Posts Tagged ‘Ljubljana’

Ljubljanica river and three bridges in Ljubljana

The Ljubljanica river, which is also called The River of Seven Names, is the lower reaches of a karst river which on its way towards Ljubljana disappears underground a number of times and springs again at different places, every time under a different name. Spring in near Vrhnika. Ten kilometres to the north-east of Ljubljana city centre it empties itself into the Sava river. Until the railway became a commonly used means of transportation in the middle of the 19. century, it was the main route for carrying goods to and from Ljubljana. The main quay was located at the present Breg embankment.

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Ljubljana is a city of many beautiful and interesting bridges. It is believed that the first bridge across the Ljubljanica river was built back in Roman times, most probably somewhere between the present Cobblers’ Bridge (Čevljarski most) and Šentjakob Bridge (Šentjakobski most). The medieval Ljubljana boasted two wooden bridges, an old bridge located at the site of the present Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) and the Butchers’ Bridge (Mesarski most), which was located at the site of the present Cobblers’ Bridge. At the end of the 18th century, when the city walls were pulled down, the danger of floods was reduced with the building of the Gruber Canal (Grubarjev prekop) in 1783, and the city expanded to the left bank of the Ljubljanica river, a number of new wooden bridges were built and later replaced by metal, stone or concrete ones.

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The Ljubljanica river often flooded until the course of the river was thoroughly improved in the first half of the 20. century. The riverbed tried to be regulated already in 16. century and before, but with no success. Bigger works started already in middle 19. century. In 1912 they deepened the river bed. Later they deepened Gruber channel as well. But this was still not the solution to the problem. Today’s tamed Ljubljanica river and its attractive concrete embankments owe much of their appearance to architect Jože Plečnik. He redesigned the embankments with tree-lined walks including the romantic multi-level willow-lined walk running along the length of the Trnovski pristan embankment, and designed or redesigned a range of bridges on the Ljubljanica river and its tributaries, including the Trnovo Bridge (Trnovski most), the Cobblers’ Bridge and the centrally located Triple Bridge, which considerably contribute to the city’s unique character.

The row of houses on right bank of the river still has balconies, that over 100 years ago had all houses on the bank. They were made from wood and were big threat for the fire in the town. On this side were also toilets, all dirt they throw on the bank, so because of that the bad smell spreaded all around. Citizens started to complain (because of fire danger and smell), but no success. All they achieve was, that inhabitants of those houses had to arrange the toilets in the house. The dirt has to be leaded directly into the river. Today those balconies are not wooden any more.

The oldest bridge in Ljubljana was on a place of today’s Cobbler’s bridge. It was called Upper bridge (Zgornji most), Butcher’s bridge (Mesarski most), because the butchers have their shops on or Šuštar bridge (Šuštarski most). It was also named Upper bridge, while Špital bridge was Lower bridge. Špital bridge was usually used by traders and foreign cargo carriers, while locals used Butcher’s bridge. The site of the present Cobblers’ Bridge (Čevljarski most), which was built by architect Jože Plečnik between 1931 and 1932, was formerly occupied by a covered wooden bridge, which connected the two main parts of medieval Ljubljana, namely the Mestni trg square (Town Square) and the Novi trg square (New Square). The bridge provided space for cobblers’ workshops, after whom it was named. Its main attraction was the statue of Christ at its south end, which now stands in the Church of St. Florian (Cerkev sv. Floriana). The 19. century saw the building of a new, cast iron bridge, which was on the initiative of architect Plečnik moved to the site opposite the Ljubljana Maternity Hospital to connect the Zaloška cesta and the Poljanska cesta roads.

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The present Cobblers’ Bridge (built in 1931 – 1932) was, like architect Plečnik’s Trnovo Bridge (Trnovski most), conceived as a broad balustraded platform connecting two different parts of the city. Like the Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) it was made of artificial stone. Its characteristic appearance is due to its balustrades with short balusters and tall, different sized pillars topped with stone balls. The central two pillars support lamps and are slightly shorter, which gives the bridge an original and dynamic appearance. The bridge platform is on the sides decorated with a geometric pattern. The balustrades were renovated in 1991.

The present Dragon Bridge (Zmajski most) across the Ljubljanica river was built to replace the former wooden bridge called the Butchers’ Bridge (Mesarski most), which was built in 1819. For reasons of economy, the Municipality of Ljubljana, who financed the building of the bridge, decided on a reinforced concrete construction, which was less expensive and more modern than stone constructions.

Built in the years 1900 to 1901 under the name of Jubilee Bridge (Jubilejni most), Dragon Bridge was Slovenia’s first bridge with an asphalt paving. It is one of Ljubljana’s most representative examples of Art Nouveau architecture, the city’s first reinforced concrete bridge, and one of the first bridges of the kind in Europe. It was constructed by Professor Josef Melan, a famous engineer specializing in reinforced concrete bridge engineering and the father of the theory for large arched bridges statics calculations.

The Art Nouveau appearance of the bridge is due to the Dalmatian architect Jurij Zaninović, who studied under Professor Otto Wagner. He designed the decorative concrete covering, the balustrades and the sheet-copper dragon statues, which became the symbol of Ljubljana. The original designs envisaged winged lions instead of dragons. The bridge lamps, which used to be fuelled by gas, are part of the original decoration.

It was built to remembrance to Austro-Hungarian emperor Franc Josef  what it can be seen from year on the bridge 1848 – 1888.

Špital bridge (Lower bridge) was second built bridge in Ljubljana. In 1280 was mentioned for the first time as Old bridge. It was rebuilt many times. Later in middle ages were on the bridge butchers’ stands, later, on one built in baroque time there were already wooden hovels (kolibe). In those hovels manufacturers were selling their products. With removing the old wooden bridge in 1842, all hovels were removed. Some manufacturers found the place for selling the products in Čopova street. New, stony bridge was named after archduke Franz Karl.

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The central of the present three bridges forming the Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) has stood in its place since 1842, when it replaced an old, strategically important medieval wooden bridge, which used to be a transit route between the countries of the North-western Europe and the South-eastern Europe including the Balkans. The Triple Bridge as a unique architectural speciality of Ljubljana was created when between the years 1929 and 1932 two more bridges, intended for pedestrians, were added to the original stone bridge by architect Jože Plečnik.

Plečnik removed the metal balustrades from the old stone bridge and furnished all the three bridges with massive stone balustrades and lamps. From each of the side bridges two stairways lead to the terraces situated just above the river, where poplar trees were planted to contribute to the overall appearance of the bridge.

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On the right bank of the river, the bridge is enhanced by a small flower shop sited at the end of the Ljubljana Central Market colonnade, and on the right bank by a kiosk. Positioned on the crossing of the river axis and the axis running between the Rožnik hill and the Castle Hill, the Triple Bridge is the key point on Plečnik’s urban axes. In 1992, the Triple Bridge was thoroughly renovated.

Ljubljana castle

Ljubljana Castle (Ljubljanski grad) is the most spectacular sight of Ljubljana. It is standing on Castle hill (376 m) above old city of Ljubljana. Its position is very important, because it is closing the only flat passage from Pomurje thorough Ljubljana gate, over Karst highlands to the Adriatic see and from Alps to Posavje and further on to Podonavje.

There is proven evidence that the hill on top of which it is situated was inhabited back in the 12th century BC Preserved from this early period of settlement are the remains of the Urn Tomb culture.

Ljubljana castle from the centre

Ljubljana castle from the centre

The first known fortification of considerable dimensions situated on top of the Castle Hill (Grad) was built in Illyrian and Celtic times. A stronghold was most probably located there also in Roman times. A document originating from the period between 1112 and 1125 mentions a medieval castle built in the 9th century, which later served as the seat of the provincial rulers of the Spannheim family, who coined their own money in Ljubljana. In 1335 the castle became the hereditary property of the Hapsburg family and the centre of the Province of Carniola. In the second half of the 15th century a new, larger, circular castle was built by Duke Frederick III of Hapsburg, later crowned Roman German Emperor.

View from Ljubljana castle

View from Ljubljana castle

The castle is typical late medieval fortress. It has incorrect ground plan, big inner yard, entrance and side towers (all together 6). Fortress is adjusted to the state of arms, used in those times (times of Frederick III). It has been built over few decades. First part was system of wall around flattened yard, with half round towered contacts. Today’s shape of the castle is from the times of Frederick III (second half of 15th century) and also some from 16thcentury. The earthquake in 1511 did not damage the castle, as it did big part of Carniola.

Except for the outer walls of the Chapel of St. George (Kapela sv. Jurija), which was consecrated in 1489, all the other main buildings of the present castle were either built or rebuilt in the 16th and 17th centuries. Until 1814 the castle served as a garrison and later a provincial prison. Built in 1848 was the Outlook Tower (Razgledni stolp), the home of the guard whose duty was to shoot cannons to warn against fire and announce important visitors and events taking place in Ljubljana – a duty previously performed by town servants at the Pipers’ Tower (Stolp piskačev). Pipers are first mentioned in first half of 16th century. They were playing (they were playing 3 trombones and 1 cornet) for some special occasions, regularly during the summer every day at 11 o’clock. One special occasion was also in June 1561, when Primož Trubar came back to work in protestant church. At the same time the pipers were watchmen , who took care for fire safety of the city.

Material used for building was stone and brick. In the lower layers is limestone from Podpeč, before used in roman Emona, in upper layers is slate (skrilavec) from Golovec and Castle hill.

In 1905 the castle was purchased by the Municipality of Ljubljana in order to be used for cultural purposes, but until 1964 it mainly served as a residential building. Afterwards it underwent a renovation, which has still been going on. Since 2000, the castle has been administered by the Festival Ljubljana festival management company.

Ljubljana Castle is a major tourist attraction and a picturesque venue of numerous cultural events including concerts, theatre performances, exhibitions, congresses and official receptions, which add a special flavour to the lively pulse of life in Ljubljana.

The present castle entrance came into use in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the castle served as a prison. It replaced the former entrance located beneath the Archers’ Tower (Stolp strelcev).

Old entrance through the Pentagonal tower

Old entrance through the Pentagonal tower

New entrance under the Archer’ Tower

New entrance under the Archer’ Tower

In the 15th century and the centuries to follow the entrance was located in the Pentagonal Tower (Peterokotni stolp), which was built for defence purposes and is now used as an exhibition venue. The White and Blue Halls (Bela dvorana, Modra dvorana), which have presently been used for weddings, were added to the building in the 1980s. The Erasmus’ Tower (Erazmov stolp) was built in the 15th century and is believed to have been used as a prison for noblemen. One of the coats of arms, which the prisoners carved into the tower walls, is believed to have belonged to the legendary outcast knight Erasmus of Predjama. The Hribar Hall (Hribarjeva dvorana), the largest hall in the castle, was named after Ivan Hribar, a famous mayor of Ljubljana, who purchased the castle for municipal purposes.

The Chapel of St. George (Kapela sv. Jurija) is one of the oldest preserved places in the castle. Built in the Gothic and rebuilt in the Baroque style, it is ornamented with fragments of decorative 15th century wall paintings as well as frescoes representing the coats of arms of provincial governors and five Austrian rulers, which date from 1747.

Chapel of St. George

Chapel of St. George

Chapel of St. George

Chapel of St. George

The castle’s Outlook Tower (Razgledni stolp) stands in the place of the former Pipers’ Tower, which was pulled down in 1813, during the French occupation. Afterwards a signal tower, the home of the castle guard, was built in its place. Offering the most beautiful view of Ljubljana and its surroundings, the Outlook Tower, which was in 1982 raised by 1.2 metres, now only serves as a tourist attraction.

Outlook tower and courtyard of the castle

Outlook tower and courtyard of the castle

The Platium (Palacij) is the name of a renovated castle hall named after the former castle building used for receptions and feasts given by provincial governors. Next to the Palatium is the State Hall (Stanovska dvorana), which was most probably used for similar purposes. Located in the basement underneath the courtyard are a number of halls used as occasional exhibition venues. In the past, ramparts were connecting the Archers’ Tower (Stolp strelcev) and the former fortress at the nearby Šance. The preserved part of the Šance ramparts were in the 1930s converted into an arched walk designed by architect Jože Plečnik. The course of the missing in-between part of the ramparts was marked by a tree-lined walk.

Plečnik's Šance

Plečnik’s Šance

Panoramic view of the castle

Panoramic view of the castle

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