The City of Varaždin
Varaždin is a city imbued with hystorical monuments, with the Old Town fortress as the most prominent one. A large number of baroque palaces and churches were built in 16th, 17th and 18th century. The first mention of Varaždin town name was in 1181, which speaks of Varaždin's long and rich hystory. The town proudly bears the epithet of the most baroque town in Croatia.
Regardless of how much it develops today, the town remains the one „to man's measure“, a pleasant place to live in. Special care is taken of the urban harmony of park and flower garden areas in order to secure space for its economic growth.
This is a town of baroque music and flowers which proudly bears the title of the best decorated town in continental Croatia.
Perhaps Varaždin will never see glorious modern building structures erected like the ones we find proudly standing in rich towns, but it will always have its urban core which makes it special and unique, offering marvellous impressions of a town from a fairy tale.
No matter how much we long for new the benefits of contemporary civilization, we can't stop looking for the beauty in the past.
Foundation of the Cemetery
Not only are the Varaždin inhabitants proud of their city, they are also proud of their cemetery, which is not a sad place like a cemetery usually is, it is rather a nature park under spacial protection. Since 2003 it has been registered as the immovable heritage, having all the characteristics of culture heritage.
The Varaždin Cemetery was founded in 1773, after the ban to bury the dead within the town walls had been issued by the Queen Marie Theres in 1768.
For the last one hundred years it has been known as a specially designed place. Until early 20th century the cemetery was not any different from any other cemeteries. Horsechesnuts and acacias were the prevailing plant cover.
The new cemetery manager, Herman Haller had a clear concept of turning the cemetery into a park in 1905, using the garden technique known as the French Style.
The composition was achieved by creating three dimensions of green architecture shaped by trimming. The lowest band is made up of grass and low shrubbery, the second level plan is made up of green walls and transversal parapets of thujas, while the highest plan is made up of high coniferous and deciduous trees. Main alleys are used as axes and are separated from the grave plots by lines of striking thuja trees shaped into arcades and walls in a regular pattern as much as allowed by the natural tree growth.
The Varaždin Cemetery has over ten thousand thuja trees planted, shaped into geometrical solids, plenty of birch-trees, maple-trees and ash-trees, with ball-shaped boxes and broad- branched magnolias in the lower, tree trunk level.
Alleys, paths and ways are spread with white stone as a contrast to the green thuja walls which are interweaved with various tombstones, which bear the names of barons and generals but some are hardly noticeable graves of the town poor, nontheless all equally encircled with greenery and flowers.
Walk through the Cemetery
The inhabitants of Varaždin like walking through the cemetery and rather use it as a park. According to many, especially the older people, the Cemetery is still the most beautiful park in town.
We will take a short walk round the Cemetery in order to mention some of the most significant and the most interesting monuments.
Entering by the north entrance, we come to the oldest part of the cemetery, the area known from the oldest times as the Pekle (Hell). The name is linked to the legend: It used to be the lowest part of the cemetery, hence probably the name. Today it is a kind of gallery in the open, an area where stone monuments have been brought from all over the cemetery. Here you can find the oldest monument in the cemetery dating from 1809, dedicated to the Czech musician Ivan Galina who died in Varaždin. It can easily be recognized by the image of a God's Eye in the upper part and the skull with the crossed bones in the lower part.
Next to us there is a morgue built in 1840, but still having its original function. In the wooden tower there is a small bell which tolls for the people of Varaždin to their final burial place.
We stand in front of the main alley and we can see down to the southern border of the cemetery and we have the view of the cemetery chapel of Oršić Counts, erected in 1892.
If we start down by the main alley, we come to the cross, which used to be the centre of the cemetery.
The eastern cemetery border is made up of an array of tombs in the wall, popularly called „the arcades“ by the Varaždin inhabitants. Architecturally speaking, they are not arcades at all. Their position, size and diversity but especially the grave chapels capture our attention.
If we take a look westwards, our eyes will rest upon the Partisan and Victims of Fascism of World War II Remembrance Cemetery, build according to the design of the academic painter Pavao Vojković.
I World War Veterans Cemetery
I World War Veterans Cemetery is very interesting and quite unusual. There was an idea to build a huge monument with imbedded helmets in its base. Fighting for his concept, in 1931 Haller wrote: „Warrior cemetery in itself is a piece of war front after the battle. Peace. Under a broad lime-tree, the symbol of Slavic love, rest united in death warriors of all nationalities.“
Warrior cemeteries are places of sorrow because here lie young people. However, we do not get that feeling at this cemetery. Red roses on green curtain of thujas give a nice and symbolic impression.
Partisan and Victims of Fascism Remembrance Cemetery
This is an area in the style of and English park. Groups of planted trees are now growing freely on the grass surface. Our eyes stop on the Ossuary. The remains of partisans and victims of fascism were moved here from the north-eastern part of the cemetery in 1961. Remembrance ossuary is a monument consisting of four high irregularly shaped concrete blocks covered with white stone, containing engraved names of victims and verses of the poet Branko Čopić.
Croatian War of Independence Deffenders Remembrance Grave
The Croatian War of Independence has sadly found the third park area at the Cemetery. The idea of a warriors' cemetery inspired the creation of this remembrance place as a grass area framed with irregular thuja wall. The design was made in 1995 at the Faculty of Architecture in Zagreb. Above the low laid marble plates there is a cross of anodized tin in the centre. This monument was created by the academick sculptor of Varaždin, Vladimir Gašparić Gapa. The path takes us within the wall of thujas to the remembrance wall with the names of the victims.
Some significant architecture examples includes an array of tombs in neo-Gothic style, framed with green walls thuja arcades.
The high value of the Svoboda family tomb stands out. Particularly ornamental is the bronze sculpture „Taking a Rest“, which features a young woman sitting with folded arms and legs. This is the work of a modern Croatian sculptor, Antun Augustinčić, from 1938.
Another valuable monument is the family tomb of a distinguished Croatian linguist Vatroslav Jagić, whose life and work most of all made the name of Varaždin famous. The marble obelisk featuring a grieved young woman, done in bronze with exceptional realism in composition as well as in detail, is the work of Slovenian sculptor Ivan Zajc in 1915.
The family tomb of Gašo Vac, built in 1929, is the monumental tombstone cast in concrete in high relief, showing a couple, where a man holding a sand dial as a symbol of human ephemerality is turned towards the world of the dead, while the woman, turning her head from him, with melancholy looks at the world of the living she is leaving.
The most valuable piece of art is the tombstone of a distingushed Varaždin family, family Leitner, erected in 1906. The elongated stone is the base to figures in bronze, who walk in the mourning procession. These figure are done in actual size in high relief as full sculptures. This is the work of a well known Croatian sculptor Robert Frangeš Mihanović.
The grave chapel Kiss – Šaulovečki in historicism style was built in the eighties of the 19th century. The entrance is closed by the low positioned wrought iron fence, the door containing the family surname initials, while above the door there is a sculpturally formed coat of arms of this noble family.
The Franjo Zozolly tomb built in Art Nouveau style dates from 1910. The tomb front is a high entrance with finely shaped door in wrought iron with stylized sunflower heads.
Ivan Nepomuk Petrović, a well known senator and benefactor who found his last place of rest in the grave chapel built in 1867 in the style that remind us of the Gothic style. The chapel monumental front is topped by six-sided little tower. The entrance has the wrought iron door. The chapel ceiling painting presents a special decoration. The scene where Christ blesses the dead is the work of a renowned Croatian painter Bela Csikos Sessija.
The Zajec family tomb is in the form of a stylized temple. The statue of Mary treading on the snake, the symbol of evil, is in the niche in the eastern wall.
The Count Harbuval-Chamare tomb dates from 1857. The building without the front has the semi-circular inner wall which contains the built-in stone panel in the form of a sarcophagus. On the front side there is a scene of a military helmet with crossed swords in high relief. On the top there is a stone urn with the noble family coat of arms.
The most interesting of all the chapels is the Koterba Horvat family tomb. It has a prominent position on the junction of „arcades“ and the main transversal alley. It was built in the fifties of 19th century in the historicism style. Its architecture is rich with cut stone ornaments in the „flaming gothic“ style. Two columns at the front carry the pointed arch with the high triangled gable above. In the lower part there is a low fence made in wrought iron, with the stone sculpture in the middle, a grieving girl with a flower wreath in her hand.
The Emy Walther tomb is another structure made in the historicism style, erected in 1871. Above the closed door entrance in wrought iron, the lunette with a scene of women and angels in front of the empty Christ's tomb was made in a sculpture –like manner. The altar has a painting, oil on canvass, showing a nun kneeling in front of little Christ.
The Nobility Oršić chapel was built in 1892 in the historicism style, following the architectural forms of various historical periods. The Oršić family coat of arms is in the very top of the arching portal. The entrance is closed with the wrought iron door while windows are decorated with stained glass. The chapel contains a high altar with the painting imaging the Christ Ressurection.
The important factors of the beauty are the works of small artistic value, cut in sandstone or cast concrete. These are mainly sad-faced angels standing or sitting, holding crosses in their hands, wreaths, flowers or flaming torches turned towards the ground.
Numerous tombstones decorated with sculptures in stone and concrete are the artisan works of higher ambiance than art value.
According to the Project of Revitalisation of the Old Part of Varaždin Cemetery, designed by the Zagreb Faculty of Architecture, Parkovi d.d. started the revitalisation of the Cemetery in 2004.
The Project of Revitalisation of the Old Part of Varaždin Cemetery is based on recognising the historical value of the composition and elements which influenced the shape of this cemetery as a unique heritage of park architecture.
The revitalisation project envisages not only the renewal of ruined elements of plant vegetation but also paving the paths with gravel and renovation of grave architecture.
Since a longer period is necessary to carry out all the revitalisation operations, individual phases of works have been determined according to their priorities.
In 2009 nearly all the works according to the Project have been finished, whereupon it is necessary to stress that a part of the historically valuable grave architecture has been renovated.
It is our wish to preserve the Cemetery as a unique park architecture heritage for future generations.
Extension of the Cemetery
Since Varaždin Cemetery was nearly completely full in its area of 12,5 ha, in 2005 the Project of the Varaždin Town Cemetery Extension was created. The year 2007 saw the extension of the Cemetery westwards in relation to the present cemetery.
Should and could the Herman Haller's composition be repeated? This is a question thrust upon the Project of the ne Cemetery.
The basic idea remains the same, however with a more rational and more modern manner of arranging.
The concept of ray-like radially running lines of trees was adopted, as well as grave rows running in concentric circles, concentrated round the memorial square on the southern part, with a hall and morgue.
Varaždin Cemetery is a peaceful green oasis which leaves visitors with a unique impression that will stay in their thoughts for a long, long time.