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 »  Home  »  Culture And Arts  »  (E,F) Zagreb has the grace and the dignity of old Europe
(E,F) Zagreb has the grace and the dignity of old Europe
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  01/15/2003 | Culture And Arts | Unrated
(E,F) Zagreb has the grace and the dignity of old Europe

 

Zagreb has the grace and the dignity of oldEurope


CROATIA
The Statues of Zagreb

Michèle Bernard
special report to La Presse
Translated from French by Ivana Jeric

The statue of Ban Josip Jelacic in Zagreb, Croatia.

Zagreb has the grace and dignity of old Europe. If to travel is to fathom the soul of a nation, what is the key to this city? Follow the guide. Or better to say guides, for the statues in its parks show you the way to the heart of the millenarian capital of Croatia, of Hrvatska (pronounced 'hervatska).

Zagreb remembers. In the gardens of the Lower Town we find the sculpture "History of the Croatians", a work by Ivan Mestrovic (1932). A quiet strength emanates from the seated young woman. Embodying the memory of her people, she shields with her joined hands a book written in glagolitic script, an alphabet invented in Croatia, an ancestor of the cyrillic script used by the Eastern Orthodox peoples.

The free and artistic Zagreb is very knowledgable. All around the flowery gardens the cultural life is alive with its theaters, opera, ballet, concert halls, national museums, galleries of naïve art and private collections, university, or serious academies.

Zagreb the European. Facing the railway station, one comes upon the statue of King Tomislav, a work by Mihanovic (1947). A stone's throw away there is Hotel Esplanade, in art deco style, which since 1925 has been catering to the Orient Express travelers. The cuisine of its restaurant remains one of the best in the city. After all, did not the contemporary writer Miroslav Krleza say "Europe ends on the terrace of the Esplanade"?

Zagreb the warlike. Originally from the Carpathian mountains, the tribe of Croats was invited in the 7th century by the Roman Emperor Heraclius to come and defend the Balkans. The Croats came, saw and conquered. And then they stayed, exchanging their conversion to Christianity for the protection of Pope John of Dalmatia. In 925, their leader Tomislav was proclaimedKing by the Emperor. King Tomislav unified the country all the way to the sea. The kingdom did not last, and from the 11th century onwards, Croatia came under Hungarian domination for a long time.

Zagreb the ambiguous. Even under the socialist yoke, the Croats persisted in their pride of history. "What, you have no king?" they teased their Slovene neighbors who were coming to sell their produce on the Dolac market, where, it seems, the pretty red parasols of today were already in place.

In the Upper Town, the hills of Kaptol and Gradec have always been rivals. Starting from 1093, the ecclesiastic Kaptol was the see of a bishopric and of a Catholic cathedral. From the 12th century, the secular Gradec was the home of the Sabor - the Parliament - as well as of the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. Lying between the two, Jelacic Square is the hub of the city. All tram routes seem to lead there. Pedestrian and business streets, snack-bars and restaurants, terraces and cafes offering the usual Viennese pastries, everything radiates from there. Young people make appointments to meet "under the tail", i.e. the tail of the horse of the statue of Josip Jelacic, a work by the sculptor Fernhorn (1866).

Zagreb the resisting. Slava mu, glory to him! The Governor Jelacic demanded in 1848 the abolition of all political influence over the Slavic peoples of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He lost the battle and Croatia remained subjected until 1918. Strangely enough, the statue of Jelacic stayed in place under Hungarian domination. In 1947, the socialist Tito made it disappear, trying to fight any nationalism on the part of the six Yugoslav republics. Jelacic was resuscitated in 1991, when Croatia became independent.

Zagreb the idealistic. In the 19th century, Strossmayer was promoting the union of all the southern Slavs, the Yugo-Slavs. The stern statue of that patriot-bishop, a work by Mestrovic (1925) is enthroned in the gardens that bear his name. Strossmayer did not see either the beginning or the end of his dream, Yugoslavia. 

Zagreb the tender. Passers-by smile and wax sentimental in front of the Bench of Matos, a work of the contemporary sculptor Ivan Kozaric (1972). Sitting there for all eternity, the wise and filiform bronze figure meditates, close by the funicular connecting the Upper and the Lower Towns. Welcome to Zagreb. Dobrodosli. 


CROATIE
Les statues de Zagreb

Michèle Bernard
collaboration spéciale, La Presse

La statue de Ban Josip Jelacic à Zagreb en Croatie.

Zagreb a la grâce et la dignité de la vieille Europe. Si voyager, c'est pénétrer l'âme d'un peuple, quelle est la clé de cette ville? Suivez le guide. Ou mieux les guides, car les statues des parcs enseignent le chemin du coeur de la capitale millénaire de la Croatie, la Hrvatska (lire Khoeur-vatt-ska).
Zagreb se souvient. Dans les jardins de la basse ville siège la sculpture L'Histoire des Croates, oeuvre de Mestrovic (1932). Une force tranquille émane de la jeune femme assise. Mémoire de son peuple, elle protège de ses mains jointes le livre rédigé en glagol, alphabet inventé en Croatie, ancêtre de l'écriture cyrillique utilisée par les orthodoxes orientaux.

La libre et artistique Zagreb est bien savante. Tout autour des parcs fleuris, la vie culturelle prolifère avec ses théâtres, opéra, ballets, salles de concerts, musées nationaux, galeries d'art naïf et collections particulières, université ou sérieuses académies.

Zagreb l'européenne. Devant la gare, on tombe nez à nez avec la statue du roi Tomislav, oeuvre de Mihanovic (1947). À deux pas, l'hôtel Esplanade, de style Art déco, dessert depuis 1925 les voyageurs de l'Orient-Express. Son restaurant demeure une des meilleures tables en ville. Et puis l'écrivain contemporain Miroslav Krleza ne proclame-t-il pas «L'Europe finit sur la terrasse de l'Esplanade»?

Zagreb guerrière. Originaire des Carpates, la tribu des Croates est invitée au VIIe siècle par l'empereur romain Héraclius à défendre les Balkans. Les Croates sont venus, ont vu et ont vaincu. Puis, ils sont restés, troquant leur conversion à la foi chrétienne contre la protection du pape Jean de Dalmatie. En 925, l'empereur proclame roi leur chef Tomislav. Le seigneur unifie le pays jusqu'à la mer. Le royaume ne dure pas et à partir du 11e siècle, la Croatie s'éternise sous la domination hongroise.


Publicité

Zagreb ambiguë. Même pendant le joug socialiste, la fierté historique des Croates subsiste. «Quoi, vous n'avez pas de roi?» taquinent-ils leurs voisins slovènes venus vendre le produit de leur ferme au marché Dolac. Où dominaient déjà les beaux parasols rouges d'aujourd'hui, affirme-t-on.

Dans la ville haute de Zagreb, les collines Kaptol et Gradec rivalisent depuis toujours. Dès 1093, l'ecclésiastique Kaptol abrite évêché et cathédrale catholiques. Au 12e siècle, la séculière Gradec loge le Sabor -le Parlement- ainsi que la noblesse et la bourgeoisie. Entre les deux, la place Jelacic est le point de chute de la ville. Plaque tournante, tous les tramways semblent y aboutir. De là rayonnent rues piétonnières et commerçantes, casse-croûte et restaurants, terrasses et cafés où déguster les viennoiseries d'usage. Les jeunes se donnent rendez-vous «sous la queue du cheval» de Josip Jelacic, oeuvre du sculpteur Fernhorn (1866).

Zagreb résistante. Slava mu, gloire à lui! Le vice-roi Jelacic réclame en 1848 l'abolition de toute tutelle pour les Slaves de l'empire austro-hongrois. Il perd la bataille et la Croatie demeure soumise jusqu'en 1918. Fait étrange, la statue de Jelacic demeure en place sous la domination magyare. En 1947, le socialiste Tito la fait disparaître, luttant contre tout nationalisme de la part des six républiques yougoslaves. On sort Jelacic de la poussière en 1991 lors de l'indépendance de la Croatie.

Zagreb idéaliste. Au 19e siècle, Strossmayer est partisan de la réunion de tous les Slaves du Sud, les Yugo-Slaves. La sévère statue du patriote-évêque, oeuvre de Mestrovic (1925), trône dans les jardins portant son nom. Strossmayer n'a vu ni le début ni la fin de son rêve, la Yougoslavie.

Tendre Zagreb. Sourire aux lèvres, les passants s'attendrissent devant le Banc de Matos, oeuvre du contemporain Ivan Kozaric (1972). Assis éternellement, le sage et filiforme personnage de bronze médite près du funiculaire reliant villes haute et basse. Bienvenue à Zagreb.Dobrodosli.

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