Procession known as ‘Za Križen’ (‘Following the Cross’)
The people’s Procession known as ‘Za Križen’ (‘Following the Cross’) has been taking place between six settlements on the Island of Hvar for some 500 years. The circular walk between Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirče, Vrbanj and Vrboska to honour the symbolic representations of Jesus’ tomb in each place takes the Cross-Bearer, his entourage and followers the whole night between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. It is a deeply significant event, especially for the Cross-Bearer, who usually dedicates his efforts, sometimes as a personal vow, or in a charitable appeal for a good cause.
Local people follow the Cross-Bearer from their own settlement for all or part of the way, and they are often joined by outsiders from Croatia or abroad who are attracted by the religious sentiments underpinning the Procession. It is a moving experience, especially because of the gentle lights of the lanterns and votive candles carried by the Cross-Bearer’s entourage, and the age-old harmonies and prayers which are sung along the way and at each stop.
Each of the six processions has its own traditions, with slight variations in the route and the singing. Only the Jelsa Cross-Bearer runs the last few yards into Jelsa, the others simply walk in.
The custom was inscribed on the Representative List in 2009.
The UNESCO description: ‘After mass on Maundy Thursday before the Christian holiday of Easter, each of six villages on the Dalmatian island of Hvar in southern Croatia sends out a group that will proceed through the other villages in a circle, covering twenty-five kilometres in eight hours before returning home.
Each party in this community-organized Za Križen (‘following the cross’) procession is led by a cross-bearer who walks barefoot or in socks, never resting. The cross-bearer, formerly selected from among religious brotherhoods and today chosen by registration up to twenty years in advance, has a much-desired and respected position, reflecting the devotion of the individual bearer and his family. He is followed by two friends with candelabra and others carrying candles and lanterns, five choral singers who sing the Lamentation of the Virgin Mary at several points along the way, and many worshippers of all ages from Croatia and abroad wearing the tunics of religious brotherhoods.
The procession is greeted by the priests of each of the other five villages and returns home; the cross-bearer runs the last hundred metres to receive the blessing of his home priest. A long-established and inalienable part of Hvar religious and cultural identity, the procession connects the communities of the island to each other and to the world Catholic community.’