Summer's major feast: Vela Gospa

Published in Highlights

The Feast of Our Lady's Assumption (Vela Gospa in Croatian) is a major festival in the Catholic calendar, and is a public holiday throughout Croatia.

The Statue of Our Lady borne through Splitska on the Vela Gospa feast day. The Statue of Our Lady borne through Splitska on the Vela Gospa feast day. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

In Splitska on Brač Island, Our Lady is the patron saint of the village, so the feast of Vela Gospa on August 15th is a very special day. As with most Catholic feast days, the celebrations start with the religious part, homage to the patron saint through a Mass and Procession. As this is the height of the summer, the Mass is always scheduled for the early evening.

Splitska Church main altar decorated for Vela Gospa. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

As usual, the Mass is preceded by the church bell being rung every fifteen minutes as from an hour and a quarter before it starts, with the difference that all three bells are rung in a full peal, struck manually by experienced bell-ringers up in the lofty heights of the belfry.By long tradition, the manual striking of the bells in the belfry is done by 76-year-old Vladimir Čeprnić and his cousin Pero Barbarić. The task requires excellent physical fitness. Climbing up to the belfry is not easy, and getting the heavy bells to move and chime, especially the big one, is a matter of strength and stamina. In the lead-up to the Mass, the bells sound for several minutes. During the Procession which follows the Mass, they are rung continuously for the whole duration of the walk round the village, which takes over half an hour.

Vladimir Čeprnić taking a break in the lull between peals. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The little church is always full to overflowing for the Mass, with many participating outside the main door. Many more join the Procession following the service. During the Mass, the church bell is rung at the key solemn moments by Vladimir Čeprnić's son, Jure, Splitska's regular bell-ringer. The Procession sets off up the hill in the evening sunlight, with the statue of Our Lady and Child carried by four young men of the village, with parish priest don Marko Plančić following in the entourage.

Emerging from the church at the start of the Procession. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The side altar which nirmally contains the effigy of the Virgin and Child is festively decorated in expectation of the statue's return.

The side altar without its statue. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The Procession turns left out the church door, instead of going down the main steps to the water-front, and heads up the hill to skirt round the main part of the village. It is led by two standard bearers, with the flag honouring Our Lady in first place.

The standard-bearers leading the Procession. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Behind the standard bearers there is a group of men, followed by young girls dressed as little angels carrying flower petals. Older children in festive garb walk behind the statue-bearers, followed by parish priest don Marko walking in isolation.

The Procession heaading back to the church. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Having circled round the northern upper side of the village, the Procession comes down to the waterfront and turns right towards the church. It passes by the main entrance to the church, going straight along the waterfront to pass the entrance of the Cerineo/Cerinić villa, where it turns to head for the church. As there are always cars parked along the road, there can be quite a bottleneck as the Procession turns back on itself, but to date this minor inconvenience has always been negotiated without mishap.

Klapa Rišpet. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

By the time the Procession comes to an end, it is already dusk. There is then a lull, while people have supper or mill around the waterfront stands buying balloons and novelty toys for the children. At 21:00, the merriment starts. In 2016, the well-known group Klapa Rišpet opened the proceedings with their wonderfully varied repertoire of songs, some a cappella, most accompanied by instruments. The crowd sang along enthusiastically, and the group responded promptly to requests for favourite songs. Uninhibited children danced tirelessly, parents took pictures, adults grouped themselves for conversation, some ate the sausages or pancakes sold on the fast-food stands, soft drinks and beer were consumed in quantity. At intervals, children made incursions on to the stage, to be drawn back by adults concerned about the electric wires which might harm them. A shapely young lady in hotpants jumped up in front of the group, and it looked as though what little she was wearing might be removed in a sequence of sexy moves, to the delight of a raucous section of the crowd. No conclusion was reached, however, as a fearsomely burly minder dressed menacingly in black leathers moved forward and yanked her expertly back down to earth.

Jure taking centre stage. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Somewhere towards midnight, Klapa Rišpet left the stage, to be replaced by a popular singing duo who perform regularly on Splitska's feast day. But there was impatience in the air: the annual highlight of the stage performances is the appearance of bell-ringer Jure Čeprnić.

Jure and his enthusiastic audience. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Primed by a group of friends, Jure takes to the stage every year to perform several songs, which always go down a treat with his devoted fan club of loyal locals.

Jure in fine voice on stage. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

In 2016, the young lady whose striptease act had been cut short by the burly bouncer re-appeared on stage alongside Jure, to enthusiastic applause from the audience. She kept her clothes on this time, but did perform some very raunchy moves, not at all suitable for the many young children still present. Fortunately most of the youngest were asleep in their parents' arms by then, and I suppose many of the slightly older children will have seen it all before on TV and the internet anyway.

Jure and the avid 'Miss Hotpants'. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Spurred on by the example of 'Miss Hotpants', two more, -  younger and more decorous - dancers sprang up on stage to join Jure, so the atmosphere of gaiety was multiplied both among the performers and the public. To complete her image of relaxed sophistication, 'Miss Hotpants' lit a cigarette, and gyrated carelessly among her little plumes of smoke.

Jure and his young backing dancers. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Jure took the incursions in his stride, smiling happily and continuing with his set of songs. Towards the end, he was rewarded with a peck on the cheek, after which 'Miss Hotpants' sprang off the stage - using my head and the person next to me as springboards.

A rewarding kiss for Jure. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

After his performance, Jure was feted by the audience and congratulated from all sides as he made his way grandly along the waterfront.. Jure's moment of glory was over for another year, another great success was notched up. The singing duo, fired by Jure's example, sang with gusto until 2am, when the village relapsed into its normal level of relative silence, apart from a few noisy isolated groups of vociferous drinkers.

Splitska's big bell in action for Vela Gospa. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

All credit to the local waste collection service and all the organizers: the stage and almost every last bit of rubbish and litter were removed by the following morning.

Virgin and Child, focus of piety. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Vela Gospa: a major feast for Catholic Croatia, and in Splitska (probably elsewhere too) a fine mixture of piety and hedonism, perhaps accurately reflecting the contrasts inherent in the Dalmatian way of life.

© Vivian Grisogono 2016

Related items

You are here: Home highlights Summer's major feast: Vela Gospa

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Millions of people rely on the 1,450-mile waterway as increasing periods of drought and rising temperatures reduce flow of river

    The flow of the Colorado River is dwindling due to the impacts of global heating, risking “severe water shortages” for the millions of people who rely upon one of America’s most storied waterways, researchers have found.

    Increasing periods of drought and rising temperatures have been shrinking the flow of the Colorado in recent years and scientists have now developed a model to better understand how the climate crisis is fundamentally changing the 1,450-mile waterway.

    Continue reading...

  • Brazil’s JBS says it can’t trace the origins of all stock, as concern grows over deforestation linked to beef industry

    The world’s biggest meat company has frequently been accusedof links to deforestation. Now JBS is facing growing pressure from Brazilian politicians and environmentalists to address the information gaps and transparency failings in its supply chain.

    Critics say these deficiencies mean JBS is unable to ensure it does not buy cattle from farms involved in illegal deforestation over a decade after promising to do so.

    Continue reading...

  • Ministers were planning to ban environmentally harmful practice of burning old heather

    Owners of large grouse moors threatened to take legal action against government ministers who had started developing plans to ban repeated heather burning, Whitehall documents have disclosed.

    The landowners issued the threat after ministers started working on producing a law to ban them from carrying out the environmentally damaging practice on their moorland estates. The old heather is burned to expose new shoots – a source of food for grouse, whose numbers are boosted. The estates then charge people who want to shoot grouse.

    Continue reading...

  • Experts call for solutions to be enforced immediately to halt global population collapses

    The “fates of humans and insects are intertwined”, scientists have said, with the huge declines reported in some places only the “tip of the iceberg”.

    The warning has been issued by 25 experts from around the world, who acknowledge that little is known about most of the estimated 5.5 million insect species. However, enough was understood to warrant immediate action, they said, because waiting for better data would risk irreversible damage.

    Continue reading...

  • Climate scientist who pioneered the global work of the IPCC as its chair and tackled the ‘climategate’ hacking scandal

    To stave off the worst impacts of the climate crisis – already being felt in the form of extreme weather, fires and floods – we have only about a decade to cause greenhouse gas emissions to peak and then fall rapidly. That we know this is largely thanks to one global organisation, a loose collection of hundreds of academics around the world that has amassed our knowledge of the climate for more than 30 years.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, convened in 1988 by the UN and the World Meteorological Organization, is made up of the world’s leading experts on climate science, who draw on thousands of academic papers to prepare comprehensive assessment reports about every five to seven years. Those reports are the gold standard, representing the summation of our knowledge of how the climate system works, and how we are affecting it.

    Continue reading...

  • If ocean temperatures don’t drop in the next two weeks, heat stress could tip reef over into another widespread event

    The Great Barrier Reef could be heading for a third major coral bleaching outbreak in the space of five years if high ocean temperatures in the region do not drop in the next two weeks, scientists and conservationists have warned.

    Heat stress is already building across the world’s biggest reef system, with reports of patchy bleaching already occurring. But a major widespread event is not currently taking place.

    Continue reading...

  • Scientists’ call follows national assessment that finds gum trees in Western Australia wheat belt suffering worst rate of decline

    An iconic Western Australian eucalypt, known for the size of flowers, is among almost 150 eucalpyt species scientists have recommended be listed as threatened under national environment laws.

    The eucalyptus macrocarpa, commonly known as mottlecah, has the largest flowers of all eucalypt species. The bright red flowers can measure up to 10cm in diameter.

    Continue reading...

  • Peter Funch’s latest photo-book, The Imperfect Atlas, explores human impact on the environment by using a technique invented at the height of the industrial revolution – RGB tri-colour separations

    Continue reading...

  • Use of harmful chemicals is higher in poorer nations, according to data analysed by Unearthed

    The world’s biggest pesticide companies make billions of dollars a year from chemicals found by independent authorities to pose high hazards to human health or the environment, according to an analysis by campaigners.

    The research also found a higher proportion of these highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) in the companies’ sales in poorer nations than in rich ones. In India, 59% of sales were of HHPs in contrast to just 11% in the UK, according to the analysis.

    Continue reading...

  • A series of storms have lashed Britain in the past two weeks resulting in widespread floods that have left residents and businesses devastated. But as the climate heats up and towns expand into floodplains, is this the new normal? Also today: Richard Partington on the government’s plans for Britain’s new immigration rules

    Thousands of homes and businesses across Britain have been hit by flooding after a series of major storms hit the country in the past two weeks. Six people are thought to have died in the flooding and evacuations from residential areas have continued all week.

    Despite the destruction and loss of life, Boris Johnson has refused to convene a Cobra emergency response meeting or travel to any of the affected areas. Anger has been growing in some areas over a lack of warning or sufficient protective measures. George Eustice, the new environment secretary, said: “We’ll never be able to protect every single household just because of the nature of climate change and the fact that these weather events are becoming more extreme.”

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds