The Military Frontier, an administrative unit within the Habsburg Empire, was established during the sixteenth century to consolidate the border with the Ottoman Empire. In Building the Frontier of the Habsburg Empire: Viennese Authorities and the Architecture of Croatian-Slavonian Military Frontier Towns, 1780–1881, Dragan Damjanović considers architecture and urban planning there from the time Emperor Joseph II assumed the throne until the Frontier was abolished in 1881. Beginning with an overview of the region's architecture, urban design, and administrative organization, Damjanović proceeds to an examination of how modernization processes and the gradual demilitarization of the Frontier affected architecture and planning there. As they did for other provinces, Viennese authorities commissioned numerous new public and church buildings for the region—part of a larger effort toward modernization. Showing the influence of a variety of styles then fashionable elsewhere in Central Europe, these buildings were nonetheless well adapted to their local circumstances.
The Military Frontier (Militärgrenze) was an administrative unit within the larger Habsburg Empire (Figure 1). Formed in the sixteenth century at the empire's southern borders to guard against the Ottomans, the Frontier was finally abolished in 1881. It originally encompassed a small area adjacent to the Habsburg–Ottoman border in what is now central Croatia, from the river Drava in the north to the city of Karlovac/Karlstadt in the south. After the defeat of the Ottomans in wars of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Military Frontier was expanded significantly, from the Adriatic coast through central Croatia, southern Slavonia, southeastern Syrmia, and the south of Hungary to the eastern hills of the Carpathians and the Habsburg–Moldavian border.1 The Military Frontier was controlled entirely by the Habsburg army. It was under the direct rule of the Aulic War Council (Hofkriegsrat), which was superseded by the Ministry of War (Kriegsministerium) in 1848. As the area was under the complete control of Viennese authorities, architecture in the region was dominated by the styles, building types, urban planning, and building processes characteristic of that capital city.
This article focuses on the urban design and architecture of towns in the Croatian-Slavonian part of the Military Frontier during the last century of its existence—from the start of the independent rule of Emperor Joseph II (who enacted many architectural and administrative reforms) in 1780 until the Frontier's abolishment in 1881. It begins with an overview of the region's basic urban and administrative characteristics and goes on to examine the modernization and gradual demilitarization of its architecture. Approximately twenty towns here played key roles in securing the border while still allowing for economic exchange between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires. The buildings of these towns illustrate how architectural and urban forms developed in the large, wealthy cities of the Habsburg state were adapted to life in a poor province at the empire's edge.
Formal and Administrative Characteristics of Settlements in the Military Frontier
Throughout its existence, the Military Frontier was a predominantly rural area. Its villages were inhabited by peasant soldiers, who were not subject to a feudal lord but were obliged to serve in the military of the Habsburg state. A number of urban settlements developed in the Military Frontier, but none of them exceeded a population of fifteen thousand before the Frontier was abolished in 1881.2 In the nineteenth century, the territory of the Military Frontier was divided into eleven regiments, and the regimental seats were developed into local administrative centers. The towns of Gospić (Lika Regiment), Otočac (Otočac Regiment), Ogulin (Ogulin Regiment), Karlovac (Slunj/Sluin Regiment), Glina (for the ban's, or viceroy's, First Regiment), Petrinja/Petrinia (for the ban's Second Regiment), and Bjelovar/Bellovar (Varaždin-Križevci/Warasdiner-Creutzer and Varaždin-Đurđevac/Warasdiner-St. Georger Regiments) were all part of the Croatian Military Frontier run by the Central Command in Zagreb. Nova Gradiška/Neu-Gradiska (Gradiška Regiment), Vinkovci/Vinkovce (Brod Regiment), and Mitrovica/Mitrovitz (Petrovaradin Regiment) were subordinate to the Slavonian Central Command in Mitrovica, which was later relocated to Petrovaradin/Peterwardein (see Figure 1).3
A number of towns in the Military Frontier were military communities (Militär Comunität) that were developed as trade and craft centers.4 Most of these served as regimental seats, although some—such as Zemun/Semlin and Sremski Karlovci/Karlowitz in the Slavonian Military Frontier and Karlobag, Brinje/Bründl, Ivanić, and Kostajnica in the Croatian Military Frontier—did not. There were also fortified towns and fortresses, such as Brod na Savi/Brood, Petrovaradin, Stara Gradiška/Alt Gradisca, Karlovac, and Rača; most of these were built from the late seventeenth through the mid-eighteenth centuries to strengthen the border with the Ottoman Empire.5 They served mainly as garrison centers where troops were concentrated and as secure depots for arms and food.6 Smaller fortresses, such as Stara Gradiška, were surrounded by low ramparts made mainly of brick; they often contained wide streets or lanes (the width determined by military needs), various military buildings, and a few private houses (Figure 2).
Some of these towns were established ex novo by the Habsburg authorities for security, strategic, and military reasons.7 This was a consequence of increased conflict with the Ottoman Empire, which began in the second half of the sixteenth century (when Karlovac was founded) and lasted until the second half of the eighteenth century (when Nova Gradiška, Bjelovar, and Vojni Sisak/Militär Sissegg were established).8 While Karlovac was planned as one of the major forts in the Military Frontier, Nova Gradiška, Bjelovar, and Military Sisak were envisaged as new economic and administrative centers in those areas ravaged during the conflict with the Ottomans, areas that had few urban settlements. These new urban functions indicate changes in the status and role of the Military Frontier.
Newly planned towns such as Karlovac and Bjelovar, and Nova Gradiška and Military Sisak to a lesser degree, were built with gridded street plans; in this, they were similar to other planned ex novo towns built around the world from the sixteenth century onward.9 Among the cities founded in the second half of the eighteenth century, Bjelovar had the strictest grid (Figure 3). Less regular plans for other cities established in the same period, such as that for Nova Gradiška, resulted in most cases from military engineers’ need to adapt to topographical conditions (Figure 4). In older settlements, existing “organic” layouts were mostly retained. However, in the nineteenth century, the street networks in all Military Frontier towns, regardless of their initial layouts, were expanded with rectilinear streets where possible, to bring them into line with military planning standards. Because building permits for privately owned houses were issued by local planning offices (Lokal Bauamt), compliance with regulations was high.10
Whether newly planned or adapted from an older settlement, every town in the Military Frontier with a fort or regimental seat status had a central parade square (Paradeplatz). Most such squares had rectangular layouts (as in Gospić, Otočac, Karlovac, Glina, Petrinja, Bjelovar, Nova Gradiška, and Stara Gradiška), but there were a few exceptions in towns where it was necessary to fit new features within the constraints of existing urban plans (e.g., Ogulin, Vinkovci). Parade squares often occupied large portions of the settlements they served; for example, the square in the small city of Bjelovar covered an area equivalent to four city blocks, or one-ninth of the city's central area.11 Since the main role of the squares was to host military exercises and parades, building construction within them was typically banned. Exceptions to this rule were made only for memorials, religious monuments, and churches. Such structures were typically surrounded by trees planted in strict rectilinear patterns—the landscape reflecting the architecture's formality and solemn purpose, as at the parade square in Nova Gradiška (Figure 5).12
From the mid-eighteenth century onward, defensive walls were no longer built around Military Frontier towns, as new modes of warfare made the old fortification systems obsolete.13 Investment was redirected from fortifications to public (imperial, or aerar) buildings—residences for military personnel as well as schools, hospitals, quarantines, warehouses, and similar facilities. These were variously intended to boost economic development, control trade with and migration from the Ottoman Empire, and prevent epidemics. Existing forts were maintained against the possibility that they would be needed, given the unstable political circumstances in the southeastern areas of the Habsburg Empire.
As all public administration in the Military Frontier was under strict military control, the army and the larger state bureaucracy were the principal investors in construction projects. This mirrors the situation in Vienna from the start of the Napoleonic Wars to the early 1860s.14 Building projects were funded through taxes or through donations from central government bodies, and local residents were obligated to participate in the construction of public and municipal works.15 Costs were carefully managed, and all public and religious buildings were scaled to harmonize with the towns in which they were located.16 The intensity of construction in the region often depended on broader political circumstances. During the Napoleonic Wars, for instance, between 1809 and 1813, a part of the Military Frontier passed from the Habsburg monarchy to French rule.17 As a result, significant building activities were suspended there until after the 1815 Congress of Vienna, when construction resumed.
By the mid-nineteenth century, most small Military Frontier towns, and regimental seats in particular, bore similar formal and functional characteristics. Their centers were occupied by churches and two-story buildings with simple façades and tall roofs; some of the latter accommodated various military institutions, while others served as Roman Catholic or Orthodox Christian parish houses. Considerable numbers of military and state-owned buildings were located in the regimental seats. A plan of Vinkovci from ca. 1850 reveals forty-nine state-owned buildings there, including the Roman Catholic church and parish house and the Orthodox church (Figure 6).18 Another example of this ownership pattern is found at Bjelovar, where an 1828 map shows seventy state-owned buildings, a result of the town's serving as the seat of two regiments.19 A postcard photograph of Glina's city center taken in the late nineteenth century shows freestanding public buildings; their distance from neighboring structures protected them from the fires that often broke out in Military Frontier towns, where residential buildings were usually made of wood or covered in slag (Figure 7).
Designs and cost estimates for buildings were drawn up exclusively in German, the official language of the Military Frontier. Only engineers employed by the official public institutions of this province were authorized to provide such plans and estimates. Because of this, and because of the military's control over investments, new buildings were, for the most part, modest exemplars of prevailing Central European styles, and of Viennese architecture in particular. The only accommodation to local circumstances was in the selection of building materials—stone for the highlands and the littoral of the Military Frontier, brick for the plains.
Despite the proximity of the Ottoman Empire, Islamic architecture had no influence on the design of Military Frontier towns. This was partly due to the fact that Ottoman architects were not allowed to work in the Military Frontier, and partly because most Habsburg engineers were unfamiliar with Islamic architecture. Almost all mosques and public buildings constructed in the region during the Ottoman period, before the Habsburg monarchy's expansion, had been demolished. (One rare exception was a small mosque in Tekije, near Petrovaradin.) The Ottoman-built public buildings were usually destroyed because they did not meet the needs of Habsburg administrators. The mosques were likely taken down as part of an effort to eradicate the region's former Ottoman history—damnatio memoriae—and because there were no longer any Muslims living there. Further, the mosques were small, and so their conversion into churches would have been impractical given the large Catholic communities they would have had to serve.
In short, by the mid-nineteenth century, urban areas of the Military Frontier were completely Europeanized. Their development and orderliness demonstrated the Habsburg monarchy's economic and cultural strength to those living within the Frontier, and also to those living across the border in the Ottoman Empire.
Military Hierarchy and the Design of Military Frontier Towns
The Habsburg military's strict hierarchical system had a strong impact on both the layout of towns and the design of individual buildings in the Military Frontier. Each town's major administrative buildings were located around the central parade square or in its immediate vicinity. These included military headquarters, the homes of officers, Roman Catholic churches and parish houses, and occasionally Orthodox Christian churches.20 While high-ranking military officers resided in the town center, enlisted men were almost always housed in barracks built at the edges of the settlement. The periphery of the town was also reserved for hospitals and utilitarian structures, such as manufacturing and industrial facilities and auxiliary military buildings and warehouses. The central and peripheral parts of the town were separated by a civilian residential belt occupying side streets around the central square.
No city or town inside the region had the status of capital city. This encouraged a polycentric development within the province, with small towns serving as regimental seats. The Military Frontier's hierarchical system was reflected in the size and articulation of the main façades of public buildings in each of these towns. The most monumental and lavishly decorated buildings were the regimental command house and the colonel's house (home of the chief commander of the regiment).21 As seen at the colonel's house in Otočac (1820s), the façades of such buildings were sometimes articulated with neoclassical elements only rarely employed in the Military Frontier (Figure 8). The regimental command house and the colonel's house were followed in size by the lieutenant colonel's house, the first and second majors’ houses, and the physician's and engineer's houses. The numbers and types of rooms the military officers were allotted were strictly defined.22 Differences in size are clearly visible between the buildings for high commanders, such as the colonel's house in Otočac and the officers’ housing at the hornwork of Brod na Savi fortress (1780s), and the apartment of a physician in Otočac, a prison in Gospić, or a school in Ogulin (Figures 9, 10, 11, and 12).23 Façade articulation is also notably different between these different structures: the houses for high commanders, though quite simple in design, have façades articulated by pilasters, while the doctor's home, the prison, and the school are of much simpler design. The design features of these buildings—rusticated walls, occasional pilasters and gables, the concentration of ornament at the center or edges of the main façade—were repeated frequently for various types of military and public structures.
The military may have been the most important investor in towns of the Military Frontier, but it was not the only one. In military communities, local authorities also sponsored the construction of new facilities, albeit to a lesser extent. Town council buildings were constructed in every military community; those in Sremski Karlovci (1811–18) and Bjelovar (1831) stand out.24 These two buildings are representative of Biedermeier architecture, which was common in the Habsburg monarchy during the Vormärz period (the era between the 1815 Congress of Vienna and the Revolutions of 1848–49) and was often used for houses of the newly emergent bourgeoisie. Bjelovar's town council conducted business in a single-story building with a simple façade (Figure 13). The size and lavishness of buildings such as these reflected the numbers of residents and the resources of the communities that built them.
Characterized by modest size and simple façades, the public buildings in the Military Frontier were nonetheless monumental when compared to the residential buildings, which were mostly small, single-story houses occupied by traders and craftsmen. The Frontier's residential architecture shares some features with its public architecture, including high rooftops (for snow runoff, reflecting the cold climate of the first half of the nineteenth century, the end of the Little Ice Age), façades with little articulation, and decorations concentrated almost solely around portals.25 Particularly good examples of residential architecture from this period are found in Ogulin, Otočac, Gospić, Petrinja, Glina, Nova Gradiška, and Vinkovci, where many buildings have been maintained so that they appear much as they did in the first half of the nineteenth century.
The architecture of the Military Frontier during this period resembled military architecture found elsewhere in the Habsburg Empire. Several barracks and other military facilities were built during the rule of Maria Theresa and her successors in Vienna (Invalidenhaus, Landstraße, 1783–86; Grenadierkaserne, Gumpendorf, 1785–85; Tierärtzliche Hochschule, 1821–23) and in Pest (Neugebäude barracks, 1786–89; Ludoviceum, 1830–36).26 Also similar were two new city-forts—Terezín/Theresienstadt and Josefov/Josefstadt, built in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in the Czech lands by Viennese military engineers—as well as the Ferdinand barracks (1843–45) in the Galician capital Lviv/Lemberg and the Saint George barracks in the Transylvanian city of Cluj/Clausenburg/Kolozsvár (1834–38).27 The similarities in military buildings across the empire resulted from the engineers’ common Viennese educations, the mobility of construction workers, and the centralist, bureaucratic nature of Habsburg state administration. They were also a consequence of contemporary architectural and urban planning theories then circulating in Europe. One thing, however, was crucial to the architecture of the Military Frontier and differentiated it from that found in other parts of the empire: the entire Frontier was under military control. This meant that across the Frontier, urban planning and architectural reforms were implemented with maximum thoroughness.28
The Education of Engineers and the Dissemination of Architectural Ideas
Most engineers and architects working in the Military Frontier were educated in Vienna, at the Polytechnic (established in 1815), the Academy of Fine Arts, or the military's K. K. Ingenieur (Genie) Akademie.29 These institutions produced well-trained professionals who were qualified to design and maintain high-quality, complex infrastructure to serve the army's needs.30 The most important of these schools was the Genie-Akademie, founded in 1717 with the goal of improving the education of military engineers. This institution taught civil engineering alongside the art and tactics of building fortifications and the construction of waterways, roads, and fortresses.31 Themes that were emphasized included building for durability and comfort, efficient use of materials, aesthetics, and economics, along with more practical matters such as budgeting. Special attention was paid to the design of buildings intended for use by the Ingenieurs-Corps, for the deployment of troops, and for the storage of ammunition and food.32 This educational background prepared engineers for the wide variety of building projects they might undertake in the Military Frontier.
The principal textbook used at the Genie-Akademie during the first half of the nineteenth century was the Lehrbuch der Baukunst, written in Vienna between 1820 and 1830 by Franz Weiß. Thanks to its numerous illustrations, Weiß's textbook also provided design templates for engineers, offering them façades, ground plans for various building types, cross sections, and different types of vaults, windows and doors, capitals, and other architectural elements (Figure 14). Architecture in the Military Frontier was greatly influenced by this book. Following Vitruvius, Weiß listed durability, utility, and beauty as the fundamental principles of architecture; the architect must strive for noble simplicity (edle Einfalt) of form, avoiding affectation and taking care that every element is necessary, or at least functional.33 Weiß's aesthetic principles were in accord with those of numerous theoreticians of art and architecture, particularly Johann Joachim Winckelmann (from whom Weiß borrowed the term edle Einfalt), Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand, and Marc-Antoine Laugier. The rationalism espoused by these thinkers permeated architecture during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
The extreme simplicity that characterized the façades of so many Military Frontier buildings grew directly from Weiß's prescriptions.34 These buildings featured little ornament, most of it concentrated around doors or windows. Columns, whether freestanding or engaged, were almost entirely absent; instead, walls were spare surfaces, sometimes divided into regular segments by pilaster strips.35 Weiß took a dim view of historical styles other than classicism. He regarded the Romanesque as a degenerate form of ancient Roman architecture and criticized the Gothic style for its excessive use of vaults.36 It is therefore unsurprising that, to the extent that buildings in the Military Frontier displayed any conscious style at all, neoclassicism dominated until the mid-nineteenth century. Gothic and other revival styles came into use much later in this region than they did elsewhere in Central and Western Europe.
While surviving military registers and account books document many details of construction practices and administrative organization, they provide no information on the personal or educational backgrounds of the architects and engineers who worked in the Military Frontier in the period between the Napoleonic Wars and the region's dissolution in 1881. For this information, one must turn to records and publications from the Viennese schools noted above. The majority of engineering staff mentioned in registers had German-sounding names, while a smaller number had Czech, Italian, French, Croatian, or Serbian monikers. Upon graduation, they frequently moved from one public institution to another, contributing to the dissemination of knowledge and styles and to the uniformity of military architecture throughout the Habsburg Empire.37 Regardless of their education or national backgrounds, all were state officials whose positions and duties were controlled and regulated by public service reforms implemented in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Building Administration in the Military Frontier during the First Half of the Nineteenth Century
Reforms aimed at centralizing state administration and implementing better control over public finances first came to the Military Frontier during the reign of Habsburg empress Maria Theresa (r. 1740–80). They continued and were amplified during the reign of her son, Joseph II (r. 1780–90), and had powerful effects on public architecture. The establishment of the Office for Public Construction (Behörde für Öffentliche Bauangelegenheiten) in 1785 and the Royal Privy Councilor for Buildings (Hofbaurat) in 1809 led to centralized control of important building projects throughout the empire.38 The Military Frontier now saw the appointment of a building director (Baudirektor) and the creation of central Building Administration departments (Gränz-Bau-Direktionen). By the end of the Napoleonic Wars there were six Building Administration departments (the exact dates of their foundings are unknown).39 After the reform of the Military Frontier Building Administration in 1826 or 1827, only three departments remained active.40
The institutional framework of the Military Frontier was elaborate, and the entire Building Administration was heavily bureaucratized. Within the Building Administration departments, staff changed constantly; typically, a department's staff consisted of a building director, a deputy director, one or two assistants (Bau-Adjunct), and one or two building clerks (Bauschreiber). The departments were in charge of all public building activities and the employment of building captains (Bauhauptmann) and bricklaying and carpentry foremen (Mauerpolier, Zimmerpolier) in regimental seats. All engineers were members of the military, and those in the highest positions held high military ranks. Despite its bureaucratic complexity, the Building Administration held little real authority and was ultimately dependent on directives from Vienna. One result of this was that Vienna's architecture was translated for remote locations inside the Military Frontier. The Aulic War Council supervised all relevant building projects and delivered standardized drawings (Normal Pläne) made at the Main Engineering Office (Genie Haupt Amt) in Vienna, the use of which was mandatory for local engineers working on public projects.41 The engineers were allowed to deviate from these standards only in exceptional cases, with the result that there was considerable uniformity in the architecture of the Military Frontier.42 The Main Engineering Office provided façade designs, plans and cross sections, and, sometimes, specific instructions on use, height, vaulting, and wall finishes. Good examples of these Normal Pläne are the designs used for regiment infantry and battalion hospitals (Figures 15 and 16).
Local building directors, building captains, and carpentry supervisors were required to ensure the functionality and durability (“Zweckmäßigkeit und Solidität”) of their output.43 All public structures had to be built from durable materials and were to be used only for their designated purposes. Work was strictly supervised, and building directors were required to send annual reports to the Central Command, the Building Administration departments of the Military Frontier, and the Aulic War Council in Vienna. A great deal of attention was paid to maintaining the buildings and their surroundings, which contributed to the typically attractive appearance of Military Frontier towns.44
State Reforms, Religious Architecture, and the Aesthetics of Austerity
A centralized administration was not the only reform instituted under Maria Theresa and Joseph II that influenced the architecture of the Military Frontier. Other modernization efforts were of even greater importance. Among these were the suppression of Catholic orders and monasteries, the establishment of new Catholic parishes, the issuance of the Patent of Tolerance in 1781, and the establishment and construction of hospitals, orphanages, and similar charitable institutions.45
The suppression of orders and monasteries, beginning with the Jesuits during the reign of Maria Theresa, made a great number of properties available to the state, many of which were adapted to serve military and other needs. Just as the former Jesuit novice house (Profeßhaus) at Am Hof square in Vienna became the seat of the Aulic War Council in 1773–75, so the Central Command headquarters, seat of the central administration of the Croatian Military Frontier, was installed in a former Jesuit monastery at Jesuit Square (Jezuitski trg) in Zagreb in 1784.46 The trend of housing new institutions in old buildings was in line with the empire's policy of austerity. This policy was imposed with particular strictness in regard to public and religious architecture, including Habsburg royal buildings, during the final decades of Maria Theresa's rule and after Joseph II came to power.47 New buildings were designed as Nutzbau: functional structures intended to accommodate newly established institutions. Accordingly, their façades were simple, and their layouts relied on formulas developed in the royal planning offices and engineering academies in Vienna.48 Decorations were scarce on the façades of public buildings even after the reign of Joseph II; his successors, Emperors Leopold II (r. 1790–92), Francis I (r. 1792–1835), and Ferdinand I (r. 1835–48), continued his austerity policies during the entire Vormärz period, which lasted until the Revolutions of 1848–49.49
The architecture of this era reflected the conservative nature of the regime—which maintained the old feudal order—and its recurring budgetary shortfalls. In 1811, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, Austria was nearly bankrupt and was forced to devalue its currency.50 In the realm of architecture, these dire economic circumstances promoted the rise of an aesthetics of austerity, one that was especially pronounced within the Military Frontier. That economically underdeveloped province on the margins of the empire, where all aspects of life were dictated by military regulations, became known to some as “Austrian Sparta.” Unsurprisingly, a simplified neoclassicism was deemed the most suitable architectural style for the region.51 The spread of this austere style was also encouraged by the new proscriptions on the Catholic orders, which had formerly been important art and architectural patrons. Part of the orders’ property was used to create a religious fund that financed the establishment of new Catholic parishes, which encouraged the construction of new parish churches from the 1780s onward.
Along with the church, the state contributed to the construction of religious buildings (mostly Catholic churches), and these too were subject to strict controls and standards. The sizes of churches were prescribed according to their locations and the number of local priests, and state agencies provided standardized drawings for local engineers to use.52 Consequently, most churches built in the Military Frontier from the late eighteenth through the early nineteenth centuries were similar in type and form, whether they served Catholic or Orthodox congregations. Most were single-nave, longitudinal buildings with semicircular, polygonal, or orthogonal sanctuaries, choirs above their entrances, and steeples above or in front of their main façades; the steeples were usually crowned with baroque domes and only lightly decorated. The most monumental religious architecture was built in regimental seats and forts; examples include the Catholic Church of Saint Lawrence in Petrinja (1780–81), the Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas in Karlovac (1785), and the Catholic Church of Saint Stephen the King in Nova Gradiška (completed in 1829) (Figure 17).53
The reforms carried out under Joseph II reduced the power of the Catholic Church in all parts of the Habsburg Empire, yet a close connection between the state and the church remained. Catholic churches predominated and were the most lavishly decorated buildings on Military Frontier towns’ parade squares, where most monuments were religious ones until the middle of the nineteenth century.
At the same time, Joseph II's Patent of Tolerance enabled non-Catholic Christian congregations to build their own places of worship. These were primarily Orthodox, as Orthodox Christians made up about 50 percent of the population of the Croatian-Slavonian Military Frontier.54 The new legal status of the Orthodox Church from the 1780s on was reflected in new and sometimes monumental church buildings funded by wealthy merchants and artisans. These were often located on or near the parade squares of regimental seats. Typically, they did not occupy central positions as Catholic churches did, but instead were located on corners or on nearby side streets. Although this was in part attributable to the hierarchical system of the Military Frontier and the emphasis placed on the primacy of Catholicism, these were not the only reasons. In some cases, there was inadequate space for building on the square—a condition compounded by the Orthodox Church's requirement of an east–west orientation for its sacral buildings and the sometimes conflicting orientation of town squares. Saint Nicholas in Karlovac was the first monumental Orthodox church built in a Croatian-Slavonian Military Frontier regiment seat. Its monumentality resulted from the fact that it was not merely a parish church but the cathedral for Orthodox congregations throughout the Croatian highlands (Figure 18). Orthodox churches soon followed in Bjelovar (1792–94), Vinkovci (1794), and Glina (1827). Last built were the churches in Ogulin (1857) and Otočac (1863). Soon, every town in the Military Frontier was dominated by Catholic and Orthodox church towers.
Other religious groups had a lesser presence in the cities and towns of the Croatian-Slavonian Military Frontier. The Protestant population was so small that not a single Protestant church was built in towns of the province before 1881.55 Jewish synagogues, too, were almost entirely absent before 1867, as Jews were banned from settling anywhere in the Frontier beyond Petrovaradin and Zemun. While only a few Jewish families resided in Petrovaradin, Zemun had a much larger Jewish population—mostly Sephardim who had fled Belgrade in 1739 when the city was taken over by Ottomans.56 The synagogue they built was a simple, modest structure, suggestive of a community seeking to keep a low profile and to worship in peace.
Beyond religious architecture, reforms during the reign of Joseph II resulted in efforts to improve the quality of life in the remote, sparsely populated Military Frontier. The state invested heavily there in new hospitals, schools, and charitable institutions, and in sanitary, industrial, and trade buildings. Trade with southeastern Europe was lively, but fear of disease was high, so the transport of people and goods was strictly controlled. The area served, in effect, as a sanitary cordon between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires. Import was possible only in places that imposed quarantines to monitor the health status of people and goods.57 The military also built wheat silos, often the tallest buildings in their towns, and developed several port facilities on the Frontier's littoral. The most important of these was Senj/Zengg, connected to the hinterland by the Josephina road. Meanwhile, the monarchy built the first manufacturing plants in the province and made significant investments in silk production. All of these various operations—quarantine, storage, manufacturing—were housed in simple, mostly undecorated facilities of orthogonal layout.
The state was also in charge of transportation infrastructure, and it paid special attention to those roads that served essential military and commercial purposes (e.g., the Josephina road to Senj, the Theresiana road to Karlobag, and the Carolina and Louisiana roads to Rijeka).58 Plans for a railroad network emerged by 1840; these included monumental, neoclassical stations (designed by Josip Kajetan Knežić) for Bandino Selo and Military Sisak as well as other stations for unspecified midsize towns (Figure 19). Although this effort failed, Knežić's monumental, neoclassical stations—their entrance portals opening like Greek Propylaea—suggest a desire to move beyond mere functionality toward a grander and more auspicious architecture for the Military Frontier, an impulse that would only escalate after 1850.59
New Priorities and New Style for a New Regime: Architecture of the 1850s and 1860s
The army was crucial to saving the Habsburg dynasty during the Revolutions of 1848–49, and so the empire made enormous investments in military infrastructure in the following decades, particularly during the 1850s under Minister of the Interior Baron Alexander von Bach.60 The Military Frontier benefited from this situation, although the construction of large forts, barracks, and other military complexes was supplanted by new investment in public buildings. This was the result of changed political and military circumstances, as the threat to the empire no longer came from the Ottomans but rather from the Italian unification movement, Prussian and Russian expansion, and political unrest within the country. Thus, the majority of new military building projects were now realized in the Italian provinces of Lombardy and Veneto, in the Adriatic coastal region, along the empire's northern borders, and in Vienna itself.61
The Military Frontier maintained the status of a separate province, subject to the Ministry of War until 1881. It gradually became smaller, first in 1851 through the elimination of its Transylvanian territory, and again in 1871 through the incorporation of parts of the Croatian-Slavonian regiments into the Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia.62 Consequently, the number of Building Administration departments was reduced to only two. The Croatisch-Slavonische Militär-Gränz-Bau-Direktion in Zagreb controlled the entire area of the Slavonian and Croatian Military Frontier beginning in 1851, while the Banatisch-Serbische Militär-Gränz-Bau-Direktion in Pančevo/Pantschowa was responsible for the Banat-Serbia Military Frontier.63 Although the Ottomans no longer posed a threat, the monarchy retained the Frontier as a source of cheap military manpower in the event of war on any front.
To keep the Frontier under Viennese control and prevent it from uniting with Croatia and Hungary, authorities invested heavily in the area's economic development during the 1860s and 1870s. Plans for another railway network—this one to aid logging in the area's rich forests—met with only limited success and left the Frontier isolated from Europe's main transport routes. However, a great number of new churches, schools, and public buildings were constructed.64 The state introduced a system to protect monuments in the Military Frontier, hiring special conservators, but funds were limited, and so relatively little was accomplished.65 Despite conservators’ protests, military authorities demolished the historical burg of Cetingrad in the late 1860s and early 1870s only to sell the salvaged building material to local peasants.66 In 1880, shortly before the abolition of the Military Frontier, authorities tried to prevent the rebuilding of the chapel in Tekije, near Petrovaradin—a building that incorporated the only surviving Ottoman mosque in the Military Frontier—so as to protect its original appearance.67 Although the government's efforts to protect this building's original fabric and appearance failed, they marked a change in attitude toward Islamic heritage. With Ottoman threats to Austria-Hungary having subsided, the mosque was now seen by some as a monument deserving of protection rather than as a marker of invasion.
Despite state investments, towns in the Military Frontier continued to face economic and political instability; compared to towns in other parts of the Habsburg Empire, they developed slowly, if at all.68 Yet, while the number of military-owned buildings no longer grew within the Military Frontier, many old structures were rebuilt or remodeled for aesthetic and practical reasons. The new, postrevolutionary Habsburg government, headed now by Emperor Franz Joseph I (r. 1848–1916), abandoned neoclassicism as the official state style and distanced itself from the aesthetics of austerity. Aiming to modernize the country and its architecture, the government now promoted a range of fashionable historic revival styles found elsewhere in Europe, most notably Rundbogenstil (round-arch style) and Gothic.69 The architecture of the Vormärz period (1815–48) now came under harsh criticism.70 Historians and theorists commonly used the term Zopfstil (plait or braid style) to denigrate architecture of the baroque period and the first half of the nineteenth century. Kasernenstyl (barracks style) was another term used pejoratively in the 1850s and 1860s to describe architecture from the first half of the century. Now largely forgotten, this term—used in both Vienna and the Military Frontier—referred to the simplicity of building façades and to their military patronage.71 In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the term reemerged and was used to describe the dull, simple architecture of the first half of the nineteenth century, an architecture linked to the bureaucratic nature of the Vormärz regime.72
In the 1850s, Rundbogenstil developed into an almost official architectural style of the Habsburg monarchy, one used for numerous railway stations, hospitals, factories, and military buildings.73 The success of this style was due particularly to its suitability for military projects, since its characteristic combination of Romanic and Gothic elements gave buildings the appearance of fortifications. Rundbogenstil's dominance in military architecture began with the construction of the Arsenal complex on the southeastern outskirts of Vienna (August Siccard von Siccardsburg, Eduard van der Nüll, Theophil Hansen, Ludwig Förster, and Carl Rösner, 1849–56) and with two army barracks (Franz Joseph Kaserne and Rossauer Kaserne) located near the city center.74 The style spread quickly across the empire. Further examples include the military academies built during the 1850s in Maribor/Marburg, Sremska Kamenica/Kamenitz, Graz, Hranice na Moravě/Mährisch Weißkirchen, and Hainburg an der Donau; border fortifications in Italy, such as the Arsenal in Verona (Conrad Petrasch, 1854–61); and the Invalidenhaus in Lviv, Galicia (Theophil Hansen, 1855–60).75
Around the same time, in 1852, a new military architecture textbook was published: Lehrbuch der Kriegsbaukunst, by Julius Wurmb.76 Richly illustrated, the book showed the change in taste since the publication of Weiß's textbook of the 1820s. Illustrations such as one for a fortress door show the rise of Rundbogenstil motifs over neoclassical ones (Figure 20). Decoration now assumed a more prominent place. Given that key proponents of Rundbogenstil—including Johann Georg Müller and Theophil Hansen—were teaching at the Military Engineering Academy in Vienna, it is no wonder that the style spread among military projects with lightning speed.77 Rundbogenstil was soon pervasive in the Military Frontier, even though buildings erected there were significantly more modest than those found in larger cities outside the region. They featured less elaborate decoration, made of plaster rather than the polychromatic stone or brick typical of Central European Rundbogenstil. Still, unlike most Military Frontier architecture from the first half of the nineteenth century, these new or remodeled buildings were decorated.
In spite of its proximity to the Turkish empire, even in this period the Military Frontier did not witness the construction of public buildings inspired by Islamic architecture. Although the Habsburg administration frequently used the neo-Moorish style in the territories of neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina following their occupation in 1878, this style was likely deemed inappropriate for a region with no Muslim inhabitants and whose history was marked by hundreds of years of fighting against the Ottoman Empire. In fact, a conscious effort was made to keep the border region looking as European as possible, which meant that Rundbogenstil was dominant in the design of new public buildings.
Thanks to the military administration and the arrival of new civil engineers, most of whom were educated in Vienna, Rundbogenstil spread quickly through the Croatian-Slavonian Military Frontier during the 1850s. Examples of this style can be found in many towns, especially Bjelovar, which became a hub for building activities during this period because of the presence of Ignac Čivić, the proactive colonel of the Varaždin-Đurđevac Regiment, and architect Franjo (Franz) Klein (1828–89). A Viennese native, Klein studied under August Siccard von Siccardsburg and worked in the civil engineering office of the Liechtenstein family for a short time after completing his studies. From 1850 to 1859, he worked as the bricklaying foreman for the Varaždin-Đurđevac Regiment in Bjelovar, and he designed three important buildings there: the house of the sergeant major (1855–56), a new prison building (1854–61), and the house of the regimental adjutant (1855–59). These were two-story buildings with Rundbogenstil and gotico quadrato–style window openings, crowned by pinnacles.78 Klein's structures were comparable in size to many local buildings erected during the first half of the nineteenth century, only they were much more lavishly decorated (Figures 21 and 22).79 After ending his military career in Bjelovar and moving to Zagreb, Klein became one of the most important civilian architects in Croatia. Other Military Frontier engineers—including Janko Nikola Grahor, Kamilo Bedeković, and Matija Antolec—likewise transitioned from military to civilian service.80 Some became private construction entrepreneurs in Zagreb, while others were employed by building departments of the provincial government of the Kingdom of Croatia and Slavonia. That regimental engineers would later become renowned civilian architects shows the quality of the Military Frontier's engineering staff.
The Seed of Central European Culture: The Architecture of Military Frontier Towns in the 1870s
As the Austrian Parliament slowly dissolved the Military Frontier between 1871 and 1881, Vienna's interest in the province waned.81 Yet investments in local infrastructure and in new public and religious buildings were still made there. The gradual demilitarization of the Military Frontier, which began in the middle of the nineteenth century and intensified in the 1870s, had a strong impact on the province's architecture. The most monumental structures erected during the Frontier's last decade were educational buildings. The army continued to dominate local society, but it now emphasized cultural activities.
When civil administration came to the Military Frontier in 1871, the largest towns—the former military communities of Petrinja, Kostajnica, Bjelovar, Ivanić, Brod na Savi, Zemun, Petrovaradin, and Sremski Karlovci—attained the legal status of cities. Meanwhile, with the building of the Ringstrasse, Vienna became one of the architectural capitals of Europe, and projects in the Military Frontier again reflected developments in the metropolis. Of course, buildings in the Frontier were still quite modest by comparison, but they were notable for the quality of their designs. Neo-Renaissance became the most popular style for public buildings, replacing the previously popular Rundbogenstil.
One of the most important examples of the architecture of this period is the teacher training school (Pädagogium) in Petrinja (1869–71). Designed by Vienna Polytechnic Institute professor Wilhelm Doderer (1825–1900), this building was sponsored and promoted by Emperor Franz Joseph I.82 It was the first Military Frontier building to be published in Vienna's leading architectural journal of the time, Allgemeine Bauzeitung. A three-story neo-Renaissance structure articulated with rusticated elements, it featured a protruding cornice, first-floor window openings crowned with triangular gables, and second-floor window openings divided by pillars (Figures 23 and 24). Allgemeine Bauzeitung asserted that buildings such as this one planted the seed of Central European culture in the Military Frontier. While that seed had been planted long before and was already bearing fruit, it is undeniable that the teacher training school in Petrinja brought the latest Viennese architectural fashion to the Military Frontier.
After almost four centuries of existence, the Military Frontier was abolished in 1881 and its territory united with Croatia and Hungary. The end of the Ottoman reign in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878 and the occupation of the country by Austria-Hungary meant there was no longer any need for a heavily fortified frontier. With the commencement of demilitarization, the demolition of old defensive walls in fortified Military Frontier towns began. However, because the towns in this province did not grow as quickly as did major Central European cities, and because southeastern Europe was experiencing political instability, wall demolitions and planning and building in the spaces created by them lasted until the second quarter of the twentieth century (or never happened at all). Military buildings were demilitarized and became the property of the Croatian provincial government, which used them to house civil administration services. The Bau-Direktion of the Military Frontier was closed in 1886.83 The disappearance of military administration did not stop modernization in the former territories of the Frontier, but the area lost its direct link with Vienna, and the region's architecture never again so closely followed Viennese trends.
Long-term, direct supervision of the Military Frontier by Viennese authorities had led to the development of cities and towns adjusted to the needs of the Habsburg military and the imperial state. The Frontier's final century was marked by numerous Enlightenment-based social, administrative, and architectural reforms and by direct oversight from Vienna to ensure that these were properly and efficiently implemented. The education and mobility of engineers working in the Military Frontier, their compulsory adherence to standardized plans sent from the capital, and strict economic controls led to a remarkable similarity of both architecture and urban layouts among the small towns and cities of the province. Poor economic circumstances and political instability hindered the construction of monumental buildings and the development of major urban centers, yet the Frontier's administration still managed to modernize and Europeanize the province's cities and towns. In its simplicity and functionality, the architecture in this “Austrian Sparta” presaged the architectural modernism of the early twentieth century.