Saturday, 11 April 2020

Jelsa Za Krizen, Croatia Not Wuhan & Cabin Fever Perspectives

April 11, 2020 - The decision to allow the Jelsa Za Krizen procession to proceed has caused plenty of debate. A detailed account from the only foreigner to witness the whole event on Hvar. 


This is an article I really do not want to write, since I know it will lead to more attacks and abuse from some quarters, no matter what I write, due to the high emotions and feelings about the subject. But I have decided to write it because I feel I have a moral obligation to do so. 

A moral obligation for two reasons. Firstly to the people of Hvar, who were unable to take part in this 500-year-old UNESCO tradition which is almost part of their DNA - a chance turn of events meant that I was only a handful (less than ten) of people outside officialdom who got to witness the whole event and all six processions. I feel a duty to share as much information, including videos and photos as I can. You can already see the first comprehensive report here, as well as an edited video tribute to each of the six cross bearers here

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TCN's coverage and videos of the Jelsa Za Krizen 2020 (which also covered the other five processions from Vrboska, Vrbanj, Svirce, Vrisnik and Pitve) has already been featured in, Laudato TV, 24 Sata, Index, Tportal, Dalmacija Danas, Telegram, Dalmacija News, Sibenik In,,, as well as appearing on the national evening news on RTL Danas. Laudato TV even referred to me as Irish, the first portal to note my post-Brexit reality. 

This intense media interest in our work had less to do with the quality of what we produced and more, of course, with the fact the current travel restrictions meant that I was one of the only journalists in the country who could attend the event. 

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It has certainly been a strange year for TCN in that regard, as my colleague and I were the only foreigners at the inauguration of President Milanovic a couple of months ago. You can read more about a foreign perspective on a Croatian presidential inauguration here

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And then, an even stranger feeling. at the start of the Jelsa Za Krizen procession on Thursday. Not only the only foreigner on the main square but also the only person. 

As far as I can see, there are three aspects of the decision which have flared emotions. 

1) Social distancing.

2) Anger that while other events are cancelled and people are confined to homes, Za Krizen went ahead.

3) With Easter approaching, such an important family time for Croatians, allowing the procession to proceed sent out the wrong message. 

I am not going to touch the last two topics, since my opinion does not matter, and I learned a long ago about jumping into polarised debates that will descend to Ustasa v Partizani in minutes. But I do have a lot to say on the first topic, as well as value to add to the discussion due to my close access to the entire procession.  

Before I do so, I think it is also important to mention that everyone is having a different experience and perspective based on how confined they are and who they are (or are not) locked down with. While I can't imagine what I must be like caged in Zagreb with corona on the outside and earthquakes on the inside, I worry too about a friend on an idyllic Caribbean island which just registered its first corona death. With no chance of flights out, the island only had 10 hospital beds and two respirators. A different kind of prison compared to Zagreb, and perhaps even more terrifying despite the sun and access to the beach. 

No place is perfect to sit this one out, and I fully acknowledge that my circumstances in sunny Jelsa are much better than many others. Had we stayed in the house in Varazdin, we would have ended up killing each other for sure, and while health facilities on the island are limited, Split is not far away, and Croatia's emergency services do an outstanding job despite decades of underfunding. 

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Part of the title is 'Croatia not Wuhan.' There is a reason for that, although I am aware that some may see this as clickbait. I want to add a paragraph on clickbait to the discussion before I proceed because it is an important aspect of the debate. There has never been a greater era of clickbait than today, and some media articles on this procession have indulged in that. 

While I do not judge portals which do engage in a policy of clickbait (more on why in a minute), it is something I strongly oppose on TCN editorially. Although we don't always achieve it, given the number of contributors we have and the relaxed publishing policy, quality is of much more importance than quick cash from hysteria-driven clicks. In my opinion, the short-term financial gain would be offset by the loss of quality readers who would rightly conclude that we were a clickbait site. 

So why don't I judge other portals? Adsense revenue is an essential revenue stream for media portals these days, and Adsense revenue is generated by clicks. The more clicks, the more cash you make. The more clickbaity articles, the more clicks, the more cash. TCN's current financial status is that every single client we had put our cooperation on hold, every single one - over a period of three days last month. Painful but understandable. While one has now come back and we picked up a new client yesterday, this has meant that for a month, the ONLY revenue stream for TCN has been Adsense revenue. So in order to feed my kids, it is in my interest to attract clicks to the site. So do I compromise on quality, or ask the kids to eat less? That is a part of the clickbait debate that rarely gets discussed. 

Sorry kids, I went for quality BUT the good news is that clients are coming back and new ones committing, so we will be able to eat well again real soon. And yes, I am joking about not having food for the kids - when you have access to the quality produce of your punac and the legendary Konoba Zorica run by your punica, nobody will starve. 

Sorry for the long intro, but I think it is necessary to have a better understanding of this complex situation. 

Let's begin. So why is Croatia (or anywhere else in the world) not Wuhan? Look at the chart above on the level of restrictions in some European countries. While Wuhan had total lockdown, these countries and Croatia have partial lockdown. 

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This is Split late last month, where locals were enjoying a traditional game called picigin in the Spring sunshine. They were appropriately socially distanced, and the rules of the game apparently mean you can not be within one metre of another player. Passing the virus on via the ball is another aspect to the game, however. But this is also a great visual example of what is currently happening in Croatia. MOST but not ALL are adhering to the rules and appropriate distancing. I asked Professor Igor Rudan, one of the leading global experts on pandemics what was his opinion of the above photo in Jurgen Klopp and Igor Rudan: the Only COVID-19 Opinions You Need. His one-line answer was:

I can only say that, if you leave home, you are no longer safe, because we still have no idea how this virus can spread so easily. Until we do, I would rather stay in.

His much longer, and highly informative analysis can be found in How to Maintain Good Results and Exit Quarantine as Soon as Possible.


Were there social distancing violations at Za Krizen? Yes

Were they worse than the current situation all over Croatia? An EMPHATIC NO, INDEED MUCH, MUCH BETTER

Give me a camera and access to any city in Croatia with a brief to show the shocking abuse of social distancing rules, and I will have a daily clickbait article which will have my kids begging me to stop buying them so much chocolate. While what I capture might be true, it would not be representative. 

Or let's put is another way. How often, if ever, have you been out in the neighbourhood where you live in Croatia and seen 100% adherence to the social distancing rules?

I never expected Za Krizen to have total social distancing, and I don't think anyone else did. The big question - to me at least - was how much close contact there would be, and how many people would violate. And THIS to me was the story of the night and the reason why my respect for the people of Hvar has never been higher. 

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Currently in Jelsa, we are not allowed to leave the area, but we are free to go for a walk, if we are appropriately socially distanced. This means that I can get my 30 minutes a day by the Adriatic which is keeping me sane. But it also meant that all the locals could legally come out and take part in the procession in some way. That would necessarily lead to a lot more contact and violations if it were to happen. And with Za Krizen SUCH an important part of the local genetic makeup, it was to be expected. So what actually happened, and how did the authorities control things? Here is my experience in and around Jelsa, the biggest of the six settlements. I was out all night so had the chance to observe the most.  

The first reassurance (and surprise) came at the top of the steps (see above) I use to go to the riva. It was blocked by the car of my dentist, Ivo Tomic, who was doing his bit as a good citizen to limit movement. Ivo had been informed that I had been given permission to attend the procession from distance and waved me through. 

I should mention at this point about the permission. I called the head of the local Stozer, Igor, to say that I planned to wander around, as per the rules, but just wanted to check if that was ok, as I knew it was a sensitive time. Igor referred me to check with Jure Tadic, the Hvar Police Chief, who gave his blessing but suggested I get confirmation from Jelsa Mayor, Niksa Peronja. Mayor Peronja confirmed by email. 

And then a few hours before the procession Police Chief Tadic called me. My heart sank. The only reason for the call must be to tell me to stay home, I thought as his number flashed up. But quite the contrary, he wanted to know exactly where I planned to be, and to let me know that if I had any problems, to call him directly. Thank you, Sir, that was much appreciated. 

And so to the main square, where the main action would soon begin...

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No chance to get to the square unless you had permission. I was waved through.

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Every entrance was blocked. 

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My view of the square at 22:00, when the procession was due to start. 

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The main church in Jelsa is normally packed with pilgrims watching, and then following, the start of the procession. Not on Thursday. 

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And that control continued through the night. 00:30 as we waited for the Vrbanj procession. 

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Hvar Police Chief Jure Tadic ran a perfect operation all night. 

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But the main surprise was how few people there were on the streets at all. Some had chosen their own spot along the route, and as the procession went along the road out of the town, there were perhaps a dozen, each several metres apart. As the procession passed, tears poured out of one local woman. Had I been that clickbait journalist, it would have been the photo of the procession. I did not enquire if they were tears of joy at seeing the procession happen, frustration at not being able to take part, or tears for the current situation. Whichever, this crystallised for me just what Za Krizen means for the people of Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska. 

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And there was going to be no getting past the police on land...  

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... or by sea.  

But what would happen when the Jelsa procession came back in the morning? Surely the crowds would gather then? To give some perspective, this is how Jelsa Za Krizen 2019 finished. 

The most joyful time of the year in Jelsa for me, and the energy and joy in the cafes afterwards among the pilgrims after their 9-hour experience through the night is truly magical.  


Fast forward to 2020, and the socially distanced Jelsani awaiting the return of their procession. I was absolutely stunned. And absolutely proud.  

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Don Stanko and just a handful of others awaited.  

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Another powerful photo memory of the 2020 procession. 

You can see the arrival of the cross in this video of my footage which has been edited by Miranda Milicic Bradbury, and includes some quite stunning footage as the procession then proceeded to St John's Church. This was the undoubted highlight of the night.  

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The biggest social distancing violation of the entire procession, but something happening in every corner of Croatia. From a social distancing point of view, Za Krizen was no worse - and actually better - than what is currently happening all over Croatia. The other two points of debate mentioned above are a separate discussion, but there is absolutely no reason in my opinion why Za Krizen social distancing violations are even a discussion in Croatia at the moment. Would it be better if Za Krizen did not happen alongside all the other things going on at the moment in Croatia which are generating more serious violations? I bow to Professor Rudan and say yes. 

But Croatia is not Wuhan, and that is a decision that the Croatian authorities, but also some Croatian people, have taken through their own individual acts of social distancing violation.  

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My story is coming to an end. St John's Square. 

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Jelsa's main square five minutes after the procession had arrived.  

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And a view from the riva.  

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Just one early morning, socially distanced conversation to break the silence.  

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Early morning empty tranquillity that I have come to cherish during my time here.  


And the final photo for the final police action in this outstandingly conducted operation - disinfecting their boat. 

My thanks and respect to all those who made Za Krizen 2020 a success in very challenging circumstances. 

I hope that this account brings more clarity to the discussion, as well as more information and photos for the many who hold Za Krizen so dear. 

You can see more of TCN's Za Krizen coverage, including videos of previous procession, in our dedicated section


Friday, 10 April 2020

Za Krizen 2020: Video Tribute to Each of 6 Hvar Cross Bearers

April 10, 2020 - A Za Krizen 2020 video tribute and their names for the 6 cross bearers carrying the cross for their community on Hvar overnight.  

Jelsa is once more quiet after a night of prayer, emotion and reflection, with the annual UNESCO Za Krizen (Behind the Cross) taking place as it has done each year for more than 500 years, albeit in a drastically different format this year, due to the coronavirus reality. 

As I have been self-isolating in our home in Jelsa and unable to move elsewhere, I found myself being one of the only journalists who was able to cover this year's procession live, which I did from distance through the night. You can see the timeline of how Za Krizen 2020 unfolded in this video and photo report published this morning.

I plan to write a much bigger piece on various details of what was an unforgettable night, as I know how much Za Krizen means to so many people, and how heartbreaking it must have been not to be able to participate, as each procession was reduced to just 15 people, as opposed to the hundreds or thousands that follow the various six processions in an ordinary year. 

Having been up all night reporting, I went to bed about 10 am, but my wife, Miranda Milicic Bradbury, was busy sorting all the footage I had taken. She thought it would be nice to have a video for each cross bearer, and so she set about doing just that. 

What will not be clear to those not familiar with Za Krizen is how Miranda managed to combine the music sung by each village in the Jelsa church (this was available live through a webcam for the first time - 10/10, Jean and Tomi!) and added to the video footage where possible and appropriate. You can see the six videos below, in order that they came to Jelsa, and with the name of each cross bearer in the title of the video. 







To learn more about Za Krizen, follow the dedicated TCN section.  

Friday, 10 April 2020

Za Krizen 2020: All 6 Hvar Processions in Jelsa (VIDEOS)

April 10, 2020 - Za Krizen 2020 took place in very unusual circumstances overnight. TCN was there the whole night. In the first of a series of reports, a timeline with video coverage of each of the six processions.  

16:00 - There has been a lot of controversy about whether or not Za Krizen 2020 should go ahead in the corona era. A little background and overview of the procession route from the TCN terrace in Jelsa, which overlooks five of the six villages taking part in this 500-year-old tradition. 

21:20 - Preparing myself mentally for a lonely all-nighter from the TCN terrace.


22:00 - Jelsa main square at the official start time of Za Krizen 2020. Totally empty. 


22:03 -  Apart from one Irishman. I am extremely grateful to Niksa Peronja, Mayor of Jelsa, Jure Tadic, Hvar Police Chief, and Igor from the Jelsa Civilian Protection Headquarters for allowing me to document certain parts of Za Krizen 2020 at distance. With all the restrictions, on the ground media cover was light - indeed I only saw the fabulous Hvar TV duo, Maja and Jure (reporting for national television), and Hvar photographer extraordinaire, Jaksa Kuzmicic. But it certainly felt VERY strange to be the only person on the square as the procession started.


This is how it looked last year. How would it look this year?

22:10 - Za Krizen 2020 is underway. 

I was out all night and have a LOT to say about the last few hours, and I want to document it as fully as possible for the many people for whom Za Krizen is a part of their identity, but who could not take part due to the current situation. To do that properly, I need to get some sleep and formulate my thoughts, so for now, please find a series of videos and timelines through the night, which include all six processions which took part in Za Krizen 2020. 


23:30 - There were many things that were unusual for Za Krizen 2020, among them the arrival of supporting singers from Vrboska to Jelsa by boat - social distancing has now spread to the Adriatic. 

23:30 - The Vrboska boats arriving in Jelsa.

23:35 - Vrboska arriving in Jelsa.

00:00 -  Midnight. The church bells are now silent until Saturday night. The only sounds, the lapping of waves and barking of a lone dog in the distance.

00:15 - Vrboska support boats leave Jelsa harbour to return home, appropriately socially distanced. 


00:30 -  As we await Vrbanj, a big shout out to the Hvar police and local authorities. Seriously impressive. It almost feels like King Vili himself organised all.


I will have MUCH more to say on the policing of the procession and social distancing in my article later. 


00:40 - Vrbanj arrives in Jelsa.

01:55 - Svirce arrives in Jelsa.

03:00 - Vrisnik arrives in Jelsa.

04:05 - Pitve arrives in Jelsa.


05:50 - And so begins another day on Hvar. This is how they will start on your holiday here when all this madness is over.


06:00 - Don Stanko awaits the return of the Jelsa procession on the main square in Jelsa.


06:00 - The Jelsa procession returns to Jelsa. 

By way of comparison, this is how Za Krizen 2019 finished. 


And one year later.

06:05 - Just. Beautiful.  


06:10 - St John's Square


And that concludes this initial report on Za Krizen 2020. I have much more to write, but sleep has to come first. But I would like to finish with my thanks to the authorities for an outstanding display of organisation and control. 

And my very deep respect for the people of Hvar for respecting the rules, allowing the evening to pass without incident. I know what Za Krizen means to many of you, and I was expecting people to follow the processions or huddle together as they arrived in Jelsa. That simply did not happen. Much more on that when I wake up. 

If any media would like to use the material in this report, please do so. I ask only that you cite Total Croatia News as the author, link back to this article, and send me a link.  



Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Socially Distanced Za Krizen 2020 WILL Happen: Livestream on TCN

April 8, 2020 - 500 years of UNESCO tradition WILL continue on Hvar tomorrow night but Za Krizen 2020 will be a socially distanced procession in the corona era - and partially available on livestream on TCN from 21:30 tomorrow night.  

This is an incredibly hard article to write, as I need to get every word right or I could get in trouble. There is a LOT unsaid behind this article, which perhaps will be left unsaid. My understanding is that the final decision on the religious procession Za Krizen 2020 reached the desk of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. And a decision has been taken - Za Krizen 2020 WILL go ahead tomorrow night at 22:00 - as it has every year for about 500 years on Maundy Thursday - albeit with a radically different look in this socially-distanced corona era.  

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The main square of Jelsa tonight, which traditionally was the focal point of the procession, which has survived occupation by the Italian fascists in 1943, took place in the Sinai Desert in a refugee camp in Egypt in 1944, and took place in the godless Socialist years of Tito. You can learn more about that, and the procession in a previous article on TCN - 'Za Krizen' on Hvar Overcame Fascists, Tito, Sinai Desert, But Will It Beat Corona? 


This is how Za Krizen looks in a normal year - the start of the Jelsa procession, one of six simultaneous processions which leave from Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska. 

Clearly such a procession is NOT possible in the current climate. And this is NOT what Za Krizen 2020 will look like. 

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Jelsa tonight, as beautiful - and as empty - as I have ever seen it. 

The sound of the church bells. They will fall silent tomorrow night until Sunday, as per the Holy Week tradition in Jelsa. 

The discussion on whether or not to allow the procession to take place in some format has reached the very top echelons of the Croatian government. Health Minister Vili Beros, himself from Jelsa, stated that he was in favour of delaying the procession until September last week

Clearly the idea of hundreds of people taking part was out of the question. Discussions ensued, and one suggestion was that each procession would be reduced to just five people - the crossbearer and four acolytes, a far cry from the 20 or so acolytes and the hundreds or thousands of pilgrims who walk through the night.  

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(A cross burns brightly outside the home of the Jelsa crossbearer, as per tradition)

My understanding is that the crossbearers asked for more acolytes to help them through the long night, and a decision was taken which involved PM Plenkovic (himself a Hvar man, who took part in Za Krizen back in 2017, as reported by TCN).

The final decision is that each procession will be allowed 15 participants (slightly more than the 12 allowed by the Italians in 1943), with five more singers following by car. Social distancing rules will be enforced. 

And - and this will be VERY important to the millions of devout self-isolating Croatian Catholics here and in the diaspora - parts of Za Krizen 2020 will be available live from Jelsa, on the TCN Facebook page from 21:30 tomorrow night. At an incredibly important time of year for Croatians - Easter - the chance to see this religious tradition live from Hvar will no doubt give fortitude to many. 

If all goes well, TCN will have a live feed from both the Jelsa church and the Jelsa main square from 21:30 tomorrow night until 08:00 on the morning of Good Friday. You can like the TCN Facebook page here, where the feed will appear. 

I called the head of the Jelsa Civil Protection Headquarters today, and thereafter the head of Hvar police. Very productive discussions, in which I explained my socially distanced media coverage plans for tomorrow night. Both seemed fine but suggested that I request clearance from Jelsa Mayor Niksa Peronja. Mayor Peronja has just replied that I have clearance to report, so I will do the best I can to capture as much as I can of this tradition which means so much to the people of Hvar. 

Last year, I managed to capture all six processions through the night

I don't expect that level of access this year, but I will report back with the best I can do from a safe distance. 

We will post the livestream link on TCN FB tomorrow night at 21:00

And if you are wondering why Za Krizen 2020 is such a big deal, this is one of my favourite videos ever about Hvar traditions, which explains it all from the point of view of a crossbearer. 

Saturday, 21 March 2020

'Za Krizen' on Hvar Overcame Fascists, Tito, Sinai Desert, But Will It Beat Corona?

March 21, 2020 - It is a UNESCO tradition which has taken place each year for 500 years despite the challenges of fascism, socialism and the Egyptian desert. But will Za Krizen 2020 beat the coronavirus? 

When the coronavirus spread throughout Europe, there was much talk about banning events and social gatherings. Most were focused on rock concerts or Premier League matches, but my mind turned to something a little closer to my heart. If this event were cancelled due to COVID-19, what a statement for history! For this event has been challenged many times before, in different trying historical circumstances. But it has always taken place each year at 22:00 on Maundy Thursday on a beautiful Dalmatian island. 

Every year. For 500 years. Without exception. 

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'Za Križen' (literally 'Behind the Cross') is a religious procession which is one of the most important events in the annual calendar of the people of central Hvar. At 22:00 on Maundy Thursday, a barefoot crossbearer, each from the six communities of Jelsa, Pitive, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj, and Vrboska, lead their acolytes and pilgrims on a 22-km procession of chanting, prayer and reflection through the other communities, before returning to their starting point around 07:00 on Good Friday. Several thousand people attend the event and walk through the night for this traditional procession, which was awarded the status of intangible UNESCO heritage back in 2009.  

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It is a procession which is steeped in history, heritage and pride. It is a great honour to carry the cross, and it is said that parents put their new-born babies on the waiting list for the honour. One of the best videos I have ever seen about the traditions of Hvar was Maja Zrnić's piece for Hvar TV following a Pitve crossbearer, Ivo Mileta, behind the scenes.

A really fascinating snapshot of a unique tradition which spans five centuries. The Italian fascists tried to ban it in 1943, but Za Krizen took place, albeit on a reduced scale. 

In 1944, Za Križen took place in the Sinai Desert in Egypt, in a refugee camp in El Shatt. as refugees from Hvar insisted on honouring their traditions - you can read more about the incredible story of Dalmatian refugees in the Sinai Desert here

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And, as the Pitve crossbearer in the video above shows, religious processions during the Tito socialist era were hardly encouraged.

Za Križen has overcome all these obstacles over its 500-year history. I managed to capture all six processions at various times on the night last year here

But will Za Križen be able to overcome perhaps its biggest challenge yet - COVID-19?

With the ban on public gatherings and ferry transportation restricted to those with island IDs, it is clear that the many Hvar people living on the mainland will not return, and that there will be few to no pilgrims following the cross. But will the event take place? 

Perhaps. And if it does take place, it will be one of the few events to actually be happy in these crazy times. 

My understanding is that the current thinking is that the six crossbearers will definitely go, with perhaps a couple of assistants each, but nothing more. The mass gathering at the start and finish will not happen, and so it will be a rather curious affair for those who traditionally take part. The Vrboska crossbearer has apparently arrived from Canada, where he now resides, while the Pitve crossbearer Roman Radonić is the nephew of the youngest ever crossbearer, Sveto Marijan back in 1953, aged just 13. 

It will undoubtedly still be a very special night, although - like everything else in the world right now - different. 

I will bring you as much coverage as a responsible socially distanced journalist can. To learn more about the Za Krizen UNESCO tradition, check out the official UNESCO video below.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

'Za Krizen' 2019 on Hvar: 6 Processions, 8 Videos, 1 UNESCO Heritage

 April 20, 2019 - One of Croatia's most important religious traditions, the UNESCO-inscribed 'Za Krizen' processions on Hvar, took place once more through the night of Maundy Thursday/Good Friday. A video snapshot of all 6 processions. 

As previously reported on TCN, an altogether different face of the sunny tourist island of Hvar was on display during the night of Maundy Thursday, as thousands of Catholic worshippers took part in the overnight 22-kilometre processions of 'Za Krizen' (Behind the Cross), which took place simultaneously from Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska. 

The processions, following a barefoot cross bearer and his acolytes, through a circular route of prayer and contemplation through the other five settlements, are a tradition dating back almost 500 years. They have taken place every year without fail, including during wars, Communism and even in the Sinai Desert in the El Shatt refugee camp in 1944-5. 

TCN spent the night on the main square in Jelsa, capturing the action from 20:00 until the spectacular climax, as exhausted Jelsa cross bearer ran the final steps, as per tradition, to return the ancient cross to the awaiting priest at 07:15 on Goof Friday. 

Below, some video footage from the start and end of the Jelsa procession, as well as every other procession as they entered Jelsa's main square. 

The Jelsa procession departs.

The first of six processions which will pass through Jelsa's main square. Timeline - 22:15.

The arrival of Vrboska at 23:50.

The arrival of Vrbanj at 01:00.

The arrival of Svirce at 02:15.

The arrival of Vrisnik at 03:30.

The arrival of Pitve at 05:10.

The return of Jelsa at 07:15.



Thursday, 18 April 2019

UNESCO Traditions on Hvar (VIDEO): 'Za Krizen' Procession Underway in Jelsa

April 18, 2019 - A religious spectacle is underway on Hvar, as 6 simultaneous 'Za Krizen' processions through the night uphold a UNESCO tradition dating back 500 years. 

Known for its endless sunshine, great beaches and nightlife, the island of Hvar shows another side to its multi-faceted personality on Maundy Thursday each year with the annual 'Za Krizen' (Behind the Cross) procession in 6 towns and villages. 


At 22:00 on Maundy Thursday, six simultaneous processions set off from Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska. They are led by barefoot cross bearers carrying ancient crosses weighing between 10 and 18 kg, walking through the night along a 22-kilometre route for a night of contemplation and prayer through the other five settlements. Finally, the processions complete their circular route, arriving back where they started about 07:00 on Good Friday. 


The cross bearer is followed by his acolytes wearing white robes and carrying candles. Behind the acolytes, more than a thousand pilgrims walk through the night following the procession, which was awarded Intangible UNESCO Heritage status back in 2009. You can read more about the heritage in the TCN UNESCO heritage series

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Each procession has its own uniqueness, but the biggest one in Jelsa has a very dramatic ending, as the exhausted cross bearer and his main acolyte run the final metres on Jelsa's packed main square, before kneeling in front of the awaiting priest. While there is an understandable tourist impulse to applaud the achievement, it should be borne in mind that this is a very religious experience, and applause is not welcome. To learn more about the procession through the eyes of a cross bearer, learn more through this interview with a former cross bearer from Jelsa

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There are other traditions associated with the procession. One is that an illuminated image of Jesus falling with the cross is displayed in the main church tower. 

And locals add to the light by keeping their lights on all night. 

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TCN will be up all night recording each procession as it comes through Jelsa. 

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The procession has just got underway for 2019. Check out the first moments from the video below. 


Monday, 15 April 2019

Hvar’s Za Križen Procession, Major Religious Event Protected by UNESCO

Maundy Thursday is a special day on the island of Hvar due to the traditional Za Križen procession, which has been held every year for more than 500 years. This year, the traditional procession will take place in the central part of the island of Hvar on Thursday, April 18. The event has been included on the UNESCO World List of Intangible Heritage since 2009, reports on April 15, 2019.

The procession begins every year at exactly 10 pm, starting simultaneously from Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirče, Vrbanj, Vrboska and Jelsa, returning to their starting points at 7 in the morning. Overnight, the participants cover about 25 kilometres. Cross-bearers apply for the role years in advance, sometimes even 10 to 20 years before.

This year, the cross-bearers are: Krišto Barbić in Pitve, Božen Grgičević in Vrisnik, Frane Carić in Svirče, Josip Bojanić in Vrbanj, Robert Čagalj in Vrboska, and Petar Bunčuga in Jelsa.

The cross-bearers are accompanied by a group comprising of two candlesticks (kandeliri) bearers, 6 to 12 heavy wax candles (torci) bearers, up to 30 lanterns (ferali) bearers, two companions which take care of the cross-bearers safety, two lead singers of Gospin Plač, and another 3-4 singers who sing the responses.

The preparations for the event start long before. The festivities begin on Ash Wednesday, when the 40 days of Lent begin, which include the singing rehearsals and the selection of bearers of kandeliri, torci, and ferali. It is customary that every person that the cross-bearer selects for his procession is visited personally by him at their houses. Cross-bearers wear shoes or woollen socks or walk barefoot, depending on their personal vows. It is customary that, at the very start of the procession, their family members pray for them and kiss the bearer and the cross.

Maundy Thursday includes a dinner for the cross-bearer and the party before they start, while on Friday morning there is the so-called “jutrina” for everybody who accompanied the bearer overnight. Also, most families from the cross-bearer’s town give them symbolic presents, such as cakes. After Easter, the cross-bearer’s helpers distribute cakes to houses in the parish.

The procession in Jelsa is different from the others since the cross-bearer concludes his procession by running over the local square after the procession returns to Jelsa. He is welcomed at the very end by the Jelsa priest. The bearer kneels with the cross, before returning to the church. Each parish has its unique features. For example, the cross from Pitve always visits another church located above Jelsa, while in other parishes this is left to the cross-bearers’ decision.

Many inhabitants of the island of Hvar mark Easter with this sacred tradition, and not just in the central part of the island since each town has its distinctive features. This cultural and religious event continues the tradition of songs which have been sung for five centuries with common melodies, but also with differences specific to each part of the island.

Translated from

More news about “Za Križen” procession can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

After 15 Years, Jelsa's Za Krizen Monument Sees the Light of Day

March 31, 2018 - After more than a decade in storage, the monument for Jelsa's Crossbearer's Square finds its final resting place. 

Thursday, 29 March 2018

UNESCO Za Krizen 2018 Procession Underway in Jelsa on Hvar

March 29, 2018 - A UNESCO procession, dating back more than 500 years, is once more underway through the night on Maundy Thursday on the island of Hvar. 

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