The Church of the Most Holy Redeemer is the last resting place of the great Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović and his closest family members: mother Marta, father Mate, brothers Marko and Petar, son Tvrtko and wife Olga. With the construction of this building, he fulfilled his intention to build a tomb for his family, and to give his native land a church in which, according to his wishes, the holy mass shall be held in the language of the people. For its construction (1926 -1930) he chose Paraćeva glavica, a small hill in the northwestern part of Petrovo polje, which belongs to the village of Ružić according to cadastral data, and is only a ten-minute walk from the house of Meštrović family in Otavice. The architectural project of Ivan Meštrović was realized by architects Harold Bilinić and Lavoslav Horvat and builder Marin Marasović, the sculptor’s old associates and friends, and the land was donated by the
A massive cube is built on a 20-m high hillside from an indigenous type of stone – limestone and soft siltstone. The cube dominates Petrovo polje to this day, creating a spatial accent that is widely visible from a variety of views. The outer floor plan consists of a simple rectangular base with rectangular protrusions on all four sides, while the wall surface in the interior passes into an octagon. He finds architectural models in the ancient central buildings, such as Diocletian’s Mausoleum in Split, while the simplicity of the design of the outer shell and the purity of plastic forms are a reflection of Meštrović’s architectural considerations.
The modelling of the interior architectural plastics lasted during the entire fourth decade, and Meštrović’s students and associates Grga Antunac, Antun Augustinčić, Ivo Lozica, Marijan Matijević, Dragutin Orlandini and Vanja Radauš worked on it. The inner wall is rhythmically indented by alternating rectangular and semicircular niches. They were used as frames for the reliefs, which were carved by the aforementioned sculptors according to Meštrović’s plaster models. The Eternally Crucified carried on the wings of the Seraphim is above the altar, and the four semicircular niches are beautifully adorned by the Evangelists. The north rectangular niche displays the Nativity of Christ iconographically accompanied by the scene of the Annunciation on the lateral walls – the figure of St. Mary and Angel Gabriel, and the south one displays the relief Lamentation, complemented by raptured Souls of the Deceased.
The painting of the dome, unfortunately, was not completed, but subsequently placed sketches reveal Meštrović’s unusual iconographic solution. The arrangement of figures on sketches is read as a hierarchical series on three levels: sitting prophets or spiritual teachers on the base, and above them ascending archangels directing their bodies towards the central deity in the centre of the dome. The overall iconographic programme can be reconstructed from the large number of sketches and drawings for decorating the dome kept at the Meštrović Gallery in Split. Judging by them, Meštrović’s intention was to portray all the great world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism), but also to associate the profane and the sacral in the desire to pay tribute to the greatest spiritual achievements of mankind: art and religion.
Below the sacred space of the church, buried beneath the ground, there is a sepulchral part. Immediately after the entrance to the church, there is a stone slab on the floor that closes the entrance to the crypt. The entrance to the church was decorated by bronze caisson doors on which Ivan Meštrović had portrayed his family members. The left wing, dedicated to the female line, depicted his mother Marta, his first wife Ruža, his second wife Olga, and his daughters Marta and Marica. On the right he perpetuated the male family members, i.e. his father Mate, his self-portrait, brother Marko, the youngest brother Petar and son Tvrtko. Only three of four Ivan Meštrović’s children are shown on the doors. The youngest son Mate was born in 1930, by which time the doors had already been completed. Unfortunately, the bronze doors with portraits were stolen during the Great Serb occupation (1991 – 1995) and have not been found to this day.
References: JURIĆ, Zorana. U Meštrovićevom rodnom kraju, Muzeji Ivana Meštrovića, Split, 2010. JURIĆ ŠABIĆ, Zorana. Dekodiranje Meštrovića, Muzeji Ivana Meštrovića, Split, 2015.
Adult: 20 kn
Student/pupil/pensioner: 15 kn
Family (parents with children under 15): 40 kn
Adult group (<30): 15 kn
Student/pupil group (<20): 10 kn
Preschool children/Art history and Academy of Arts students/ICOM /PRESS: Free admission
The Museums of Ivan Meštrović are closed on Mondays and holidays. The average duration of a visit is 60 minutes. Tickets can be purchased until 30 minutes before closing time.
VISITORS WITH MOBILITY ISSUES
Visit to the Meštrović family tomb is possible for visitors with mobility issues (vehicle access – possibility of arriving to the entrance of the church by vehicle).