gothic style, particularly evident by the two spires built on the western end (one of which is now undergoing restoration) and the front facade.
The front facade.
The Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost - in the form of a dove)
King Stephen, Christ the King and King Ladislaus?
Statues next to the front entrance.
Statues on the other side of the front entrance.
An angel.
Angels above the statues next to the front door. 
The cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and her Assumption. It is also dedicated to King Ladislaus and to King Stephen.  
A large painting of the Assumption of the Virgin.
A closer view of the Assumption.
Cardinal Aloysius (Alojzije in Croation) Stepinac was the Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 to 1960. During World War II he objected to the persecution of the Jews and helped the Jews and others to escape. After the war he publicly condemned the Yugoslavian government and its actions during the war, including the murders of priests by communists. He was indicted by the Yugoslav leaders of war crimes, collaboration with the Ustase movement and complicity in forced conversions of Orthodox Serbs to Catholicism. He was convicted in October 1946 of high treason and war crimes and sentenced to 16 years in prison. His trial was depicted as a "show trial" in the west and pressure, both foreign and domestic, gained his release from Lepoglava Prison after five years. Tito allowed his release under the condition that he retire to Rome or be confined to his home parish of Krasic. He chose the latter. In 1952 he was appointed a cardinal by Pope Pius XII. He died while confined in his parish and perhaps by poisoning from his communist captors (traces of poison were found in his bones during an autopsy).  He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1998. His sarcophagus containing his embalmed body is near the main altar and a relief of Cardinal Stepinac with Christ is nearby, made by the Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, who knew Stepinac. Mestrovic wrote: "Archbishop Stepinac was not a man of idle words, but rather, he actively helped every person - when he was able, and to the extent he was able. He made no distinctions as to whether a man in need was a Croat or a Serb, whether he was a Catholic or an Orthodox, whether he was Christian or non-Christian. All the attacks upon him be they the product of misinformation or the product of a clouded mind, cannot change this fact." I do find a different point of view from Chris Agee, in "The Stepinac File (2000)" examining the writings of Hubert Butler. In Butler's "efforts to find out the details of the vast campaign in Croatia in 1941 to convert two and a half million Orthodox to Catholicism" he talks about "often good and kindly men, who believe that at all costs the ecclesiastical fabric, its schools and rules, its ancient privileges and powers, should be preserved." He refers to Stepinac as "an avatar of the Organization Man...[whose] fatal respect for orderliness becomes integral to the vastness of the criminal enterprise." 
The embalmed Stepinac, in his red and gold vestments and gold miter, lays at rest near the main altar of the cathedral.
Stepinac with Christ by Mestrovic.
The beautiful crucifixion scene has an inscription in glagolithic script, first put into writing by Cyril as a means to help convert the slavs to Christianity. It was a fore-runner to the modern Croat language. True to the church tradition, Jesus's hands and feet are nailed to the cross and the thieves' hands and feet are tied to the cross. I guess this is one way of distinguishing the divine Jesus from the mortal thieves, although in actuality the Romans would not have distinguished between them. 
Crucifixion scene. Mary and John flank Christ while the thieves are to his right and left.
Close-up of Christ - note his wrists and feet are nailed to the cross. 
One of the thieves on the cross - not that his arms and legs are tied, not nailed, to the cross.
The other thief on the cross, also tied, not nailed, to the cross.
There are many other beautiful and interesting elements in the cathedral that I don't have much specific on. I share them as photographic snippets. 
Interesting tiled floor.
Looking toward the main altar of the cathedral from the back.
Looking into the apse beyond Cardinal Stepinac.
Looking sideways at the main altar in front of Cardinal Stepinac.
Looking back at the front of the church - the organ up high.
An altar with a silver and gold relief.
The gold relief on the altar appears to depict a modern adoration of the magi.
Sculptures above an altar.
More sculptures above an altar.
More sculptures above an altar. I'm thinking that King's Stephen and Ladislaus have to be represented in many of these.
Another portion of one of a myriad of altars.
A Last Supper relief on an altar.
Virgin and Child.
One of the evangelists.
I love the statues featuring old garb.
From the side of the apse near Cardinal Stepinac.
Finally, some examples of the stained glass:


  1. I love the crucifixion scene. I assume it is Mary and John the Beloved standing at the base of the cross. Jesus is turned towards Mary, perhaps at the moment he is saying, "Woman, behold thy son."

  2. I love that crucifixion scene, too. Very unusual. It's always interesting to read about the abuse, both natural disasters and acts of man, that these churches endure and survive.

  3. The traditional method of crucifixion was to be tied to the cross. This was so that the offender would die due to exposure and maximize the time it took to die, making a lasting example to others of the cruelty of Roman punishment. Jesus was nailed to the cross because of his Jewish faith. He was crucified on a Friday, sundown being the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. Not wanting to provoke the Jewish people to riot, it was decided to nail Jesus to the cross. This would allow him to bleed out, die faster and be placed in a grave before sundown.

    Mary Magdalene's discovery of the empty tomb on Sunday morning was due to her returning to his burial site to complete the Jewish burial rituals that were rushed prior to being first laid to rest just before the beginning of Sabbath. It would have been very likely that the other two thieves with Jesus would have been bound as opposed to nailed to the cross. Jesus' method of crucifixion was very unique.