Perched on the top of Račić hill and accessed through the old town, Our Lady of Health Church (Gospa od Zdravlja) is an excellent vantage point from which to observe the true beauty of Jelsa and its surroundings. It’s also a good starting point for the walk up into the hills to the ruins of the Greek watchtower (Tor), which was built on the site of an older Illyrian structure, and Galešnik or Grad (Town), a Roman fortress built over Illyrian foundations which was still inhabited in early medieval times. The direct route to the Tor involves a scramble up quite steep rocks, but the road to Galešnik is less of a challenge, being an old Roman road overlaid on an Illyrian base.
Originally built in 1535, the church of Our Lady of Health has been extended twice, with the west wing and steeple added in 1863. Inside its peacefully cool interior there are 18th Century wooden statues and a 17th century icon in a Renaissance frame.
November 21st is the Catholic feast day (although not a holy day of obligation) celebrating the presentation of the Virgin Mary at the Temple. A special mass is said in Jelsa’s Our Lady of Health Church on that day. In 2011 Bishop Slobodan Štambuk joined parish priest Don Stanko Jerčić as concelebrant. The Jelsan celebrations for Our Lady of Health spread over nine days, with a mass each day for different parishes in turn. Parishioners from Zastražišće, Poljica, Dol, Vrbanj, Stari Grad, Vrisnik, Vrboska and Sveta Nedjelja attend mass in the afternoons, while Pitve has the privilege of a special Sunday mass within the cycle, as the people of Pitve were those who contributed most to the building of the church.
The church has been extensively renovated recently, and its grounds landscaped. The works are ongoing, and financial support is still needed. To contribute, or for further details, contact Don Stanko Jerčić: e-mail [email protected]; tel 00 385 21 761 839. Website www.mojazupa.com-Jelsa