For five centuries citizens of Hvar have celebrated Easter in a special procession called “Za križen” or “Following the Cross”. It is a unique pious ceremony, a symbol of not only religious identity but also of cultural identity of the people who live in the central part of the Island of Hvar.
It all started with a procession held as a sign of repentance after a small cross in the town of Hvar miraculously started to shed bloody tears right in the middle of a social upheaval in 1510 initiated by commoners of Hvar.
Customary, processions start on Maundy Thursday in six parish churches of Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirče, Vrbanj i Vrboska at 10 p.m., and return to where they started in the early hours of Good Friday. All the participants follow in a clockwise motion so that after hours and hours the crosses in each procession never meet which would signify bad luck.
The road that leads from one church to the next is lit with lanterns and sponges soaked in paraffin oil, as well as candles people leave on their windowsills.
Chosen cross-bearers lead the procession with a cross of up to 18 kg covered in a transparent black veil. They are barefoot or in socks, and dressed in white tunics just like other members of the brotherhood. Followed by a chosen suite in brotherhood tunics and numerous religious and pilgrims, they stop at different churches and chapels where they are greeted by priests. The final destination for all the participants is their own parish church.
This procession particularly stands out because of its duration. In 8 hours almost 25 kilometers are covered, in a humble manner, led by the brotherhood, that is, a community of Croatian religious whose history is deeply marked by the symbol of a cross. In the center of it all is “Gospin plač” or “Lamentation of Virgin Mary”, an octosyllabic Passion text from the 15th century that is sang by chosen singers called “kantaduri” as a musical dialogue.
The “Following the Cross” Procession is one of the 13 phenomena of the Croatian cultural heritage that has been part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list as of 2009.
This year it begins on Maundy Thursday, on April 2nd.
Information by: http://www.putovnica.net
Find out more in category: Cultural heritage
D. Šabić, MA in Journalism