Overlooking Krbava field – historically one of Croatia`s most important landscapes, rises the Church of Croatian Martyrs, the largest church in Udbina and a Croatian National Shrine.
The church was officially opened in 2010 and every year people from around the world make a stop here. Last year the church had around fifty thousand visitors and that`s why we decided to find out more.
Here are ten interesting facts you`ve probably never heard of about a church dedicated to Croatian martyrs who died for their homeland.
Anniversary of the Battle of Krbava
The construction of the Church began on September 9, 2005, on the anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies in Croatian history – the Battle of Krbava. On that day, in 1493, ten thousand Croatian soldiers were killed in the war against the Ottomans right at that very same place.
The foundation stone
The foundation stone of the Church of Croatian Martyrs was extracted from the foundations of the Krbava Cathedral, and consecrated by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Rijeka in 2003.
A role model – the smallest cathedral in the world
A ground plan of The Church of Croatian Martyrs has the shape of a cross that symbolizes the suffering of the Croatian people throughout the centuries but also represents the historical form of Croatian architecture. The church was build after the medieval church in Nin, the first Croatian cathedral and the smallest cathedral in the world.
The main entrance
Above the main entrance of the Church, you can see the inscription „Martiribus croatorum“ (To Croatian Martyrs), and the years 879, the first international recognition of Croatia, and 2010, the year the church was opened.
Monument dedicated to Pope John Paul II
A beautiful monument dedicated to Pope John Paul II, the work of sculptor Slaven Miličević, is also placed in front of the Church. The Pope raises a cross as a sign of hope for a better future. The cross in his hands is made according to the Golden Cross of the bishops of Krbava from the beginning of the 13th century. At the foot of the statue are the pope’s words: „May the nations not forget those who have suffered martyrdom.“
Cross of the bishops of Krbava
The Golden Cross of the bishops of Krbava is also placed on the front of the Church overlooking the Krbava field. It is a 13th-century cross that belonged to the first Bishop of Krbava, Matej Maruti. As the people retreated in the face of war, this cross was kept and for centuries moved from church to church. That`s why it is a historical symbol of the displacement of the Croatian people.
There is also a Memorial Park around the Church where a large memorial wall made of memorial stones will be built. There are currently memorial stones from 143 different sites, and at the bottom of the wall people will be able to light candles for those whose grave is still unknown.
The Vukovar Cross
In addition to the memorial stones, there are two other important symbols in the Memorial Park. The Church of the Croatian Martyrs was built next to the foundations of St. Nicholas Parish Church, which was ruined in 1949 and is a symbol of the suffering in World War II. In the middle of the park, there is a replica of the Vukovar Cross made by Šime Vidulin. The Vukovar Cross symbolizes suffering in the Homeland War.
Stations of the Cross
Near the Udbina Church are the remains of the church called „Crkva Svetog Marka Groba“, which was demolished and rebuilt several times. The 2100-meter-long „Way of the Cross“ starts from that church and finishes at the entrance of the museum.
The museum placed under the Church today holds a collection of works by Stjepan Brezić who donated many items and paintings. His work represents objects that were once used in the household, paintings of the famous historical figures, national costumes, costumes of historical units and many more. It is planned that in the future this museum turns into a real archeological museum.
The Church of Croatian Martyrs offers a breathtaking view over the legendary Krbava field and surrounding mountains and is a stunning example of Croatian architecture. That`s why it is well worth a stop during your trip through the area.
PHOTO: Church of Croatian Martyrs Udbina