Apart from the sun, sea, beautiful bays and picturesque towns, excellent food, wine and olive oil, many travelers come to Dalmatia for religious tourism as well. Numerous shrines, beautiful churches, interesting religious events and tours, have a great potential for the development of the religious tourism industry, which counts up to several hundred million arrivals per year on a global scale. Although each place, even the smallest one, has its own religious feast, for this occasion I will single out some of the most important events.
Split – THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMNIUS
The May 7 feast of Saint Domnius – Split’s patron saint, is certainly amongst major religious celebrations. It attracts a number of people from Split and its hinterland to central church events and folk festivities. A multi-day program is followed by a series of cultural, sporting and social events, with the traditional folk fair held on the city’s main waterfront promenade – Riva.
Solin – The Nativity of Mary
Solin – a small town on the Jadro Rive, only few miles away from Split celebrates the religious feast of the Nativity of Mary on September 8, which attracts thousands of pilgrims from all over Dalmatia. According to tradition, there were numerous elm trees surrounding the old church of Our Lady of the Island, and for this reason people called it Gospa u Bristima (Our Lady of the Elms)
Sinj – THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY
The August 15 celebration of the feast of the Assumption traditionally has its forte in Sinj, where believers from broader region come to bow to the Miraculous Lady of Sinj. Days before the central celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, thousands of pilgrims from Split, Solin, Kaštela, Trilj, Imotski, Livno, Široki Brijeg and Bosnia set off to travel for hours, some of them even for days, to bow at the shrine of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj.
Gratitude and strong faith of the Sinj pilgrims are evident even from the painting of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj, for the most part covered in gold jewelry and pearls – the gifts of those who have come to worship her. It is believed that it was created in the 14th century by a painter from Venice.
Vepric – THE NATIVITY OF MARY
Vepric, a well-known Marian sanctuary, is a must-stop for numerous travelers and pilgrims. Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes was established on the 50th anniversary of the apparitions at Lourdes, and its center is the cave with Our Lady’s image next to the main road in a beautiful wooded landscape. It is possible to make a pilgrimage at Vepric on a daily basis, but central religious events take place on 7th and 8th September.
Čiovo – OUR LADY OF STOMORIJA
With several of its small churches, in recent years Čiovo imposed itself as an interesting religious destination, especially because of captivating stories about the hermits that lived in them and their miraculous powers, which is another motive for the increasing growth of the spiritual tourism. Pilgrims and tourists within the religious tours often visit small church of the Holy Cross, and the shrine of Our Lady of Prizdnice in Slatine. It is the shrine located in Slatine on Čiovo, near the UNESCO town of Trogir. Pilgrimages take place four times a year, on following holidays: Easter Monday, Whit Monday, Holy Name of Mary, and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December.
Visovac – OUR LADY OF THE ANGELS
Monastery of Our Lady of Grace and the church of Our Lady of the Angels, built by Franciscan monks on the islet of Visovac situated in the middle of a lake on the river Krka in the Krka National Park, attract particular attention. Central religious event for thousands of pilgrims takes place on the 2nd August, on the feast of Our Lady of the Angels.
Međugorje is a must-stop of every pilgrim; it is the place of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, due to which this small destination in Herzegovina is visited by millions of people from all around the world. Međugorje has three privileged places of pilgrim gatherings – the Apparition Hill, the Križevac Hill, and the Parish Church. Gatherings are organized on a daily, weekly and yearly basis with an emphasis on the major feasts of Our Lady: Easter, Christmas, Pentecost, New Year, and are most frequent in May and October. The largest gatherings take place on the 25th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady (June 25), and on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
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