In 1879, soon after the Mirogoj Cemetery was first opened, architect Herman Bollé started building the magnificent arcades, which he completed in 1917. The arcades were finished at that point, but the portal and the chapel serving as the link between the south and the north arcades were still not built. The arcades were constructed very solidly, as evidenced by the dreadful earthquake that struck Zagreb in 1880, when 1700 homes were severely damaged, along with buildings whose walls were thicker than 2 m, such as the Jesuit Monastery. Even though the epicentre of the earthquake was in immediate vicinity of the cemetery (Mount Medvednica), the arcades did not sustain even the slightest damage. Bollé’s project and the construction were lauded and acclaimed for their solidity and endurance.
In mid-1883, Mirogoj already had 10 large arcades. In that year, the City Assembly debated changes in the appearance of the future arcades. However, the majority of the representatives made the wise decision to forego the changes until further notice.
THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE IN THE “NECROPOLIS”
It is possible to discern the mood of the people at the time from some of the events that unfolded at the Cemetery. The second burial of poet Petar Preradović, one of the pivotal figures of Croatian culture, whose remains were brought to Zagreb in the early morning hours of 14 July 1879, grew into a manifestation of patriotic and anti-Germanizing mood. All shops and offices were closed that day, and the formal procession, led by the military and a band, made way to Preradović’s final resting place in Mirogoj. Preradović was laid to rest in one of the first arcades, south of the arcade where the great figures of the Croatian National Revival were buried. The monument at his grave is the work of sculptor Ivan Rendić.
On 15 October 1885, the arcade where Dr. Ljudevit Gaj, Stanko Vraz, Živko Vukasović, Vjekoslav Babukić, Fran Kurelec, Vatroslav Lisinski, Dragutin Seljan and Dr. Dimitrije Demeter would be buried was completed, and the remains of these great figures of the Croatian National Revival were laid to rest there. A grand memorial service was held in their honour. Franjo Žigrović, Dragutin Rakovac, Ivan and Antun Mažuranić, Mirko Bogović, Pavao Štoos, Count Janko Drašković, Antun Mihanović, Dr. Matija Smodek and others were laid to rest there later. The city authorities decided who would be buried in the Croatian National Revival arcade.
THE CLOSEDOWN OF OLD ZAGREB CEMETERIES
When Mirogoj Cemetery was opened, the closedown of the old Zagreb cemeteries could begin. Some of the more important monuments from these cemeteries were taken to the new central cemetery. According to the information we were able to collect, the old cemeteries closed down in the following order: St. George’s Cemetery in April 1876, St. Roch’s Cemetery on 2 June 1877, St. Tomas’ Cemetery in February 1879, both military cemeteries (Catholic and Orthodox) in September 1879, and St. Peter’s Cemetery in February 1879. The Jewish cemeteries were closed down in March 1877 and July 1878, and the Orthodox Cemetery was closed down in August 1877.
In accordance with the Mirogoj Cemetery’s Statute, the members of each of these religious communities wanted to be granted a separate section of the new cemetery. It soon became apparent, however, that the division by religion would cause substantial problems, primarily of technical nature. The management of the Cemetery was greatly relieved by and welcomed the so-called Interconfessional Act of 1879, under which cemeteries were no longer church property and became municipal (city) property. This gave the Mirogoj management a great solution to the problem of separate religion sections, which the management took advantage of immediately and terminated the sections reserved for different religions. However, the members of different religious communities still insisted on being buried in their respective sections.
When the old Zagreb cemeteries were closed down, societies, scientific associations and institutions and members of all religious communities worked to transport the remains of their distinguished members and their monuments to Mirogoj. Vatroslav Lisinski, Dragojlo Kušlan and Mijat Sabljar (transported from St. Roch’s Cemetery), Dragutin Rakovac, Šime Balenović and Vatroslav Lichtenegger (from St. Peter’s Cemetery) and Dr. Dimitrije Demeter (from the Orthodox Cemetary in Pantovčak) are among many distinguished figures who found their new resting place in Mirogoj.
As expected, many removals of monuments and remains led to political and professional protests. For instance, the relocation of the remains of “July Victims” grew into an anti-Hungarian protest. The “July Victims” died in quiet, but bloody anti-Hungarian protests in Zagreb in 1845, when nine men were killed right away, seven died of injuries they sustained, and 27 other citizens were injured. The remains of the “July Victims” were relocated to Mirogoj from St. George’s Cemetery to a common tomb. The monument brought from St. George’s Cemetery still adorns their final resting place. Recently it has been restored.