The name comes from “Maria’s Palace”, as designed by the famous Czech architect, Karl Paržik, who was responsible for designing many of the major edifices built during Austro-Hungarian rule in BiH.
The entire neighborhood was commissioned by construction magnate and businessman, August Braun, who was born in the middle of the 19th century in Tirol, Austria. He came to Sarajevo with a suitcase in one hand and the hand of his wife, Maria, who was determined to follow him during the new phase of his life, in the other.
August founded a company in Sarajevo that sold construction materials, started the first brickyard (in what is now Koševo) and later acquired firms which sold and produced materials used in construction.
Palace as a sign of love
After several successful business ventures, August decided to have a palace built as a sign of his love for Maria. It was to be built in what was then an undeveloped section of town and was seen as total madness by Sarajevo’s elite. Stories began to circulate of how “the crazy count is building a palace in a field which nobody will need”. But the gossip was of no concern to this visionary, so in 1885 he went ahead and began construction on an enormous palace which would lead to the growth of Sarajevo toward Ilidža.
The palace really was built in some fields, in an area that had once been occupied by the ancient settlement, Zagorica, where only a few houses stood when the Ottomans arrived. Zagorica was later named Magribija, after one sheik who was said to have come from the Maghreb (a region of northwest Africa) and who built a house and mosque on this spot.
Marijin Dvor was built in stages until 1899, when Sarajevo got a lovely two-storey residential and commercial building with an enormous interior courtyard, which still serves as an oasis of peace in the middle of town.
From the late 19th century until the beginning of the 20th century it remained the largest residential building and was one of the first of its kind to rent out apartments. Before the Austro-Hungarian period no properties were rented out in Sarajevo because everyone, even the very poor, owned their own homes.
The palace is surrounded by four streets – Maršala Tita, Kralja Tvrtka, Augusta Brauna and Dolina – which run through Marijin Dvor. It’s not well known that this grand building is now a national monument and is actually made up of two parts, Maria’s Palace and August’s Palace. Unfortunately, construction of the latter was never fully completed and a portion of the building runs from No. 10 to No. 16 along Kralja Tvrtka St.
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the SFR Yugoslavia picked up where August Braun and the Austro-Hungarians left off, with the construction of the following: the National Parliament and Executive Council building (for state institutions), the skyscrapers, Momo and Uzeir (UNITIC Center); the Faculty of Philosophy, Hotel Holiday Inn….
More recently, two shopping centers, Alta and Sarajevo City Center, have also gone up in Marijin Dvor, making this part of town the new center of Sarajevo. At the same time, it is here that you can encounter fragments of nearly every major period of Sarajevo history.
The story of Marijin Dvor is really the story of one European city’s transformation throughout the centuries.
And at the beginning of the story there is the love August Braun had for his Maria.