ŽALE Javno podjetje, d.o.o.
Med hmeljniki 2
Ljubljana

tel: +3861 420 17  00
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EUROPEAN HERITAGE / PATRIMOINE EUROPÉEN

Ljubljana's Žale cemetery complex receives the EVROPSKA DEDIŠČINA / EUROPEAN HERITAGE / PATRIMOINE EUROPÉEN label

This exceedingly renowned award is presented by the Committee for European Heritage, composed of the Ministers of Culture and Heritage from the Member States of the European Union who confirm the proposals of the National Committees for the European Heritage Label in accordance with strict criteria and rules and through consensus. At its session in Madrid on 25 January 2007, the European Heritage Committee awarded the European Heritage label to three areas of cultural heritage in Slovenia: the memorial church of the Holy Spirit on Javorca above Tolmin, the Franja Partisan Hospital in Dolenji Novaki near Cerkno and Plečnik's Žale – All Saint's Garden in Ljubljana.

The purpose of this initiative is to foster European identity and the awareness of mutual European history based on European heritage. This action is intended to fortify the feeling of European affiliation among the citizens and residents of the European Union, contributing to its increased awareness.

The EUROPEAN HERITAGE label is a means of supporting and protecting cultural goods, monuments and natural and urban areas, as well as non-material heritage, both tangible and intangible and both contemporary and traditional and sites that play a significant role in understanding European history and culture, including at the transnational level. The EUROPEAN HERITAGE label should awaken awareness of the value of heritage in the European alliance, encourage the activities of the community, strengthen cooperation between the European Union Member States and the national institutions, the European Union and Council of Europe and the public and private cultural sectors.

PLEČNIK'S ŽALE – ALL SAINT'S GARDEN received this award as an extraordinary model of respect and a democratic attitude towards those who have passed away, as the architect Jože Plečnik originated squarely from the heart of the European cultural tradition. Through various methods of layout, he brought a feeling of equality and democracy to the space, thus assuring respect and dignity even after death.

In the nineteen thirties, larger European cities began centralising funerals, removing them from the mortuaries. Plečnik opposed such an impersonal method, which made the deceased merely a number in an almost industrial burial process. Instead, he combined the monumental symbol of the propylaeum marking the transition from the city of the living to the city of the deceased with an apparent sprinkling of small funeral chapels on green lawns, preparing intimate spaces for the mourners’ farewells. Instead of a mourning area for grief and despair, he designed a space for comfort and hope. In this way, the architect adopted the manner of burial that has been maintained in this part of Europe for a century, where the family and friends accompany the deceased from the church parish to the cemetery. He named the funeral chapel after the patron of the Ljubljana parish church and unobtrusively introduced this new manner of burial into the domestic Slovenian cultural tradition. The funeral procession, following the farewell at the funeral chapels, then proceeds between the mighty portal pillars with their high arches to the nearby cemetery. The design of the funeral chapels is linked with the Mediterranean architectural tradition – the idea being based on the antique edicule garden. However, at the same time, it is a far cry from classical and dry eclecticism. The chapels are interesting derivatives of historical European vaulted tombs, distinguished by original designs as well.

The entire project was carried out using modest resources; its implementation attracted a variety of local craftsmen from bricklayers, stonecutters and concrete layers to carpenters and belt-makers. From this aspect, several Žale buildings were conceptualised on the old Semper theory, which says that architecture should originate from the craft trades and also utilise the motive of textiles and ceramics in a transitional sense.

Žale is certainly the most original solution regarding cemetery architecture in the 20th century and is admired by the expert and wider publics throughout the world. The City Municipality of Ljubljana and the ŽALE Javno podjetje, d.o.o. company, who manages Plečnik's Žale, are the founding members of the Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe (ASCE).

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