One of the most beautiful final resting places in Europe is situated in the leafy foothills of Mount Medvednica in the Croatian captial of Zagreb.
Commenced in 1879 by architect Herman Bollé, the walls, arcades, pavilions and morgue took half a century to complete. The powerful brick wall of the Cemetery, topped by twelve distinctive green domes, towered above street-level and we stood outside rooted to the spot, admiring it much longer than normal for us. A cafe and the ability to sketch would go down a treat.
The landmark domes can be seen from Jurjevska Street on Cmrok – the opposing hill – where we walked the previous day. You can see that view and others from our Leafy Zagreb walk here.
Just as the living of Zagreb had a city, Bollé’s vision was to provide the same for the dead and I think he succeeded. The beautiful crematorium (by architects Hrzic, Krznaric and Mance) was added later in 1984.
Walls from the southern (City) end.
The Walls from the northern end.
The 106 bus stops at the main entrance or further along at the Crematorium, but we arrived on foot – our discoveries unfolding slowly as we walked north on Aleja Hermanna Bollea. While the wall continued into the distance, the southern end where we were, hid an unpretentious gate, just beyond a wisely placed flower stall. We stepped on through, as you do, waiting to be stopped at any minute – but no – and there sheltered by the wall, rose a magnificent arcade or gallery.
Not sure of etiquette, I gingerly walked along the very edge so as not to step on the graves. I guess with a lot of visitors present this would not be realistic – but still – I always remember my grandmother shivering and saying “Someone just walked over my grave”.
Looking South in the Southern Arcade.
Up in the arcade, lucky tombs shelter in style, where identical pillars support the gracefully curving and delicately flaking ceiling. The cemetery spreads out behind the arcades, divided by treed streets, with many famous and ordinary Zagreb citizens buried between.
Being council-owned Mirogoj is open to everyone. The famous writer and Poet Miroslav Krleža whose huge statue we’d came across on our Leafy Zagreb walk is buried here, as is Herman Bollé himself. Look for group memorials like the monument to 400 children killed in the genocide against Jews and other minorities during WWII and the German WWII Cemetery (recognized after a 1996 agreement) where 2000 soldiers lay – a reminder of Peace.
Walking Uphill through the Arcade.
Half way along, we discovered the wall and arcade were actually in two parts (north and south) meeting in the middle at the semi-circular main entrance at the Church of Christ the King. Approaching the wall from the south enabled us to explore north through both arcades, whereas entering at the main entrance, would’ve meant exploring first one arcade, then back-tracking to the other. Isn’t serendipity sweet?
Church and Dome of the northern arcade.
At other times the vibrant green creeper is a deep burgundy red – I hope I get to see that one day.
Church and Dome of the Southern Arcade.
Wherever we went on this European spring trip the crowds were minimal and Mirogoj was no exception. It was so peaceful in the arcade, reminiscent of a dreamy church cloister or an outdoor art gallery. As we lingered, admiring statues and paintings, I couldn’t help thinking how lucky we were to have come to such an unusual place.
If you don’t normally visit cemeteries, I suggest making this one the exception.
Budget Travel Tips for Visiting Mirogoj Cemetery.
Take Bus 106 from Zagreb Cathedral leaving at 20 minute intervals.
Look for stalls nearby the Cathedral selling Cemetery supplies.
Visit on All Saints Day for Candle Lights, flowers and families.
April – September 6 am to 8 pm.
Oct – March 7.30 am to 6 pm.
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