Although he often emphasised that sculpture is his primary and most important calling, architecture was a branch of art that remained the subject of Meštrović’s interest for a long time. He received his formal education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, where, after the compulsory three years of sculpture, he had also enrolled to study architecture (from 1904 – 1906) with Professor Friedrich Ohmann.

Meštrović’s imaginative architectural visions have been preserved in more than a thousand architectural blueprints kept in the collections of Ivan Meštrović Museums, which he created together with his long-time collaborators – architects Lavoslav Horvat and Harold Bilinić, and builder Marin Marasović. However, Meštrović also considers his architectural projects in the form of drawings, which reveal a free hand that creates, not caring for technical precision. Using India ink and soft pencil, he constructs space freely, paying particular attention to the play of light and shadow and the positioning of sculptural decorations.

Observing his architectural oeuvre, which includes ten completed projects, it seems that he found the greatest satisfaction in considering and designing sacred spaces. In the period between the two world wars, Ivan Meštrović built four churches based on his own designs: Our Lady of Angels in Cavtat (1920 – 1922), the Most Holy Redeemer in Otavice (1928 – 1930), Our Lady in Biskupija (1937 – 1938) and the small Church of the Holy Cross (1939 – 1941), interpolated into the Renaissance Crikvine castello in Split. He has also devised a comprehensive interior decoration for each of these edifices.

Façade and bell tower of the Vidovdan Temple

1908 – 1912
India ink and ink lavee on paper
29.5 x 43.7 cm
inv. no. GMS-596

This architectural drawing represents Meštrović’s vision for the so-called Vidovdan Temple, which he conceived as a key component of the architectural-sculptural cycle dedicated to the Battle of Kosovo of 1389. This mythical-historical event celebrated in folk legends in verse, represents a symbolic moment which marked the beginning of the centuries-long suffering of the South Slav peoples and their struggle for liberation from foreign rule.

In the period from 1908 to 1912, Meštrović created fifty-odd sculptures in supernatural size for the never-completed cycle, which represent folk and mythical heroes, and their grieving widows. They were supposed to be placed inside the Vidovdan Temple, which was to be built by generations of artists under the guidance of mentors, based on the principles of master’s workshops. Except for the sculptural “Kosovo fragments”, the architectural project was never realised. Only a wooden model of the Vidovdan Temple (1912) was ever made, which is today kept in the National Museum in Kruševac. In addition, the Meštrović Gallery collection keeps four extant architectural drawings.

Lit.: GRUJIĆ 2019: 55. MEŠTROVIĆ 1993: 25-27.
Bibl.: BULIMBAŠIĆ 2016: 336. KUMP 1986: 133. PRANČEVIĆ 2017: 247.

Lateral façade of the Vidovdan Temple

1908 – 1912
India ink, pencil and ink lavee on paper
30.9 x 47.2 cm
inv. no. GMS-598

The central part of the Vidovdan Temple was conceived as an octagonal building surmounted by a dome, with three quadrangular chapels, also with domes, on the sides and at the back, and a five-storey tower with caryatids in front of the entrance. A peristyle with a monumental portal leads to the temple (Kump 1983: 133). The five-storey-high tower is a symbol of five centuries of subjugation under Ottoman rule.

The architectural style is an amalgam of various influences, however the original architectural elements that Meštrović imaginatively composed, can be found in Diocletian’s Palace in Split: the entrance to the Peristyle, the octagonal dome of the emperor’s mausoleum, the Split cathedral belfry.


Lit.: GRUJIĆ 2019: 55. MEŠTROVIĆ 1993: 25-27.
Bibl.: KUMP 1986: 133. PRANČEVIĆ 2017: 247.

Study for the Mausoleum

pencil on paper
38.5 x 27.9 cm
inv. no. GMS-585

The drawing shows a tholos – an ancient temple with a circular floor plan surrounded by columns. In the central part of the circular building, we recognise Meštrović’s major work Vestal Virgin, the first study of which he conceived in 1915 in London, while the final large-scale sculpture was created in 1917 in Cannes. In this drawing, the statue, which we know today as an independent sculptural work, becomes part of the architectural-sculptural whole and is connected to it on a symbolic and stylistic level: the priestess of the goddess Vesta, the guardian of the home and the hearth, is placed in an ancient tholos.

The shaping of the columns in the form of angel caryatids, very similar to those executed at the entrance portico of Our Lady of Angels – the Račić Family Mausoleum in Cavtat – helps us date the drawing to the period of 1919 – 1920.

A more precise dating, however, is revealed by an inscription on the architrave: PAX MCMXIX, placing the creation of this drawing in the context of the Peace Conference in Versailles in 1919. We know that Meštrović was in Paris at the time, working on the organisation of the Yugoslav art exhibition at the Petit Palais, held at the same time as the peace conference. As he himself writes in his Memories of Political People and Events (1993: 114), the exhibition was supposed to serve as “our cultural legitimation”. Thus, the symbolism of the Vestal Virgin can be associated with the need to maintain a stable community, that is, the newly founded state.


Lit.: MEŠTROVIĆ 1993: 114.
Bibl.: PRANČEVIĆ 2017: 257-261. ROJE DEPOLO 2008: kat. br. 5.
Izl.: Zagreb 2008. Prag 2022. – 2023.

Façade and back of the church

India ink and ink lavee on paper
41.9 x 33.8 cm
inv. no. GMS-586

The drawing is one of the conceptual studies for Our Lady of Angels – the Račić Family Mausoleum in Cavtat – which
Meštrović built from 1920 to 1922. Sculptural decoration, that is, different elaborations of angel motifs (top of the belfry and the entrance portal) connect it to this project. However, the approach to the development of the outer shell of the building, as well as the spatial organisation with an addition of the belfry, represent a greater departure from the executed project.

The pure and clear geometric shapes and surfaces of the façade, belfry and apse, completely devoid of decorative elements, give us an insight into Meštrović’s contemporary understanding of architecture. Further refinement of form will be visible in his next project – the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, that is the family tomb in Otavice (1928 – 1930).

Studies of fragments and façade of the Račić Mausoleum in Cavtat

1919 – 1920
pencil on paper
31.1 x 21.1 cm
inv. no. GMS-430a

Our Lady of Angels – the Račić Family Mausoleum in Cavtat – is the first executed sacral architectural work by Ivan Meštrović, built from 1920 to 1922. The church is also a burial chapel where members of the Račić family of shipowners, who tragically died at the end of World War I, are buried. Our Lady of Angels is a unique example of the total design of architecture and sculpture, for which Meštrović received the Grand Prix at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris in 1925.

The drawing is one of the conceptual studies for the tomb in Cavtat. In addition to the representation of the façade, Meštrović elaborates the capitals with angel heads and a large angel figure, which he originally conceived for the top of the tympanum of the portico. The sketch of this angel is vastly different from the kneeling angel executed in bronze – Angel Orant, which he eventually placed on top of the dome (Roje Depolo 2008: 14).

Lit.: ROJE DEPOLO 2008: 14, kat. br. 8.
Izl.: Zagreb 2008.

Cross section of the Račić Mausoleum in Cavtat

1919 – 1920
pencil and ink lavee on paper
37.5 x 41 cm
inv. no. GMS-569a

The architectural drawing shows a vertical cross section of the interior of Our Lady of Angels, with a view of the main altar. Angels with the Souls of the Deceased are depicted on the lateral diagonal walls, placed directly above the burial sites of the deceased (indicated here by the coffered rectangular frame).

The shape of the chapel (vaulted with a flat instead of a gabled roof), as well as the representation of Madonna and Child, illustrate one of the earlier versions that Meštrović did not execute. Here, the figure of the Madonna is cut at the knees, so her height is considerably smaller, but quite suitable for the size of the chapel. As Roje Depolo (2008: 17) ascertains, “the executed statue of the Virgin with crossed legs and playful hands is too dynamic and too tall for the chapel.”

Façade of the Račić Mausoleum in Cavtat

1919 – 1920
India ink and ink lavee on paper
35 x 38.2 cm
inv. no. GMS-592a

This is a conceptual sketch for the execution of the Račić family burial chapel, which depicts an octagonal floor plan of the central building with an inscribed cross. The treatment of the outer face of the wall with rough-hewn stone blocks differs from the final project, and the lantern and bronze figure on its top (here it is placed on top of the garble) are also missing. Changes can also be observed in the shaping of the ornamental gable decorations and the absence of the decorative frieze beneath the roof cornice.

As Roje Depolo (2008: 14) interprets, “the idea was not executed, but it indicates that Meštrović was interested in the contrast of smooth and roughly-hewn stone on the façade and that he was studying it. The frieze, surrounding the entire building was not imagined in this variant, because the main visual play is based on the contrast of the treatment of the surface of the stone blocks.”

In his subsequent architectural project, the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in Otavice (1928 – 1930), he executed precisely this kind of treatment of the stone exterior. Specifically, the base is treated rustically to give the lower part an impression of strength, in contrast to the finer treatment of the upper part with a toothed stone axe.

Chapel of the Crucified Christ in the Račić Mausoleum in Cavtat

1919 – 1920
India ink, pencil and ink lavee on paper
33.9 x 42 cm
inv. no. GMS-595

The drawing is a conceptual representation of the Chapel of the Crucified Christ located in the north wing of the Račić Family Mausoleum. The position of Christ differs from the final execution where he is shown frontally, thus achieving greater symmetry and clarity. As interpreted by Roje Depolo (2008: 22), “Meštrović nailed the large relief of Christ directly to the front wall of the burial chapel, showing it without a cross”. Furthermore, in contrast to Meštrović’s type of Christ Patiens that he used to depict in the cycle of wooden reliefs from 1917, and in the Large Crucifix (1916), this Christ “is not so expressive, but is much more serene: his head, lowered in a melancholy manner (in half profile), is crowned without thorns – a crown that is depicted as a hair band in the form of an interlace that is decoratively wrapped around the head.”

Lit.: ROJE DEPOLO 2008: 22, kat. br. 17.
Izl.: Zagreb 2008.

Main altar of the Račić Mausoleum in Cavtat

1919 – 1920
India ink and ink lavee on paper
50.2 x 38.2 cm
inv. no. GMS-589

The drawing is a study for the main altar of the Račić Mausoleum – Altar of Our Lady of Angels. As Roje Depolo (2008: 17) asserts, “the ink lavee drawing of the main altar depicts the original conception of the statue of the Madonna and Child, as well as the chapel variant that differs from the final execution.” Here, the statue of Our Lady is conceived in a completely different manner. It is cut at the knees, and the Madonna and Child assume a strictly symmetrical pose of two orants.”

In contrast to the austere form of both protagonists in the posture of prayer, in the final execution Meštrović decided on a more relaxed and intimate depiction of the Madonna and Child. We experience it as a representation of a mother and child, evident in the hands gently touching, the playful position of little Jesus, and the mother’s soft gaze.

Lit.: ROJE DEPOLO 2008: 17, kat. br. 16.
Izl.: Zagreb 2008.

Study for the Interior with Caryatids

c. 1922
pencil on paper
38.5 x 56.2 cm
inv. no. GMS-571

The drawing is a study for the first project of the Church of Christ the King (1922), in which the space was conceived in three naves and divided by colonnades in the form of caryatids. The faces and bodies of angel caryatids, conceived and stylised like those on the portico of Our Lady of Angels in Cavtat, face the entrance space.

The project for the Church of Christ the King was to be executed in the Zagreb suburb of Trnje, which did not have its own church, at the initiative of Msgr. Svetozar Rittig. Ivan Meštrović developed two projects: the first in 1922 in collaboration with architect Harold Bilinić, and the second in 1936 in collaboration with Lavoslav Horvat. The construction based on the approved second project started in 1940, but it was interrupted in 1942 by the war, leaving behind only the foundation walls and the crypt. In 1970, it was covered and adapted for worship, and 12 years later, the sanctuary and the altar were built according to the project of architect Valdemar Balley. The altar includes a bronze relief of Christ the King that Meštrović completed in 1960.


Lit.: VUJANOVIĆ 2017: 151-156.
Izl.: Zagreb 1983. – 1984.

Interior of the Mausoleum

1925 – 1928
pencil on paper
44.5 x 28.9 cm
inv. no. GMS-588

The drawing can be dated to the period between 1925 and 1928, when Meštrović was working on the conceptual design of his family tomb in Otavice. The experience of executing the previous project with the same function – the Račić family tomb in Cavtat – is reflected in this proposal primarily in the characteristically open space and the octagonal floor plan with deep rectangular chapels. Although the sculptural decoration is only roughly sketched here, we still recognise Meštrović’s solution of the sculptural program for the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in OtaviceEternally Crucified above the main altar, winged evangelists in the side niches, archangels on the cornice below the dome. This architectural drawing, which gives us a perspective view of the interior of the memorial-religious space, as he was considering it at the time, also reveals the appearance of the roof structure. It is shaped like a stepped pyramid, another characteristic of Meštrović’s earliest conceptual sketches for the family tomb in Otavice, which are kept in the Meštrović Atelier in Zagreb.

Lit.: JURIĆ ŠABIĆ 2020 b: 78-81.

Church Studies

pencil on paper
44.3 x 28.7 cm
inv. no. GMS-587

The drawing most likely presents the elaboration of the conceptual idea for the Church of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Sušak. Plans for the construction of the new parish church in Sušak were initiated in 1938 (after the adoption of the Regulation Plan), at the request of the parish priest Martin Bubanj, who asked Ivan Meštrović to create the architectural project. The planned construction site was a plot of land above the railway overpass in Kumičićeva Street. Meštrović created two projects: the first had a central plan (c. 1938), and the second a basilica-type plan (1940), which was accepted and on which basis a model was made. The project, however, was never executed.

In the drawing, we can see the central-type square floor plan surmounted by a dome, circular and octagonal. The façade is composed in the form of a compact bell-gable (like Our Lady in Biskupija), covering most, if not all, of the width of the central body.

Similar examples can be found in the Meštrović Gallery collection of architectural drawings (inv. no. GMS-936 – inv. no. GMS-938), which show different elaborations of the central-type floor plan of the Church of SS. Cyril and Methodius. Deanović (1986: 17-18) writes about Meštrović’s consideration of the first project for the Sušak church:

„His starting point was the central form of a building surmounted by a dome, with the addition of the vertical bell tower. He was devising various ways of connecting the circular space with bell towers, which, in the meantime, were separated and connected by a lower rectangular wing on which the central space with the dome rests. The volumes of all these spatial units are always clearly delineated and set apart by sharp outlines. Meštrović was particularly interested in the link between the circular and the transverse rectangular space, resting on the bell towers, so he created various circular, semi-circular, and even trefoil floor plans.“


Lit.: DEANOVIĆ 1986: 17-18. MAJDANČIĆ 2019: 152-156.

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