The Neo-Renaissance outer walls of Mirogoj bear down on visitors as they approach this vast cemetery. It was designed by renowned German architect Herman Bollé who came over from Germany to restore St Mark’s church in 1876. He later stayed to help rejuvenate the city of Zagreb after the famous 1880 earthquake. The cemetery is in fact where Bollé was laid to rest in 1926, three years before the completion of Mirogoj (it took so long to finish due to a lack of funding). Mirogoj seems to spread as far as the eye can see, each grave a mural to those lost loved ones.
A cemetery seems like a strange tourist attraction but if you look past the morbid underlying theme, Mirogoj is more than a graveyard, more than a celebration of life; Mirogoj is an art gallery. The prize pieces? The exquisitely kept tomb of Franjo Tuđman, the arcades surrounding the outskirts of Mirogoj and the memorial to the fallen soldiers during the Croatian war of independence.
It is not until you are inside Mirogoj you realise its sheer size. The cemetery grows beyond the Neo-Renaissance walls. Once outside of the walls, graves and memorials stretch far as the eyes can see. Mirogoj is owned by the city of Zagreb, meaning that anyone from any religion can be buried here. This has led to a beautiful mix of gravestone styles, from Catholic to Muslim to Orthodox Christian to non-religious.
This is the grave of Matija Ljubek, Olympic gold medal winning sprint canoeist. This lavish grave was a beautiful monument to the athletes life.
This memorial to fallen Croatian soldiers had fresh flowers around it. The base of the cross is a sculpture of bullets and artillery. The 1990s was a dark period for Croatian history, with loved ones lost in the civil war, which ended in Croatia gaining independence. The artillery shells sculpted into the base of the cross symbolise this dark time.
This is a memorial dedicated to those French soldiers that fell in the first world war or the Great War as it also known.
Franjo Tuđman, the former president of Croatia and national hero is immortalised in Mirogoj. Mr Tuđman was in power during the 1990s, a difficult time for Croatia and its national identity. Tuđman stood strong against Serbian/Yugoslav oppression and was a symbol of Croatian nationalism. In 1991, Yugoslav Air Force airstrikes attempted to assassinate Tuđman by destroying the Croatian government building in St Mark’s Square. At the time Tuđman was meeting to argue a case for Croatian independence. This attack missed Tuđman but lead the destruction of the government building and the death of one civilian.
Tuđman remained president for 4 more years after the war had ended, helping Croatia to become a one unified nation. He died in office in 1999 and his legacy lives on today. Croatians have dedicated a memorial for him near the entrance of Mirogoj, where he is buried, as seen above and below.
Mirogoj is definitely worth visiting as a tourist to Zagreb, but remember to be respectful as families are mourning in certain parts of the cemetery. There are many beautiful pieces of stone work to see as well as captivating memorials not even mentioned in the blog, so please take the time to see them and read their inscriptions. It is also worth noting that the grounds were so clean and well kept, showing how much respect people have for Mirogoj.