Saturday, 2 November 2019

Ludbreg, Croatia's Miracle Town: Vatican-Recognised Unlike Medjugorje

November 2, 2019 - More than a million religious tourists visit Medjugorje every year, even though the Vatican has not authenticated anything there, but few know about the only Vatican-authenticated miracle in Croatia which can be visited. Meet the Eucharistic Miracle in Ludbreg. 

My first visit to Croatia in what was then Yugoslavia was back in 1988. I remember overnighting in Zagreb before heading to the destination which was the main purpose of the trip. 

Medjugorje. 

As I was the product of nine years of Jesuit education in a British boarding school, the Catholic faith was never far away. Indeed, so strong was the influence that I went to voluntary mass six times a week at 07:20 before lessons began, and I even contemplated becoming a priest at one stage. And so when I learned of the alleged apparitions in Medjugorje, I knew I had to visit this miraculous place. 

But when I arrived, there was nothing concrete to see. Apart, of course, from apartments, so many apartments. This was a small village which had exploded in just eight years after six children claimed to have been visited by the Virgin Mary while tending goats. More apparitions occurred, and the Virgin Mary sends a message to one of the (now adult) visionaries on the 25th of each month. But there was nothing to see, apart from the hill where the sightings allegedly happened, and a big church in the centre of town which became the religious focal point. 

The religious tourism industry - for it is an industry - has transformed Medjugorje, which now welcomes over a million religious tourists a year, the majority of whom spend a few days. Think about that for a second - one small town in Hercegovina attracts 5% of Croatia's entire tourist arrivals each year, and it attracts them 12 months a year. 

I have spent a lot of time in Medjugorje over the years. It is a place which sharply divides opinion between those who are fervent believers in the apparitions to those who are equally fervently convinced that the whole thing is an elaborate con which has become a great money-making machine for all. My opinions are not relevant, but one which is is the opinion of the Catholic church itself and the Vatican in particular. And this is where I got really surprised, especially as I read somewhere that Medjugorje is apparently the second most visited Catholic destination for religious tourism in Europe, possibly the world, I can't remember. 

And yet neither the local bishop or the Vatican itself has officially endorsed it. Indeed, the local bishop has gone on record to state the apparitions are not credible, as recently as last year

And even without this official endorsement, still more than a million people come each year - that is a tourism miracle in itself. I have met many people who have been to Medjugorje, and there is no doubting their beliefs or that being there gives them peace. 

In terms of a religious tourism destination, the numbers are incredible. 

Every time I have driven away from Medjugorje over the years, I wonder what Croatian tourism would make of a fully authenticated miracle by the Vatican. 

And then I found out that one exists, fully authenticated by the Vatican. In Ludbreg in Varazdin County. 

The Real Presence website gives a great overview of the history of Ludbreg's miracle. 

In 1411 at Ludbreg, in the chapel of the Count Batthyany’s castle, a priest was celebrating Mass, during the consecration of the wine, the priest doubted the truth of transubstantiation, and the wine in the chalice turned into Blood. Not knowing what to do, the priest embedded this relic in the wall behind the main altar. The workman who did the job was sworn to silence. The priest also kept it secret and revealed it only at the time of his death. After the priest’s revelation, news quickly spread and people started coming on pilgrimage to Ludbreg. The Holy See later had the relic of the miracle brought to Rome, where it remained for several years. The people of Ludbreg and the surrounding area, however, continued to make pilgrimages to the castle chapel.

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In the early 1500s, during the pontificate of Pope Julius II, a commission was convened in Ludbreg to investigate the facts connected with the Eucharistic miracle. Many people testified that they had received marvelous cures while praying in the relic’s presence. On April 14, 1513, Pope Leo X published a Bull permitting veneration off the holy relic which he himself had carried in procession several times through the streets of Rome. The relic was later returned to Croatia.

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In the 18th century northern Croatia was ravaged by the plague. The people turned to God to call upon His help, and the Croatian Parliament did the same. During the session held on December 15, 1739 in the city of Varazdin, they vowed to build a chapel at Ludbreg in honor of the miracle if the plague ended. The plague was averted, but the promise vow was only fulfilled in 1994, when democracy was restored in Croatia. In 2005 in the votive chapel, the artist Marijan Jakubin painted a large fresco of the Last Supper in which Croatian saints and blesseds were drawn in place of the Apostles. St. John was replaced with Blessed Ivan Merz, who was included among the 18 most important Eucharistic saints in the Church’s history during the Synod of Bishops held in Rome in 2005. In the painting, Christ is holding in His hand a monstrance containing the relic of the Eucharistic miracle.

Croatian speakers can learn more about the miracle in the video above. 

And this is where things got rather extraordinary, to me at least. I have asked a LOT of Catholic friends here in recent days if they know about the Ludbreg miracle. Most only knew about Ludbreg as the centre of the world, others knew that there was some kind of pilgrimage in September, but a miracle? The only Vatican-authenticated one in all Croatia that you can actually visit? Not one person. 

Amazing. 

And yet people DO know about it, at least 100,000 people. For that is the number of pilgrims who gather in Ludbreg each year in the first week of September for a special commemoration of the miracle in the park in front of the church constructed in 1994. Check out some footage from this year's pilgrimage above. 

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 And for the rest of the year, apart from Easter, the church and the park are completely unused. 

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The park comes with its own Stations of the Cross. 

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The 1994 church, however, is not where the miracle chalice is held. It is to be found in the Most Holy Trinity Church in the centre of town, just off the main square and the centre of the world. 

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One of the challenges of seeing the miracle chalice is that the church is closed a lot of the time, but with a little careful planning it can be visited every day. For mass is held daily, the chance to worship in the presence of Croatia's only authenticated miracle. Mass times for October above - making this information available online and in English would be easy to do. 

And it turns out that this is exactly what is already happening, but on a very limited scale. Ludbreg has a steady trickle of tourists from Poland, I learned. They arrive by bus and spend the night in Ludbreg before attending mass in the morning and continuing their journey to their end destination - Medjugorje. From the town with the authenticated miracle to the town without Vatican approval but with over a million tourists a year. 

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From what I learned during my last visit to Ludbreg, although the Polish pilgrims go to mass in Ludbreg, they do not visit the original chapel where the miracle took place. 

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Which is a shame, as it is REALLY pretty and has some rather fascinating things to see is the small exhibition area behind it. 

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Including the papal bull of Pope Leo X in 1513. 

Religious tourism is a niche product, and it is not for everyone, but as Medjugorje has proved, it motivates people to travel. And as Croatia looks to extend its season and develop tourism in continental Croatia, is it sitting once more on a hidden jewel, this time in the niche of religious tourism? If religious tourists from Poland are already coming to Ludbreg, that is proof that this incredible little story is attractive to the niche market. The fact that it is 7.5 hours from Medjugorje and not far off the bus routes of many pilgrims going to Medjugorje by bus from Central Europe surely means that there is a market with captive audience to be developed. Word of mouth passes quickly in such niche markets, and if the majority of Catholics even in Croatia know almost nothing about the Ludbreg miracle, one assumes the same is true elsewhere. But some Poles know about it and are sufficiently interested to visit with the current set up. As I understand it, they are also able to have the mass said in Polish by their accompanying priest. 

Imagine if Ludbreg could expand its religious content, as well as better promotion of its authenticated miracle. While nobody is suggesting we have a new Medjugorje in terms of tourist arrivals, that current Polish trickle could turn into a very steady stream. A little thought into better use of the current religious offering in Ludbreg and better promotion is pretty much all that is required.

And the components are already there. Instead of just mass and then an onward journey that the Polish tourists currently experience, include a tour of the original chapel with its gorgeous frescoes. Visit the exhibition by the chapel and learn about the papal bull and more. Stroll over through the park to the 1994 church built in belated thanks for averting an 18th-century plague. Do the Stations of the Cross in the park, then learn more about Croatia's saints in the unique Last Supper fresco to be found at this church. And then perhaps an early lunch - choose from Croatian, Italian, Mexican and American cuisine at the appropriately named Hotel Raj across from the park - Raj in Croatian means 'heaven.'

Too fanciful? I personally don't think so, especially as the Polish pilgrims have already proven the interest. 

As I was driving away from Ludbreg, I thought of the possibilities of religious tourism and realised that this is a tourism niche that has been largely overlooked until now. Croatia has some INCREDIBLE religious sites (Blaca Monastery on Brac, say no more) and processions (Za Krizen on Hvar, The Assumption of Mary in Sinj), and some wondrous occurrences that are not certified as miracles (Our Lady of Trsat, the Black Madonna of Marija Bistrica). And yet there is no central exhibition centre or museum where one can learn about Croatia's diverse and truly fascinating religious heritage. So why not build create one and give even more content to visitors. And where better than in the Croatian Miracle Town of Ludbreg - developing tourism continental Croatia and developing a year-round religious tourism niche at the same time? But that perhaps is a topic for another day.  

You can follow the Ludbreg Tourist Board on Facebook

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Iva Gerić Wins First European Women's Wrestling Medal for Croatia!

Iva Gerić from Ludbreg has won the bronze medal at the European Wrestling Championships in Faenza, Italy, which is Croatia's first European medal in women's wrestling. Gerić performed in the cadet category and lost in the fight for the final against a wrestler from Ukraine, though her success in the competition is monumental. Gerić is a member of the Ludbreg Wrestling Club and is one of the most talented athletes in Croatia today, writes Podravski.hr on June 22, 2019. 

“I knew what I needed to bring home before I was even in Italy. I was ready and I believed that I could. On the first day of the competition, I was blocked, and it wasn’t me on the mat - my mind had a wish, and my body did not cooperate. The next day gave me an opportunity and here we are back with a medal,” Iva said after the medal celebration.

On the way to the bronze medal, Gerić overcame Hungarian, Lithuanian and French representatives. Her loss to a wrestler from Ukrainian secured her third place at the European Championship in the category of up to 61kg. 

Led by coach Senada Mujagić, Veronika Dragaš, Nika Slavica Anđelić, and Victoria Vrdoljak competed alongside Gerić at the tournament. 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Monday, 27 May 2019

Ludbreg Company Offers Workers ''German'' Pay and Benefits

As Sergej Novosel Vuckovic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 26th of May, 2019, Sigetec Ludbreški, part of Ludbreg in Varaždin County, has a population of around only six hundred people, and every day there are more than a hundred workers coming to work at Inoxmont-VS, which deals with metalworking, the concrete assembly of industrial plants and equipment and more.

They manufacture and install industrial process equipment for steel, they perform pre-production and the mounting of brackets, and various other parts of industrial plants. It is definitely difficult and demanding work, but it's fairly paid

There are about 170 people in operation here and abroad as posted workers, and the average salary is about 9,000 kuna. And that's just the starting pay, experienced ''masters'' get up to 23,000 kuna, or 3,000 euros. So, we are not in Germany, where Croats are more than happy to keep heading to, but in the north of Croatia, a county where the average salary is less than 5000 kuna.

How is that possible?

''It's possible with us. And we should point out the fact that since May the 1st, our average salaries are even higher, we raised them by about five percent," said the co-owners of the aforementioned company, Mladen Vidović and Zlatko Sova. They believe that the workforce is the foundation of their business and strives to ensure them the best possible conditions because ''things can only develop in such a way''.

"We're constantly investing in technology, but even moreso in our workforce.For those who work as installers and welders on construction sites and under difficult conditions, we have implemented good work benefits, for a year we pay for fifteen months of their pensions and other allowances. Those who go abroad and work are provided with housing and transportation, only through the care of your employees can you deliver the quality service that is being sought from us,'' say the directors of this Ludbreg company.

Despite the already-described benefits and this Ludbreg company's almost magnetically attractive working conditions, Inoxmont still shares the same fate of many operating within the metal industry, and they're facing a deficit of workers. At the moment, they have open positions.

In the local ''pool'' of Varaždin and Međimurje County, where they have the largest number of workers, there still aren't enough of them, and even the ''production'' of staff from throughout Croatia doesn't look like its going to be promising any time soon. Before even enrolling in high school, minors seem to already be picturing themselves abroad, having run away from the ailing metal industry.

"We talked with the director of the Varaždin Mechanical Engineering School, only six students enrolled in the field of construction in the construction sector, they are the only ones in Croatia who have enrolled in this subject. In vocational professions, of course, there's a lack of qualified workforce, and we're also feeling it.

We also talked to pupils who are interested in the position of CNC operator from Ludbreg High School, and they said that they were going to leave Croatia immediately after completing their schooling, and we tried to explain that they had come out of school without the necessary practical knowledge, ans when they either go to Germany or wherever else, they'd be negotiating not as an equal partner with an employer but would be begging for jobs. Along the same lines, no matter how long they spend in another country, they will always be foreign,''

The co-owners are more than aware of the problems Ludbreg's Inoxmont faces, which, moreover, boasts workers from across the country, as well as from Hungary and Bulgaria.

Their attitude towards the import of labour is therefore clear.

"It's necessary to increase import quotas or just abolish them, but that's a fire-fighting solution, primarily to motivate people and stop them from permanently leaving the Republic of Croatia, but we all have to work on it, we give the maximum, we provide our workers with good conditions, but the Government must stand behind us,'' say Vidovic and Sova.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for much more.

 

Click here for the original article by Sergej Novosel Vuckovic for Poslovni Dnevnik

Monday, 13 August 2018

Lipik and Ludbreg Best Croatian Towns in Using EU Funds

There are 32 towns which have not withdrawn a single euro.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Ludbreg Is Best Croatian Town in EU Funds Usage

As many as 63 towns have not withdrawn a single euro.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Five Things Not to Miss in Ludbreg

Tucked away in Varazdin County is the most unusual little town in Croatia. Five things not to miss in Ludbreg.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Ludbreg: Center of the World and Eco Smart City

The town of Ludbreg, known as the center of the world, has introduced a “smart” waste management system.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Economic Boom in Ludbreg

The town in northern Croatia has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Tens of Thousands of Pilgrims Gather in Ludbreg

Worshippers visit the Shrine of the Precious Blood of Christ in Ludbreg.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Two More Monuments on Ludbreg Square, Croatia's Most Unusual Town

From solar trees to the centre of the world, two more attractions on the main square of Croatia's most unusual town in Ludbreg.

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