"Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy;
and they which hate us spoil fot themselves."
Diocese of Zagreb-Ljubljana includes Serbian settlements in Upper Slavonia,
i. e. present-day northern Croatia. From the 16th to the 19th century this
territory was incorporated within the (Austrian) Slavonian Krajina (Frontier
Region), i. e. within the military buffer zone of Varazdin; today this
Diocese comprises the entire region of Slovenia as well, so that the Diocese
of Zagreb-Ljubljana extends from the Ilova River to the western border of
territory was settled by Serbs from Bosnia and Serbia, who came with their
spiritual leaders – their priests and monastics. In 1438, Pope Eugene IV sent
a missionary, Jakob de Marcia, to the newly-settled Serbs in these regions,
in order to convert these "schismatics" to the "Roman
Faith" or, in lieu of success, to banish them.
On the territory of
today’s Diocese of Zagreb – Ljubljana Serbian Orthodox clergy were already
present at the time of Katarina Brankovic, daughter of Serbian Despot Djuradj
(reigned from 1427–1456). When she left the Royal Court in Smederevo with her
marriage to Count Ulrih of Celje (1434), alongside her maids-in-waiting and
courtesans she was also accompanied by her spiritual father. It was through
her intercession that an Epistle Lectionary, the first known Serbo-Slavonic
book to be written in that area, was copied in Varazdin in 1454. In this
Epistle of Varazdin, kept in the Serbian Orthodox Church Museum in Belgrade,
there is an inscription from that time, which reads: this liturgical book was
written "during the time of Right-believing and Christ-loving Lady and
Princess Cantacuzenus, Daughter of Despot Djuradj, Serbian Autocrat."
restoration of the Patriarchate of Pec, under Serbian Patriarch Makarije
Sokolovic, the Orthodox Serbs of Old Slavonia were under the spiritual
guidance of the Metropolitan of Pozega, whose See was located in Monastery
Orahovica. Because of Turkish attrocities, Metropolitan Vasilije of Pozega
had to abandon Monastery Orahovica, at the beginning of October 1595, for the
area of Upper Slavonia, residing in Roviste near the border with the Turks,
in order to be as close as possible to his people still under Turkish rule.
Metropolitan Vasilije founded a new Diocese in this area, with its See in
Monastery Marca, from whence it was named the Diocese of Marca. In historical
sources it is also referred to as the Diocese of: Svidnik, Uskok, Vretanija.
The Metropolitans of Marca waged a fierce struggle against agressive Roman
Catholic proselytism and its program of Union.
Marca, a second spiritual focal – point for the Orthodox Serbs of that region
was Monastery Lepavina. Kondrat, an Abbot of the Monastery, lost his life
protecting the purity of Orthodoxy; he was murdered by enraged Uniates on the
doorstep of the Church in Lepavina in 1716.
Under heavy pressure
from the Roman Catholic Church, and especially the Bishop of Zagreb, the Serbs
lost Monastery Marca, but preserved their Orthodox faith and national pride.
As the spiritual heir of the Diocese of Marca, the Diocese of
Lepavina-Severin was established in 1734 with its See in Monastery Lepavina,
then later moved to Severin. The Diocese was united with the Diocese of
Kostajnica-Zrinopolje in 1754, and later, in 1771, the territory of the
Diocese of Lepavina-Severin was incorporated into the Diocese of Pakrac. This
situation lasted until 1931, when the Diocese of Zagreb was formed, on the
level of a Metropolitanate, with its See in Zagreb. Dositej Vasic, a
well-educated theologian and a person with wide vision and understanding for
other nationalities and confessions, was elected to be its first
Metropolitan. At the very beginning of World War II, on 2 May 1941,
Metropolitan Dositej was imprisoned by the Ustashas in the police jail in
Petrinje Street. Arnold Robert, Belgian Consul and witness to his suffering,
stated after having seen the greatly disfigured Metropolitan through an opening
in the door to Cell Number 8: "This is, by God, savagery what these
people are doing." According to the testimony of Bozidar Cerovski,
Ustasha Chief of Police in Zagreb: "The Metropolitan was so terribly
beaten that he was barely alive when he was put on the train for
Belgrade." The Germans transferred him as a critically ill patient to
Belgrade, where on 14 January 1945 he passed on as a consequence of physical
and mental torture.
After the Second World
War, the Diocese of Zagreb – as well as the other Dioceses on the territory
of Croatia – were administered by Vicar Bishop Arsenije Bradvarevic. He was
succeeded by Damaskin Grdanicki, formerly Bishop of Banat; and following his
death in 1969, this Diocese was administered by the Bishop of Pakrac Emilijan
Marinovic. In 1977, the Holy Assembly of Bishops entrusted the spiritual
guidance of this Diocese to the Bishop of Lepavina Jovan Pavlovic, who in
1982 was elected Metropolitan of Zagreb. At his suggestion, the name of the
Diocese was expanded in 1983 to the Diocese of Zagreb–Ljubljana.
In World War II, eight
priests and three monks, alongside innocent Serbian Orthodox people, lost
A great number of
churches were destroyed (in Graberje, Ivanic-Grad, Grubisno Polje, Velika
Peratovica, Velika Pisanica, Koprivnica, Cadjavac, as well as in other
places), many more damaged, most having been plundered as well.
In the war of
1991–1995, even though in general there were no war operations on the
territory of the Diocese of Zagreb–Ljubljana, nine churches were destroyed
and 29 damaged. The log churches in Donja Rasenica from 1709 and Rastovac
from 1730 – unique monuments to the spiritual heritage of the Serbs dating
from the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century – were burnt to
the ground by Croatian nationalists, no trace of them being left.
Residence in Zagreb, where both a Church Museum and Diocesan Library were
located, was dynamited on the night of 11 April 1992. Items of exceptional
value, especially the collection of icons, ancient liturgical books and
manuscripts, metal and textile liturgical items, portraits and numerous other
valuables from the 13th to the 19th century were destroyed or considerably
damaged. Apart from the destruction of the Episcopal Residence in Zagreb,
registered as an historical monument (the building was constructed in 1886/87
according to the plans of architect Kuhn Weidmann as his family home), five
parish homes were destroyed (three were dynamited and two set afire), while
seven were significantly damaged. Two chapels were also damaged.
In the Diocese of
Zagreb-Ljubljana more than 50 churches and other church buildings were either
destroyed or damaged. These Serbian places of worship, in the majority, were
damaged outside the war zone. In 1996 the remains of the Church of the Holy
Cross in Veliki Zdenci, damaged even during the Second World War, were
totally demolished. In spite of petitions from the Serbian Orthodox Church,
the demolition of this Church could not be prevented. The official Croatian
State "established" that the Church was the property of "Greek
Catholics" who disappeared from that area in 1919. Existing written
records proving the continuity of the Church of the Holy Cross within the
fold of the Serbian Orthodox Church for over two centuries were obviously not
enough for the Croatian authorities.
Church of the
Transfiguration of the Lord – built in 1794. Renovated in 1866 and 1884
according to the plans of architect Herman Bohle. Iconostatis painted by Epimanondas
Bucevski in 1833. Church damaged before any war operations: buglarized during
the night between 27 and 28 January 1991; damaged several times afterwards.
During the night of 24/25 August 1997 stained glass windows on the entrance
door were broken (Report of 29 August 1997).
Residence – built according to the plans of architect Kuhn Weidmann in
1886–1887. Dynamited on 11 April 1992 at 10:45 p. m. outside war operations.
Museum of the Serbian
Orthodox Church for the Diocese of Zagreb-Ljubljana (in the Metropolitan’s
Residence), founded on 23 October 1981, permanent exhibit opened for the
public on 26 April 1895. Displays in six rooms on ground-floor, total area of
423 square meters. Most of the items consisted of church art valuables looted
by the Ustashas in World War II, returned after numerous requests to the
Serbian Orthodox Church in 1983. Valuables on display included in general
icons (67) painted between the 16th and 19th century – work of Serbian,
Russian and Cretan icon painters, metal (30) and textile (11) liturgical
items, liturgical manuscripts from 13th to 18th century, books printed in
Venice, Vienna and Moscow, Privileges (Charters) issued by Austrian Emperors
and Duke Jovan Besaraba of Moldavia (15). Metropolitan’s Residence together
with the Diocesan Museum dynamited with dozens of kilograms of explosives,
blowing up church art treasures and other historical items witnessing Sebian
spiritual, cultural and creative talent from the former Diocese of Marca
founded in the 16th century.
Convent of Saint Petka
at Crnomerec – endowment of Djura Avirovic from 1866. Convent buglarized