Untold Stories

Doors of Kaptol

The first article in the Untold Stories section of this blog was about doors of the Upper Town. Let’s make it a tradition at the beginning of each year! Let’s explore other neighborhoods on a quest to spot the intriguing entrances and find out what’s behind them. This time, we’re taking a photo walk through the street called Kaptol.

Kaptol is the area around the Zagreb cathedral. It is also a historical placename - a remnant of the medieval town of Kaptol. Hopefully, a look at the diverse doors will serve as an invitation for you to come and explore the street. 

Zagreb cathedral, Kaptol 31

Let’s start at the most breathtaking portal of the area - the exquisite entrance to the Zagreb cathedral.

If you carefully observe it, you might spot something rather unusual compared to the dominant gothic-revival style of the cathedral. Indeed, the “fluffy” Holy Trinity relief above the very entrance caused a lot of stir back in the day. Some priests and old-fashioned scholars considered the 1902 piece by Croatian famous sculptor Robert Frangeš Mihanović unfinished. Others thought it was genius. All the controversy caused a lot of public interest. We might say that the sculpture got the door wide open, inviting people from far away to come to the temple just to check the piece out.

Zagreb cathedral, Kaptol 31

If you explore the cathedral building, you will spot other lovely doors. This one leads to the cathedral sacristy. The original vestry most probably dates to the 13th century. There are frescoes behind this door that go back to those days! It leads to some of the oldest evidence of Zagreb's history.

Seminary, Kaptol 29

Think twice before you enter the atrium behind this gate. According to old legends, the seminary is not just a college for priests. It also trains the mighty wizards who can tame dragons and cause hailstorms. They colloquially called this building the Black School.

Archiepiscopal archives, Kaptol 27

This old part of town has been the center of the Zagreb diocese since 1094. Most of the buildings are still in some connection with the catholic church. The bishops of Zagreb influenced the development of the city for centuries. Imagine how many historical documents are there, hidden behind this door that leads to the Archiepiscopal archives!

Franciscan Monastery, Kaptol 9, photo by M. Vrdoljak, TZGZ

Many tourists are amazed by what they call a medieval sight - Robin Hood’s Friar Tuck just walking around like that! What is this, some kind of reenactment festival? Nope. It’s a common everyday sight. People who live in Zagreb don’t even realize how otherwordly it seems to meet the Franciscan monks in their brown robes in the center of a capital! They have lived here in their monastery since the times of St Francis of Assisi himself.

St Dismas

Just outside of the former town of Kaptol, immersed in a busy street and modern life, there is a tiny church. The frescoes above this door will give you a clue that the church is dedicated to St Dismas, the penitent thief. Why him? Supposedly, his divine example was the only hope in this world for all the petty criminals who were left there on stakes outside of the old town to die.

If you ever get a chance to find this door open, don't hesitate to enter for a second. The tiny church hides true treasure - unique relics. There is even a piece of wood from St Dismas’ cross.

A part of the Kaptol “street” that actually looks like a square

I’d like to end this post with a fun revelation. If it truly inspires you to take that walk, you might find searching for these doors harder than you might expect. There’s something utterly wrong with the street of Kaptol. The street numbers are in consecutive order! Usually, odd numbers are on the left, and even ones on the right side of the street.

Well, Kaptol is not a street. It sure looks like one. However, it’s a square that starts end ends in the area around the cathedral and narrows down into the shape of a street towards the North.

Enjoy your walk through Kaptol! And don’t forget to take a sneak peek behind some of the doors.

One of the beautiful manors of Kaptol

Header image credit: Iva Silla

Author: Iva Silla