A cemetery as a tourist attraction may not appeal to everyone’s taste. Although art galleries are and Mirogoj Cemetery is a vast outdoor display of tombstone sculptures, produced by Croatian artists as tribute to the fellow artisans buried there. Divided into sections depending on faith, it is definitely worth a visit and very photogenic.
A short ride north on bus number 106 from Zagreb Cathedral, Mirogoj Cemetery is one of the finest examples of where to be buried in Europe, if not the world. With the first internment in 1876, this beautifully landscaped memorial park was named after the previous land owner Miroslav Herkul Mirogojski.
November 1st is widely known as ‘All Saints Day’. The Croatians call it ‘Day of the Dead’ when relatives and friends visit their loved ones who have passed on. My visit to Mirogoj was a few days after and every plot were embellished with colourful bunches of flowers and remnants of candles.
If you were a local, many of the interned names would be familiar. Croatian writers, politicians, poets, composers and the like. Perhaps foreigners may recognise internationally renowned opera singer Milka Trnina or international basketball player Dražen Petrović (died 1993 in a car accident in Germany).
The oldest section of the cemetery features a 500 metre wall frontage from north to south, completed in 1929 with green cupolas. Inside, these walls house sculptured arcade lanes with leafy vines and the crypts of past affluent families.
Taking up prominent space behind the Christ the King Church at the main entrance is the first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman. He died a Croatian national hero in 1999 while still in office.
There are numerous war memorials dedicated to lives lost in wars, including The Grave of National Heroes dedicated to the struggle for Yugoslavian freedom in World War II. There was an attempt to blow the memorial up in 2001 without serious damage done.
There is also German Soldier burial ground on the edge of the cemetery is simply marked with white crosses.
After wandering around for a few hours, I had seen only a small percentage of the burials at Mirogoj. There was a myriad of sculpture, decorations and tomb styles celebrating lives, each unique and individual more so than any other cemetery I have visited in Europe. A highly recommended day out while in Zagreb.