Travel! – The Square Of The Republic Of Croatia, Zagreb

Dear Coilers, let me continue a story about the squares/parks of the “Green Horseshoe” in Zagreb, Croatia. One of the gems of the city I love with all my heart.

The Croatian National Theatre is located here. This square is the last in the arc of eight green squares that formed “Lenuci’s Horseshoe” (Green Horseshoe), the central component of 19th century Zagreb’s urban plan. Well-known Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner and Herman Helmer, who designed forty other European theatres, were responsible for the plans for the building, employing a rich Neo-Baroque style that was at the time thought most suitable for theatres. Officially opened in 1895, the building brings the national opera, ballet and drama companies together under a single roof. With a repertoire that ranges from classics to contemporary pieces, and with both Croatian and international works well represented, the theatre occupies a central place in the cultural life of the capital.

Placed in front of the National Theatre in 1912, “Well of Life” is one of Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović’s most popular works. Dating from Meštrović’s youthful, playful period, it is a sensual piece of work that many believe to be among his best. It basically consists of a circular pool surrounded by a bronze frieze of intertwined nude figures. From children to loving couples and old people, the figures appear to be reaching over the lip of the fountain to scoop up the water, suggesting a universal theme of human zest for life and interdependence.

Running along the north side of the square is the main administrative building of Zagreb University. Founded in 1669, it is the oldest university in Croatia, and also one of the oldest in Europe. It currently consists of 29 faculties, three academies and one university centre.The administrative building, built in the 19th century, was originally used as a hospital, and for a time even served as a tobacco factory. In front of the entrance is Ivan Meštrović’s “History of the Croats”, a seated figure of a woman (based on the sculptor’s mother) which eloquently symbolizes the calm strength of the nation. The sculpture was placed here in 1971, and has served as a popular patriotic symbol ever since.

Occupying the west side of the square is the Museum of Arts and Crafts, founded in 1880 and one of the first institutions of its kind in Europe. It was originally charged with the cultivation of traditional crafts and their use in modern design and manufacture. As a result, the School of Decorative Arts (the present day School of Applied Arts and Design) was established next to the museum. The permanent exhibition at the museum covers three floors and presents the development of applied arts from the Gothic period right through to Art-Deco. The display includes clocks and watches, metalwork, glass, ceramics and textiles. The museum also organizes themed exhibitions about the history of design as well as contemporary art shows.

The theme of St George killing the dragon has been a popular motif since medieval times, symbolizing the struggle between good and evil and the victory of Christianity over paganism. This particular portrayal of the saint was produced by Austrian sculptor Anton Fernkorn. The original made its way to a noblemans palace in Vienna in 1853, although a zinc cast was brought to Zagreb. This bronze copy was placed at its current location in 1908, the virtuous knight has been on display killing the dragon for just over a century.

The latest addition to the square is a building of the Academy of Music, the largest and oldest musical institution in Croatia. Tracing back its origins to 1829.

Seeing that at that time Croatia was a part of the Austrian Empire the musical school was modelled after the Musikverein in Vienna.

After World War II the Academy was recognized as a higher education institution, as a result, it became a part of the University of Zagreb. Today the Academy is situated in the reconstructed Ferimport building which was the ugliest building in the whole city, not that the present look is any better.

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