The ‘Za Križen’ Procession (‘Following the Cross’)
The ‘Za Križen’ (‘Following the Cross’) Procession will take place as usual on Maundy Thursday, which falls on March 28th 2024.
This is a unique tradition in which six parishes in central Hvar take part, Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirče, Vrbanj and Vrboska. From each of the six parish churches groups set out in procession, walking in a clockwise direction between the six settlements. The processions consist of a Cross-Bearer and his entourage, followed by local parishioners and any visitors who want to join in. All the parish churches are specially decorated to represent Jesus’ grave, and special hymns, chants and prayers are sung at each stop on the way round. The whole walk takes all night from Maundy Thursday evening to Good Friday morning.
In normal times, anyone can ‘follow the Cross’, and there are various ways of participating. You can attend the start of the event in one of the parish churches; you can wait in your chosen church during the night for the arrival of the succeeding processions; and/or you can be in your chosen church for the return of the procession sometime after 06:30 on Good Friday morning.
To join in the walk you need to be fit enough, rested, and properly equipped: comfortable walking shoes are a must; you will need layers of clothing in case you get too hot or chilled, or in case it rains during the night; you should have (plain) water with you; and you may need a snack (such as a sandwich) to replenish energy – we advise against energy drinks, fizzy drinks, alcohol, sweets and junk food. There are a couple of ‘resting places’ along the route, where the processions stop for a breather and perhaps a cup of coffee. Toilet facilities are limited: most of the churches have a toilet nearby, but you may have to ask one of the attendants to open it for you. Rubbish bins are also in short supply: please keep any litter with you until you reach a bin! Remember, a barefoot Cross-Bearer will be walking over the ground after you. Also, all the paths and surrounding areas have to be cleaned up for the Good Friday processions just a few hours later.
If the whole walk is too far for you, you can walk just part of the way, in which case you can either plan your route to double back, or arrange with a friend to be collected by car at your stopping point. Whichever way you join in, the whole experience of the ‘Za Križen’ tradition is deeply moving.
TIMETABLE IN THE JELSA PARISH FOR MAUNDY THURSDAY, 28TH MARCH
- 15:00: Afternoon procession from the Jelsa parish church to the Church of Our Lady of Health ‘Our Lady in mourning’
- 18:00: Mass of the Lord’s Supper – Jelsa Parish Church
- 21:30: Ceremony to start the ‘Za Križen’ Procession – Parish Churches in Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirče, Vrbanj, Vrboska
- c. 06:45 Jelsa’s Cross arrives on the Piazza.
- c. 07:00 Return of all the processions to their home parishes.
You can follow the Procession online via this link: WEBCAMJELSA.
This video shows the Jelsa Procession in 2009, when the Cross-Bearer was Marko Huljić, having passed through Pitve and Vrisnik, progressing through the night of Maundy Thursday round the villages of Svirče, Vrbanj and Vrboska before returning home to Jelsa in the early morning of Good Friday. There are short extracts from the haunting plaint ‘Our Lady’s Lament’ (Gospin Plač) in the churches, as well as the hymns and prayers associated with the Procession. The last part of the video features the Good Friday rituals of Christ’s Passion and the veneration of the Cross, followed by the traditional Easter Monday feast for the Cross-Bearer and all the men who took part, whether in his entourage or as singers, or in any other capacity. Despite having sung their hearts out during Holy Week, especially during the overnight marathon Procession, they are in fine voice to celebrate the end of their efforts. The video concludes, touchingly, with short speeches by the Cross-Bearer’s father and the much-loved assistant parish priest don Jurica – then more singing, and then… the destruction of a giant cake (a tradition more usually associated with Hvar weddings)!
The Jelsa Tourist Board is grateful to Jelsa’s Parish priest don Stanko Jerčić, Vicar General, for kindly supplying the video material.