Croatia 1: Saint Duje’s Day

Arlene and I recently returned from a vacation in Croatia and Italy. This will be the first of several posts about our trip.

The crowd along the Riva in Split on Saint Duje's Day

If you travel to a Catholic country and want to see authentic folk celebrations, visit a town on the feast day of that town’s patron saint. Not only will all the locals be there, so will everyone from the surrounding countryside. The town will be decorated with flowers and banners, and there will probably be a parade, maybe music and dancing as well.

We were in Split, on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, on May 7th, the feast day of Saint Duje. The crowd along the Riva (the wide promenade between the facade of Diocletian’s Palace and the shore of the Adriatic) was perhaps five times larger than it had been the day before. There were loudspeakers all throughout the marketplace, broadcasting the Mass in nearby Saint Duje’s church. Somewhere, we knew, there would be folkdancers and musicians in colorful ethnic garb, but it was madness to try and find them amongst all these people and street vendors. Besides, we only had an hour before we needed to board our boat to begin our cruise through the Dalmatian Islands.

Klapa singers in a reverberant hall near Saint Duje's church

One of the most enjoyable Dalmatian folk traditions is klapa, or a capella singing. Once an exclusively male art form, there are now many women’s klapa groups and a few mixed ones as well. One evening, as part of the festivities leading up to Saint Duje’s Day, we listened to a outdoor klapa concert featuring sixteen different choruses from all over Dalmatia, about half of which were women’s groups. There were no touristy frills, just high-quality singing all night long: clearly the concert intended primarily for the Croatian community, not for visitors like us. What a treat!

Read David’s other blog posts about the Croatia trip!

The peristil outside Saint Duje's church. This stone courtyard was the venue for the open-air klapa concert


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