A contribution by Karmen Fio Firi*

*University of Zagreb, Faculty of Science, Department of Geology. Member of the Croatian Geological Society and coordinator of the ENGIE project for the Croatian Geological Society as LTP; [email protected]

After reading the article about the decorativity of natural building stones from Croatia in the previous number of the ENGIE Magazine, you must be interested in some more information about these beautiful stone types. So, we will take you to Zagreb, Croatia…

Croatia is a small country on the crossroad between Central and Southern Europe with a long coast along the Adriatic Sea, and 1246 islands. Due to its geological history, Croatia is rich in sedimentary rocks. Natural stones are therefore commonly used in architecture and represent valuable Croatian geoheritage and urban geoheritage which can be well seen in the Croatian capital, the City of Zagreb (Fio Firi and Maričić, 2020).

The City of Zagreb has a rich and interesting history. It covers an area of about 650 km2 and has more than 800,000 of citizens. Most of the buildings in the center of Zagreb date from the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century.

Several years ago, an idea about a story on the historical importance of different buildings and monuments, together with an explanation of different natural stones used in their construction, especially those of domestic origin, their age and origin, texture and structure, brought to a Geological walk through City of Zagreb, and the making of the web page (in Croatian): http://geoloskasetnjazagreb.com/ (Fig. 1). Details about the usage of the natural stones and geotouristic aspects can be found in a recently published paper in Geoheritage magazine (Fio Firi and Maričić, 2020).

Fig. 1. Web page http://geoloskasetnjazagreb.com/ (accessed 18th March 2021)

So, let’s take a short “walk” and visit five interesting places in Zagreb city (marked in Fig. 1) where we can see some domestic natural stone types…

If we start our walk at the Croatian Association of Artists building or Home of Croatian Artists, commonly called mosque (Džamija in Croatian) we are standing in front of a big circular shaped building designed by Ivan Meštrović, and therefore commonly called Meštrović pavilion (Fig. 2A). It was built from 1933 to 1938, with the change of its purpose several times throughout history. The pavilion is made of white Upper Cretaceous limestones with rudist bivalves (Veselje unito, Fig. 2B), exploited on the island of Brač.

Fig. 2. A. Meštrović pavilion built out of white coloured Veselje unito limestones, and B. detail of the stone with visible rudist section.

Our next stop is in front of the Zagreb Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary and Kings Saint Stephen and Saint Ladislaus (Fig. 3A). This is the largest sacral building and one of the most valuable monuments of cultural heritage in Croatia. The Cathedral was, after the 1880 earthquake, restored in Neo-Gothic style, and mainly built from the Badenian (Miocene) Lithothamnium limestone (Fig. 3B) and its varieties. Lithothamnium limestone is the most used natural stone in Zagreb city since it was exploited nearby, in the Medvednica Mt. Due to recent problems, damaged stone parts are replaced with firmer and more resistant travertine imported from Italy.

Fig. 3. A. The Zagreb Cathedral, before the 2020 earthquake, and B. detail of the Lithothamnium limestone with visible bivalve shell.

Our third stop is the department store next to the main square. The store used to be Austrian Kastner and Öhler shop which in 1945 became the largest retail chain “Narodni Magazin” (NAMA) (Fig. 4A). The building includes many different varieties of Croatian natural stones, already mentioned Lithothamnium limestone, but here you can also see foraminifera limestones called Istranka (Fig. 4B), of Paleogene age (from Istria peninsula), dark-coloured Cretaceous rudist limestone rich in organic matter named Rasotica (Fig. 4C) from the island of Brač, and stylolitic limestones – Kirmenjak (Fig. 4D), of Jurassic age, which is the highest-quality stone in Croatia.

Fig. 4. A. The NAMA department store built mostly out of Lithothamnium limestones, with occurrence of B. Istranka limestones, C. Rasotica limestones, and D. Kirmenjak limestones.

The fourth stop is in front of the Croatian National Theatre (Fig. 5A) built in 1895. It is a yellow-coloured building with lower parts covered with Badenian Lithothamnium limestone and its variety named Litavac (Fig. 5B). At the main entrance, stairs are paved with rudist limestone of Cretaceous age, with visible sections of extinct rudist bivalves (Fig. 5B).

Fig. 5. A. The Croatian National Theatre with B. Lithothamnium limestone, Litavac and rudist limestones in its lower parts.

We can finish our short Geological walk next to the Lotrščak Tower (Fig. 6A) and Old City walls of historical Gradec city which dates from the thirteenth century. This tower was part of the Old City’s defense system, and the Tower is a home of a famous Grič cannon which marks noon daily. It is active daily since 1877 and did not work only for a short time after the 2020 earthquake which hit the Zagreb area. The Tower is built out of irregularly shaped stones from the Medvednica Mt. area, with various fragments of limestones, sandstones, quartzites, and green schists of different ages (Fig. 6B).

Fig. 6. A. The Lotrščak Tower with B. irregularly shaped stones of different origins and ages.

If you visit the City of Zagreb and you are interested in the Geological walk you can ask for a flyer (in English) or contact us by e-mail: [email protected]


Fio Firi, K., Maričić, A., 2020. Usage of the Natural Stones in the City of Zagreb (Croatia) and Its Geotouristical Aspect. Geoheritage, 12:62, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12371-020-00488-x

This article has been published in the June 2021 edition of the ENGIE Magazine.