History of Zagreb
Zagreb, Croatia is a city with a rich history dating from Roman times to the present day. The oldest settlement in the urban area of the city is Andautonia, a Roman settlement in the place of today's Ščitarjevo. The name "Zagreb" is mentioned for the first time in 1094 at the founding of the Zagreb diocese of Kaptol, and Zagreb became a free royal town in 1242. In 1851 Zagreb had its first mayor, Janko Kamauf, and in 1945 it was made the capital of Croatia. According to the 2001 Croatian census Zagreb has 779,145 inhabitants and was the biggest city of Croatia by area and population. The origin of the city's name remains a mystery.
It is difficult to decide which period in the city's history to consider "Old Zagreb," as popular by Gjuro Szabo, an admirer of the Zagreb antiquities and a promoter of their conservation. Zagreb's origins are ancient and enveloped in the mists of legend in the absence manuscripts or sufficient archaeological finds from those times. It's much easier, therefore, to look at Zagreb's history. In that case, Old Zagreb was two settlements situated on two neighboring hills: Gradec (also known as Gornji Grad) and Kaptol, with the houses lying in the valley between them along the former Medveščak creek (today's Tkalčićeva Street) and those at the beginning of Vlaška Street III beneath the bishopric (later archbishopric).
Although most buildings in this area do not originate from the Middle Ages but from the 18th century, they nevertheless display the continuity of medieval urban settlements. The existence of Kaptol the settlement on the east slope was confirmed in 1094, when King Ladislaus founded the Zagreb bishopric. The bishop, his residence and the Cathedral had their seat in the southeast part of the Kaptol hill. VIaska Ves situated in the close vicinity of the Cathedral and under the bishop's jurisdiction was first mentioned in 1198. Kaptol Street ran from the south to the north across the Kaptol terrace with canons' residences arranged in rows alongside. As the Latin word for a group or body of canons is "capitulum" (kaptol), it is clear how Kaptol got its name. The canons also ruled this settlement.
The Cathedral was consecrated in 1217, but later in 1242 it was badly damaged by the Mongol raids. After 1263 it was restored and rebuilt. As a settlement, Kaptol was an unsymmetrical rectangle entered at its south end in Bakačeva Street, and exited at its north end near the present day Kaptol School. In the Middle Ages Kaptol had no fortifications; it was merely enclosed with wooden fences or palisades, which were repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. The defensive walls and towers around Kaptol were built between 1469 and 1473. The Prislin Tower near the Kaptol School is one of the best-preserved from those times. In 1493 the Turks reached Sisak trying to capture it but were defeated there. Therefore fearing the Turkish invasion, the Bishop of Zagreb had the fortifications built around the Cathedral and his residence. The defensive towers and walls built between 1512 and 1520 have been preserved until the present day, except those that directly faced the front of the Cathedral in Kaptol Square. This section of the wall was pulled down in 1907. In the 13th century, two Gothic churches were built in Kaptol, St. Francis with the Franciscan monastery and St. Maria's, which underwent considerable reconstruction works in the 17th and the 18th centuries. In Opatovina, small dwelling houses of former Kaptol inhabitants can still be seen, but at Dolac a number of little and narrow streets were pulled down in 1926 when the market place started to be built. In 1334 the canons of Zagreb established a colony of Kaptol serfs in the vicinity of their residences, north of Kaptol; that was the beginning of a new settlement called Nova Ves (the present day Nova Ves Street).
The other part of the Old Zagreb nucleus, Gradec on the Gornji Grad hill, was given a royal charter by King Bela IV in 1242. The royal charter, also called the Golden Bull, was a very important document by which Gradec was declared and proclaimed "a free royal city on Gradec, the hill of Zagreb". This act made Gradec a feudal holding responsible directly to the king. The citizens were given rights of different kinds; among other things they were entitled to elect their own "City Judge" (the mayor) and to manage their own affairs. The citizens engaged themselves in building defensive walls and towers around their settlement, fearing a new Tatar invasion. They fulfilled their obligation between 1242 and 1261. It could be rightly assumed that by building its fortification walls in the middle of the 13th century, Gradec acquired its outward appearance that can be clearly seen in today's Gornji Grad.
Defensive walls enclosed the settlement in the shape of a triangle, its top located near the tower called Popov Toranj and its base at the south end (the Strossmayer Promenade), which could be explained by the shape of the hill. In some places, rectangular and semicircular towers fortified the defensive walls. There were four main gates leading to the city: the Mesnička Gate in the west, the new, later Opatička Gate in the north, Dverce in the south and the Stone Gate in the east. The Stone Gate is the only one preserved until the present day.
Undoubtedly, the focal point of the Gornji Grad is the St. Mark's Square, with St. Mark's Church, the parish church of Old Zagreb, located in the middle of the square. When guilds developed in Gradec in the 15th, and later in the 17th century, being the societies of craftsmen, their members including masters, journeymen, and apprentices, gathered regularly in St. Mark's Church. Outside, on the northwest wall of the church lies the oldest coat of arms of Zagreb with the year 1499 engraved in it (the original is kept in the Zagreb City Museum).
At the corner of St. Mark's Square and the present day Ćirilometodska Street was the city hall, the seat of the city administration in medieval times. The building has gone through a number of alteration and reconstruction phases, and today this Old City Hall still keeps its doors open for the meetings of the Zagreb City Council. On the opposite side of the Square at the corner of Basaričekova Street lies St. Mark's parish office. The house has been standing there since the 16th century, although it underwent reconstruction in the 18th century and had an extension added in the 19th century. At the west end of St. Mark's Square, the mansion called Banski dvori, the former residence of the Ban (civil governor) of Croatia, was built at the beginning of the 19th century and yet, it can be classed among the Zagreb antiquities. The government of Croatia meets in the Baroque mansion beside it. Since 1734, the Croatian Parliament has taken up the east side of St. Mark's Square.
Very little is known today of the outward appearance of medieval Vlaška Street. The name of the settlement was Vlaška Ves, of Vicus Latinorum in Latin. In the old part of the present-day VIaška Street, below the archbishop's residence and gardens, lies a row of houses built at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, and thus the line of their facades shows the course of the old road.
Medieval documents mention watermills and public baths along the Medveščak Stream, in the valley between Gradec and Kaptol. Road construction in that area began in the 18th and the first half of the 19th century. The east bank of the stream was under the jurisdiction of Kaptol, and the west bank under Gradec.
It is rather difficult to think of the new developments in terms of a distant past, as we are inclined to classify everything remaining from those times as antiquities. The 17th century, however, introduced new buildings and new developments into Old Zagreb. Gradec and Kaptol, the settlements on two hills fortified by defensive walls and towers prospered.
The first half of the 17th century witnessed the arrival of three Roman Catholic orders in the Upper Town; they greatly contributed to the building activities and to the development of this settlement, triangular in shape. The first to settle here were the Jesuits in 1606, bringing Baroque to Zagreb. They settled in the south east corner of the town. Here they built the first grammar school at 4; Catherine's Square, St. Catherine's Church and their monastery at 4, Jesuit Square. St. Catherine's Church, built between 1620 and 1632, was not only the earliest Baroque sacral building in Zagreb but also represented the highest achievement in the style made popular by the Jesuits.
The building and decoration of the church interior were an incentive to native carpenters, sculptors, painters and gilders who were developing their own Baroque style. The Jesuit college although more modest than St. Catherine's Church, is undoubtedly an architectural monument of high merit (recently rebuilt for museum purposes).
The second order to arrive in Gradec was the Capuchins (1618) who settled the area of the south west pail of the town. They restored the old St. Mary's Church, built a monastery nearby (in the present day Vraničani Street) and cultivated their garden on the present day site of the park and the playgrounds. Unfortunately, nothing has remained of the Capuchin buildings as they were all pulled down at the beginning of the 19th century. Nuns of the Clarissa order (about 1650) built up the third, north part of the town close to the Tower called Popov toranj. They built a convent and a nunnery, one wing of which flanked the fortification wall and the medieval tower of Popov toranj. Their church was demolished in the first half of the 19th century, and the convent building today houses the Zagreb City Museum.
The most significant novelty in Kaptol in the 17th century was the massive south belfry of the Cathedral, which was built after the fire of 1645. Baroque style was introduced into the interiors of the Cathedral, St. Mary's and St. Francis' Churches. Many new mansions and residences were also built in the Baroque style.
In addition to the new elements introduced into the old city nuclei, another new development of vital importance for the town planning of Zagreb took place: The town authorities realized that relatively small squares around St. Mark's Church and in front of the Cathedral were not suited for big fairs that had been held there. To promote trade and manufacture, it was necessary to leave "the walls and ramparts" on the hills. Therefore, the year 1641 was a turning point and a step forward in the life of Zagreb. The town authorities then decided to expropriate the gardens lying in the plain below Gradec and Kaptol and turn them into the site of the future market place. That was the beginning of the present day Ban Jelačić Square. The area was chosen for two reasons; firstly, it was very close to both Old Town nuclei; secondly, it held a spring rich in drinking water. The name of the spring was Manduševac and the spacious square got its first name after the spring. Later it became Harmica, then Ban Jelačić Square.
The new market place and the fair grounds also became a meeting-place of all "the business world" from Zagreb and many other parts. It encouraged the authorities to develop the fringes of the city and to construct access roads. Thus, during the 18th century many houses were built on the north and east side of Manduševac and also at the point where Manduševac turned into Ilica Street (the inn). Gradually, the Long Street (Duga Ulica or the present day Radićeva Street), linking Manduševac and the Upper City, developed and eventually became the busiest shopping street in Zagreb. The market place and the fair grounds of Manduševac attracted people from the southern area of the country and thus, the middle of the 18th century witnessed the beginnings of today's Petrinjska Street. Small dwellings houses sprang up at its north end, which was directly linked with the fair and market grounds.
The street had a fancy name, "Med grabami", (amidst the ditches), which was indicative of its appearance and surroundings. However, the function of the road located amidst the ditches was very important. It linked the new business centre of Old Zagreb with the settlements on the north banks of the Sava, and with the aid of a ferry or pontoon bridge, Zagreb was also linked with the regions on the other side of the river. This was of great importance for the supply of food and other products to the Military Borderland (Petrinjska Street was named after Petrinja, the centre of this Military Borderland).
In the 17th century the city records more and more often mention peasants. These were the urban serfs of the nearby villages. In other words, "the free royal city on Gradec, the hill of Zagreb," which had been a feudal holding since 1242, now had its own urban serfs. The settlements, Gračani, Dedići (near Šestine) and Črnomerec were mentioned as early as the 13th and 14th centuries. At the beginning of the 17th century when the Turkish raids across the Sava were no longer a direct threat, the city authorities set up serfs' villages within the town boundaries, and they gradually grew and developed. During the century there were thirteen villages, some situated in the Sava valley and others on the slopes of Mount Medvednica. On the slopes, and down between them, lay the villages of Gračani, Gornje and Donje Prekrižje, Jelenovec, Vrhovci, Čukovici and Domjanići (in the vicinity of Sveti Duh), and in the plain near the river were Trnje, Ilijašići, Bankoviti and Govenka (non-existent today), Horvati and Črnomerec. Across the Sava were the villages of Pobrežje and Otok. The largest of all the urban villages was Trnje, and its inhabitants frequently used the Med grabami Road that was their link with the town. All the villages were under the jurisdiction of the magistrate in the City Hall at St. Mark's Square, and their religious affiliation was to the parish of St. Mark's.
This large urban area stretching from the mountain ridges of Medvednica down to the River Sava, was presented in a geographical map drawn by the surveyor Leopold Kneidinger in 1766, who succeeded in illustrating the situation on a larger scale in the mid-17th century. The original of Kneidinger's map is kept in the Zagreb City Museum.
Although much has been said and written on the subject of Old Zagreb and even on the development of the Donji Grad during the 19th century, research into building activities in Zagreb at the turn of the 20th century or even later has been inadequate and unsatisfactory.
The most notable achievements of Zagreb Art Nouveau were the building of the Ethnographical Museum (at 14, Mažuranić Square), the former sanatorium building (Children's Clinic) in Klaićeva Street and the most conspicuous among them, the building of the National and University Library on Marulić Square. The Modernist Movement which was led by the architect Viktor Kovačić, presented itself in the building of St. Blaž Church at the corner of Deželić Drive and Primorska Street on the eve of the World War I.
At the turn of the 20th century (1902), the city boundary was moved from Međašnji Square (today's Eugen Kvaternik Square) eastwards, and thus Stara Peščenica and Maksimir with their surroundings became part of the city area. Building activities were more intensive in the eastern part of the city -that is, in the wide-open spaces east of Palmotićeva Street. Zagrebacki Zbor, the forerunner of the Zagreb Fair, organised its shows and displays on the riding school premises in present day Martićeva Street, and the area of the Burza served as the fair grounds. The period between the two wars saw this area developing into a distinguished quarter of Zagreb. Here were the buildings of the former Stock Exchange in 1925-1926 (at 3 Burza Square), the most significant work of the architect Viktor Kovačić, the round-shaped Exhibition Pavilion created by Ivan Meštrović (today's Croatian History Museum) and the Đuro Salaj Hall. These were all built at approximately the same time as the three nearby squares: Burza, Great Croats and Peter Krešimir IV Squares, in accordance with the zoning plan of the east part of Zagreb.
In the 1930s, a new style and concept called functionalism appeared in architecture, and here the Zagreb School of Architecture promoted it. Building activities were flourishing in those years, as Zagreb was becoming an important industrial and business centre with approximately 280,000 inhabitants before the onset of the World War II. The suburban settlements were rather neglected, and most of them sprang up spontaneously along with the inflow of new population which was evident in Trešnjevka and Trnje.
The first railway line to connect Zagreb with Zidani most and Sisak was opened in 1862, and in 1863 Zagreb received a gasworks. The Zagreb waterworks was opened in 1878, and the first horse-drawn tramcar was used in 1891. The construction of the railway lines enabled the old suburbs to merge gradually into Donji Grad, which is characterized by a regular block pattern that are prevalent in Central European cities. This bustling core hosts many imposing buildings, monuments, and parks as well as a multitude of museums, theatres and cinemas. An electric power plant was erected in 1907, and development flourished 1880-1914 after the earthquake in Zagreb when the town received the characteristic layout it has today.
Working class quarters emerged between the railway and the Sava, whereas the construction of residential quarters on the hills of the southern slopes of Medvednica was completed between the two World Wars.
During the 1920s, the population of Zagreb increased by 70 percent. This was the largest demographic boom in the history of Zagreb. In 1926, Zagreb had its first radio station in the region. 1947 saw the first Zagreb Fair.
The area between the railway and the Sava saw much new construction after the Second World War. After the mid-1950s, construction of new residential areas south of the Sava river began, resulting in Novi Zagreb (New Zagreb). The city also expanded westward and eastward, incorporating Dubrava, Sesvete, Podsused, Jarun, and Blato among other settlements.
The cargo railway hub and the international airport Pleso were built south of the Sava river. The largest industrial zone (Žitnjak) in the southeast represents an extension of the industrial zones on the eastern outskirts of the city, between the Sava and Prigorje region.
In 1987 Zagreb hosted the Summer Universiade.
Urbanized lines of settlements connect Zagreb with the centres in its surroundings: Sesvete, Zaprešić, Samobor, Dugo Selo and Velika Gorica. Sesvete was the closest one to become a part of the agglomeration and is in fact already included in the City of Zagreb rather than Zagreb County, which excludes the city. It is now part of the expanding urban area on the east side seizing up to Dugo Selo.
- Timeline of Zagreb history
- History of Croatia
- Zagreb cathedral
- St. Mark's Church
- Ban Jelačić Square
- Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb
- Mimara Museum
- Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts
- Mirogoj Cemetery
- Zagreb train disaster
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- Photo of Kapitelplatz, 1890s