By fate or coincidence, Herman Bollé was in charge of reconstructing the Zagreb Cathedral after the earthquake in 1880, which had left it quite damaged. Three years later, he founded the Cathedral Reconstruction Society. A proof of how important to him was this segment of his work is the fact that the back of his business card read: “Builder of Cathedrals”, as discovered by Art History Professor Dragan Damjanović, who researched Bollé’s opus quite extensively. Besides, Bollé was born in Cologne and grew up with a view of the city’s cathedral. The reconstruction of Zagreb Cathedral, by the way, did not go without disputes. By another coincidence, the north spire of the cathedral was taken down after the March 2020 earthquake, on the anniversary of the architect’s death, 17 April.

High-rise contractor repairing the damage on the cathedral (© Damjan Tadić)
Brave high-rise workers climb to the top of the cathedral. Not many of us would dare (© Goran Mehkek)
A view of the cathedral from Gradec. The south spire is already gone, the north one is still there, soon to be taken down (© Goran Mehkek)

A part of the cathedral’s north tower, 13 and a half meters tall and weighing 30 tons, was taken down by a controlled explosion, as the damage it had suffered in the earthquake resulted in a danger from its collapse, which would have caused even greater damage to the cathedral and its surroundings. We could write a special chapter for each of those who took part in this project, and our photojournalists captured the bravest ones, who climbed the tower itself, and the moment of demolition itself. 

(© Tomislav Krišto)
A moment we'll remember. The one in which dynamite is used to remove the top of the cathedral's north tower (© Damjan Tadić)
Successful removal of the top of the cathedral's north tower after controlled dynamite detonations (© Srđan Vrančić)
A sight from afar: the damaged top of the cathedral's north tower was removed due to danger from toppling (© Neja Markičević)

Alongside news photos, there are some poetic scenes to be found, such as the cathedral captured at the break of dawn. Only the outlines of the damaged cathedral and a crane next to it can be glimpsed in the photo. Among the structures with the signature of the architect who had changed the face of Zagreb, the earthquake also damaged the Mirogoj Cemetery Arcades and the Museum of Arts and Crafts. 

The cathedral shot at the break of dawn, on the day it was to lose its north spire (© Damjan Tadić)
A view from the European Square (© Damjan Tadić)
The remains of a golden cross on Zagreb Cathedral, toppled by the earthquake (© Ivana Nobilo)
Damage on the cathedral (© Damjan Tadić)