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

By 18 April 2019

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.