Ljubljana Mosque 50 years of persistence

After more than half a century since the first official initiative, Ljubljana got a mosque in 2020, joining the other capital cities in Europe. In November of the same year, Greece opens a mosque in Athens. Otherwise, the first mosque on the territory of the Republic of Slovenia already stood during the First World War in Log pod Mangart (stone, with a dome and a quadrangular minaret), it is possible that there was another one in Rombon. It was intended for soldiers who came from Bosnia to fight under the flag of Austria-Hungary on the Soča front.

Mošeja/Mosque/Džamija Log pod Mangartom
Mošeja Log pod Mangartom

After the Second World War, there are more and more Muslims in Slovenia, who came to work mainly from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to a lesser extent from Kosovo and Macedonia. For the first time, the believers organized and made an official initiative to build a mosque in 1969, which was flatly rejected. Since then, they have been performing their religious duties in various locations in Ljubljana, first on Grablovičeva, then in Pržanj, and on major holidays in the Kodeljevo hall.

Mošeja/Mosque/Džamija Ljubljana načrt/plan
Islamski center Ljubljana načrt

In the new millennium, after the independence of Slovenia and the end of the wars in the Balkans, members of religious community are more organized and try a new initiative. Despite the support of the mayors, there is great resistance and even twice signatures are collected for the referendum, which turns out to be unconstitutional (2003/2008). They bought the first piece of land in 2004 along the Road of the Two Emperors. This land was exchanged for land along the Parma road in 2008. Barracks area on the edge of the city center next to the railway on an uneven plot of irregular shape.

Ljubljana Mosque 50 years of persistence 1

In 2011, the project of the Bevk Perović biro was chosen in an international competition and the foundation stone was laid in 2015. The project was supposed to be completed in 2017. After various complications (pigs’ heads, COVID-19, finances…) the opening was held on 07/02/2020 during Juma prayer (Friday prayers), where 4,000 worshipers are present. Despite the fact that the believers (domestic and foreign – 70% Qatar) financed the project worth around €35, they had to wait for the enforcement of their constitutional right for more than 50 years. Today, there are 2.5-5% (50,000-100,000) Muslims in Slovenia and they are the second largest religious community in the country.

Ljubljana Mosque 50 years of persistence 2

Today there is more than just a mosque, but the Islamic Cultural Center, which covers 14,000 m2 (buildings occupy 5,000 m2). It consists of six basic buildings around the square, which work as a whole from a distance and expand as you get closer:

  • The mosque is in the form of a 24 m high cube facing Mecca. In the gallery on the first floor there is a place for women. Inside, there is a canvas blue dome under the ceiling (inspired by the Blue Mosque, portable mosques and representing the internalization of faith). A gray carpet with a minimalist pattern is laid on the floor, on the far right is the minber – a wooden staircase that serves as a pulpit, on the far left the churs – the place where the imam reads the Koran before prayer – today it is no longer a standard object in mosques, and in the middle is a stainless steel mihrab facing the Qibla (Mecca) towards which the believers are directed and from where the imam leads the prayer. Part of the main building is intended for itikafa – solitude during the last ten days of the fasting month of Ramadan. The mosque is “smart”, where they can remotely control the temperature, lights, locks.
  • Another important object is the 40 m minaret-tower/”bell” from where the muezzin calls to prayer. Since it had to be lowered from 56m to 40m, it was placed separately from the mosque so that it can still be visible. The tower is cylindrical, perforated in the part where there is usually a balcony for the muezzin, it ends with a cone-shaped alem on which there is a crescent moon on three spheres. They were inspired by mosques in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The call to prayer is heard only in the courtyard.
  • 12m high ablution – wash basin for ritual washing with two concrete basins 4m and 8m, inspired by Plečnik,
  • halal restaurant,
  • gym-sports hall under the central square,
  • parking for 50 vehicles in the basement,
  • the educational facility has a library and 8 lecture halls that can accommodate up to 200 people,
  • residential and administrative premises, where there is also a kindergarten,
  • in the west, a museum with a cafe and a swimming pool, which continues into a green triangular park,
  • cascading garden in the north,
  • the central square is paved with terrazzo paving, which gives the feeling of a mahala and opens towards the city, where the oak and ambrosia are planted aa trees of coexistence, which were planted together by the leaders of the 4 largest religious communities in Slovenia

During the actual construction, white color was placed in the foreground and clean lines. In terms of materials, concrete was main material, clad in a facade made of steel construction (Svrzina kuća motif) and glass. Wood also plays an important role, oak and larch. They drew inspiration from Islamic and more specifically Bosnian architecture, Plečnik, Corbusier… When creating the design, they wanted to preserve traditional elements, interpret them in a modern way and at the same time not deviate from the surroundings. Numerous awards testify to the success of the venture:

  • Plečnik’s award
  • the Abdullatif Al Fozan Award for Mosque Architecture
  • nomination for the prestigious Mies van der Rohe International Architecture Award
  • ArchDaily readers award for the sacred object

Today, with the Islamic Center, Ljubljana has gained an aesthetic multi-functional facility (religious, sports, educational) and a urbanized area that is harmoniously placed in the city’s landscape. Ultimately, it strengthens the capital’s status as a metropolis that provides constitutionally guaranteed rights to its residents.

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