I’m not usually one to visit cemeteries but when I saw a photo of the stunning arcades of one of Zagreb’s unusual tourist attractions I thought it was a place that we should visit. Mirogoj Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in Europe and is also recognised as one of the most beautiful. It is actually more than a cemetery. It is a place where architecture, art and history come together in beautiful landscaped gardens.
The land on which the cemetery was built was originally the summer house and gardens of Illyrian leader Ljudevit Gaj. When he died in 1872, the town of Zagreb bought the land for a cemetery and opened it in 1876. Austrian architect Hermann Bollé began work in 1879 on the stunning northern and southern arcades that are a feature of the cemetery and later built the cemetery’s morgue. He designed the central dome and the Church of Christ the King that joined the arcades but these were only finished three years after his death in 1927.
His incredible design features arcades, domes and pavilions. Sculptures by local artists on the graves have turned the arcades into galleries.
There seems to be no obvious segregation of the graves into religious areas. One minute you will be looking at a huge statue in memory of a Croatian historical figure and next door is gravesite of a Jewish family. Eerily some of the mausoleums already have names inscribed of those still living….their final resting place already reserved.
It’s very peaceful walking along the tree lined paths that criss cross the beautifully landscaped grounds. Chestnut trees, lime trees, maple-trees and spruces are just some of the varieties that have been planted. Chapels and mausoleums peek out from behind the trees and more beautiful statues decorate the graves of well known Croatian figures.
I’m told the day to visit the cemetery is on November 1st…All Saints Day, when families come to remember their loved ones, decorating the graves with flowers and masses of candles creating a magical atmosphere.
How to get there
Take bus No 106 from Zagreb’s Cathedral to Mirogoj. It will take about 15 minutes.