Untold Stories

Rokov perivoj - sense of overwhelming serenity

This text is for all of you flaneurs, to answer the questions that arise when you discover the lovely Rokov perivoj (St Roch’s Park). This is not an invitation to search for the spot. You will really enjoy it only if you stumble upon it. There’s nothing sensational about it at first glance, so if you hurry up to go there only to check it off of your list, it could even disappoint you. But if you are wandering around the town, it will be your perfect discovery.

Flaneuring is back, and this time, it’s backed by science as the best stress-relief and mind-awakening method. Just like the old poets and philosophers intuitively knew. As a tour guide, I notice more and more people indulging in the activity. More and more travelers are discovering places only the locals are supposed to know of. And they do it without the help of a map or an app, simply wandering around the city. 

The dark green of Rokov perivoj

But then... there is this particular place that I often get questions about. A place where wandering isn’t enough. They want to know about the story behind the sense of the place after they found it unintentionally. It's Rokov perivoj park. Here are some answers that might help unravel the unique sensation of that secret place. 

Sense of past times 

The oldest monument of St Roch’s Park is the 1600s church

I’ve heard several people talking about the heavy sense of the past when they stroll through the park. They are right - there is a lot of history. Just ask the only witness of all those centuries - St Roch’s church. According to the old story, the black plague raged in the area during the 1600s but didn’t enter the gates of the old town. As a pledge, the residents built this church and dedicated it to St Roch, the saint who guards against diseases. 

Soon enough, the area around the church became a cemetery. Yes, you got that right. You are standing in a location of a former graveyard, which could explain the sense of serenity. The cemetery was closed in the 1870s when they built the new cemetery Mirogoj

One of the peculiarities of the church - a fresco depicting St Roch. It was probably a sundial once. 

Sense of exclusiveness

You might feel a bit like an intruder as you walk around. At the beginning of the 1900s, there was a carefully elaborated plan to build this park, and it was supposed to be surrounded by a limited number of private homes. That’s why it feels like you’re walking around private gardens. The place is hard to access, too. You can choose between a long staircase or a steep road. So steep that the horses weren’t able to carry coffins, in the times of the cemetery. They would just stop, and men had to take it from there. In other words, it takes some effort to reach it, and people often chose not to invest their energy in uphill walks.

The sensual water fountain all alone in the park

Sense of art

It so happened that most of the houses in Rokov perivoj were owned by well-known artists of the era. They were given the land in exchange for their art pieces. You will spot details on each house that give away the artistic soul of their owners. The mosaic at the House Auer is my favorite. Or is the statue of the god Pan in house Kljaković? I can’t make up my mind. The former home of artist Jozo Kljaković hosts the late artists’ collection and is open for visits. It is also home to artistic workshops. Therefore, it’s the main reason for an intentional visit to this park. 

Pan in the house Kljaković garden is a true treat for the passers-by

The most notable art piece in the park is the Elegy fountain, by sculptor Robert Frangeš Mihanović, who also lived here. His task was to build a statue that would remember the former purpose of the park. Look closely, and you will notice that the well is decorated with scenes from heaven, purgatory, and hell. The woman figure rises above them, as a goddess who grieves the deceased ones. Unfortunately, it was placed here only after there was one more person to grieve: the artist himself. He never lived to see the statue in front of his house, as it was considered too obscene to mark a former cemetery. 

Elegy - close-up


Sense of hiddenness

It’s easy to forget you are in the city center when you enter Rokov perivoj. The tall trees seem as if they have been here forever, blocking off the sounds of the city. When in fact, this hilltop was empty for centuries. Imagine it with no trees - only meadows and pastures for the nearby medieval town and the villages nearby. That’s what it was. Even during the creation of the park, there was an idea to build several viewpoints. This idea is water under the bridge, with all the tall trees that block the view these days. Instead, there is another type of charm in the secluded nature of the park.  


A small spot that can give you an idea of the views from the top of this hilltop 100 years ago

Sense od fulfillness

And finally, whenever you wander into the park, while you stroll around, look for the details, or sit on a bench for a few minutes... all those feelings will lay upon you and combine into a sense of fulfillness. At least, it happens to me. Whenever I wander into Rokov perivoj, the time stops, and for an hours-long-second, I feel just perfect.

House Frangeš: detail of its garden with added patina

Header image & Author: Iva Silla