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Mato Katedralac

This is the story of a legendary Zagreb character by the name of Mato Katedralac, and the unorthodox way he got his dream job.

Legend of Mato Katedralac
Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary
Zagreb, Croatia
GPS: 45.814476, 15.979868

This is the story of a legendary character by the name of Mato Katedralac, and how he got his dream job.

As you walk past any great cathedral in the world, chances are you look up momentarily to admire the beauty of the architecture. Also maybe you see a cross, and say a few words to god, and maybe he’ll send you a sign that he is listening.

Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary
Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary

On one particular morning,  a few minutes after 10 o’clock in the morning on Wednesday, April 6, 1932, a housewife had finished her daily shopping at the Dolac market and Zagreb.

As she was walking home past the cathedral, she looked up into the sky. She looked to the very top of the highest spire of the Zagreb cathedral, and she started screaming.

Woman looking up in horror

This lady didn’t see a sign from god, or an angel or anything else that would have made a lot more sense actually.

What she saw 108 meters (354 ft) in the air was a man doing a handstand on the cross at the very top of the building.

Mato Katedralac On top of Cathedral
Mato Katedralac On top of Cathedral

She screamed “Man on the cross!” Loudly and repeatedly until a crowd began to form.

Within just a few minutes, the entire Dolac market had emptied out and the crowd was massive.

This is when the man on the cross really began to put on an acrobatic show.

The crowd cheered enthusiastically, and it wasn’t long until the fire brigade arrived to retrieve this man off the building.

The man continued his routine just a little while longer, and then he calmly climbed down off of the building.

After he came down, the young man was taken to the police station, from where he was released after being identified.

Mato Katedralac the legend
Mato Katedralac the legend

On that morning, a man by the name of Mato Juričić entered Zagreb history, and he became a legend.

You see, just a short time prior to climbing the tallest building in the entire country of Croatia and doing an acrobatic routine, Mato had applied for his dream job, to be a part of the Zagreb Fire Brigade.

Mato did not pass the entrance tests. He was told he lacked the courage, bravery, and fear of heights qualifications.

So, at the age of 26, Mate Juričić, or ‘Mato Katedralac’ (Mato Cathedral) as he was called now, got his wish. 

Immediately, Mato was offered a job on the Zagreb Fire Brigade due to his unique and spectacular “job application”, and thus became the most famous Zagreb firefighter of all time.

Mato Katedralac Philosophy

He spent the rest of his life in the Fire Brigade. 

36 years, five months and 23 days – without a day of sick leave or absence from work.

He became the Commander of the Fire Brigade.

In his career, he put out many massive Zagreb fires and saved many lives.

During World War II, he joined the anti-fascist movement working to undermine the Nazis.

Even today, the Zagreb Fire Brigade talks about the legendary Mato Cathedral.

And now the annual award for outstanding firefighter is named after him.


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