As Jelsa Locks Down, 'Za Krizen' Procession Preparations Begin on Hvar

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March 26, 2020 – The streets of on are empty, like those all over , but the first preparations for the Holy Week Za Krizen procession have begun.  

Life is beyond weird for all of us right now, and every day brings a growing realisation of the new (hopefully temporary) reality. 

Taking a break from my laptop yesterday evening and going to the to stretch my legs, I saw something which filled my heart with joy, and fuelled my curiosity. 

The main church in Jelsa has one seasonal addition to its spire – an illuminated image of Jesus falling over carrying the cross. 

It is something that appears every year in Jelsa, in the run up to Holy Week and the UNESCO Za Krizen (Following the Cross) procession, which has taken place every year for about 500 years without fail – despite the best efforts of the Fascists in World War II, the Tito socialist era, and refugee status in the Sinai Desert, where the unique Hvar procession took place during the Second World War. But (and you can read my article a couple of days ago) would Za Krizen take place in the Era of Corona?

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It was time for my evening walk, the one hour a day when I escape the laptop and walk on this beautiful island. I have not met or spoken to a local in the two weeks I have been here, for there is nobody out. It is a strange, but refreshing experience to self-isolate on Hvar. 

And there she was – the gorgeous pjaca where I have spent too much of my life perhaps. All primed for Za Krizen.  

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Except this year, it will not be like years, but I understand it will go ahead. Six crossbearers, leaving simultaneously from the six settlements of Jelsa, Pitve, Svirce, Vrisnik, Vrbanj and Vrboska at 22:00 on Maundy Thursday, arriving back at their starting point after a 22-kilometre procession of chanting, prayer and reflection at 07:00 on Good Friday. 

Except this year, there will be no accompanying acolytes or hundreds, if not thousands of pilgrims walking through the night. 

There will be no large crowds assembled to welcome and watch the exhausted crossbearer run the final metres on Jelsa’s pjaca, before kneeling before the awaiting priest.  

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There will be no exhausted pilgrims sleeping on the benches in the morning after the procession has finished – the new culture of social distancing would prohibit it even if they were allowed to take part in the procession. 

But, it seems, that this 500-year-old tradition WILL go ahead, with just the crossbearers and a small number of crossbearers keeping the appropriate distance. 

It could well turn out to be the only event that takes place in the whole country in the month of April – that is how crazy our new reality is. 

And if it does take place, I intend to try and get a media pass, which are allowed under the new rules, to document what will surely be one of the oddest nights of the year. 

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You can learn more about Za Krizen on the official UNESCO video above. 

For more on coverage of Za Krizen over the years, check the dedicated TCN section. 

 

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