Cathedral St. Bonaventure

The cathedral in Banja Luka is usually known as “the Bishop’s church,” because it is not a parish church. The cathedral is dedicated to St. Bonaventure (+1274) and it was built in 1885-1887. At that time, this part of Banja Luka has not yet been settled, and people of Banja Luka called it “Polje” (“Field”). The church was built in the Gothic style and inside it was fitted with wooden Gothic altars of Tyrolean manufacture. At the express request of the government at the time (Austro-Hungarian) the church was not allowed to be longer than 18 and no wider than 9 m. With this size it has never been fully fit for its purpose, but even as such it served church-goers until the earthquake on 26th October 1969 when it was badly damaged, and it had to be demolished. A new cathedral was built on the site of the old one in 1972-73. The guiding principle in the development of the project, which was done by a Zagreb architect eng. Matasovic, was double symbolism of tents. In the Old Testament, God’s presence among people was called “the tent of God”, but after the earthquake, many people were forced temporarily to live in tents. The first mass was held there on Christmas 1973. According to design of the Slovenian architect Danilo Fürst, the outside of the cathedral was lined with stone slabs (vinkuran from Pazin) in 1987. On the portal, a young Slovenian sculptor from Ljubljana, Viktor Plestenjak, carved the motto in stone in two bas-reliefs (low relief): “We shall go to the home of the Lord with joy.” The bell tower, which is 42 m high, was built in 1990-91 and it has five bells (weight 1,070, 745, 540, 315 and 250 kg). The current appearance of the completed cathedral was finalised only in 2001 when the roof was reconstructed and the interior design was completed. The stained glass was made by Croatian painter Ivo Dulcic (1916-1975). The front shows symbols of the four evangelists, the resurrection of Christ above the altar and on the the left side of the tabernacle is the image of St. Bonaventure, a Serafic Doctor, and on the right side are “two fish and five bread loaves”. Mosaics were made by an artist from Prijedor, Rudi Slacala, and the tabernacle in the form of a ball by a Croatian sculptor Jure Zaja (born 1944). The classic organs were made in 1886 in the company Richard Ibach in Barmen, Germany. They have 18 registers and 1041 pipes. They were donated to the Banja Luka Diocese, renovated and fitted in 2002. Right from the main entrance to the cathedral is the memorial chapel of blessed Ivan Merz (1896-1928) with the coffin in which blessed Ivan was buried at Mirogoj in Zagreb and his relics. The Cathedral and the memorial chapel was visited by Pope John Paul II on June 22nd 2003.