Chronology of Church History
Important events in the history of the church
The year of 1720 is considered as the first important year when Plaški became the centre of the eparchy. Bishop Danilo Ljubotina built the first wooden church in Plaški in the 1730s.
His namesake, Danilo Jukšić, replaced the wooden structure with the stone-built cathedral between 1735 and 1763, which still stands today.
The hybrid style of building is the result of two groups of builders - those from Sarajevo and and unknown civil engineer form the province of Kranj, Slovenia. The large building of a linear plan with massive baroque vaults and elegant choir is given a traditional triple-apse ending and an unusual element, an ambulatory, the corridor around the main apse.
The construction of the new church marked the financial and political affirmation of the bishop of Upper Karlovac. However, it would not have been possible to achieve all that without a lot of support from abroad, especially from Russia.
The Napoleonic wars at the end of the 19th century prevented any kind of major construction on the episcopal complex from being done. During the 1820s considerable adaptations were undertaken on the complex.
In 1822, during the episcopy of bishop Mioković, the church was given a new, lavish iconostasis in mixed neo-classical and baroque style.
Mioković’ s successor, bishop Lukijan Mušicki was the first intellectual at the head of the eparchy of Upper Karlovac. As a writer and translator, Mušicki could not stand the isolation of Plaški so he moved to Karlovac, hence realising the wish of his predecessors, though only temporarily, since the eparchy’ s financial circumstances did not allow the construction of a new residence in the town.
During the episcopy of bishop Mušicki, owing to the diligent dean of Plaški, Rafael Bunčić, minor restoration work was carried out on the cathedral in 1834.
In the first half of the 1860s, Dean Samuil Popović initiated the repair of the church. The old iconostasis was gilded and Mathias Stampfer, a carpenter from Zagreb, made new seats, a pulpit, choir stalls and chairs for the church. The façade was repaired and the interior walls painted, possibly with decorative motifs.
The following major construction on the building took place in 1880 during the episcopy of bishop Teofan Živković when a clock was placed on the bell tower of the church.
The church owes its present-day appearance to a historicist style of restoration carried out from 1903 - 1907 during the episcopy of bishop Mihajlo Grujić. As a result of the loyalty to Khuen Hedervary’ s government Grujić assumed the leading position in the eparchy. Connections with the government in Zagreb brought the eparchy of Upper Karlovac substantial financial support, which resulted in restoration works, and the construction of new church buildings.
The restoration of the cathedral in Plaški should be placed in the context of other big restoration undertakings in Croatia at the time: the cathedral in Zagreb, orthodox cathedrals in Križevci and Pakrac or the parochial church in Bjelovar.
Plans for the architectural reshaping of the buildings were made by architect Janko Holjac, a student of the leading architect of the neo-gothic style in Vienna, Friedrich Schmidt. The style he used for buildings in the eparchy was quite unusual – an admixture of a Russian style and elements which were used in the restoration of orthodox churches by the main architect of the Croatian revival of historical styles, Herman Bolle. The style used by the architect Janko Holjac the restoration of the Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Plaški is an interpretation of Russian architecture between the 12th and 16/17th centuries. The interior was of completely different stylistic features than the exterior – old baroque openings in walls had been preserved and they had a layer of wall paintings of a later date, a project of Marko Peroš, the painter and teacher at the Trade School in Zagreb.
The end of renovation works was marked by the installation of a new and lavish iconostasis and other wooden church furniture. The design of the furniture were made by architect Vinko Raucher from Zagreb, another Schmidt follower, who was at the time employed at the Civil Engineering Department of the Croatian National Government. One of the most notable painters of the period, Ivan Tišov, painted the icons on the back of the seats and iconostasis but it was bishop Grujić who provided the iconographic programme.
In the period between the two world wars Plaški was overtaken by stagnation and the plans to move to Karlovac had to be abandoned again due to the lack of means.
The only somewhat important architectural construction undertaken in this time on the complex was the expansion of the residence.
The beginning of the Second World War on the territory of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the newly established Independent State of Croatia (NDH) brought death to the complex in Plaški and to Bishop Sava Trlajić and his priests.
The eparchy temporarily seized to exist. The works of art and the archival documents from the church and the residence were transported to Zagreb where they were stored during the war.
In 1942, bombing destroyed the church leaving the roof of the sanctuary and the nave in ruins. Water, which has been leaking through the roof, has destroyed a large part of the wall paintings.
The sanctuary and the roof of the church were renovated at the end of the 1950s and at the end of the 1980s large scale renovation completely destroyed the old historicist wall paintings.
Some of the icons from the iconostasis have disappeared in the last war.
Today, the church in Plaški is in very poor condition and demands thorough renovation in order to bring the old splendour back.
(Source: History of Episcopal Complex by Dragan Damjanović)
Serbian Ortodox Episcopal Church in Plaški Repairs Appeal