The adjacent Franciscan monastery in the small town of Klanjec, Croatia has two sarcophagi hidden in the crypt.
One is a sarcophagus of the founder of the monastery, Croatian ban Sigismund Erdödy who died in 1639. Another sarcophagus is the one of Emerik Erdödy, Count of Varaždin (city in Northern Croatia) and Sigismund’s nephew who died 50 years after his uncle. Within the walls of the monastery is also a unique library with several centuries-old books.
Inside Adjacent monastery
The elaborate sarcophagi have extreme artistic value and are a testament to the long connection between Klanjec and Erdödy family, one of the most powerful clans in Croatia in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. They were part of the so-called Central European elite which dominated political processes and promoted Christian culture in Europe.
It all began in 1630 when nobles Sigismund and his cousin Nikola gave the land to the Bosnian friars, obligating them to build a monastery and a church. The family decided that the church will become their mausoleum.
Sigismund’s resting place is ornamented with golden lions, angels, palms, and berries, giving it a substantial baroque decor. In design and iconography, the sarcophagus shows the mature Baroque spirit expressed through the splendid workmanship and vivid imagination of the master who made it.
The sarcophagus of Count Emerik Erdödy rests on the backs of four stags placed at each corner, with two eagles withholding the weight of the central part. On the front is the coat-of-arms of Emerik Erdödy. At each side, lace-like ornamentation surrounds a cartouche in relief, with an inscription, lion’s heads with rings, and skull and crossbones.
There are big stylistic differences between two sarcophagi, and Emerick’s is specially embellished with deer horns and skulls, resembling the famous mausoleum of the Habsburg family in Vienna. No surprise, as they were probably done by 17th-century Viennese master Johann Philipp Stumpf who made sarcophagi for Ferdinand III. Habsburg and his two wives and was the designer for Empress Eleonora Maria’s (d. 1697) sarcophagus, which rests on four lions.
The skull and crossbones motif was used as a symbol of transience and a reminder of the emptiness of earthly matters. The use of animal figures taken from a family’s coat of arms was common, and they appear often as the casket bearers of the deceased.
It was usual for prominent people to have ceremonial funerals, from the setting of the rite to the appearance of the tomb. Modeling themselves on the imperial family, the families of magnates followed this trend, as seen here in the Erdödy sarcophagus. Its ornate appearance – with emphasis on the decorative effects placed inside the tomb – was a reflection of the family’s great wealth.
Bosnian friars who arrived in Klanjec four hundred years ago on the invitation of the Erdödy family continue to care for the invaluable local heritage; stories of the deceased members of the Erdödy family buried in splendid sarcophagi in the crypt of the Klanjec monastery church.