Zagreb Cathedral: Controlled Explosion

A month ago, I was having a coffee in my neighborhood in Zagreb. I try to imagine what would I do if someone came at my table that day, telling me: “I come from the future, I will tell you what will happen 30 days from now – there will be no people in churches for Easter celebrations this year and one of the towers of Zagreb Cathedral will explode…” I would probably just continue with my coffee, thinking “what a crazy person!” Bizarrely, it’s exactly what happened this Friday, April 17th 2020.

This article is part of our April 2020 section “Zagreb Couch Guide”. Every Friday we visit one of the sights in Zagreb “on line” or share a story from the rich history of our city… This April 2020 all guided tours are cancelled, but Rilak’s Zagreb Guide is continuing online, with…

katedrala potresPhoto of Zagreb Cathedral, after earthquake, author unknown (social media)

A month ago, I would probably even believe that there would be no big Easter celebrations this year. Italy is just across the Adriatic sea, so close to Croatia, and some social distancing measures have already started, following the appearance of the virus COVID-19. However, a real “partial lock-down” in Zagreb was officially announced on Saturday, March 21st. And then, a real shock. An earthquake hit Zagreb on Sunday, just the day after.

For those who missed it, my report on this bizarre situation of simultaneous pandemic and earthquake can be found in the article “Zagreb #stayinside (exceptionally #stayoutside). And for those who believe that the cause for this earthquake was a dragon, you can check the article “When a Croatian dragon moves its tail…”

Many buildings were damaged in the earthquake, especially in the city center, and one of them was the Zagreb Cathedral. The top of the southern tower fell, as you can see in the photo above. What we didn’t know right after the earthquake is that the structure of the top of the northern tower was damaged as well. There was a risk that it would collapse and a plan was devised to remove it from the rest of the cathedral.

On Friday, April 17th, a controlled explosion took place, around 6 p.m., which successfully removed the top of the tower from the rest of the structure. The “removed” part is 13.5 meters tall and weighing 30 tonnes. You can see the moment of the explosion in the video right here:

After that, a 500-tonne crane lowered the tower. Check the video here, something that you really don’t see every day:

While it’s in some way devastating for me to look at the video, I can’t but admire this really impressive feat.

There is also an unusual curiosity linked to all of this. The last big earthquake in Zagreb happened 140 years ago and the Cathedral was even more damaged. During the renovations, two new towers were constructed. All renovations of the Cathedral were overseen by a German architect Herman Bollé (18. 10. 1845 – 17. 04. 1926) If you quickly skipped the dates of his birth and death, check them again – yes, he died exactly on this day, on April 17th. On the exact day of his death, 94 years later, one part of Bollé’s construction “exploded”. What an unusual coincidence!

herman bolle

Herman Bollé

The Cathedral is now preparing for new renovations, and from the first reports I found one other, small curiosity. The interior of the Cathedral was quite damaged as well, but the famous “casino chandeliers” have survived.

If you want to know why I call them “casino chandeliers”, you can check one of the first articles I have ever written for this site “Lights for poker players and silent prayers”.

When I started writing here from time to time, I always imagined my texts as a complementary activity with my “live” tour guide work. It’s strange how currently my writing is the only possible way of guiding. However, it is necessary to stop the spread of the virus now so that later on we can all enjoy the city of Zagreb and Croatia “live”. See you in Zagreb, eventually, but for now, stay home and stay healthy, and maybe enjoy a good read…

This April 2020 all guided tours are cancelled, but Rilak’s Zagreb Guide is continuing online, with…



2 thoughts on “Zagreb Cathedral: Controlled Explosion

  1. Thanks for guiding us through the earthquake and controlled explosion. The April 17 date is an awfully big coincidence indeed! It’s also my daughter’s birthday, so it will always be a special day for me.

    Liked by 2 people

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