If you ever find yourself in Croatia during Holy Week, enjoying a vacation on island of Hvar you might have chance to witness one of the most remarkable traditions in Croatia. This event that has history of over 500 years is so unique and memorable that UNESCO decided to put it on the list as intangible world heritage in 2009.
In Vrbanj, Vrboska, Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik and Svirče, six charming little villages of central Hvar traditional procession is held every year, on the night between Holy Thursday and Good Friday. If you would witness this event you would be under impression that Hvar has returned hundreds of years back into the past, in the time when island was under Venetian rule and lives of the people were dominated by small number of local nobleman. After long period of oppression thing were just about to explode in a bloody conflict. In this turbulent time, it has been recorded that a small golden crucifix, kept in one of the altars of Hvar cathedral started to miraculously bleed. This miracle, obviously, had such large impact on the people of Hvar, that it postponed the revolution which was about to happen and started this remarkable traditional religious feast. Miraculous event happened at the start of the XVI century so as a result procession that is organized every year to commemorate it, has very historical ambiance. People participating in the procession wear traditional outfits, the hoods of guilds and fraternities, which date back in the medieval time. They chant old songs on archaic dialect while carrying chandeliers and following the cross bearer.
Each of the 6 processions starts from parish church in each of those six villages at 10:30 PM and they have to make full circle, over 25 km of rocky hill trails, through all the 6 villages and back to the starting point, in the morning hours of the next day. To be the Cross bearer, is the most prestigious task and a great honor, which is one in a life time opportunity. If a person wants to become cross bearer his name will be put on the list during his early childhood. The waiting list is so long that it will take 20- 30 years until he gets a chance to carry the cross. Arguably the honor and the prestige of being the cross bearer comes with cost. Cross weights around 20 kg and you have to carry it barefoot for 8 hours with no chance for a rest, because cross must not touch the ground. Tradition of this procession has never been interrupted in five centuries of its existence. It was always organized, even in the darkest times of the WW II, during the occupation, or even in exile of a refugee camp El Shatt, in deserts of Egypt, where island inhabitants had to take shelter during bitter fights on the Island in 1944.
This year is going to be a special one, smallest ever. Due to the pandemic, there will not be the people participating, just a Cross bearer with a few of his most trusted men. But in minds, there will be many, many more people united!