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Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish

(Croat: Župa Pohoda Blažene Djevice Marije)


Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish church was built in 1890 and was renovated several times. It was radically refurbished for the last time after a terrible earthquake on 1969. It has three bells. The Franciscans assisted the parish till 1900, and Diocesan priests after that. The oldest Parish registers are aged exactly two and half centuries (from 1753). These Registers count baptisms, marriages and deaths (one volume for each) and they are a precious source of data. Parish Presnače was separated from Blessed Virgin Mary in 1971. This parish has produced many significant people during its history, including at least one bishop (fra Mato Benlić). But the most honorable its member is the honorable God’s servant Ivan Merz. He was born and grew up in this parish, and as we are expecting, will be the very first beatified man of the Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The parish house is close to the church, but its biggest part was nationalized after the Second World War. Only a few offices and one flat are at the disposal of the priest.
This parish has several cemeteries along with chapels. Banja Luka Catholics have very nice cemeteries, such as “St. Marko”, “St. Juraj” in Pavlovac, but some people have recently been buried in the New town cemetery. There are Catholic cemeteries in Ducipolje and Rekavice, villages that are part of Banja Luka parish, but both their chapels were destroyed in 1992, and the believers were displaced. We have already mentioned a very old cemetery, unfortunately destroyed, on Lauš, but there is no any trace of evidence of this cemetery any more. An old Banja Luka cemetery was nicely named Mass Garden, but as a result of the urbanization process it came to be located in the center of town. In the 1950’s bodies were exhumed, and the cemetery doesn’t exist any more.

The history of the parish church: The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

CATHOLIC PARISH CHURCH VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, BANJA LUKA, BIH

CATHOLIC PARISH CHURCH VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, BANJA LUKA, BIH

CATHOLIC PARISH CHURCH VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, BANJA LUKA, BIH

CATHOLIC PARISH CHURCH VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, BANJA LUKA, BIH

CATHOLIC PARISH CHURCH VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, BANJA LUKA, BIH

The oldest settlements and their churches:
The name of the city is mentioned for the first time in 1494. But, the very settlement or, more specifically, a few of them, date from the much earlier period. In place of today's Kastel was  the Roman fortress Castrum through which a significant Roman road from Dalmatia to Servitium (Bosanska Gradiška) and further to Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica) passed. The historians in the region of today's Banja Luka distinguish two settlements: the older one whose name was Vrbas or Vrbaški Grad which was in the region of Gornji Šeher, and the younger one part of Banja Luka which developed in the place where forum, i. e. trading centre, was placed. Nikola Bilogrivić, the historian, who was also a parish priest in Banja Luka, locates Vrbaški Grad on a hill on the left side of Vrbas, and on the right side of Suturlija-the stream, in the place where it empties out into Vrbas. Below the fortified city there was a town which had its own church just as other cities and fortresses in that time did. The church was dedicated to St Martin, and that's the one that was mentioned in 1334 in the register of Ivan, an archdeacon of Gorica, as 'The church of St Martin, below the city' (' ecclesia sancti Martini de sub castro '). But the church is much older because it's the place where believers and aristocrats used to hold important meetings.
In the town of Vrbas, below the city, very lively traffic developed because of its attractive position. But the town was small and made even smaller by the canyon of Vrbas. More on the North, down Vrbas, where the river came out of the gorge, there was enough free space. That was the place where the separate borough was established, in 13th century, and in that time it meant getting its own church. According to Bilogrivić it was the church of St Elisabeth, which was also mentioned in the register from 1334 (' ecclesia beate Elyzabeth de foro '). That new settlement with the church was located in Pobrđe and Gornji Hiseti, up to Lauš.
The Latin name of the settlement, i. e. the trading centre, was Forum, and the Croatian one was Banova Luka. It was named Banova Luka after its owners, the Croatian bans so that's the origin of the name Banja Luka.

Both churches mentioned above were in Vrbas district, in Dubica archdeaconship, in Zagreb bishopric. The new settlement had to have its fortress so the one called Grad was built where Crkvena, the stream, emptied out into Vrbas. It was built where used to be Roman Castrum, and also where is today's fortress which has been called by today's name Kastel since Austria-Hungarian occupation-1878.

From the church of St Elisabeth to the church of The Blessed Virgin Mary's Visitation to Elisabeth
Bilogrivić explains how it happened that today's parish church in Banja Luka was dedicated to The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elisabeth. The church of St. Elisabeth mentioned above was dedicated either to St. Elisabeth of Tirin, the daughter of Hungarian and Croatian king Andrew II, or to Elisabeth who was the mother of the John the Baptist. In the first case it was possible to praise the second one Elisabeth as well, just as our people praise St. Antony, the hermit, as well as St. Antony of Padova.

But, I am of the opinion that the church was dedicated to St. Elisabeth of Tirin who was  proclaimed saint on May 27th 1235. It possibly happened when the church was under construction so it was dedicated to one, at that time, contemporary saint.

The connection with  'the older one' St. Elisabeth is preserved in a patron of the new parish church in Banja Luka as the church of The Blessed Virgin Mary's Visitation to Elisabeth. Bilogrivić is of the opinion that the church was built by Franciscans in Banja Luka whom Martin Frankopanski (1416-1479), the duke, brought to Banja Luka. He was called The Pious One because he gave monasteries and churches (e.g. in Trsat and Novigrad) so it is likely that he did so in Banja Luka also.

The removal of the parish seat:
Later, the seat of the parish in Banja Luka was moved at first to Paprikovac, then to Rakovac where were built wooden chapels in honour of Mother of God. Finally, in 1859, when the number of the Catholics somewhat increased in Banja Luka, the seat was taken back there. That year, in Banja Luka, on today's location, parish house was completed and it looked like a Turkish 'čardak' (enclosed porch on the second floor of a Turkish style house). Fra Marko Palinić, the parish priest, started the construction and Fra Stjepan Jablanović completed it. The chapel was built and ever since the parish has had its parish priest. Ever since the patron has'n been changed. That's also the patron of today's parish church built in 1891 on the same location.
The same Fra Marko Palinić built a little wooden chapel by the parish house, which was razed and erected a few times before today's parish church of The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elisabeth was bu ilt.

Today: The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

CATHOLIC PARISH CHURCH VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, BANJA LUKA, BIH

CATHOLIC PARISH CHURCH VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, BANJA LUKA, BIH

The construction of today’s parish church started on the 19th of April 1891. It was Fra Ebenhard, a Trappist, who drew the plan of the parish church, in Romanesque style. He drew it by request of a parish priest Fr Grga Kotromanjic who was the parish church creator. Ebenhard is the one who also drew the plan of the belfry. The church was built by Josip Hofmann, a contractor from the German colony Windthorst (Nova Topola). Fr Marijan, the bishop, and former government of BiH also helped the construction of the church. It was finished before the winter, on the 30th of November 1891. Including a wall, it is 28 metres long and 11,60 metres wide. The wall is 8 metres high.

The new church was solemnly blessed on Candlemas, on 2nd of February 1892. With bishop’s permission, a dean Fr Ambroza Radmanovic gave his blessing to the church  during the Mass concelebrated by Fr Alojzije Misic, who later became the bishop of the diocese of Mostar, and by Ladislav Bajic, a clerical assistant and religious teacher in Banja Luka in those days. Today, it is interesting to mention the streets which the church was surrounded by: Saviour Street, Milicevic Street, Angel Street and Rudolf Square.
The belfry was built two years later: the construction of  it started on the 31st of May 1893 and finished on the 7th of September the same year. (In those days, the parish church patron wasn’t celebrated on the 2nd of July but on the 31st of May). It was built by Jakov Klaric, a contractor from the Croatian Seaside.
There were two altars in the church: the central one in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a statue of her made in Romanesque style and two side ones. Where is a baptistry today was an altar in the honour of St Gregory the Great and on the opposite side there was the one in the honour of St Antony of Padua. Both of them were made in Gothic style. Before long the church acquired the organ from the best organwright in Croatia, Heferer.
The parish church was seriously damaged in a catastrophic earthquake in October 1969, after which it was renovated and also altered according to II Vatican Synod. But, describing all those happenings and also the construction of today’s parish house requires an extra work, so we will save it for some other occasion. On that occasion we will also write about the cathedral, the old and today’s one which is in the area of this parish and about cemetery chapels  as well.

Address:
Rkt župni ured Pohoda Bl. Dj. Marije
Ul. Srpska br. 22
BiH-78000 Banja Luka

 

Source: www.biskupija-banjaluka.org , www.zupa-banjaluka.org

 

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