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Cathedral with a turbulent past

In the historical inner city of Zagreb, the 2 towers of the enormous neo-Gothic cathedral rise above the other buildings. Its official name is ‘The Cathedral of Mary’s Assumption’ but the cathedral is popularly known as the Zagreb Cathedral. The stunning exterior is as breathtaking as the interior, and no expense or efforts have been spared to adorn the cathedral with many wall paintings and altars.

The Zagreb Cathedral is the city’s most eye-catching monument. Its foundation stone was laid in 1093 but its current appearance is relatively new. After an earthquake destroyed most of the building in 1880, renowned Cologne architect Hermann Bollé designed a completely new façade, including the 2 bell towers that are 105 metres tall. If you stand in front of the cathedral it may seem as if the left tower is lower, but that is just an optical illusion. It’s a joke of the architect to mimic the asymmetry in nature.

The Zagreb Cathedral with its 2 bell towers
The Zagreb Cathedral with its 2 bell towers


A rich history full of renovations

Thanks to its rich history, the cathedral is a huge attraction to both residents and visitors. The building was completed in 1217 but only a few decades later, in 1242, it was devastated by the Tatars. In 1263, the structure was completely renovated in a Gothic style. Walls and towers were added in the 16th century and in the 17th century a huge tower was placed next to the cathedral. Since 1990, the cathedral is undergoing gradual renovations to preserve its condition.

The cathedral towers over the city

Not just a pretty façade

The cathedral, which seats 5,000 people, features neo-Gothic marble altars, stained glass and a beautiful pulpit. It is also the final resting place of the controversial Croatian Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac, who is buried in a tomb made by Croatian sculptor and architect Ivan Meštrović. An image of the archbishop can be seen on a raised platform behind the main altar. Stepinac led the Croatian Catholic Church during World War II, and although never proven, there are strong indications that he had ties to the Nazis.

The pulpit of the Zagreb cathedral

Photo credits

  • The cathedral towers over the city: Mike Raanhuis, iFly KLM Magazine
  • The pulpit of the Zagreb cathedral: Mike Raanhuis, iFly KLM Magazine