Penance Procession – Traditions of Brač Island

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Procession in Dol

Jelsa UNESCO procession is the most famous one in Dalmatia, but those on Brač island are just as colorful, and there are numerous variations of it across the island.

Easter has always been the biggest Christian holiday in Dalmatian island tradition. If one is to find real peace and a family atmosphere, the islands of Dalmatia at this time are ones to choose. As there are a lot of islanders who moved out of home islands to mainland Croatia, and abroad, a significant number of them gather in their home villages and celebrate Easter together with their families there.

More and more tourists recognize this as an opportunity for taking the time to rest from the daily routine, and when they come to any island, they can enjoy great and colorful traditions. While Jelsa “Za Križen” procession is one protected by UNESCO, there are a lot of them around, and they are all, just like one in Jelsa, genuine, not intended as a tourist attraction, but as an expression of faith by local people.

Procession in Dol

On Brač island, there are many penance processions on Good Friday day, all starting in the morning, sometimes after an all night wakening in churches, and starting at dawn. People are walking their penance from Selca to Sumartin, with people from Sumartin going to Selca, and there are many more like that, like Ložišća – Bobovišća, Škrip – Splitska, but there is one in every single Brač village, and all of them use hard routes through old shepherd’s paths.

Every procession has it’s own little differences, and beautiful traditions, but one the same for all of them is singing the song “Tears of Our Lady” while walking the penance. It is an ancient religious song known all over Dalmatia, but in Brač villages, it is one to be learned from adolescence years.

There is one more tradition by men on Brač island. As this is the day of fasting for true believers, on that day, they drink their homemade red wine, as it is matured, and it was believed in the old days that as much wine one drinks on that day, so much “renewed” blood one gets in his body. This tradition is somewhat misused but is one to be enjoyed after a hard morning.

Bonfire in Pučišća
Dijana Šabić – Best Of Brač

On Saturday evening, after a day’s rest, the processions usually include singing Passion according to St. John, with young boys acting as guardians of Christ’s tomb (“Žudije” or “Soldati” – the name for the guardians varies from village to village) leading the way. The path of these processions is lit up with numerous bonfires around, and the sight is usually breathtaking. In the time of Lent, all crosses are covered with purple cloth as it is the color representing pain and passion. Also, the bells are not ringing in this time, as a sign of respect for Christ’s Passion.

Dijana Šabić, Bet Of Brač

When Easter comes, on midnight, guardians fall in the churches reacting the resurrection of Christ, and as crosses are uncovered, the joy of Easter comes alive with bells ringing again in His glory.

Here are videos of events in Selca, courtesy of Happy Goat Travel:


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