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Zagreb: lights for poker players and silent prayers

Wow… the Zagreb Cathedral. So much history, so much different artistic styles in one place: medieval and revived Gothic, casino’s chandeliers, a touch of Baroque… Wait… what? Casino’s chandeliers?

Dean Rilak Blog

Now, what I am about to tell you is some sort of a secret – one of those secrets that everybody knows about. Apparently, not everything in our centuries old Cathedral was meant to be sacred. And not everything is centuries old. Before I continue, I have to say that some of my colleagues think that a tour guide should not reveal such things – that chandeliers in our cathedral are actually from a Las Vegas casino. We’re all about culture and history, casinos are not. Well, I say – if the priests don’t mind, why should we? Their origin story is such a nice way to “spice up” my city tours in Zagreb, especially if I know that I have an audience who is maybe not so interested in religious art history. And if I can make one of those people to look beyond (or below) the chandeliers and notice the Gothic stained glass or Baroque angel, I like it!

The story is quite simple – and quite recent. In 2001, Gold Coast casino in Las Vegas was redecorating. At the same time, Zagreb Cathedral was struggling with their old lighting system. And here enters Stefan Sankić, Croatian immigrant working in the casino who managed to convince his bosses in Las Vegas to donate the chandeliers to the Cathedral. And voila, they came!

Of course, not everybody was pleased that these “sinful things” entered our Cathedral, but Monsignor Josip Klarić, in charge of the Cathedral renovations in 2002, disagreed. He told, in a statement to Croatian daily newspaper Večernji list:

“Objects are objects, they are neither sacred or sinful.”

And there you have it – people are sinful, objects are not. I don’t know about you, but I would love if these particular objects could become people, just for a day. I’m sure they would have some interesting stories to tell. It must have been shocking for them to change their “lives” completely: from poker, roulette and slot machines to Holy Mass, prayers and confessions. An object seeking redemption? Who knows…

This completes my second post on this blog. My idea is to put a new post every Friday (at least before I start with my longer tours in April, when it becomes more random…) so if you’re interested in more stories about Zagreb, Croatia and the Central/Southeastern Europe, make sure to follow my blog so that you don’t miss a short weekend read. It’s simple – just click Follow buttons in the upper parts of the page. You can receive email notifications or subscribe with your WordPress account. Next week, I’m making a stop in another region – Kvarner! It’s the carnival season there…

When in Zagreb, be sure to check the Cathedral. There’s more to it than the chandeliers.

A big thank you to my friend and colleague Stanka Šelendić for allowing me to use her beautiful photos in this post. Ask Stanka to be your local guide in Zagreb soon, before National Geographic asks her to be its official photographer.