Imposing Walls and Tower of the Church of St. Anthony of Padua in Bihać

December 17, 2016 8:00 PM

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Church of Saint Anthony of Padua in Bihać, once the biggest Catholic oratories from Una to Drina, is one of the numerous national monuments in Bosnia and Herzegovina which decays year after year, losing a part of itself.

In a short period of time after the arrival of the Austro-Hungarians in 1878, the wooden Catholic Church of the Saint Anthony of Padua was built in Bihać. Shortly after, friar Franjo Čurić launched a campaign for construction of the Parish Church of Saint Anthony of Padua.

In July 29, 1880 he submitted a request to the prince Willem, asking for the return of the former church, i.e. the Fethija Mosque, to their possession, or help in building a new church at another location.

The Austro-Hungarian authorities then recommended the Bihać authorities and Muslims to give one lot for the church to the parson. Muslims promised to buy a lot for the construction of the church, in the city or outside of it, and even help during the construction, only so that they would not touch the Fethija Mosque, which was built centuries earlier by the Ottoman authorities on the foundations of the medieval Church of the Saint Anthony of Padua.

The Provincial Government responded to the local general, who notified the parson that the most favorable spot for construction of the church would be the Cemetery of Saint Lucia. The Government also promised to aid the construction.

The church was built in three stages, and the construction was completed in 1891. The tower was 50 meters high, together with the roof and the cross. Thus, the Church of the Saint Anthony of Padua dominated the urban city core. In this stage, the tower had a steep roof, covered in sheet metal.

In the second stage, in 1899, friar Alojzije Mišić extends the church by eleven meters and upgrades the semicircular apses and the side altars. The church as additionally lightened up with one window on the north and one window on the south side, and another window placed in the church apse.

Third stage commended in 1938, when friar Viktor Šakić launched a campaign for reconstruction of the church and the tower with the help from all citizens, regardless of their religion or nationality. In this stage, the church was extended toward the west, the church got two more side and central semicircular apses, so the basis of the church gained the shape of a Latin cross. With this intervention, the length of the church increased to 58 meters, while its width the upgraded part amounted to 24 meters. The steep roof from the tower was removed and adjusted to the so-called late Gothic style.

During 1943, the British planes bombed Bihać during a Second World War combat. Seventy percent of the urban city core was destroyed. The Church of the Saint Anthony of Padua was among the destroyed facilities, and only the tower and one part of the walls remained standing.

For years to come, the communist authorities did not allow the reconstruction of the demolished church, thus facilitating its further decline.

Walls and the high tower of the Church of the Saint Anthony of Padua still stand, showing that an imposing building once stood in the center of Bihać, decorating the city and being an inevitable detail on almost every historical photograph.



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