May 31st is a very important date for any local born and living in Zagreb. The date marks the Day of our city, marking what now amounts to 922 years of the city’s known existence. There was a town here before 1094, but the first known written records of a town called Zagreb date from that year, and are a part of documents depicting the formation of a new archdiocese in the area.
The date we took for celebrating our city is not, however, the same date those documents were written. Instead, it was chosen in 1991 to be on the day of Mother of God of the Stone Door, official catholic protector of the city (Majka Božja od Kamenitih Vrata).
Stone door was an entrance point in the keep that encompassed Gradec, the gentry part of Zagreb that we know today as Upper Town. It was also a votive chapel for travelers that left or entered the city, with a painting of Virgin Mary holding a scepter in one hand and baby Jesus in the other hung above the entrance. The painting was the only thing found unburnt on the site after the great fire of 1731 devastated most of the city, and many of the citizens at the time proclaimed it a miracle. An altar was built on the site of Stone doors and still stands there today, with a gold framed painting taking central position in it. The altar is at the top of Radiceva street when coming from the main square, or just down the street on the right when facing St. Mark’s church. The devastating fire started on May 31st. Each year, the bishops hold a procession with the painting from the cathedral to the Stone door at 8:30 pm.
Zagreb is filled with worldly celebrations on May 31st as well, with free open-air concerts, tour, and museums. All entries into museums founded by the City will be free, and free tours will be provided in the afternoon hours, all starting from the Tourist Info Center at ban Jelacic square. Free rides with panorama streetcars that go around the city will be available to all throughout the day, and a special celebratory concert will be held at Zrinjevac park at 9 pm.
The central traditional celebration is held on the evening of May 30th. Each year, a different square is chosen for the celebration where Orchestras and Philharmonics play some of the most famous compositions. This time, the honor fell to soloists, quire and orchestra of Croatian National Theater who will perform in front of the theater’s building on marshal Tito square. Starting from 8:30 the artists will perform parts of their repertoire including Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Verdi, Bizet, Puccini, Zajc and Gotovac.