Friday, January 10, 2014

ZAGREB, CROATIA: A FARMERS MARKET AND THE CHURCH OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

There is nothing like a good outdoor market in Europe. Similar markets here are like comparing a kitten to a tiger. Ours are cute and friendly, but they just don't pack the wallop that the outdoor markets in Europe do.

The Dolac market in Zagreb, while not quite as large as the one we'd visited a few days prior in Split, was still amazing.  The red umbrella theme not only protects against inclement weather, but adds a air of gaiety and brings everyone together under one "roof."

Merchandise ranges from handmade (and, face it, Chinese-made) goods:
. . . to cottage industry products such as honey and olive oil:


. . . to the traditional farmers market crops:
The produce is lumpy and irregular, normal-sized, and sometimes covered in the dirt it was grown in. This is SO not an American market! Where are the GMOs? The fancy scales? The over-sized, perfectly uniform, polished and pale fruits and veggies?


Have you ever seen wild strawberries at a farmers market? Nope, neither had I. The cost was 10 kuna, or about $1.80, for the plastic container on the right.
This woman, who had a nice table linen booth, spoke a little English and was anxious to chat. She pulled out a photo album and showed me pictures of all the gorgeous Croatian costumes she had made for her daughter, a folk dancer. She was also quick to point out which table cloths she herself had made, and which came mass-produced. I bought the one she is holding, which she said was her own work. 
Every market has its flower section, which probably explains why we saw flowers blooming everywhere. No need to drive to the Home Depot fifteen minutes away for a six-pack of marigolds.
In our wanderings in the area around the market, we came upon this rather nondescript looking Church of St. Francis of Assisi, not found in any of our guidebooks. It turned out to be the perfect pairing for the farmers market.
The bas relief over the door shows St. Francis receiving the stigmata:

Another depiction of the stigmata, perhaps comparing Christ's hand on top to Francis's on bottom?
 We always try the door of these little churches, hoping for a hidden gem. This one was unlocked, and we quickly realized we had hit the jackpot:

Near the main door is a grotto similar to the one we had seen in the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Dubrovnik. Mary, with her Croatian-style star halo, is illuminated in a cave-like structure:
One more step into the church, however, and our eyes were drawn from the cave to the heavens:
These azure skies with their gold stars are breathtaking. We've been to other churches with blue ceilings, most notably Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, but that ceiling is more of a dull turquoise, and the church is a vast cavern dimly lit to resemble night more than day. It's a requiem church. The small Church of St. Francis of Assisi explodes with life and alleluias, which is why it seems to fit in so well with the farmers market we had just visited.





The stained glass windows, created by Croatian artist Ivo Dulcic and installed between 1960 and 1964, capture nature in its many forms, appropriate in a church dedicated to the patron saint of animals and the environment:




The rose window, partially eclipsed here by the organ, is filled with fish:
The windows brought to mind the words of one of my favorite hymns that just happens to be written by St. Francis himself: "All Creatures of Our God and King."


The window on the left shows Francis receiving the stigmata, and the window on the right, apparently by a different artist than the rest, shows the baby Jesus being presented to the Fransciscans.
There are other, more traditional elements in the church, including many 19th century paintings, but it's the ceiling and the windows that set the church apart.

Of the more traditional elements, I was drawn to this particularly poignant depiction of St. Anne with a young Mary, the little girl who would grow up to become the mother of Jesus.  I call this "The Grandma and Mommy Statue."

In sobering contrast, an adult Mary appears outside, this time at the foot of the cross holding her crucified son:
This is a church that needs to be in the guidebooks.  If you're going to Zagreb, make time for this jewel.

READING
Ana Juric is a ten-year-old soccer-loving tomboy living in Zagreb in 1991. But when civil war breaks out, her life begins to disintegrate. As sniper fire and bombs become constant worries, her baby sister gets sick and her parents have to struggle with very hard decisions. Flash forward ten years to find Ana going to college in Manhattan, passing for an American, and trying to sort out who she really is. A trip back to Zagreb, now the capital of the independent country of Croatia, begins her journey of self-discovery. 

Most of the Western world is familiar with Sarajevo and the impact of the war on Bosnia, but Croatia was hit very hard as well. In Girl at War, Sara Novic gives a good look at the enormous costs of the Balkan War in less familiar places.


Coming Next: St. Mark's Church and St. Mark's Square



3 comments:

  1. That ceiling is stunning. The Mary/Grandma statue is sweet--it's not often we think of Mary as a little child.

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  2. I think the stained glass was my favorite of any stained glass anywhere and you are right that it ties in so well with Saint Francis.

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  3. That last church is definitely going on The List. It reminds me of the Sopra Minerva Basilica next to the Pantheon in Rome--that brilliant blue with gold stars has remained one of my favorites (hoping to see it again in Zagreb!). Beautiful!

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