Visible from afar, Zagreb Cathedral is one of the most famous churches in the country, impressing with lavish neo-Gothic architecture and an almost thousand-year history of destruction and reconstruction.
The Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, also known as Zagreb Cathedral, is one of the tallest buildings in Croatia. It is considered a national treasure and is on our list of the top 10 sights in Zagreb. Southeast of the Alps, the massive cathedral on Kaptol Hill in the Upper Town is one of the most impressive architectural examples of Gothic architecture.
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History of the Zagreb Cathedral
When the diocese of Zagreb was founded in 1093, King Ladislaus, who was in office at the time, unceremoniously declared the existing church to be the cathedral and bishop's seat. The construction of the new cathedral only began after his death in 1102 and lasted until 1217. By 1242, however, it had already been destroyed by the Tartars and rebuilt at the end of the 13th century - this time no longer in the Romanesque style, but in the Gothic style.
In the late 15th century, the cathedral was given mighty gates and defence towers to defend it against the Turks, the force of which was somewhat defused in the 18th century when the place of worship was converted into a Baroque bishop's residence.
The magnificent baroque interior and the early baroque south tower, which also served as a lookout tower and was long considered a landmark of Zagreb, were also built at that time.
In 1873, the fountain with the four golden angel figures and the Marian column was built in front of the cathedral, which, together with the cathedral, is considered THE postcard motif of Zagreb.
Origin of the present Zagreb Cathedral
The famous tower and large parts of the nave fell victim to a devastating earthquake in 1880 and the cathedral was rebuilt again. This time in neo-Gothic style according to the designs of the Viennese architects Friedrich von Schmidt and Hermann Bollé. The two 104m and 105m high towers that frame the neo-Gothic portal are still an unmistakable eye-catcher on the Zagreb skyline.
The cathedral was consecrated to the Assumption of Mary as before and also to the two kings Stephen and Ladislaus. Since then, Zagreb Cathedral has also been known as St. Stephen's Cathedral.
After this reconstruction, the Zagreb Cathedral was not affected by enemy action or natural disasters, but by weather and air pollution. Under the communists, little importance was attached to the preservation of cultural monuments and the church was almost left to decay.
The filigree richness of detail on the façade fell victim to this neglect, but it has now been restored for years in the course of a large-scale renovation.
Visit to the Zagreb Cathedral
The interior of the 77m long and 46m wide Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary literally holds immeasurable treasures. The enormous interior holds around 5,000 worshippers and impresses with its high baroque furnishings of wood and marble.
The pulpit from 1698 and the 32 altars in total are all precious art treasures. The main altar is Gothic, it was renewed in the 19th century and designed by the Munich sculptor Sickinger.
A sight in itself is the treasury in Zagreb Cathedral. In the collection of liturgical utensils and chasubles, which has been added to for over 900 years, are priceless specimens dating back to the 11th century when the diocese was founded. In addition to forged treasures made of pure gold and silver and works of art made of crystal and ivory, historical flags, chasubles and shrouds are also on display here.
In addition to the treasury, the cathedral's organ, originally dating from 1855, is also of great value. It was built by the organ builder Wacker from Ludwigsburg and now consists of 78 stops and 4 manuals.