Pitve Celebrates its Saint’s Day

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Procession for Sv. Jakov (St. James)

St. James, celebrated in a feast of abundance and good cheer.

St. James the Greater is the patron saint of Pitve, and his feast day on 25th July is always celebrated in style. James and his brother John were fishermen from Galilee, and both became Jesus’ disciples. They are said to have participated in several important events during Jesus’ ministry, notably the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Gospel according to Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2) and the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-33; Matthew 26:37). James was beheaded by order of King Herod Agrippa in Jerusalem in 44AD (Acts 12:2).*

James for a time preached in Spain, and is especially venerated at the shrine of Santiago de Compostela. His remains are said to have been taken there in Medieval times, but Pitve claims to have some small part of his body – possibly a finger or toe – which is held in a reliquary and displayed on his feast day. Today’s celebrations were marked with some sadness because of the news of the fatal train crash near Santiago de Compostela, and special prayers were said for the victims during the morning Mass.

Like every other village celebrating its saint’s day on Hvar, Pitve devotes the whole day to the serious business of festivities. The morning Mass is the focal point of the day. Traditionally the parish priest invites colleagues to celebrate the mass jointly, and as many as can spare the time attend. This year there were six, and in some years there have been as many as twelve. As their vestments are red and gold, with red flowers adorning the main altar, it is a joyously colourful event.

The service starts with a procession round the church. The year’s Cross-Bearer, in this case Marin Crnčić, leads the way with a small entourage, followed by the group of priests, with the main celebrant carrying the reliquary. The procession stops at either end of the church, and the reliquary is lifted up to the four directions of the compass for veneration.

The singing during the feast-day mass is always special. Pitve is blessed with some fine singers, male and female. The female choir is led by Agneza Radonić, now Mrs. Medić, having married earlier this year. She is a professional musician, and particularly gifted as a singer and on keyboards. This year there was a special duet by Roza Radonić, a member of Jelsa’s female Klapa Frecia, and Juraj Petrovac, who has become one of the lead male singers in the church. For a sample of today’s music, check out the video below.

The Mass spreads over an hour and half, ending at midday. Perfect timing for people to spread round the village and start the lunchtime shift. Several families have open house for all-comers, while others invite their chosen guests, but will always feed any extras who turn up unexpectedly. The catering is lavish and abundant, and the village is pervaded by succulent smells from late morning onwards. Most people have their main meat course cooked in the various places which offer this service in Jelsa and Stari Grad. So a family member is deputed to go and collect it, and at intervals during the afternoon large pans of lamb suddenly appear as if by magic.

Lunch is leisurely, with much chatter and laughter, interspersed with the harmony singing for which Dalmatia is famous. People tend to drift away by about 6 pm, after which there is a lull around the village while householders clear up and prepare for the evening shift, and sated guests go for a siesta. Around 8 pm, the feasting re-starts with a new wave of people filling up the tables and settling in for their turn at eating, drinking, conversing and singing.

And then… there’s the revelry in Donje Pitve, singing, dancing and making merry, organized by the Youth of Pitve (Mladež Pitava). Those with the necessary energy will be in full swing until at least 4am. Contrary to popular belief, Dalmatians work very hard. And when they set out to celebrate, they make sure they really do it properly!

* Main reference source: Encyclopaedia of the Saints by Matthew, Margaret & Stephen Bunson, pub. Our Sunday Visitor, Huntingdon, Indiana. ISBN 0-87973-588-0


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