Procession "Za Križen" (Following the Cross) on the Island of Hvar

Procession "Za Križen" (Following the Cross) on the Island of Hvar

Are you looking to combine elements of trekking, Christian mysticism and UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage in one go, while spending time on one of the most beautiful islands in the world? Look no further – take a trip to the island of Hvar during the week leading up to Easter and join a procession that will take you on a journey through time and space, where you’ll visit six beautiful towns and villages in the centre of the island.

 

On the night before Good Friday, a procession consisting of worshippers, led by members of a fraternity and the key figure of cross-bearer, visits Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Vrbanj, Svirče and Vrboska, lit only by candlelight and accompanied by religious songs. The cross-bearer carries the cross throughout the night, from his local parish to the neighbouring villages, as a kind of Way of the Cross. At the break of dawn, the cross is ceremoniously returned to the place where the procession began.

 

For the numerous worshippers attending, and especially for the cross-bearer, who typically waits for this privilege for years, following the night-time procession on its 20 km journey is a true test of faith in anticipation of Easter. In addition to the prayers, a distinct impression is achieved by the archaic songs of a specific intonation, performed by the so-called “kantaduri”, who create a special atmosphere and add mysticism to the event. The main religious song performed is actually a take on the medieval passion narrative Gospin plač (“Lamentations of the Virgin Mary”) in the form of a dialogue.

 

Probably the most impressive part of the procession takes place at the end of the night, in front of the entire crowd. The whole procession reaches a climax when the cross-bearer, taken over by religious fervour, runs the last 50 or so meters to the church, thus bringing an end to the Za Križen procession. This custom is a unique example of intangible heritage in the world, and has been recognised as such by UNESCO. However, for the people of Hvar it is a deeply-rooted tradition that should be approached with an open heart and deep reverence. For any travellers that find themselves in the area, participating in the procession is a chance to experience a unique spiritual journey through five centuries of Hvar history.