Herman Bolle and Mirogoj

By Christopher Zoukis

His name was Herman Bolle.  A Frenchman descended from generations of German architects, Bolle made Croatia his home for fifty years, residing in Zagreb.  Herman, too, was an architect.  He had knack for it, designing and building many buildings.  His Neo-Renaissance structures imprinted all of Croatia with edifices for diversion and thrill and catharsis. 

One of the most eloquent of his works is the sublimely sacerdotal Cathedral and its accompanying Monumental Cemetery:  Mirogoj.  Mirogoj unified eight cemeteries active at that time.  That time being 1876, the year of the cemetery’s founding on the property of Ljudevit Gaj, leader of the Croatian National Revival. 

Mirogoj composes a system of magnificent arcades, ogive cupolas and central portals, all extending off the Cathedral proper.  With symmetry pleasing to the eye, combined with a curious balancing medley of clear perspectives and subdivisions of light and shadow, the cemetery provides a cross-cultural echo.  It links the past with the present. 

Mirogoj takes the elements of landscape, the art gallery and literature, blends them, and presents a physical pictorial essay of Croatian history. 

Religiously, Mirogoj considers all confessions equal.  Thus Catholic crosses, Byzantine cruciforms and Jewish Magen Dauid(s) (Shield of David) form the skyline of the cupolas.