It is the stone that built part of The White House in Washington, Diocletian’s Palace in Split and a host of other historic buildings in Europe, and the ancient trade of traditional stonemasonry is still taught on the island of Brac. A visit to Pucisca.
I noticed the tell-tale signs in two little faces after we had completed the spectacular ascent from Bol on the way to the town of Pucisca. How long will this take, Daddy, and when can we get back in that lovely warm jacuzzi.
And then we arrived, and the little eyes brightened again. Pucisca was beautiful! So beautiful in fact that it was recently named in the top 10 most beautiful towns in Europe. As an example of a superb stone community undisturbed by the scourge of modern apartment building, this was probably the finest example I have seen in Dalmatia for a town of this size.
And if the girls were impressed by their introduction to Pucisca, they were about to enter a building that had them both reconsidering their education options – the Pucisca Stonemason School.
Brac of course is the island of stone, whose quarries have provided stone for The White House in Washington, Diocletian’s Palace and the parliament buildings of Vienna and Budapest, to name but a few. Founded in 1909, the school provides eduational opportunities for pupils from the age fo 14, with a capacity for 25 pupils a year. There are currently 95 pupils in the school, including two girls, and some 15 from the island of Brac itself.
While the treasures within were to be fascinating, the first striking things after the impression of the stunning first view were the windows on the building’s main facade. While some window frames were outstanding examples of stone craftsmanship, all highly individual, many were not only plain but very much not in keeping with the gorgeous detail of the rest of the building, and indeed the town itself.
It was explained to us why, and why each ornate window was so individual. Every year, the final class is tasked with working together to produce a window frame for the facade. One a year. So there are, by my calculations, some 19 years to go…
Inside was pure art. Immaculate and highly skilled stonework, representing all kinds of fugures at every turn.
From religious icons and fountains, to lions and columns, it would appear that this school could produce stone of the highest quality for any product.
And when the kids learned that they were actually standing in a classroom, and that kids could have this as their school rather than boring regular school, then the little minds forgot the swimming pool and started planning for the future.
Imagine having a desk like this!
A fascinating brief introduction to a world of unique creative excellence. There was, however, one sad little fact that we discovered; after a century of fine tradition, during which the school has turned many island boys (and a few girls) into master craftsmen, this coming year is the first in history where no island pupil has applied to join the school. Let us hope this is just a one-off, as it would be a tragedy if the island lost its strong association with such a fine institution.
Inspired by the creative genius of the school, my little explorers went stone spotting around town, particularly liking these lions guarding the entrance to the town hall.
But the clear winner was this delightful square with native tamarisk trees and a stone klapa group performing, and the girls were more than happy to pose with the stone singers, and then start singing themselves.
So impressed were they that when I told them that we were now off to Skrip to the olive oil museum, they almost believed that they might have a nice time there too, which they probably enjoyed more than the stonemason school. But that is another story…
And if you are without kids, Pucisca really is one of the most stunning places in Europe, a place to linger, marvel and explore.
Pucisca is just one of a selection of excellent day trips on the island of stone which are available through Bluesun. Learn more about the options here.