JJ Strossmayer – Today’s Birthday Boy
The tongue-breaking name (even for the locals) of Josip Juraj Strossmayer has an immense meaning for Croatian culture, science and education. This progressive personality was born on February 4th 1815, precisely 200 years ago. He was a politician, a bishop, a man who spent a significant part of his income to build public libraries and schools and to galvanize the education. He is best known as the founder of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts.
It would be impossible to go through his entire biography. Instead, I’m just going to suggest a few picturesque spots to visit when you come to Zagreb, spots that carry the memory of this great benefactor.
Starting from… Strossmayer Square, of course. This square is decorated with a huge sculpture of J.J. Strossmayer by great sculptor Ivan Mestrovic. The sculpture stands just behind the impressive building of Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Inside the Academy building, you can visit the Gallery of Old Masters, art collection donated by Strossmayer himself.
He didn’t live in Zagreb, so during his visit for the ceremonial opening of the Academy back in 1884, he stayed in a beautiful house owned by baron Vraniczany, near the Academy building. That’s another great place to visit because it is now home of the Modern Gallery, museum that exhibits great pieces by Croatian modern artists. When he visited Zagreb on that occasion, he spent the evening in theater, and a glorious sight of hundreds people carrying torches escorted him back to the Vraniczany mansion after the opera.
There is another place in Zagreb that bears his name – Strossmayerovo setaliste – it’s a walkway in the Upper Town area with the most magnificent view of the entire city. During the summer, it becomes a popular meeting spot, jazzy concert venue and an artists’ colony called Strossmartre.
The bishop used to own a house in Jurjevska street known as Villa Lubiensky. Enjoy the long walk through this street and you will probably agree that it’s true what they say -Villa Lubienski is the most beautiful building in the entire street.
There are so many fun facts and even mysteries related to his life. You can hear some of them on one of Secret Zagreb tours called Zagrebarium.