April 18, 2019 – From ancient times to the present day, one of the ’Good Week’ customs in Vrlika is the ‘Guarding of Christ’s Tomb or Grave’. This custom involves a group of men from the ‘Brotherhood of Guarding Christ’s Tomb’ who participate in the rituals and processions guarding. This custom became not only a church manifestation, but also part of the historical and cultural heritage of the Croatian Catholics of the Vrlika region.
The story behind the custom
The Arambaša is the commander of the tomb and, of course, all of the activities must go through him. Guards must be 18 years of age to guard the grave, and they must also be an active Christian.
On Good Thursday, the guards meet at the parish house where, after confession, they have a joint dinner. Following dinner is Mass in the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, after which they wash their feet and continue to a procession where the holy sacrament is offered to them.
On Good Friday, the guards take the way of the cross to the town of Vrlika, continually alternating their places around the tomb. This is a deep religious feeling and commitment to preserving the body of Jesus from the body’s placement into the grave to its resurrection. The entire process of safeguarding Christ’s tomb takes place in a strict and severe atmosphere, in the traditional folk costumes of the beautiful region, with the traditional weapons the Vrsani’s had for centuries to defend their home and holy Catholic faith and its principles. The men embellish the mystery of suffering and death, Easter and victory.
On Good Saturday, the guarding begins at 23:00. When the mass reaches the ‘Glory to God,’ the guards leave the tomb, coming out of the church singing, and then go back to listen to the Mass.
On Easter, the guards’ service ends when they begin the Vrlika folk dance in front of the church in the name of victory of Christ’s resurrection over evil and sin.