The Catholic Cathedral of Zagreb is one of the most famous and impressive buildings in Croatia and its two spiers more than one hundred meters high dominate the urban landscape, making them clearly visible from almost every part of the city. Over the centuries, the church has undergone numerous transformations and is still undergoing renovations, due to the disastrous earthquake that damaged it in 2020. For this reason, its spiers are perpetually surrounded by scaffolding, which, as reported by the Croatia Week website, have in turn become a kind of attraction for both residents and tourists.
The cathedral was inaugurated in 1217 after more than a century of work and in 1242 it was destroyed due to the Mongol invasion. In the following decades it was rebuilt: it survived the occupation of the Ottoman Empire thanks to the nearby fortifications built in the sixteenth century and in 1880 it was damaged again by an earthquake, which caused the collapse of part of the central nave and the original bell tower. Its current appearance in neo-Gothic style is due to the Austro-Hungarian architect Hermann Bollé, who between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century had the base of the pre-existing structure restored and added the two spiers, each of which is 108 meters high.
Given the numerous maintenance interventions required, the presence of scaffolding is not new: they have covered one or the other spire (or parts of them) more or less regularly since 1990. The scaffolding was also installed in March 2020, when a A magnitude 5.3 earthquake toppled the tip of the south spire, which fell onto the roof of the nearby archbishop’s palace. The tip of the north spire was also removed a month later for safety reasons.
As part of major renovations due to earthquake damage, new scaffolding was erected both inside the church and around both spires last November, for a total of about 600 tons of steel. Both are now surrounded by a dense network of scaffolding, which according to Croatia Week reports leaves visitors and locals a little surprised but also a little amazed by the juxtaposition between the Gothic architecture and the steel pipes : Social networks like Facebook and Instagram are helping to increase curiosity.
As noted by the Time Out website, about a third of Zagreb’s population is under the age of thirty: if we consider people who were under the age of ten in 1990 or those who had fled Croatia following the war, it can be estimated that 60 percent of the city’s inhabitants have almost never seen the cathedral without its scaffolding. Over the centuries the cathedral has transformed so much that according to Time Out without the scaffolding it would be almost unrecognizable to many locals, precisely because in recent decades the periods in which it has been able to be seen empty have been very few.
Two years ago a Reddit user shared a photograph of one of the “rare” moments when both spiers were free from scaffolding. In the comment with the most positive votes under the photo it was pointed out that, if you look closely, there were always scaffolding around the church.
A rare sight in Croatia – the Zagreb cathedral without the scaffoldings, sometime before the earthquake
by u/WillTook in europe
The fact that scaffolding is a ubiquitous element in the urban landscape of the city, however, can also be seen in a recently launched petition which, with a certain sarcasm, asks that they not be removed. The person who created the petition writes that thanks to the scaffolding, the cathedral “looks better than ever, and maintaining it could significantly reduce the cost of further restoration”. As long as the restoration work is underway, the cathedral is closed to the public: it should reopen in the coming months, but it is likely that the interventions will last longer, and therefore also the scaffolding.
– Read also: Scaffolding along the sidewalks of New York