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Za križen [za kriʒen] (local vernacular Croatian for "Following the Cross") is a night Procession that happens every Maundy Thursday on the island of Hvar, Croatia. The event has centuries of tradition and is included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.
The Procession is a unique ceremony of a special piety, and an expression of a religious and cultural identity of the inhabitants of the middle part of the island of Hvar that is held in an uninterrupted sequence for five centuries. Also exceptional is its duration (during 8 hours everyone passes 25 km) and its stress for its passion play content; it is prepared and enforced by brotherhoods, respectively the community of the believers of Hvar in whose history and life the Cross is deeply inscribed. The backbone of the Procession is the Gospin plač [ɡospin platʃ] (Croatian: Weeping of the Lady), octosyllabic Passion text from the 15th century that in the form of music Dialog sing chosen singers, kantaduri [kaŋtaduri].
The Procession Za križen every year starts at exactly at 22 hours so that six Processions start simultaneously from six Parish churches from the middle part of the island, in villages Vrbanj, Vrboska, Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik and Svirče. Every Procession revolves in that big circle, so that in 7 in the morning every one would return in its own starting point.
Every Procession is led by a Crossbearer carrying a Cross. The Role of the Crossbearer means an immensely big honor on the Island, so that role is determined as much as 20 years in advance. The Crossbearer goes in the accompaniment of helpers, two followers that carry the big candle holders, two lead singers and several responders that sing the Gospin plač. All of them are dressed in formal suits – white Brotherhood Tunics. By number, the biggest one is the Procession of Jelsa, in which the number of Pilgrims can surpass one thousand of them. Others are after the number significantly smaller, and only the one from the village Pitve can surpass hundred Pilgrims. The Procession of Jelsa is also specific after the custom that the Crossbearer runs across the last hundred meters of the way!
Passing through every of the 6 villages included in the Procession, the Participants of the Procession show their piety in every of the churches on the way. The Priest in every of the Churches Blesses the Crossbearer and encourages him, and the singers sing the Gospin plač, and the walking continues. The Processions must not meet! So that they do not meet, the movement of every Procession is carefully coordinated.
During the way, the Pilgrims pray and sing, and particularly impressive is the singing of the Gospin plač in the original form. It is interesting that every Procession sings it on its own way!
On Good Friday this 6 villages are relaxing, until the pious people of the land rests from the exhausting night. Only in the afternoon hours the villages come to life when the locals go to participate in the piety of the Holy Week.
Emergence of the Procession is bound to the Crucifix of Sveti križić [sʋeti kriʒitɕ] (Croatian: Holly Little Cross), that is kept in the Hvar Cathedral since 1510. After the records in the Archive, Sveti križić was in 1510 in care in the house of Nikola Bevilaqua. In the time of turmoil between the commoners and the nobility on 6 February 1510. Sveti križić has started to bleed. Then on Hvar started the intense worship of the Cross.
The first written record of the Procession dates from 16 February 1658.