Anniversary of the birth of Hermann Bollé
Today, on 18 October, it is the 167th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest builders in this area, Hermann Bollé. Hermann Bollé, a German architect, was born on 18 October 1845 in the German Cologne (Köln). Although he was German by birth, he dedicated his entire work to Zagreb and Croatia of his time. It is almost impossible to imagine the present Zagreb and many other parts of Croatia without Bollé’s rich and unique architectural contribution and the results of his efforts in various social, cultural and pedagogic activities. Without a doubt, he remains one of those deserving the greatest credit for the fact that Zagreb of his time, with its monumental buildings, urban planning design and spacious city parks and gardens, stood side by side with other beautiful cities of central Europe and stood out in its southern European surroundings.
Bollé studied architecture at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. During his stay in Italy he met Strossmayer and Kršnjavi, and this directed his life’s path towards Croatia. He began the reconstruction of St. Mark’s Church and the building of the cathedral in Đakovo. In both projects he followed the plans made by his teacher, Friedrich Schmidt. Nevertheless, he made his own plans for the restoration of the Zagreb Cathedral. He was a follower of historicism and the neo-Gothic style and his work was strongly characterized by stylistic purity. He transformed the Cathedral’s architecture, especially with regards to its interior and spires. While working on this restoration project, which remains his most famous work, Bollé was designing every detail with the greatest care. He also designed the plans for the outstanding building of the Zagreb Museum of Arts and Crafts and the accompanying square. He is most frequently associated with his work on the Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb. He was building this colossal cemetery in the silence of the hillsides on the northern outskirts of the city for several decades and it represents one of the major projects of the entire European historicism. It included the building of a 500-meter long colonnade with twenty domes and many other impressive structures among which the Chapel of Christ the King particularly stands out. Bollé originally intended to entirely surround the cemetery by colonnades; however this large project had to be discontinued owing to a shortage of financial resources and thus one of the most beautifully designed cemeteries in this part of Europe remained unfinished.
Bollé was an active member of the Zagreb central artists’ association, one of the founders and directors of the Zagreb Museum of Arts and Crafts, as well as the Zagreb school of crafts and building, which he headed for thirty-two years. With his students and teaching colleagues he participated in large world exhibitions and received several significant awards and prizes. Notwithstanding the controversies surrounding his work to this day, Bollé undoubtedly left behind an enormous legacy in the field of restoration and architecture characterized by the distinctive features of the European architecture. His projects on the Zagreb cathedral and Mirogoj cemetery alone would be sufficient to include Bollé’s name among the most praiseworthy citizens of Zagreb.
Hermann Bollé died on 17 April 1926 in Zagreb and, symbolically enough, he was buried at the Mirogoj Cemetery among the arcades, where his bust – already built when he was alive – can be seen today and remind everyone of the great architect. Commemorating his work, we bring you the old postcards in the Print Collection of the National and University Library in Zagreb, with motifs representing Bollé’s greatest architectural achievements.