Ivan Hribar (1851-1941) was unquestionably one of Ljubljana’s most successful mayors. During his fourteen-year mayoralty, the number of buildings in Ljubljana doubled, and it also received a water supply, a power plant, a gas station, a tram, new schools, a public pool, and other amenities. Villa Zlatica in Rožna valley, where he lived with his wife and daughter, was renovated and converted into the Hribar Museum. On this occasion, we learned ten fascinating facts about Ljubljana’s legendary mayor.
As a child, he suffered from epileptic seizures
Ivan Hribar was the second of seven children born in Trzin in 1851. As a child, he suffered from epilepsy. His mother, a religiously faithful woman, accompanied him on a pilgrimage to St. Valentine’s on Limbarska Gora to seek help. Since then, he has had no more epileptic seizures.
He began his career as a banker
Ivan Hribar was a successful businessman. He worked for Slavija, a Czech insurance bank that was one of the largest in the Habsburg monarchy. He worked in Prague, Ljubljana, Brno, Vienna, and Trieste. He was convinced that having their own capital would make it easier for Slovenes to fight for their independence.
He was a big fan of Prešeren
He devoured Prešeren’s verses even as a student. He was one of the driving forces behind the construction of his statue on today’s Prešeren Square (then Marija Square), and when he committed suicide in 1941 in protest of the Italian occupation of Ljubljana, he carried a collection of Prešeren’s Poems with him. Prešeren’s baptismal verses from Savica are also included in his farewell letter.
Hribar, as mayor, wished to transform Ljubljana from a long muddy village into a modern city comparable to Prague. The Kresija Palace, the Provincial mansion- now the University, Filip’s mansion, Prešeren Square, the Triple Bridge and Dragon Bridge, and many other structures date from Hribar’s reign. 500 new buildings were built in Ljubljana during his 14-year mayoralty.
He was also an author
Ivan Hribar wrote and translated literary and non-literary texts. Among his works are the 4,290-page novel Gospod Izidor Fučec and the libretto King Matjaž.
He was a duped Slav who defended Slavic unification and the concept of a United Slovenia. His political dream came true after the war ended in 1918, when he announced the establishment of the State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs on October 29, 1918, at the Congress Square in Ljubljana.
He made order at the Magistrate
As mayor, he maintained order among the Magistrate’s officials. He walked from office to office, leaving his business cards, because many people were not at work at eight o’clock in the morning. Soon everyone was at work at eight o’clock in the morning.
He disliked exposing his personal life in public
He was first married to Emilia, a Czech woman. However, Emilia was mentally ill and lived in an urban poorhouse. After 1910, he appeared in public with Marija Goričan, much to the chagrin of the Catholic side and Bishop Jeglič of Ljubljana. Jeglič warned him in a letter that because of his life in concubinage, he would be unable to be buried in the church. They married in 1926, shortly after Emilia’s death.
The villa, which Hribar named after his daughter Zlatica
The villa with Art Nouveau elements in a beautiful location in Rožna valley, which now houses the Hribar Museum, was built for the family of Leopold Klepec and sold to Ivan Hribar after the First World War. The house had a large garden with a variety of fruit trees.
He died as a doctor
He completed his formal education in the sixth year of high school but nevertheless died as a doctor. The university bestowed an honorary doctorate on him in 1941.