Let the bells ring out!

Published in Highlights

Church bells are part of daily life all over Croatia. Splitska on Brač Island is one of the few places where the bells are rung by hand and not electronically controlled.

Jure, Splitska's bell-ringer Jure, Splitska's bell-ringer Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Jure Čeprnić is the last remaining regular bell-ringer on Brač Island. He is on duty all day every day, waking the village at 6 am, sounding noon, and signalling the end of the day at 20:30 in the summer, earlier in the darker days of winter. In anticipation of Mass or any religious ceremony in the church, he rings the bells every quarter of an hour from an hour and a quarter beforehand. Visitors to Splitska are usually startled by the early-morning wake-up call, but then adjust surprisingly quickly to sleep through it, if they so wish. Some years ago one parish priest wanted to reduce the bell-ringing during Mass to just special occasions such as Christmas and the Assumption, but this decision was reversed by the more recent parish priests, so Jure rings the bells at the appropriate moments during services, as is the custom throughout Croatia..


Jure ringing the Splitska Church bell. Photo Vivian Grisogono

Splitska's charming little church, dedicated to St. Mary, was first built in the 13th century. It has a loyal congregation, some of whom attend Mass almost every day. The village celebrates the Feast of Our Lady's Assumption in magnificent style every year. There is a celebratory Mass, followed by a Procession around the village with a statue of Our Lady taking pride of place. Later on, the evening erupts with live music on the grassy square at the end of the Riva. There is much singing and dancing, and the opportunity for local entrepreneurs to sell their wares from specially erected stands.

Splitska Church, main altar. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Jure has special duties on Splitska's Feast Day. There is a full peal of bells before the celebratory Mass, rung by his father Vladimir, who is 76, with their cousin Pero Barbarić. Jure rings the bell at the appropriate moments during the Mass. Then, late in the evening, tradition has it that he sings in a special guest spot with the band on the main stage. He fulfils all his duties with apparently limitless energy. Indeed, from the time he took on the bell-ringing, having been taught by his father, he has only missed one full day's work, when he had 'flu. Sometimes when he is away visiting other parishes the bells are rung by a reserve bell-ringer, or - very occasionally - electronically. Now 47 years old, Jure first rang the bells when he was about eight.

Jure in action. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Splitska is an ancient settlement, best known as the source of the stones for Diocletian's Palace in Split. Some of the exceedingly steep small streets leading down from the top of the village to the waterfront served in Roman times as slides, down which massive blocks of stone were propelled on wooden rollers. After the 13th century, the village was abandoned due to the constant threat of attacks by pirates from Omiš. In 1577, Mihovil Cerinić (Cerineo) built a small citadel near the church, as protection against the Ottoman danger. Descendants of the Cerinić family are still present in Splitska to this day. Other houses were also built in the 16th century in the core of the village, which has expanded in the succeeding centuries.

Splitska Church side altar, featuring Madonna and Child. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Jure takes pride in looking after the church and the needs of the parishioners. He helps distribute the Catholic newspaper Glas Koncila, and looks after the flower display provided by the local Council at the foot of the steps leading up to the church.

Jure also looks after the flowers decorating the entrance to the Church. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

He receives a minute stipend for his labours. In January, he receives a bonus from the parishioners' contributions when the Blessing of the Houses takes place. Jure is obviously not in it for the money. He feels passionately that the bells should sound in the traditional way, and would not give up his duties for anything.

The view from Splitska's churchyard. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Splitska has seen many changes over the centuries, but Jure's valiant bell-ringing defies the march of modernity - long may he continue!

Splitska sunset - timeless romance. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

© Vivian Grisogono 2016

You are here: Home highlights Let the bells ring out!

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Farmed kelp could produce plastic substitutes, beauty products and food supplements. Just steer clear of seaweed chocolate

    Think sun, sea, Skye – and seaweed. It’s early summer off the west coast of Scotland, and Alex Glasgow is landing a long string of orangey-black seaweed on to the barge of his water farm. It emerges on what looks like a washing line heavy with dirty rags, hoicked up from the depths. And yet, this slippery, shiny, salty substance might, just might, be going to save the planet.

    When it comes to sustainability, seaweed is about as shipshape as it gets. Minimal damage to the environment, check. No use of pesticides, check. Diversifies ocean life, check. Uses no land, check. And, in the case of Skye’s seaweed farm, spoils no one’s view, check.

    Kyla Orr and Martin Welch of KelpCrofters check the crop from their boat

    Continue reading...

  • Most comprehensive analysis ever of conflict-driven climate impacts shows emissions greater than those generated by 175 countries in a year

    The climate cost of the first two years of Russia’s war on Ukraine was greater than the annual greenhouse gas emissions generated individually by 175 countries, exacerbating the global climate emergency in addition to the mounting death toll and widespread destruction, research reveals.

    Russia’s invasion has generated at least 175m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), amid a surge in emissions from direct warfare, landscape fires, rerouted flights, forced migration and leaks caused by military attacks on fossil fuel infrastructure – as well as the future carbon cost of reconstruction, according to the most comprehensive analysis ever of conflict-driven climate impacts.

    Continue reading...

  • Diving with marine life such as blue sharks is growing in popularity in the UK, spurred by footage of encounters on social media

    We have only been waiting in the grey Atlantic swell a few moments when the first flash of metallic blue appears in the water. A blue shark, a few miles from the coast of Penzance in Cornwall, emerges from the depths. It is time to get in the water – but part of my brain rebels.

    “It’s not what you think it will be like … not that ingrained fear that everyone has about sharks. But until you get in the water with them, that fear will remain,” the guide says to the group.

    Continue reading...

  • Bangalow Koalas and private landholders have planted more than 377,000 trees across the region

    In 2016 a friend phoned Linda Sparrow about a 400-metre stretch of koala trees on the western edge of Bangalow, a small regional town in northern New South Wales.

    The landscape in the region had long since been cut back by loggers and farmers, and there were precious few eucalyptus trees left to provide refuge for koalas looking for food or shelter.

    Continue reading...

  • Hexton, Hertfordshire: On the chalk hills in early summer, green is dominant – but only until the yellows take over

    The rain-soaked chalk hills are a celebration of green: the green of crimped agrimony leaves and glaucous sedge blades; of horsetail, hogweed and unripe wayfaring berries. Greenery everywhere, energising everything. I hear it in the whitethroat’s scratchy bursts, see it in sunlight on spent cowslips and feel it in the pull of my breath as I climb the hill. I wonder if it’s the heightened sensitivity of the human eye to green light that has brought on this verdant synaesthesia. Whatever the reason, the intensity of colour fuses and confuses my senses, making it hard to spot the green orchids I’ve come here to see.

    But as the path narrows, the abundance of orchids – all of them common twayblades (Neottia ovata) – is such that I almost tread on one. Kneeling in the grass for a closer look, I can see inflorescences rising from pairs of egg-shaped leaves, each with a slender downy stem and green flowers held aloft on short stalks. Every year I’m astonished by the huge personalities of these miniature blooms. The labellum (the lower modified petal) is deeply forked like a pair of legs, and banded with two dark green stripes that mark a nectar-bearing groove.

    Continue reading...

  • Captive breeding in Norway has built up numbers endangered by the climate crisis and golden eagles but only a more diverse population will survive in the long term

    Deep in the Norwegian mountains, amid a vast expanse of bright snow and howling winds, Toralf Mjøen throws a piece of meat into a fenced enclosure and waits for a pair of dark eyes to appear from the snowy den.

    These curious and playful arctic foxes know Mjøen well. He has been the caretaker at this breeding facility for 17 years, going up the mountain daily to feed them at their enclosures near the small village of Oppdal, about 250 miles north of Oslo.

    Continue reading...

  • Many people fear the UK’s draughty old properties are too great a challenge for the technology

    Heat pumps could be the single largest step a household can take to reduce their carbon emissions while saving money on their bills. But many in Britain fear that, even though millions of homes across Europe have benefited from the shift away from gas or oil boilers, the UK’s draughty old homes could prove too great a challenge for the technology.

    The concern is unsurprising given that the UK has some of the least energy efficient homes in Europe. A study by the smart home company tado° monitored 80,000 users across Europe to find how quickly properties lose heat when outdoor temperatures fall to zero. It found that UK homes lost on average 3C after five hours without heating, compared with just 1C in Germany and 0.9C in Norway.

    Continue reading...

  • Pennsylvania families worry about rising cases of rare cancer with well pads near homes and stalled House bills

    One evening in 2019, Janice Blanock was scrolling through Facebook when she heard a stranger mention her son in a video on her feed. Luke, an outgoing high school athlete, had died three years earlier at age 19 from Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer.

    Blanock had come across a live stream of a community meeting to discuss rare cancers that were occurring with alarming frequency in south-western Pennsylvania, where she lives.

    Continue reading...

  • Porto Alegre’s poorest neighborhoods, often closest to rivers and with the worst infrastructure, bore brunt of crisis

    It had been raining for nearly a week when the floodwaters first reached Marcelo Moreira Ferreira’s home in Porto Alegre, the capital of Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul.

    His wife and their four children left to seek shelter with relatives, but Ferreira, 51, wanted to stay: his father had built the modest one-storey structure and he had lived there his entire life.

    Continue reading...

  • Having created a watchdog for the environment, the government took its teeth out and muzzled it. Can public outrage rouse the Environment Agency to action?

    When Helen Nightingale joined the National Rivers Authority, the predecessor to the Environment Agency, in 1991, she thought of her work as a calling. She had been fascinated by nature since she was a child, when she used to poke around in the earth on her father’s allotment, looking for worms and beetles. In her job, Nightingale spent most of her time walking along the rivers in Lancashire and Merseyside, taking water samples and testing oxygen levels. She was responsible for protecting rivers, and she often learned about sewage and pesticide pollution from members of the public who called a dedicated hotline. “They’d phone you up and say, ‘There’s something wrong.’ And you would go out straight away,” she recalled. “You stood a much better chance of figuring out what was wrong if you could get there quickly.”

    Nightingale, who has a Lancastrian accent and curly blond hair, investigated pollution like a hard-nosed police detective inspecting a crime scene. She would visit dairy farms, industrial estates and sewage treatment plants, dressed in a raincoat and boots with steel toe caps, and usually started with the same question: “Can I look at your drains?” The work was demanding, and the pay, when Nightingale started, was just £9,500 a year (the UK average at the time was around £12,000), but she was proud to be protecting the environment. “It was a dream job,” she told me. “If we sat in the office, our boss would say, ‘Why are you here? Go out and look at something.’”

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds

  • A landmark treaty to protect the world’s oceans could go into effect soon — but experts argue it must consider climate change if it is going to succeed.

  • The ocean feeds us, regulates our climate and sustains economies. Yet numerous threats are devastating the health of marine ecosystems. In honor of World Oceans Day, we take a dive into efforts that are charting anew course for our oceans.

  • It’s easy to take what happens under our feet for granted.

    Whether you know it or not, thousands of species of mites and springtails are scurrying about the soil like tiny essential workers. By feasting on and excreting decaying matter, like leaves and wood, these critters move planet-warming carbon into the soil, improve its structure and supply nutrients that help plants grow.

    But scientists are digging up new findings that show heat and drought, often exacerbated by climate change, are taking a massive toll on mites and springtails, Sofia Quaglia reported for The New York Times.

    When the soil dries up, so too do their soft bodies. Using data from 38 studies on mites and springtails, researchers found that prolonged dry spells can slash their numbers by an average of 39 percent. And a one degree Celsius rise in temperature can cause a nearly 10 percent drop in springtail populations.

    “They really do bad,” Gerard Martínez-De León, an ecologist at the University of Bern, told The New York Times. “If there are very high temperatures for, let’s say, one week, two weeks, one month, this affects them directly. Probably as much as the lack of moisture does.”

    Though the underground world is incredibly rich — harboring more than half of Earth’s biodiversity — soils, and the critters that live in them, are understudied. And that lack of understanding might be the biggest problem facing soil invertebrates, Quaglia writes. If we don’t know how species contribute to the ecosystem, we don’t know what will happen if they’re lost.

    “Soil has been like a black box,” Leticia Pérez-Izquierdo, researcher at the Basque Center for Climate Change and co-author of the study, told The New York Times. “And we’re now starting to open it.”

    Everything we do know points to the critical role healthy soils, and the organisms living them, play in stabilizing the climate.

    Take fungi. A Conservation International study found that intricate underground fungal networks work together with plants to absorb massive amounts of carbon — equivalent to more than a third of the world's annual fossil fuel emissions.

    Conservation and restoration activities that protect soil are becoming increasingly urgent. The United Nations has warned that 90 percent of the Earth’s topsoil — where crops, forests and more grow — could be degraded by 2050, in part due to intensive farming practices. Degraded soil not only stores less carbon, contributing to climate change, but it also is less drought tolerant — which, in turn, makes it more vulnerable to climate change.

    Fortunately, there are ways to break this downward spiral. For example, land management practices like no-till farming, sustainable grazing and planting cover crops can enhance agricultural production, increase soil fertility and boost carbon storage, while reducing the loss of topsoil through erosion. That’s a win-win-win for people and the planet.

    Further reading:

  • There’s only one place on Earth where reef manta rays are truly thriving. A new study finds that this manta haven is even more special — and threatened — than previously thought.

  • Fishing is a way of life in Peru. But one of it's most important fisheries is not immune from human-made pressures like overfishing and mining. Now, a new protected area is offering a new lease on life.

  • Our health is personal, but health risks are not. Around the world, entire populations — both human and wildlife — are facing new health challenges, all driven by the same culprit: environmental degradation.

  • Around the world, more than 3 billion people have been affected by extreme weather over the past 20 years — but those impacts are very unevenly distributed, according to a new Conservation International study.

  • A bold initiative to regrow 73 million trees in the Brazilian Amazon has made substantial progress despite some unexpected hurdles, according to an upcoming report.

  • On a tiny island in the Philippines, fishermen and green sea turtles live side by side in hard-earned harmony. That wasn’t always the case. Slowly and steadily, they have returned, a story of against-the-odds compromise.

  • On an expedition to Bolivia's Zongo Valley, a team of researchers recently discovered 20 species completely new to science, and rediscovered several species that had not been seen for decades.