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Navje, Ljubljana: can a Cemetery be also a park?

3 min read

As macabre as it sounds, this cemetery is actually a really nice place to visit. Just over the railroad tracks from the historic center of Ljubljana, Slovenia, this beatiful and relaxing place invites you to go for a short stroll between the tombs. It is no problem to sit on the grass and read a book.
Just behind the main train and bus station you can take a stroll, walk your dog, or go on a romantic picnic in the beautiful final resting place of notable Slovenian writers, politicians, religious leaders, and innovators, some of whom died over 200 years ago!

The story of Navje is a repetitive story of abandonment and restoration.
All began in the 1700s when, as an amendment to the St. Christopher’s Church, the the only primary cemetery for notable figures of the country was started, which held its prominence until the early 1900s. It became a secondary location only after the new architecturally superior Zale cemetery, about 3 kilometers Northeast, was completed under Slovenian designer and architect Jože Plečnik, notable for his works in Vienna and Prague.
So, St. Christopher’s cemetery fallen out of favor, and after moving the majority of its inhabitants, it was largely abandoned, becoming a decaying area in just a few short years. Working on another project in a corner of the old cemetery, Plečnik had an idea: to turn a portion of the older cemetery into a memorial shrine to the most famous and deserving Slovenians. The stunning white stone arcade, built in 1865, was repurposed as a Pantheon of Slovenian heroes, and between 1936 and 1940 the graves and headstones of further notables characters were moved into the park. With a new name, “Navje,” derived from Slavic folk mythology, the park began to develop, however, in April 1941, the Axis invaded Yugoslavia, and construction came to a screeching halt. The city, burdened by war, once again abandoned it.

During the war, remains scheduled to be buried in Zale were unceremoniously buried in Navje, and “popular” remains meant to be relocated there such as Prešeren’s, Trubar’s, Maister’s and Rusjan’s were never moved. As World War II ended, Plečnik fell out of favor with the communist government of Yugoslavia and the big aspirations for Navje were forgotten, all burials there stopped, and it was -again- abandoned.

For about five decades, Navje was neglected, but when Slovenia gained its independence, a new sense of national pride was resurrected, and they began restoring the park in the 1990s. Today the park is a beautiful place to sit in the quiet or enjoy the company of a few friends. Every day it hosts people walking with their dogs, strolling with baby carriages, or enjoying a few rays of sun. It is a park of remembrance of the dead and recreation for the living.

Article – NATHAN. CONTRIBUTED by Danijel.
Sources: Wikipedia and two authors!
Images from Web.

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