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article image500 years of tradition in Croatia: 'Za Krizem' underway on Hvar Special

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By Paul Bradbury     Apr 5, 2012 in Travel
Jelsa - One of the world's most interesting Catholic traditions is underway in Croatia, as the Easter Processions in six towns and villages on Hvar begin a long night.
The island of Hvar in Croatia - famous for its sun, beaches and nightlife - was hosting a different type of tourism on April 5, 2012, as the 500 year-old, UNESCO-protected 'Za Krizem' Easter Procession got underway simultaneously in the town of villages of Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska.
Literally meaning 'behind the cross', Za Krizem is one of the most interesting traditions in the Catholic calendar, a as a lone, barefoot cross-bearer walks through the night every Maundy Thursday, followed by his acolytes, religious congregation and an increasing number of tourists, one of six simultaneous processions which visit the other five locations on the route, praying and chanting along the 22km route, which includes prayers in each church en route, before arriving back at their starting destination on Good Friday at 07:00.
The role of cross-bearer is an extremely honoured one, with waiting lists of years. The house of the cross-bearer is illuminated with a large bright cross in the days before Easter. Jelsa's cross-bearer for 2012, Teo Herceg, led the procession out of the town and up the hill to the first stop in Pitve.
While the Jelsa procession is the best known on the island, even achieving UNESCO status in 2009, there are several other processions on Hvar in the run up to Easter, include one which starts in the southern resort of Sveta Nedjelja at 4am on Good Friday, ascending to the 16th Century church in the cave and across to Jagodna, before returning to Sveta Nedjelja.
The Za Krizem procession is an important part of the island's makeup, and the Easter holiday is one of the most celebrated events in the local community, as family members return from Zagreb for the long weekend. It is also seen as the unofficial start of the tourist season, a time when many restaurants and tourist businesses open for the season.
The video above shows the start of the Jelsa procession. Below, the arrival of the Vrboska procession to Jelsa.
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