The Cathedral of St. Nicholas, also known as Ljubljana Cathedral, is the most illustrious example of a Slovenian Baroque building. It looks unpretentious from the outside, but you must go in – it is absolutely magnificent!
Interesting historical facts about the cathedral:
- The site was originally occupied by a three-nave Romanesque basilica, built-in around the 13th century by jboatmen and fishermen in honor of their patron, Saint Nicholas. In the Middle Age, they were one of the strongest guilds in Ljubljana. This church burnt down in 1361.
- In 1461, the building was rebuilt in the Gothic style. In the same year, the Diocese of Ljubljana was established, and the church was given cathedral status. However, in 1469, the cathedral was burnt down, presumably by the Turks.
- The decision to build a new church was made in 1700. The project of the Baroque cathedral was created by the Italian architect and Jesuit brother Andrea Pozzo. The construction took place at the beginning of the 18th century. In 1706, the cathedral was ready for use. In 1707, it was ceremonially consecrated. Originally, a fake dome was painted on the arch above the center of the cross. The real dome was built only in 1841, after which the cathedral acquired a modern look.
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Ljubljana Cathedral Architecture
Ljubljana Cathedral, oriented towards the east, is recognizable by its green dome above the crossing at the eastern side, and twin towers at the western side. The dome has a height of 24 meters (78 feet). It is octagonal outside and cylindrical inside.
With six side chapels shaped in the form of the Latin cross, it was built between 1701 and 1706. To make the walls stronger and durable, the lime was mixed with wine. Lightweight stones, found at the foot of the Ljubljana castle, were used for the vaults.
The exterior of the cathedral is quite classic. The walls are painted in yellow alternating with the white pillars. Various saints stand in the niches around the exterior of the building, including St. Buenaventura, St. Joseph, and St. Thomas Aquinas.
The cathedral has two stunning bronze doors: the main (west) is known as the Slovenian Door, the second (south) – the Ljubljana Door.
The Ljubljana Door is a bronze sculptured door, created in 1996 by the Slovenian sculptor Mirsad Begić for the 1250th anniversary of Christianity in Slovenia and the visit of Pope John Paul II, on the southern façade of the cathedral. It represents the Ljubljana diocesan history in the 20th century. There is a spot on the door (bottom right) that is bright and shiny from everyone rubbing it for good luck.
The interior of the Cathedral of St. Nicholas is stunning in every way. It is a work of several artists who created and upgraded it over time – everything together looks like one story.
On the sidewalls of the presbytery, there are frescoes made between 1703–1706 and later 1721–1723 by the Italian Baroque painter Giulio Quaglio the Younger, which shows the miracles of St. Nicholas. The artist’s illusionistic ceiling frescoes in the main ship of the cathedral reveal the glorification of Saint Nicholas; they tell of the persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperors Nero and Diocletian.
The fresco paintings in the cupola were made in 1844 by the Slovenian painter Matevž Langus, who acquired the title of the last Slovenian baroque artist.
In 1859, the interior was completely renovated: the frescoes were cleaned, the walls were covered with marble, and the gilding was restored.
Since 2008, Ljubljana Cathedral has been insured as a cultural monument of national importance in Slovenia. With its classic twin towers and green octagonal dome, the city’s cathedral encapsulates everything that is Ljubljana.
Address: Dolničarjeva ulica 1, 1000 Ljubljana
Official website: The Cathedral of St. Nicholas of Ljubljana