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The word cathedral comes from the Latin cathedra (seat) and means the head-church of the diocese. The cathedral is the official “seat” of the bishop, or the church in which the bishop teaches, celebrates the liturgy, and consecrates and ordains priests.
Historically, there was a Cathedral of St. Peter, in Vrhbosna, in present-day Sarajevo, between Marijindvor and Koševo stream. The Cathedral of St. Peter was built by Bishop Ponsa (or Povša), who left Bosnia in 1247 and went to his estate in Đakovo due to the difficult and complex situation at that time; the situation was to become even more difficult and complex during the Ottoman occupation. Part of the altar dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle was discovered in 1940, and dates back to the 13th century: it is believed to have been part of the original altar of the Cathedral. This is now in the National Museum in Sarajevo, and a copy is incorporated in the pulpit of the present cathedral.
Austro-Hungarians come to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878.
Pope Leo XII in his apostolic letter “Ex hac augusta”, dated July 5, 1881, restores the regular Church hierarchy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Sarajevo becomes the archdiocesan seat.
The first Archbishop of Vrhbosna, Dr. Josip Stadler, is installed in Sarajevo on January 15, 1882.
Josip Vancaš was appointed in 1883 to design the cathedral in Sarajevo.
The idea was to build a church that could accommodate 1,200 people, with a simple configuration, using “bare stone”. Vancaš, who studied in Vienna, settled in Sarajevo in 1884.
The location of the cathedral was the subject of long debate. Some promising sites were ruled out because the ground was not properly drained; others were too expensive.
The city government, which had already acquired a property for a market between Ferhadija and Čemaluša Street, offered assistance, offering part of this plot, in a busy section in the middle of the city. The offer was accepted. The square was later named Church Square: today it is called fra Grgo Martić Square, after the priest and writer who served in Sarajevo in the middle of the 19th century.
The construction project was awarded to Baron Karl Schwarz, a Viennese contractor, with Josip Vancaš as the supervising architect.
The ground was broken on August 25, 1884, at a ceremony attended by Baron Ivan Appel, head of the Austro-Hungarian administration, and Archbishop Stadler, who announced that the cathedral would be dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Construction work was completed on November 9, 1887.
The perimeter of the cathedral is 41.9 meters long and 21.3 meters wide.
On the façade is an octagonal rosette consisting of two sequences of gothic elements.
The statue of the Sacred Heart is situated beneath the rosette in the upper part of the portal. The statue was a gift from the builder, Karl Schwarz, and is sculpted from “Margaretian” stone from Vienna.
The cathedral is in the neo-gothic style, and Vancaš appears to have drawn inspiration from the church of Notre Dame in Dijon (France).
The cathedral was consecrated on September 14, 1889.
The bell towers are 43.20 meters high.
Archbishop Janez Pogačar of Ljubljana promised to donate six bells to the cathedral, and after his death, his successor, Jakov Missia, fulfilled the promise. The bells were made in Ljubljana by the Vincence Samasse company. These bells disappeared during World War I, but were replicated by the same company and restored between the two World Wars.
The baptismal font is situated in the porch on the western bell tower side: the stairs to the choir and to the bells are on the eastern bell tower side. In the arch above the door that leads to the choir loft is a stone tablet commemorating the consecration of the cathedral on September 14, 1889.
In the sanctuary, where the main altar is situated and where the bishop or principal celebrant presides at the Eucharist, there are five stained-glass windows, 5.75 meters high and 1.33 meters wide, made to the design of Josip Vancaš by Tiroler Glasmalerei of Innsbruck.
The central stained-glass window depicts the crucified Jesus as the Roman centurion, known to tradition as Longinus, prepares to pierce His side. Beneath the cross, Mary Magdalene kneels on the right, and Mary the Mother of Jesus with hands joined and eyes fixed on Jesus is on the left; next to the Mother of Jesus is John the Evangelist.
The window to the west depicts a man wearing the 19th-century national dress of Catholics in Bosnia kneeling before a seated Jesus. To the left of Jesus is Mary His Mother, who points to her heart. To the right is an angel.
The western window depicts St. Margaret Mary Alacoque reading a book, with Jesus approaching her and pointing to His heart. The window east of the central window depicts the Last Supper, showing Jesus and three of the Apostles.
The eastern window depicts Jesus appearing to St. Juliana of Liège, conveying His wish for the veneration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The side stained-glass windows were made at the Vienna workshop of Tiroler Glasmalerei.
In each section of the wall there are two windows, 3.20 x 1.04 meters. In the simple design the upper part of each window contains a medallion.
The first western window depicts St. John the Baptist and the Prophet Elijah (donated by Catholics from Sarajevo).
The first eastern window depicts St. Francis of Assisi and St. George (donated by Catholics from Mostar).
The altars and the pulpit were designed by Josip Vancaš. The high altar is made from Grisignano mar- ble and divided into seven niches.
On the left of the main niche (as you face the altar) is a statue of St. Joseph and St. Francis of Assisi, and at the end the statue of an angel.
On the right is a statue of St. Michael and the Prophet Elijah and an angel.
Above the central aperture is a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The altar stone is of Santa- Croce marble and rests on four small columns of red Tyrolean marble. Money for the altar was largely donated by Catholics from Zagreb.
At the top of the western aisle is an altar dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, donated by Emperor Franz Joseph I.
At the top of the eastern aisle is an altar dedicated to the apostles to the Slavs, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, donated by the people of Bohemia.
The pulpit is situated in the western part of the main nave and is mounted on a richly decorated pedestal. The enclosure has five sides on each of which is a relief with bust. The central tablet depicts Jesus as teacher, and to the right and left are two of the Four Evangelists.
On the western bell tower wall is the grave- stone of Josip Stadler, the first Archbishop of Vrhbosna and the builder of the cathedral. The white marble tablet was carved by the sculptor Marin Studin. Archbishop Stadler’s grave, in front of the tablet, is visited by many Catholics, especially on the eighth day of each month, the day on which the archbishop died.
In around 1886, Alexander Maximilian Seitz (1811-1888) was commissioned to paint the frescoes. He made a short visit to Sarajevo to get a sense of the cathedral interior and after he returned to Rome he informed Archbishop Stadler that although he was not in good health he had begun work on a scheme for the frescoes. Essentially he followed the original designs from the cathedral in Đakovo in Croatia.
The designs were finished in 1887. Seitz suggested that the execution of the frescoes Ante Martinović (oil on canvas replica of the fresco by A. M. Seitz): Moses is receiving the Law should be entrusted to his son Lodovico (1844-1908). For reasons that are not clear Lodovico himself did not undertake the work, which was done by his assistant, Alberto de Rohden.
On the wall of the western bell tower the Coronation of Mary Queen of Heaven is depicted. The painting is divided into two parts. The upper part shows God the Father and God the Son seated, and Mary kneeling between them. In the upper part of the vault the Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove. The lower part shows a father, mother and child in national dress. To the left is St. Francis of Assisi and to the right is St. Dominic.
On the wall of the eastern bell tower is a depiction of the Resurrection.
Two large paintings in the sanctuary are copies of Seitz’ paintings in Đakovo.
In the vault of the western wall is a depiction of the Sermon on the Mount.
On the eastern wall is a depiction of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments.
In the eight circular indentations above the vaults of the nave there are oil paintings depicting in chiaroscuro the Doctors of the Church. The paintings were done on canvas by Lodovico Seitz in Rome. On the western side there are four western Church Fathers, and on the eastern side four eastern Church Fathers.
All of the wood-carving was done by Ivan Novotný and Mihalj Pregrad, following designs by Josip Vancaš.
The organ was manufactured by the Heferer Company of Zagreb. Exhibited in Budapest in 1886, it gained considerable renown and the money to acquire it for the cathedral in Sarajevo was collected by the wife of Baron Appel. Organ has mechanical tractions, two manuals, pedal, and 22 sound registers.
In the eastern aisle, close to the bell tower, are the graves of Archbishops Dr. Marko Alaupović (1885-1979), Dr. Franjo Smiljan Čekada (1902-1976) and Dr. Marko Jozinović (1920-1994).
The first renovation of the cathedral was undertaken for the fiftieth anniversary in 1932. The original interior decoration was abandoned and a completely new style was created.
The second renovation was undertaken between 1985 and 1989, when the roof was completely renovated, the building was re-wired and treated for anti-humidity, and floor heating was introduced. The walls were painted with simple colors.
The third renovation began on September 27, 2010 and was completed on October 15, 2011. The work was done by the “Color Paleta” company. The original interior decoration was restored, returning to the plan envisaged by Archbishop Stadler. For this renovation our heartfelt thanks go to Msgr. Heribert August, from Aachen, who is an honorary canon of the cathedral, and to the all the donors from Germany.
- Daily at 8 am and 6 pm.
- Sundays and feast days at 8, 9, 10.30 am and 6 pm.
- Mass in English on Sunday at 12 noon.
- Parish office: (033) 215-635
- Sacristy of the cathedral: (033) 210-281
- Rector of the cathedral: (033) 225-591, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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