RIHA Journal 0266 | 10 July 2021

The Habsburgs and Public Monuments in 19th-Century Croatia

Dragan Damjanović

This paper focuses on the analysis of the ways in which the cult of the Habsburg dynasty was promoted through public monuments in Croatia in the so-called Long 19th Century, from the end of the 18th to the early 20th century. Public sculpture in Croatia at this time was under a strong dominance of the national discourse – it mostly commemorated heroes of the Croatian cultural and sometimes also political history. Compared to the monuments to national heroes, the public monuments dedicated to members of the Habsburg family were smaller in number, and most often more modest in design and size. They can be divided into two basic groups – monuments commemorating events (Ereignisdenkmäler) from Croatian history connected with the Habsburgs, and monuments dedicated directly to individual members of the Habsburg family. The latter type of monuments is defined in this article in terms of what they commemorate and is divided into three groups: 1) monuments commemorating the role of the Habsburg emperors in the implementation of infrastructure projects, 2) monuments commemorating important anniversaries in the lives of individual members of the ruling house, and 3) monuments commemorating visits of Habsburgs to Croatia.


[1] This paper analyses the way in which the cult of the Habsburg dynasty was promoted through public monuments in Croatia in what is called the Long 19th Century, i.e. from the end of the 18th to the early 20th century. Compared with other, economically more developed parts of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, public monuments erected during this period in those provinces of the Monarchy with a predominantly Croat population were fewer in number, mostly modest in size, and simple in terms of architectural or sculptural design. This was primarily due to the economic situation of the Croatian lands, namely the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia (officially called the Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia, although the territory of Dalmatia was not part of it) and the Military Frontier1, which are the focus of this text, and the Kingdom of Dalmatia.2 Furthermore, the urban areas where monuments were most often built or mounted were not comparable in terms of size with the urban centres of the western or, to some extent, the eastern part of the Monarchy; this certainly made it impossible to raise the large sums of money needed to erect more lavish monuments.

[2] Public sculptures were predominantly used to honour important personalities of Croatian national culture and politics, primarily contemporary and historical writers (Andrija Kačić Miošić, Petar Preradović, Ljudevit Gaj, Ivan Gundulić, Nikola/Niccolò Tommaseo). These were followed in number by sculptures dedicated to national heroes – famous military figures from Croatian history who were involved in wars against the Ottomans (Nikola Zrinski, Luka Ibrišimović) and in the 1848–1849 revolution (Ban Josip Jelačić). As in other European countries, these monuments put a national stamp on the spaces and places where they were built, that is, they created a special landscape of nationalism,3 which in the multi-ethnic Habsburg Monarchy was given special importance because of conflicts between numerous different national ideologies.

[3] Monuments erected to honour members of the ruling Habsburg dynasty also found a place in both urban and rural areas of what was then Croatia. Compared to the monuments to Croatian national heroes, however, they were fewer in number and, most often, more modest in design and size. They were also not as numerous, large or lavish as similar monuments in other parts of the Monarchy. Nevertheless, they offer interesting examples of the way the Habsburg Dynasty was commemorated.

[4] Rather than providing a detailed list of all the monuments in Croatia from the given period that are dedicated to the Habsburgs, this paper aims to outline the way in which the cult of the Habsburgs manifested itself in public monuments. It first deals with monuments that memorialised events (Ereignisdenkmäler) from Croatian history connected to Habsburgs thereby helping with the creation of a dynastic cult, and then with monuments directly dedicated to individual members of the Habsburg family. Monuments of the latter type are defined in terms of what they commemorate and can be divided into three groups: 1) monuments commemorating the role played by the Habsburg emperors4 in the implementation of infrastructure projects, 2) monuments commemorating important anniversaries in the lives of individual members of the ruling house, and 3) monuments commemorating Habsburg visits to Croatia.

The cult of the Habsburgs in 19th-century Croatia

[5] Before undertaking a deeper analysis of public monuments, a brief look should be taken at the ways in which the cult of the Habsburg dynasty manifested itself in Croatia in the nineteenth century. The dynastic cult undeniably existed and public institutions (above all the military and central authorities, though often local authorities as well) arguably helped to strengthen it further. This cult was promoted institutionally with different degrees of intensity throughout the nineteenth century. It is noticeable that it was more strongly encouraged by the authorities during the periods of centralized rule in the first half of the nineteenth century and the mid-century, and to a lesser extent after the decentralization that followed the 1867 Austro-Hungarian Compromise. The weakening of direct institutional support after 1867 did not mean, however, that the cult of the ruling house in Croatia was also weakened. An analysis of Croatian daily newspapers from the late 19th and the early 20th centuries shows that the press closely followed the life and work of members of the Habsburg family, not only of Franz Joseph I and his immediate family, but also of numerous archdukes and archduchesses. Important anniversaries or events in the sovereign’s family were not only covered in long articles, occasionally in special issues of daily newspapers, but were sometimes also depicted in printed illustrations, which were otherwise rare in newspapers of this period. Their political agency and way of life were never criticized or ridiculed through caricatures or texts in satirical newspapers. All the travels and stays of the Habsburgs in Croatia were extensively reported, with particular attention being paid to Archduke Leopold Salvator, a member of the House of Habsburg who lived for a while in Zagreb (1894–1900), his son Rainer Salvator, who was born in Zagreb,5 and Archduke Joseph and his wife Archduchess Clotilda, who renovated the castle in Crikvenica in the Croatian Littoral and turned it into their residence.6

[6] The cult of the dynasty manifested itself in many different ways. Particularly widespread was the naming of villages, streets, squares, buildings, institutions, and companies after members of the ruling house. The villages were named after the emperor who was in power when they were founded.7 Squares and streets were most often named after rulers to mark major anniversaries. Of all public institutions, the most important one named after the ruler was the University of Zagreb, which was given the name University of Franz Joseph I at its inauguration in 1874. Given the position of the military as a common Austro-Hungarian institution, it is understandable that barracks were often named after the Habsburgs. The largest military complex in Zagreb was named Rudolf Barracks, and the one in Osijek was called Franz Joseph I Artillery Barracks.

[7] The Catholic Church also supported the cult by consecrating churches and chapels to mark the jubilees of the emperor and his family. On the one hand, this was a demonstration of loyalty to the dynasty, on the other hand, it was doubtless also an attempt to draw the rulers’ attention to new building projects and possibly obtain funding for them. This strategy was employed both in smaller parishes and large cities. On the occasion of Prince Rudolf’s birth (1858), the chapel of the Holy Spirit was built in the village of Cirkvena near Bjelovar.8 In Zagreb, the largest restoration project in the history of 19th-century Croatian architecture, the restoration of the Cathedral, commenced symbolically in 1880 with the dedication of the foundation stone on the emperor’s 50th birthday,9 and was symbolically ended (although the works were not yet complete) with the dedication of the crosses on the bell towers on the same date in 1898, the year that saw the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the emperor’s reign.10

[8] The most common way of promoting the cult of rulers was arguably to place memorial plaques (or memorial inscriptions) on or inside public buildings and churches that were erected, renovated or modified during the nineteenth century. The plaques bore the name of the sovereign in power at the time of the architectural works.

[9] In the field of visual arts, the cult of the Habsburg dynasty in 19th-century Croatia manifested itself primarily through official portraits of members of the dynasty hanging on the walls of public institutions and private palaces. Almost every noble family, Catholic and Orthodox bishop’s palace, monastery, as well as all major public institutions had its own gallery of portraits of the most important rulers of the Habsburg dynasty, generally those from the late 17th to the early 20th century.11 Additionally, anniversaries and important events related to the ruling house were marked by the creation of various memorial plaques and plaquettes, medals, photo albums, memorial books and the like.12

[10] An analysis of visual material, mainly paintings, shows that there were certain limitations to the cult of the dynasty or, after the 1867 Compromise, to the cult of Franz Joseph I. Croatian historical painting of the period, for example, deals predominantly with episodes from early medieval Croatian history (when Croatia was an independent state) and from the wars against the Ottomans, whereas themes relating to the period of the joint history of Croats and the House of Habsburg are rare. The few exceptions in painting include: The Crossing of the Sava at Brod by Ferdinand Quiquerez (1879), which depicts the entry of the Austro-Hungarian army into Bosnia, the famous composition by Vlaho Bukovac called Long Live the Emperor (1896), made to commemorate Franz Joseph I’s visit to Zagreb in 1895 and intended to decorate the Golden Hall of the Croatian Government’s Religion and Education Department at 10 Opatička Street in Zagreb, and the painting by Oton Iveković titled Vivat Habsburg (1909), which depicts the Croatian Parliament’s decision to choose the Habsburgs as kings of Croatia.13

[11] The limitations to the post-Compromise cult of rulers can be illustrated by an anecdote recounted by Iso Kršnjavi in his memoirs about Armin Pavić, who served as head of the Religion and Education Department of the Croatian Government between 1898 and 1904. According to this anecdote, Pavić had the painting Long Live the Emperor removed from the Golden Hall and transferred to the depot of the Zagreb Archaeological Museum.14 Although it seems most likely that the removal of this painting was aimed primarily at suppressing the legacy of Károly Khuen-Héderváry’s regime (Ban of the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, 1883–1903), at the same time it attests to the way the Croatian government of the time dealt with the cult of Franz Joseph. Highlighting links between Croatia and the emperor or between Croatia and Vienna was not regarded as entirely desirable. Politically it seemed far more appropriate to highlight episodes from the common Croatian-Hungarian history, such as those depicted in the historical paintings that hung in the Golden Hall mentioned above.15

Ereignisdenkmäler (memorials to events) and the cult of the Habsburgs

[12] Despite the financial and political limitations referred to above, monuments and memorials to the Habsburgs were erected in Croatia throughout the nineteenth century. In this section I will discuss a group of monuments that, although not directly dedicated to the Habsburgs and not showing members of the ruling house or even explicitly mentioning them in inscriptions, can still be interpreted in the context of (the creation of) the cult of the Habsburg dynasty. For the most part these were memorials to various events (Ereignisdenkmäler), but also to certain Croatian historical figures.

[13] An early example is the monument to Ban Josip Jelačić in Zagreb, which was the only equestrian monument erected in Croatia in the nineteenth century. The work of the German-Austrian sculptor Anton Dominik Fernkorn, it was raised in 1866 on the central square of the Croatian capital.16 It commemorates his role in the 1848–1849 revolution and civil war, and its installation was connected primarily to the national discourse that promoted Jelačić as a person who unified the Croatian countries, a hero and a fighter for national independence.17 At the time the monument was built, this discourse also provided a clear political message, especially if interpreted in the light of the debates on Croatia’s position in the future organization of the Habsburg Monarchy. At the same time, the monument was to some extent a reflection of anti-Hungarian sentiment, given the role that Jelačić had played in suppressing the Hungarian revolution. In the following decades, it continued to serve as an expression of anti-Hungarian feeling,18 as the anti-Hungarian protests of 1903 clearly showed, when demonstrators used the memorial services for Ban, held annually on 20 May, to openly declare their dissatisfaction with Khuen-Héderváry’s regime and with Hungary’s political domination of Croatia.19

[14] Considering the role Jelačić played in suppressing the 1848–1849 revolution in Vienna and consequently in saving the dynasty, his statue, in addition to all the aforementioned roles, served as an expression of loyalty to the Habsburgs. This was explicitly stated in the dedication speeches of the local politicians on the occasion of the inauguration of the monument. Clear evidence of this is also offered by the speech of bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer (1815–1905), one of the leading figures in Croatian political life of the time.20

[15] Monuments dedicated not to a specific dynastic ruler but more to the role that the Habsburgs played in Croatian history also include those erected at the turn of the 20th century at Slankamen and Petrovaradin in Syrmia, which at that time formed the eastern edge of Croatia.21 They both commemorated the victories of the Habsburgs over the Ottoman army in the wars waged in the 17th and 18th centuries. That such monuments also represented a gesture of loyalty to the Monarchy and the emperor is particularly clear in the case of the memorial erected on a hill above Slankamen, not far from the banks of the Danube (Fig. 1).

1 Hektor von Eckhel, Monument to the Habsburg Victory over the Ottomans in 1691, near Novi Slankamen, built in 1892 (photograph © Dragan Damjanović)

This monument commemorated the battle of 1691, which brought a crucial victory over the Ottomans in the struggle for Hungary and Slavonia. It was built according to designs by architect Hektor von Eckhel, a professor at the Zagreb School of Crafts for many years.22 The birthday of Franz Joseph I on August 18 was chosen as the day of the inauguration of the monument in 1892, and the inscriptions on the monument together with the dedication speeches highlighted the role of the imperial army in the battle.23

[16] Ten years later, a memorial was built in honour of the Battle of Petrovaradin (1716), in which the most famous Austrian military commander, field marshal Eugene of Savoy defeated the Ottomans and thereby secured Habsburg rule in the areas north of the Sava and Danube (Fig. 2).

2 Herman(n) Bollé (1845–1926), Prinz Eugen-Kreuz – Monument to the Habsburg Victory over the Ottomans in 1716, near Petrovaradin (Vezirac Hill), built in 1902 (photograph © Dragan Damjanović)

The dedication speech made it clear that the monument commemorated Prince Eugene as an imperial leader and, more generally, Christianity’s victory over barbarism.24 The memorial has the shape of a cross above a crescent moon (the latter was later partially hammered off), which is why it is called Prince Eugene Cross. It belongs to a small group of monuments that commemorate this military commander (along with far larger and more famous monuments in Vienna and Budapest).25 This memorial, like the one at Slankamen, was instigated by the army, an institution that represented the main stronghold of the ruler in the largely divided Monarchy.

[17] The fact that these two monuments commemorated military victories over the Ottomans, and not any particular member of the House of Habsburg, along with the fact that Croats and Serbs, fighting on the Austrian side, played an important role in the wars against the Ottomans, explains why they were not removed in the course of the 20th century, unlike most of the other monuments discussed in this text.

[18] Finally, the memorial to the 78th Šokčević Homeland Regiment, erected in Osijek in 1898, can also be considered a monument that emphasizes loyalty to the dynasty (Fig. 3).26 It was created by Zagreb-based sculptor Robert Frangeš Mihanović (1872–1940) and it is one of the best public monuments built in Croatia in the nineteenth century. Whereas the monuments at Slankamen and Petrovaradin have neither reliefs nor full sculptures, the memorial in Osijek is dominated by the figure of a warrior dressed in the uniform of said regiment, which fought on the battlefields of Bohemia in the Austro-Prussian War in 1866.

3 Robert Frangeš Mihanović, Monument to the Heroes of the 78th Home Guard Osijek Regiment, so-called Šokčević’s Monument, Osijek, 1897–1898, postcard, early 20th century. Museum of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade, Radoslav Grujić Estate (photo © Museum of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade)

The dedication of the monument made it clear that it was erected in honour of these warriors and of thousands of Slavonians who had lost their lives fighting for the emperor and their homeland. That is why the central motif is a wounded soldier who, as the text published on the occasion of the monument’s dedication points out, yells "Vorwärts, vorwärts, für Kaiser und Vaterland!".27 It was precisely because it symbolized loyalty to Vienna – as can be seen in the early 20th-century postcard of the monument reproduced here – that it was later removed from the public domain. After the collapse of Communism, it was re-erected on the former glacis of Tvrđa, the citadel of Osijek.

Infrastructure projects and memorials to the Habsburgs

[19] Among the monuments directly dedicated to members of the Habsburg family, the oldest group includes those that commemorate the role played by Habsburg rulers in the realisation of infrastructure projects in Croatia. They were erected at the end of the eighteenth or in the first half of the nineteenth century. These dates reflect the fact that at that time the central authorities in Vienna still played an important role in the realization of such projects in all parts of the Monarchy, including Croatia, which was not the case, or at least not to the same extent, after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise (1867) and the Croatian-Hungarian Settlement (1868), when the Monarchy underwent a sort of confederalisation.

[20] Among this group, the monument to Maria Theresia and Joseph II in Osijek stands out. It was built next to the Kronenwerk of the fortress in Osijek in 1779,28 at the very start of the period dealt with in this paper, to mark the completion of the road linking the city of Osijek with the village of Belje in Baranja (Figs. 4-5).

4 Outline and elevations, dated 1888, of the monument to Maria Theresia and Joseph II erected in Osijek in 1779. Museum of Slavonia, Osijek, Collection of Architectural Designs (photo © Museum of Slavonia, Osijek)

5 Monument to Maria Theresia and Joseph II, erected in Osijek in 1779, postcard. State Archives in Osijek, collection of postcards (photo © State Archives in Osijek)

As this road, which was built between 1772 and 1776 thanks to the efforts of the Hungarian Court Chancelleryand under the supervision of Kristóf Niczky, crossed marshland, it ran on an embankment. This made its construction extremely expensive,29 it cost an astonishing 194,000 Gulden.30

[21] Numerous military and cadastral maps from the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century identify the position of the monument. However, one cannot tell from them when it was destroyed. The 1942 Hungarian military map still records it along the walls of the Kronenwerk, but we cannot rule out that it may have been removed, at least in part, in the period between the two World Wars. Not a single part of it appears to have survived.

[22] It has not proven possible to discover who designed the monument. Nevertheless, on the basis of numerous descriptive texts published in German, Hungarian and Latin in the first half of the nineteenth century, postcards and photographs made at the turn of twentieth century, as well as the plan preserved at the Museum of Slavonia in Osijek, it is possible to reconstruct the monument’s appearance.31 It was built on a rectangular plan and took the form of a stele topped by the iron crown of St Stephen. Its central section contained a large dedicatory inscription in Latin, and a relief with the portraits of Maria Theresia and Joseph II. The monument was neoclassical in design, and it can be included among the earliest manifestations of this style in the art of Croatia.

[23] Other memorials built on Croatian territory in the late eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century and dedicated to members of the Habsburg dynasty are far more modest. They are not typical monuments, but memorials related to utilitarian structures. Most of them were made in connection with the building and reconstruction of the Josephine road that linked Senj with Karlovac in the mountainous part of Croatia. It was hugely important for the economy of Croatia and the entire Habsburg Monarchy, as it made it possible to transport goods from the continental part of Croatia and the eastern area of the Monarchy to the port of Senj, the only major port in the then territory of the Military Frontier. The fact that the Frontier was under the direct control of Vienna explains why memorials were built here – they were intended to emphasize the role of the emperors in improving the economy of the region.

[24] Originally built between 1765 and 1779, the Josephine road was named after Emperor Joseph II, but it was thoroughly restored during the reigns of Franz I and Ferdinand I, between 1833 and 1845, which is why most of the memorials placed along it were dedicated to these two rulers. Memorial inscriptions and plaques were placed on all the major structures built along the road, such as bridges, milestones, wells, fountains, etc. Among the more important inscriptions are the ones on the obelisk on Rožić Well (1834) dedicated to Franz I, and the inscriptions on the Tounj bridge (1836), Emperor’s Well (1837) and Božidar Well (1847) dedicated to Ferdinand I.32 The Emperor’s Well memorial fountain, erected in 1837 on the Vratnik Pass above Senj, next to the Chapel of St. Michael, is an especially interesting example, whose inscriptions in Croatian, German and Latin emphasize the role of Ferdinand I in completing the project. It was created by Josip Kajetan Knežić, the engineer who rebuilt the road and who also designed the other memorials (Fig. 6).33

6 Josip Kajetan Knežić, Emperor’s Well near Senj, dedicated to Ferdinand I, 1837 (photograph © Dragan Damjanović)

[25] Most of these 'monuments' are very simple in design – they usually take the form of obelisks or stone stelae, very occasionally with a relief, but most commonly only with inscriptions. Most of them are made of stone and, given the time they were built, it is not surprising that they are neoclassical in design. Their simplicity is, on the one hand, a product of the predominant aesthetic tendency at the time they were erected – in the first half of the 19th century – and, on the other hand, of their mainly utilitarian role. Due to their uncontroversial form, these monuments survived the politically tumultuous twentieth century far better than memorials from the second half of the nineteenth century.

[26] In the second half of the nineteenth century, only a small number of the monuments dedicated to the Habsburgs in the territory of the Triune Kingdom belonged to this group. This can be considered as a consequence of the decentralization of the Monarchy referred to earlier and of the weakened influence of the Viennese central authorities (with the exception of the military) in the Hungarian part of the Monarchy, including Croatia. However, monuments of this type continued to appear in those provinces inhabited by Croats which, after 1867, formed part of the Austrian half of the Monarchy, and where Vienna still exerted a strong influence on economic development and infrastructure projects. This can be demonstrated by the monument to Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg, which was built in 1876 in Pula, in the Austrian Littoral province, to commemorate the role he played in the construction of the Austrian Navy’s facilities in this Istrian port. Probably the most imposing among this group of monuments, it was erected according to the designs of the famous Viennese architect Heinrich von Ferstel (1828–1883) and displayed a medallion with a portrait of the archduke by sculptor Franz Schönthaler (1821–1904). After the dissolution of the Monarchy, it was brought to Venice in 1919 as a spoil of war.34

Memorials marking jubilees and anniversaries

[27] Unlike the monuments related to infrastructure projects, those memorials in Croatia that marked anniversaries of members of the ruling House of Habsburg or their visits to Croatia were erected almost exclusively in the second half of the nineteenth and at the beginning of the twentieth century. The raising of public monuments to memorialise important events in the lives of Habsburg family members, most notably the emperors, empresses and crown princes, was first and foremost an expression of bond with and loyalty to the dynasty. That explains why they could be found throughout the Monarchy. In Croatia, most of such memorials were erected in connection with the anniversaries of Franz Joseph I, namely, the silver wedding anniversary (1879), the fiftieth (1898) and the sixtieth anniversary (1908) of his reign, his 70th (1900), 75th (1905), 80th (1910) and 85th (1915) birthday, World War I and his death in 1916.

[28] Given their great number, only the most characteristic memorials of this type are mentioned below: The 25th anniversary of the marriage of Franz Joseph I and Elisabeth, i. e. their silver wedding,35 inspired the Brod Property Management Authority (Broder Vermögensgemeinde) to build a monument in 1879 in Carski gaj (Emperor’s Grove), east of Vinkovci, a small town in the then Military Frontier (Fig. 7).

7 Monument to the Silver Wedding Anniversary of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Elisabeth, Vinkovci, 1879, undated postcard. City Museum, Vinkovci, Collection of Postcards, Old Photos and Drawings P3125 (photo © City Museum, Vinkovci)

It seems that the original site of the monument was chosen to mark the border between the Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia and the Military Frontier, and to stress the fact that both of these provinces were loyal to the emperor. The monument was later moved closer to the centre of Vinkovci, to a park called Lenije.36 It was a truncated obelisk in shape. As this paper shows, many monuments erected in Croatia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries took the form of an obelisk, which probably reflects the practice in the central regions of Austria-Hungary, in which numerous monuments of this kind were erected (e.g., so-called Austrian Monument in Kulm [1825], Adalbert Stifter Monument above Lake Plöckenstein/Plešné [1876/77], the Emperor’s Obelisk on the Stilfserjoch/Stelvio Pass between South Tyrol and Lombardy [1888], Liebenberg Monument [1887–1890] and Hesser Monument [1909] in Vienna, etc.). The coat of arms of the Triune Kingdom stood on top of the Vinkovci obelisk, and above it the Hungarian crown. Today the coat of arms (but without the Hungarian crown) is the only surviving remnant of the monument (together with some pieces of stone standing on the site of the monument), while the rest was destroyed in 1918.37

[29] The 50th anniversary of Franz Joseph I’s reign and his 70th birthday were solemnly celebrated in 1898 and 1900 throughout Croatia, but without erecting many monuments to the emperor. Mention should be made, though, of a monument to mark his 70th birthday erected in Zemun, which was the easternmost city in Croatia (today in Serbia) at the time. It seems that initially this monument was to be entrusted to the famous Viennese sculptor Caspar von Zumbusch, who envisioned a Carrara marble pyramid with two bronze busts, one of Franz Joseph and one of his consort Elisabeth, at the top.38 It is not clear what led to this design being abandoned. However, it is certain that Croatian sculptor Ivan Rendić (1849–1932) was ultimately chosen to execute the monument. Rendić, who at the time was living and working in Trieste, had already worked on 'dynastic' monuments, for example, one to mark the 500th anniversary of the annexation of Trieste by the Habsburg Monarchy.39 Additionally, he was the only Croatian sculptor at that time who had had the opportunity to personally portray the sovereign on the 50th anniversary of his reign; the creation of the emperor’s portrait was related to the erection of the monument to Franz Joseph on the island of Vis in Dalmatia.40 Rendić used the same model for the Zemun monument and for the bust commissioned by the Archbishop of Split, Josip Alačević. The Zemun monument, dedicated in 1901, consisted of a marble bust standing on a high, richly decorated plinth, and showing the emperor in a general’s uniform.41 It was destroyed after the First World War, but the mould of the model has been preserved in the Glyptotheque (sculpture collection) of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb (Fig. 8).42

8 Ivan Rendić, Emperor Franz Joseph I, 1898. Glyptotheque (sculpture collection) of the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences, Zagreb (photograph © Dragan Damjanović)

[30] The commemoration of the emperor’s 75th birthday (1905) or the 60th anniversary of his reign (1908) was probably related to an unrealized project for a Franz Joseph monument in Zagreb. The original intention was to erect the monument on Franz Joseph Square, which was given this name in 1895, on the occasion of a visit by the emperor. Built in the new part of the city, the Lower Town, this square was flanked on the south by the new building of the Main Railway Station, and on the north by the Art Pavilion. After years of planning the layout of the square, the city government finally launched an architectural design competition in 1905. The competition was won by the Zagreb architect Viktor Kovačić (1874–1924), a student of Otto Wagner, who, in addition to the proposed urban development of the square and the construction of a flight of steps on the square, also envisaged a monument to the emperor, to be erected on the south side, facing the Main Railway Station. While the sketches for the monument have been preserved (Fig. 9), a description has not survived, so its iconographic program is unknown.

9 Viktor Kovačić, (unexecuted) design for Franz Joseph I Square in Zagreb with a monument dedicated to the emperor, 1904–1905. Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, Zagreb, Collection of Architectural Designs (photo © Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia)

All that is clear is that Kovačić envisioned a sculpture of the emperor seated on a pedestal throne in the centre of the composition. This solution was most likely inspired by Wagner’s design for a monument to the emperor in Vienna, also dating from 1905.43 Lack of funds not only made it impossible to realize the monument, but prevented Kovačić’s design for the square from being fully realised. The position where the architect planned to build the monument to Franz Joseph I was later occupied by the monument to the first Croatian king Tomislav (a work of sculptor Robert Frangeš Mihanović), after whom the entire square was renamed.

[31] Shortage of resources further exacerbated by the war limited the commemoration of the emperor’s 85th birthday in 1915, and, subsequently, of his death to just a small number of larger monuments. The monument in Novi Vinodolski, a work of sculptor Rudolf Valdec from 1916, stood out in terms of quality (Fig. 10).44

10 Rudolf Valdec, Monument to Franz Joseph I in Novi Vinodolski, 1916–1918. Fine Arts Archives of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ARLIKUM HAZU), Zagreb, Fototeka F372-22 (photo © ARLIKUM HAZU, Zagreb)

Officers recovering from war injuries and receiving treatment in Novi Vinodolski (a health resort on the shores of the Adriatic) had initiated the making of a relief to be unveiled in August 1916 on the occasion of the emperor’s birthday.45 However, the death of the emperor a short time later (21 November 1916) probably led to the decision to set a larger monument (once again in the form of an obelisk), not just a relief. At that time, monuments were also erected in Osijek,46 Otočac47 and a number of other places in Croatia.

[32] Unlike those dedicated to Franz Joseph I, monuments commemorating events related to other members of the imperial family were far less frequent. E.g., the cult of Empress Elisabeth, the sovereign’s spouse, did not take root in Croatia, which can possibly be explained by the fact she was widely celebrated in Hungary for her pro-Hungarian politics.48 Public buildings as well as private residences displayed busts or portraits of the Empress, but unlike the situation in the rest of Austria-Hungary, where numerous monuments to her were erected following her death in 1898, only a few modest memorials were built in Croatia.

[33] The most important Elisabeth monument was erected by the local commercial cooperative of the town of Varaždin in the municipal park, near the building of the Croatian National Theatre (Fig. 11).

11 Ivan Rendić, Monument to Empress Elisabeth, Varaždin, 1898–1900 (photograph © Dragan Damjanović)

Its design was entrusted to Rendić, who made the first sketches for it in 1898 and completed it in 1899–1900.49 After the dissolution of the Monarchy, the monument was damaged and removed, but not destroyed. It was first moved to the Varaždin theatre and then to the City Museum, and was later re-erected in the courtyard of the Varaždin County building, where it stands today. In addition to the memorial in Donji Miholjac, which will be discussed below, the Varaždin memorial represents a rare example of a monument to the Habsburgs in Croatia that underwent restoration (although in this case the monument was not reinstalled in its original location).50

[34] Memorials marking events related to other Habsburgs were even more rare and more modest in design, as can be shown by the example of the memorial plaque at the church in Vinica, not far from Varaždin, erected to commemorate Prince Rudolf’s engagement to the Belgian Princess Stephanie.51

Memorials to imperial visits

[35] The third group of monuments erected in Croatia that were directly dedicated to members of the Habsburg dynasty consists of monuments memorializing visits by members of the imperial family, whether in the course of official visits to the country, inspections of military troops or for hunting activities. In Croatia, as elsewhere, cities and towns that were expecting a visit by the ruler were specially decorated, most often with wooden ephemeral structures, pillars and triumphal arches, decorated with the ruler’s initials, Croatian, Hungarian and Habsburg coats of arms and flags. The designs made by Zagreb architect Bartol Felbinger for the facade decoration of Zagreb City Hall to mark the visit of Emperor Franz I in 1818 are early examples of such works and show that such ephemeral structures sometimes bore portraits of the sovereigns.52 Numerous monuments and memorial plaques commemorating this 1818 visit were unveiled in Croatia and Dalmatia but they were mostly of very modest size.53

[36] The phenomenon of commemorating visits intensified in the second half of the nineteenth century. During the 68 years of his reign over the Habsburg/Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Franz Joseph I made frequent visits to all the provinces, sometimes alone, at other times with his family. He stayed in various parts of Croatia on several occasions. As will be shown below, other members of the Habsburg family also visited Croatia and their visits were commemorated with memorials of various kinds.

[37] Interestingly, the Croatian capital, Zagreb, did not honor any of the emperor’s three visits (1852, 1869 and 1895) with a major public monument, but merely with memorial plaques.54 It seems that smaller towns felt a greater need to memorialise the visits. The first monumental memorial to a visit of Franz Joseph I to Croatia was erected in Rijeka in 1857 in connection with his 1852 visit. Funded by members of Rijeka’s business elite, merchants, industrialists and ship-owners, it took the form of a memorial fountain and was built according to the designs of Prvislav Adamich, while its sculptures were made by the Rijeka sculptor Pietro Stefanutti. The fountain was octagonal in plan and had sculptures of four atlantes supporting a pedestal on which a 195 cm high marble sculpture of Franz Joseph I stood (Fig. 12).55 The emperor is shown in the gala uniform of an Austrian field marshal (Feldmarschallgala). Depictions of the emperor in uniform were particularly frequent at the time, probably to show his bond with the army, which played a key role in saving the dynasty in 1848/49 (Fig. 12).56