Jelsa’s Fortified Church of St. Mary’s Assumption
The parish church of Ss. Fabian and Sebastian is mentioned in the Hvar Statute of 1331 as ‘Sancta Maria di Ielsa, but it is not known when the dedication was changed. Under threat from Turkish attack in 1535 the church was made into a fortress, and later fortified in 1573. At the end of the 19th century the church was totally renovated and a new belfry added.
The church contains a painting by the 17th century Flemish artist Pietro de Coster, depicting the church’s patron saint, the Virgin Mary; there is also a wooden statue of Our Lady which was brought to Jelsa from Čitluk (Bosnia and Hercegovina) in 1539. The statue is the centrepiece of the celebrations for the feast of the Assumption, called Vela Gospa in Croatian, jelsa’s main saint’s day, which is also Jelsa Council’s feast day. Also in the church is an altar triptych, the work of Urban de Surge the Bavarian, dating from between 1636 and 1645.
In the courtyard space between the fortified church and its defensive wall there is a Lapidarium containing about 20 Antique and Medieval stone artefacts, which were placed there by the Hvar Cultural Centre in 1970. Among the exhibits is a grave headstone from Roman times, a 15th century relief by Nikola Firentinac, and a stone table which belonged to a knight called Ivan Obradić.