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 oldest settlements and their churches:
From the church of St Elisabeth to the church of The Blessed Virgin Mary's Visitation to Elisabeth
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.
|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.
Rkt župni ured Pohoda Bl. Dj. Marije
Ul. Srpska br. 22
BiH-78000 Banja Luka
Source: www.biskupija-banjaluka.org , www.zupa-banjaluka.org