An excellent insight into the Easter Procession in Pitve from Vivian Grisogono.
The starting time for the 2012 all-night Processions ‘Za Križem’ was 2200 on Maundy Thursday (5th April). The send-off (otpraćaj Križa) starts with a short homily, most often by a priest, although not necessarily, as the event is outside the standard Catholic ritual and was founded by the laity. This year Don Jurica, assistant parish priest in Jelsa, did the honours in Pitve.
The central part of the ceremony is the singing of ‘Our Lady’s Lament’ (‘Gospin Plač’), after which the congregation joins in five repetitions of the Lord’s Prayer (Oče naš) and the Hail Mary (Zdravo Marijo), followed by ‘We adore Thee, O Christ, and bless Thee. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world’ (‘Klanjamo Ti se Isuse i blagoslivljamo Tebe. Jer si po svojem svetom križu ovaj svijet otkupio’), then a hymn.
The lead singers repeat their stanzas of ‘Our Lady’s Lament’ as the Cross-bearer’s companions go to the altar in pairs, genuflect on both knees, then turn and leave the church in two lines of single file. The Cross-bearer leaves after the first group from his entourage, and the next group follows, after which the congregation leave, having gone through the same homage. Once out of the church, the Cross-bearer’s companions start singing the hymns which they will sing along the way.
Pitve’s 2012 Cross-bearer Ivo ‘Mafija’ Mileta had a very large entourage. His father Mate ‘Mafija’ and two sons Matij (14) and Izak (11) walked behind him. Mother Vesna, wife Sibela and sister Daria went the whole distance in the congregation group which brings up the rear of the Procession.
Ivo walked in socks, as is traditional, although sometimes the Cross-bearer goes barefoot in a special gesture of penitence or gratitude. The Pitve Cross weighs about 7kg, by contrast with the Jelsan one, the heaviest of the six village crosses at about 17kg. However, the Pitve Procession possibly has the longest route of all six: coming out of Jelsa, it makes the detour to the church of Our Lady of Health (Gospa Zdravlja), and then comes up the road to Donje Pitve to stop at the chapel of St. Roko, rather than taking the shorter old path through the fields towards the main church of St. James (Sv. Jakov). Ivo’s socks had worn through by the end.
When the Cross-bearer arrives back at his home church, ‘Our Lady’s Lament’ is sung and there are prayers as at the send-off, while the Cross-bearer kneels before the Cross. Finally the Cross is taken away, and there is a mass surge as the congregation moves forward to congratulate the Cross-bearer. After which a hearty breakfast awaits.
As the all-night Procession is not in the official Catholic routine, the normal services also have to be attended. This makes Good Friday a test of endurance for those who have walked all night, as there is a long service in the evening comprising prayers; a repeat of the Passion of Christ which was sung on Palm Sunday, but this time from the Gospel of John; followed by veneration of the Cross; Communion; and then a procession for both the Eucharist, carried by the priest under the ceremonial baldaquin, and the Cross, carried by the Cross-bearer, which in Pitve’s case goes round the upper and lower parts of the village. The evening rituals last over two and a half hours, and are a test not only of the legs, but also of the vocal cords of those who sang through the previous night.
This year Juraj Petrovac, who sang the lead part of the Gospin Plač during the Za Križem all-night procession, sang the difficult Passion narrative for Good Friday (which lasts about half an hour) with assurance, skill and maturity. The rest of the singers also had their work cut out, singing the unforgettable resonant harmonies of ‘Puče moj’ (‘My People’) during the veneration of the Cross (which lasts up to about an hour), and continuing as the procession moved round the village.