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Among the numerous systematic measures for the modernization of Ljubljana after the great earthquake in 1895, the town authorities decided for a new cemetery by St.Cross. In 1906 they built a smaller cemetery church, next to it single-storey priest’s quarters and an entry to the cemetery was arranged with two portals, one at each side of the church. The cemetery was enclosed and one of the tram rails led to the entrance. The town authorities came to the conclusion early on that funeral activities needed better organization and control and established the Ljubljana Funeral Institution in 1914. This became one of the key factors both in the development of the funeral area as in the building of key objects, necessary for the operation of funeral activities.

Plečnik’s Žale

In the first decade after First World War, Ljubljana as other greater European cities wanted to reform the ways of burying deceased. They began contemplating of a central mortuary next to the cemetery and these endeavours attracted the architect Jože Plečnik (1872–1957), who designed some suggestions for a broad farewell complex. Towards the end of the 1930’s he completed his vision. The idea of a unified multifunctional morgue was drastically changed and developed into the complex of the Garden of All Saints in greens with a symbolic portal that divides the town of the living and the town of the dead and dedicated to each deceased a special mortuary with the name of the parish, where he/she had resided. Plečnik’s Žale was first put to use on July 7th 1940.

The cemetery has numerous designed headstones by finest Slovenian artists and architects like Lojze Dolinar, brothers France and Tone Kralj, Ivan Vurnik, Tine Kos, brothers Boris and Zdenko Kalin, Edvard Ravnikar, Janez Boljka and others and also Plečnik himself set up a number of headstones both for individuals and religious communities.

Even during the wars the area of the original cemetery was doubled with two new surfaces named the New Cemetery. In 1947, the authorities after the Second World War assigned the management of the plots to the undertaking company Žale, which was prior to that period under the ordinary's office of the bishop. The care for the spatial development of the cemetery as well as undertaking business has been preserved until this day. In some twenty years after the war the northern part of the new cemetery obtained a burial and monumental complex in memory of the victims of the Second World War.

New Žale

By determing the new boundaries of the widened cemetery caretakers began to think also of new ways of burials. This brought about the decision for cremation of mortal remains and for urn burials. Along the northern edge of the new cemetery grew a complex of crematorium with new farewell mortuaries according to designs of the architect Peter Kerševan from the company Biro 71 from Domžale. Since 1979 burials began to take place at »Nove Žale«, as due to a special decree, authorities completely abandoned burials at Plečnik’s Žale. Objects began to decay. After a change in authority in 1990, a throrough renovation of Plečnik’s Žale took place and funerals started taking place once again at Plečnik’s mortuaries.

Mušič’s Žale

The architect Marko Mušič and his coworkers won at an open competition for the arrangement of the area West of Tomačevska cesta towards Gramozna jama in 1982. The founding ideas of an enclosed town of the dead with grave field trapped in a strict geometric network and surrounded by paths filled of greens. To this he later added a giant, artificial pile for ash scaterring with an altar table and a large crucifix at the top. At the foothills he arranged a national monument in memory of the fallen soldiers in fights for the independent Slovenia in 1991. Also Mušič’s Žale, as it is now called, is one of the most important architectural achievements in the area of grave architecture in the second half of the 20th century in Slovenia.

The public company Žale is aware of its special and significant role among other public institutions of the city in landscaping and for the development of new burial areas and at the same time for the progress of the existing cemetery with continous upgrading of the level of quality in art, road and park decoration in the entire area of the cemetery. The hereby stated is not only stated for the image of the funeral, but for the quality of all services and for the pieta in relation to family members of the deceased.

Author of the text: Dr. Peter Krečič

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