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The diocese of Zagreb-ljubljana

"Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy;
and they which hate us spoil fot themselves."
(Psalm 44:10)


The 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 Slovenia.

The above-mentioned 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 ZagrebLjubljana Serbian Orthodox clergy were already present at the time of Katarina Brankovic, daughter of Serbian Despot Djuradj (reigned from 14271456). 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."

Following the 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.

Alongside Monastery Marca, a second spiritual focalpoint 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 ZagrebLjubljana.

In World War II, eight priests and three monks, alongside innocent Serbian Orthodox people, lost their lives.

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 19911995, even though in general there were no war operations on the territory of the Diocese of ZagrebLjubljana, nine churches were destroyed and 29 damaged. The log churches in Donja Rasenica from 1709 and Rastovac from 1730unique 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.

The Metropolitan’s 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 Lordbuilt 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).


Metropolitan’s 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 centurywork 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 Crnomerecendowment of Djura Avirovic from 1866. Convent buglarized 1991/92.




Cathedral of the Holy Trinitybuilt in 17841792. Bell tower added in 1822. Iconostasis (and internal decorations) painted by Celestin Medovic, Bela Cikos Sesija and Ivan Tisov in 1902. Church turned into Uniate church and burglarized (19411945). Church Register and Service Books and liturgical items looted. Church renovated in 1947 and 1984. A report of 7 December 1992 states: "Holy Trinity Cathedral in Bjelovar, built in 1792, was devastated with some pillaging, a shell hitting the bell-tower. The Parish Home in Bjelovar was completely devasted." (M No. 343/92). An explosive was thrown into the Parish Home in 1993.


Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabrielbuilt in 1795. Renovated in 1824. Looted (19411945). a report of 7 December 1992 states: The Church of Archangels Michael and Gabriel in Bolc was dynamited and the entrance door set afire. Almost all the windows are shattered. We do not know the time of the bombing." (M No. 343/92)

Bolc (Cemetery Chapel)

A report of 7 December 1992 states: "The Chapel in the Graveyard in Bolc, the cross on the bell-tower leans to one side, most likely hit by gunfire." "On 19/20 August 1991, an unidentified person placed explosives before the entrance doors to the Orthodox Church…" (Government of the Republic of Croatia, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Zagreb, 1 April 1996)


Church of Saint George from 1884. Iconostasis from 1795 brought from the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Zagreb. At end of October 1992 dynamite placed before the entrance doors to the Church. Church damaged, windows shattered by the detonation and decorative column at the entrance side blown out.

Velika Barna

Church of Saint Mark. Heavily damaged in World War II (19411945). Iconostasis damaged, remaining church inventory looted and destroyed. Church renovated in 1950 and 1985. Damaged during war operations (19911993).

Velika Mucna

Church of the Holy Archangel Michael from 1740. Dynamited on 24 and 25 December 1992 outside of war operations.

Velika Peratovica

Church of Saint Petkabuilt in 1895 on foundations of older wooden church from 1790. Church damaged (19411945). Renovated after Second World War. Devasted, iconostasis destroyed and all windows shattered (19911993).

Velika Pisanica

Church of Saint Lazarus from 1713. Iconostasis painted by Jovan Cetirovic-Grabovan at end of 18th century. Church damaged in World War II. All church inventory and iconostasis destroyed, only walls and bell-tower without roofing remained. Parish Home also damaged (19411945). Church and Parish Home completely renovated after the war in 1966/67. Church devasted and looted (19911993). Parish Home dynamited (19911993).

Veliki Grdjevac

Church of the Holy Trinitybuilt in 1752, renovated in 1833. Church partly damaged in the last war (19411945), and church library and archives destroyed. Church renovated in 1968 and 1973. Graffiti written on the church: "ISC" (Independent State of Croatia) and "Death to the Serbs" (19911993).

Veliki Zdenci

Church of the Exaltation of the Honorable Crossbuilt in 1744. Renovated in 1847. Church heavily damaged in World War II (19411945). After Second World War Croatian authorities did not allow the church to be renovated, thus till 1991 only walls and bell-tower extant. In 1991/92 the Croatian Ministry of Internal Affairs placed a machine-gun nest in bell-tower. Bell-tower no longer exists (1995). During 1996 Church razed and material removed. Parish Home dynamited (19911993).


Church of Saint Georgebuilt in 1760. Renovated in 1789. In a report of 7 December 1992 it states: "Saint George’s Church in Glogovac from 1760, main entrance door into the Church set afire, on 9 May 1991 according to locals and the police."

Graberje Ivanicko

Parish Home. Report of 7 December 1993: "We found a fire burning in the exact center of the Parish Home. All the wooden floors as well as all the doors have already been removed."

Grabovnica (near Cazma)

Church of Saint Vitus from 1752. Devastated by Croatian boy scouts in 1970. Heavily damaged (19911993). Bell-tower without roofing, windows shattered and roof damaged.

Grubisno Polje

Church of Saint Georgebuilt in 17731775. Renovated in 1820. Damaged by Ustashas (19411945). Seven old manuscripts and several icons also destroyed. After World War II Church completely renovated. Church sealed by Croatian Ministry of Internal Affairs (19911993). Parish Home sealed (19911993), and from 19931995 a Croatian family from Vukovar moved in.



Donja Rasenica

Church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokosbuilt of wood in 1709. Belongs to the last few remaining log churches, being the largest. Authentic interior of Church with iconostasis painted by "Zograf Trifun" in 1798. Church ranked as an important historic monument. Set afire and totally destroyed (19911993), even though it carried the sign of the Hague Convention.



Church of the 318 Holy God-bearing Fathers from 1927. Damaged (19911993).

Kabo (near Bolc)

Church of Saint Nicholas from 1760. Damaged (19411945). Completely renovated after World War II. Damaged by machine-gun fir (19911993).


Church of the Holy Trinitybuilt in 17911795. Renovated in 1938. Iconostasis with 30 icons from 1810. Wood-carved iconostasis work of Joakim Djakovic. Church damaged by Ustashas (19411945). Completely renovated after Second World War. During war (19911993) iconostasis damaged and windows shattered.


Church of Saint John the Baptistbuilt in 1746. Renovated in 1822 and 1875. Windows shattered (19911993).


Church of Saint Sava from 1902. Windows on church broken. Gutters ruined (19911993).


Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos from 1740. Bell-tower damaged, doors set afire. Church in poor condition (19911993).

Mali Tresnjevica

Church of the 318 Holy God-bearing Fathers from 1722. Dynamited on 10 January 1992. Interior and roof completely destroyed.

Mali Grdjevac

Church of Saint Demetrius from 1760. In World War II church damaged, Parish Home destroyed. Church burglarized, plundered and devastated (19911993). Parish Home dynamited and set afire (19911993).

Mali Zdenci

Log Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos from 1761, thatched roof. Church ranked among group of very important monuments. Church partly damaged. Furniture and liturgical items largely destroyed (19411945). Church renovated after World War Two. Damaged and plundered (19911993).

Manostery Marca

Chapel of the Holy Archangel Gabriel from 1925. Dynamited (Report MNo. 34/97).


Church of Saint Georgebuilt in 1770. Iconostasis painted by Josip Hoknjec in 1890. Church listed as first-class monument. Church heavily damaged in World War II and turned into Roman Catholic church, for which reason furniture and inventory totally destroyed. This conversion carried out by Roman Catholic Parish Priest Stefanjski and Dr Bozjanac. In 1972 Church building caved in as consequence of damage. New Church built afterwards. Damaged by machine-gun fire (19911993). Parish Home burglarized and damaged (19911993).


Church of Saint Lazarus from 1758. Iconostasis painted by Bocaric in 1895. Windows broken (19911993).




Church of Saint Demetriusbuilt around 1732. Built of logs with thatched roof. Renovated in 1760. One of most important Baroque log churches, with authentic painted interior and iconostasis. Belonged to group of very important monuments. Set afire and totally destroyed (19911993).




Church of Saint Petkaoriginal from 1570. First built of logs and plaster; in 1720 new Church built from sturdier material. Newest Church built on its foundations in 1932. Archives destroyed, Parish Home destroyed (19411945). Church dynamited on 19/20 December 1992. Greatest damage to the exterior in numerous places.


Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul from 1770. Iconostasis painted by Joakim Markovic. In Second World War turned into Uniate church and iconostasis destroyed. Damaged (19911993).


Church of the Holy Archangel Michael from 1936. Burglarized, plundered and devastated (19911993).


Church of Saint Petkachapel built in 1895. Renovated in 1934. Set afire by Ustashas in World War II. Later Chapel temporarily placed in Parish Home. Bell-tower damaged, two columns broken. Parish Home and chapel burglarized and dynamited, windows shattered (19911993).


Church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos from 1722. New iconostasis painted by Nikola Ivkovic replaced older one from 1769. Church damaged in 1941. Iconostasis taken down by Ustashas. Returned after the war but with some icons missing. Church inventory, library and archives destroyed. Church renovated in 19501953. Damaged by machine-gun and hand-gun fire (19911993).


Srpska Kapela (Nova Kapela)


Church of Saint Georgebuilt in 1734. Renovated in 1826. Turned into Uniate church (19411945). Completely renovated in 1971. Damaged (19911993). After war operations, renovated by Vilko Sever, a Croatian by nationality from Srpska Kapela. Church lighted by reflectors. Parish Home dynamited, only four walls remain (19911993).




Church of Saint Demetriusbuilt in 1768. Renovated in 1848. Partly damaged in World War II: church inventory, library and archives destroyed. Parish Home set afire in 1942. After the Second World War Church renovated several times. Dynamited (19911993). Parish Home looted (19911993).



Turcevic Polje


Church of the Holy Archdeacon Stephenbuilt in 1931 on the foundations of older church from 1751. Burglarized, looted and devastated. Iconostasis totally destroyed. Holy Altar Table destroyed, most windows shattered. Roof leaks in several places (19911993).


Church of the Holy Apostle Thomas from 1746. Heavily damaged in the war (19411945), roof destroyed during bombing raid. After World War II renovated. Heavily damaged and impossible to use for Divine Services (19911993).

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