Photograph: Milan Drmić

Name of Monument:

Altar of the Holy Cross (Church of the Holy Cross)

Also known as:

Oltar sv. Križa (Crkva sv. Križa)


Križevci, Koprivničko-križevačka County, Croatia

Contact DetailsAltar of the Holy Cross (Church of the Holy Cross)
Donji grad
48260 Križevci
T : +385 48 711 210
Križevci Municipal Museum, Sermageova 2, 48260 Križevci  (Responsible Institution)


1756 (High Altar)


Sculptor: Francesco Robba (1698–1757)

Denomination / Type of monument:

Religious, church furnishing; altarpiece


Canon Georg Rees


The altar, which was originally in the nave of Zagreb Cathedral, was moved to Križevci as the result of the Neo-Gothic renovation that took place after the great earthquake of 1880. At the beginning of 1748, Robba signed a contract with the Zagreb chapter to make the altar for the sum of 1600 florins, provided from the estate of Canon Georg Rees. However, the altar was only completed and consecrated in 1756.


This is the final work of the sculptor, Francesco Robba, the most proficient marble sculptor of the Baroque period in northern Croatia. Robba trained in the workshop of the Venetian sculptor, Pietro Baratta, and in 1720 arrived in Ljubljana (Slovenia), where in 1727, he took over the workshop of his father-in-law, the Ljubljana altar builder Luka Mislej. Apart from the Slovene works, there are also known works by Robba in Klagenfurt, and several altars and statues made for clients from Croatia, primarily for the Jesuit Church of St Catherine and Zagreb Cathedral. His works represent High Baroque marble sculpture and altar making at their peak in Croatia.
By reducing the architectural elements, the decorative parts benefit through sublimation into simple and yet powerful curved motifs. Robba achieves in the Altar of the Holy Cross a monumental altar, a composition both emphatic and dynamic. The diagonal axes of the sculptural groups Moses with the Bronze Serpent and Abraham Sacrificing Isaac on the side-ends of the altar, direct the viewer's attention to the central figure of the Crucified Christ, which, made prominent with a frame of yellowish marble, stands out against a background of drapery carved in black marble. With the repetition of oval motifs and segments of ovals in the ground plan and elevation of the altar (the framework of the central sculpture), and on its surfaces (the frame of the relief of the stipes and the ornaments on the sculptures' pedestals), a suggestive pulsating rhythm is achieved that corresponds to the marked dynamism of the altar sculpture. The Altar of the Holy Cross recognisably developed from the principles of the Italian High Baroque, with clearly marked features of the mature phase of Robba's individual style. There are clear compositional similarities between the figural groups and some Italian sculptures from the last quarter of the 17th century. For example, G. Le Court's, high altar in Sant'Andrea della Zirada of 1678 and A. Pozzo's Altar of St Ignatius in the Roman Church Il Gesù, as well as that seen 20 years later in the Dorfmeister approach to the altar in the Church of Maria Taferl in Vienna.

View Short Description

The Altar of the Holy Cross is the final and most mature achievement of the sculptor, Franceso Robba, who by his artistic achievements is a notable figure in European Baroque sculpture and altar making. The great suggestiveness and dynamism of his work is achieved by a successful synthesis of the sculptural, architectural and decorative elements of the altar, along with a well-considered application of various coloured marbles.

How Monument was dated:

Archival sources, data concerning the contract and consecration of the altar.

Special features

The Bronze Serpent

Altar of the Holy Cross (Church of the Holy Cross)


Francesco Robba (1698–1757)

An Old Testament scene of powerful dramatic charge, the dynamically composed sculptural group is organised around a diagonal line. The ornamental articulation of the drapery of Moses’ cloak is a recognisable feature of Robba’s stylistic language.

Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac (detail of an angel and Abraham)

Altar of the Holy Cross (Church of the Holy Cross)


Francesco Robba (1698–1757)

Depicting the dramatic peak of the Old Testament story, an angel catches hold of the raised arm of Abraham, stopping him a moment before the sacrifice of his own son Isaac, the crouching figure of whom is on the ready-prepared pyre.


Altar, central niche


Francesco Robba (1698–1757)

With a prominent diagonal axes, both groups at the ends of the altar direct the viewer’s gaze towards the central motif – the redemptive sacrifice of the Crucified Christ. Carved in white marble, yellow marble frames the figure of the dying Christ. Additional emphasis is achieved by a pair of volutes that edge the upper part of the frame and stand out against a background of black marble drapery, the folds of which are arranged in rays.

Souls in Purgatory

Altar, front stipes


Francesco Robba (1698–1757)

The dynamic contour lines and the sharp edges stress the drama of the scene: souls in the flames of purgatory, and hovering above them, the redemptive figure of an angel.

Selected bibliography:

Horvat-Pintarić, V., Francesco Robba, Zagreb, 1961.
Horvat-Levaj, K., "Crkva sv. Križa" in Križevci: Grad i okolica, Zagreb, 1993, pp. 135–159.
Klemenčič, M., Francesco Robba in beneško baročno kiparstvo v Ljubljani, Ljubljana, 1998.
Klemenčič, M., "Francesco Robba" in La scultura a Venezia da Sansovino a Canova, Milan, 2000, pp. 776–747.
Resman, B., "Epilog k Francescu Robbi", Acta Historiae Artis Slovenica 5, 2000, pp. 167–189.

Citation of this web page:

Vlasta  Zajec "Altar of the Holy Cross (Church of the Holy Cross)" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2019.;BAR;hr;Mon11;35;en

Prepared by: Vlasta ZajecVlasta Zajec

NAME: Vlasta

AFFILIATION: Institute of Art History, Zagreb

TITLE: PhD, Scientific Consultant

Vlasta Zajec was awarded her BA in Art History and Comparative Literature from Zagreb University (Faculty of Philosophy) in 1989. In the same year she began work at the Institute of Art History. She was awarded her MA in 1995 (17th-Century Wooden Altars in Istria), and her PhD in 2001 (17th Century Wooden Sculpture in Istria). She has spent brief periods of study in Italy (Udine, Venice and Trieste) and Germany (Munich). Her areas of research are wooden and marble altars and 17th- and 18th-century sculpture in Istria and North Croatia.

Translation by: Graham McMaster
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: HR 53


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