The Procession: Za Krizem (Following the Cross)
Za Krizem is actually six processions all leaving simultaneously from the villages of Vrboska, Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce and Vrisnik at 10:30 on the evening of Maundy Thursday. Each group is headed by acolytes carrying lanterns to show the way for the cross bearer, who carries a wooden cross (weighing between 10 and 18 kg) barefoot the entire route. Each procession heads in a clockwise direction to the next parish church, praying and chanting along the way, before stopping in the church for prayers and the harmonies of the lament of Mother Mary.
After praying in each church, the procession continues along the circle of hilltop villages and along the coastal towns of Vrboska and Jelsa, before ending at the starting point, with the exhausted cross-bearer often running the last few steps before surrendering the cross to the parish priest. The deep male voices chanting through the night give the procession a special atmosphere, as does the practice of every household in the participating villages leaving a light on through the night.
History of the Procession
The history of the procession dates back to the 16th Century and was placed under UNESCO protection in 2009. Its origins lie in a populist rebellion to the autocratic rule of the Venetians, and the procession has taken place every year, quite an achievement given the recent past with Communism and the war in Yugoslavia.
With the procession over, residents focus on the rest of the Easter celebrations, and the churches are strangely silent, the only time in the year when the church bells do not chime on the hour, although they more than make up for it with exuberant ringing on Easter Sunday, the highlight of the Easter celebration.