Luki, Guardian of Hvar's Treasures: St. Luke's Chapel

Published in About Animals

Luki and his two-legged pet parent Ivica love their native land deeply and unreservedly. In their three years together, Ivica has introduced Luki to many of the endless delights which Hvar has to offer. Culture, sacral sites and historical heritage feature large in their explorations.

Luki watching over St. Luke's Chapel Luki watching over St. Luke's Chapel Photo: Ivica Drinković

Luki has visited many of the little chapels and ancient ruins which are dotted around the island. The dotting isn't haphazard, each has a reason for being where it is.

'Carkvica'. Photo: Ivica Drinković

St. Luke is Luki's namesake. About 4 km east of Jelsa is a tiny Medieval chapel on the seaboard dedicated to St. Luke the Evangelist, which Luki and Ivica often visit to pay their respects. Known as "Carkvica" ('little chapel') in dialect, it is situated in a bay known as either Uvala "Carkvica" or Uvala Sv. Luke. From its construction it is thought to date from the 11th century CE, although it also contains some stylistic characteristics which might date from a later time. The altar is Baroque, and the statue of St. Luke the Evangelist dates from the 16th century.

The altar. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The chapel measures just 7.2 by 4 metres, and has a single nave with a square apse at its east end, and the doorway at the west end. The facade is topped by a simple belfry for a single bell, but now empty. The building is reinforced by the later addition of three buttresses on its northern side which prevent it from collapsing, a real danger, given that it was built on very steep rocky ground, on the shore just one metre above sea level. The internal walls contain buttresses linked by arches which form shallow recesses and support the barrel vault. Extra support for the vault is provided by two flanges arising from the two central buttresses.

Graffiti defaced the internal walls. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

In its isolated position, the chapel suffered badly not only from dilapidation caused by the relentless battering of the damp salty winds and other weather effects, but also from vandalism. In 2006 Jelsa's Parish Priest Don Stank Jerčić initiated a project to clean the building up and protect it from further devastation. On May 12th that year the Split office of the Croatian Ministry for Culture issued a Resolution placing the chapel under 'preventive protection'. Also in 2006, the first annual pilgrimage was organised to celebrate Mass at the chapel on the feast day of St. Luke the Evangelist, which falls on October 18th.

Interior with part of vault. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

In 2008 the then Dean of the Academy of Fine Arts, Slavomir Drinković, a native of Jelsa, announced that his Insititution was willing to act as patron for the renovation of the chapel. Students and teachers would carry out research, renovation and conservation work. The plan included the restoration of the statue of St. Luke; creating a new altar, candle holders, a chalice, and a new door; renovation of the belfry with a new bell; and restoration of the terrace in front of the chapel to be decorated with a large mosaic in the best tradition of votive illustration. Sadly, Slavomir Drinković died in December 2016, and the project has not been completed to date. Don Stanko is still pressing the authorities to bring the work to completion. Some essential works were done, mainly in 2011. Most importantly, the doorway was renovated, with new stone surrounds brought from the Jadrankamen stoneworks on Brač. They were shipped over by Božo Gamulin in his trusty beautiful wooden boat 'Đani', which has served for fishing as well as transport, and during the summer is well used for tourist trips, especially to Bol.

Božo Gamulin, with Đani and tourists in Bol. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The local parishioners all gave their efforts freely. The building works were carried out by Pjero Grgičević and Jurko Bunčuga 'Ćugo', while the land around the chapel was made good by Marko 'Fanko'. In the course of the preliminary works, human remains were found by the south wall, an unpleasant surprise.

The new door, an invaluable gift. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The door itself was a welcome donation from the National Academy of Art in Sofia, Bulgaria, by agreement with the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts. Made of the prized hardwood Siberian larch with stained glass in the shape of a cross, it was designed by Professor Petar Bonev, Head of the Woodcarving Department, and Professor Nikolay Drachev, Dean of the Fine Arts Faculty. Organizing the donation and creating the door were apparently the easiest parts of the project. When the door was imported customs officials created numerous problems, giving both donors and recipients a lot of grief. As Don Stanko remarked drily, the bureaucrats had obviously not heard of the expression 'never look a gift horse in the mouth', when they wasted time and energy 'counting this gift horse's teeth'. It was with relief that the new door was installed in time for the Mass on St. Luke's feast day on October 18th 2011.

Don Stanko celebrating Mass at St. Luke's Chapel, 2013. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The celebration of St. Luke's feast as an annual Mass was instituted in 2006. It is a charming event, held in front of the chapel with the congregation spread around the area. When the weather is bad, with high winds and rough seas, the chapel can't be reached. Most years, the weather is fine on October 18th, as it was in 2013, when a number of parishioners made the journey along the coast to celebrate St. Luke in the bright sunshine.

The path leading to the chapel. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Most people walked the last part of the route along the seashore path, which is flanked by the remains of an Antique Roman villa. The lucky few, such as the saint's namesake Luka Bunčuga, together with some of his family,  had the luxury of arriving by boat.

Luka and family arriving by boat. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The congregation gathered happily around the chapel, enjoying the beautiful surroundings to the full on that lovely day.

Relaxing in peace before the Mass. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

In the absence of the new bell, a bell was brought in from Jelsa and rung by Božo Gamulin to herald the start of the Mass.

Božo Gamulin signalled the start of the Mass. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

After the Mass, many of the congregation went foraging for the edible wild plants and herbs which abound on Hvar in the places which aren't blighted by chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Post-Mass foraging. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Then it was time for the majority to retrace their steps along the path to where their vehicles were parked, taking the bell with them for safe keeping.

Wending the way home. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Luki is generally tolerant of human shortcomings, but one thing he can't stand or understand is people's carelessness with rubbish. It is horrifying to come across illegal dumps when walking through what should be unspoilt natural countryside. 

Luki bewildered by a man-made mess. Photo: Ivica Drinković

Those of us who are on Luki's wave-length hope that the efforts to revive Hvar's hidden treasures will result in a widespread clean-up operation, and put an end to fly-tipping. A new approach is needed to persuade the environment wreckers that it is in their interests to dispose of all rubble and waste at the official designated sites. Illegal dumps should be cleared as soon as they appear, otherwise they generate ever-increasing amounts of rubbish.

Luki revels in Hvar's beauty. Photo: Ivica Drinković

Stop the reckless 'out of sight, out of mind' philosophy! Hvar is an exquisitely beautiful island, and it's up to all of us to keep it that way. Pristine sea and an unspoilt natural environment should be Hvar's realities, not just empty words.

© Vivian Grisogono, April 2020.

With special thanks to Jelsa's Parish Priest and Vicar General Don Stanko Jerčić for providing the information about the chapel's history, and to Ivica Drinković for allowing the use of his splendid photographs.

 

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