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Poljica

Let everyone be alive because nothing is what has always been

Sometimes it is difficult to convey impressions and enthusiasm for something, especially when that something does not have a great glow at first sight. The region of Poljica is just like that, there are no grandiose buildings, there are not even towns, but it is rich and magnificent in the depths in which you have to dive to see all its values and beauty with the inner eye.

The title is from the medieval Poljica Legal Code.

WHERE ARE POLJICA?
Today’s Poljica is a geographical and historical area located in Central Dalmatia between the towns of Omis and Trilj and the city of Split. From the 13th to the 19th century, it was an independent Principality of Poljica bordered by natural borders, the rivers Cetina and Žrnovnica and the Adriatic Sea. The heart of Poljica is Mosor, a mountain around which Poljica villages are located. Depending on their position, in relation to Mosor, they are divided into Upper, Middle and Lower Poljica with a total area of ​​250 square kilometres.
The Principality of Poljica was also divided into 12 parish communities in 12 main, large Poljica villages, or katuns represented by katunars – “minor dukes”. By mutual voting, the minor dukes would elect a Grand Duke of Poljica every year.

WHILE THE NOBLE PRINCIPALITIES WERE FORMED AROUND AT THAT TIME, POLJICA WAS A UNIQUE EXAMPLE OF THE PRINCIPALITY OF THE PEASANTS

Poljica today consist of:
Lower (Donja) Poljica – Podstrana, Jesenice, Dugi Rat and Duce.
Middle (Srednja) Poljica – Sitno (Upper and Lower), Dubrava, Srinjine, Tugare, Naklice,
Zakučac, Gata – Čišla, Ostrvica, Zvečanje, Smolonje, Kostanje, Podgrađe, Seoca.
Upper (Gornja) Poljica – Trnbusi, Gornji Dolac, Putišići, Srijane, Donji Dolac

Since the river Cetina was a natural border, today’s part of Omis Priko and part of village  Blato on the Cetina are also on the Poljica side.

HOW DID THE REGION OF POLJICA GET ITS NAME?
In the karst area, poor fertile land, every possible piece of arable land was used. In agricultural terms, here predominate fields in the form of terraces and scattered parts of the ground that look like small pools in rocky beds or fenced gardens. Or, small fields – POLJICA. These small cultivated karst fields are called pasike.

Karst is an area of land made up of limestone.

“Pasike”

“The Cetina River”

10 INTERESTING THINGS YOU MAY LIKE TO KNOW BEFORE YOU COME TO POLJICA

1. THE HISTORICAL MUSEUM OF POLJICA

“The Historical Museum of Poljica”

The Historical Museum of Poljica was opened on May 4 1974, on the site of a former church tavern in Gata, in the immediate vicinity of the parish church of St. Cyprian. The only exhibition room is dominated by a 10.5m x 1.8m big wall mosaic “The Duke election” made by the academic painter and sculptor Joko Knežević. The mosaic tells three stories of Poljica: about life and work in the field, at the sea and the election of the Grand Duke.

The museum contains an ethnographic collection of over a hundred collected items, among which you can see the 18th-century Duke’s ceremonial costume, household items, an improvised fireplace, a guvno in front of the museum and many more details related to everyday life.

Guvno (also gumno) is a stone flat surface of circular shape for threshing,

separation grain from corn or other crops.

The museum can be visited with prior notice, otherwise, it is closed.

“Famous Croatian gastro blogger Ribafish at the presentation of making soparnik”

2. CULINARY HERITAGE
TRADITIONAL DISH SOPARNIK

Today, Poljica is best known for its soparnik dish in terms of gastronomy. The entry in the EU register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications confirms that this is not just an ordinary dish.

It consists of only a few ingredients, it is very simple, lean and perfect for vegans, but it isn’t gluten-free. The dough is mixed with wheat flour and water, and the ‘stuffing’ is made of chopped ​​chard, salt and onion. After fifteen minutes of baking on the hearth fireplace directly under embers, sprinkled with chopped garlic and coated with olive oil, soparnik is finally done.

For more information and the whole story of this traditional dish, you can find out in my article The story of soparnik, a centuries-old Poljica dish from Dalmatia.

The people of Poljica traditionally prepared dishes from leafy vegetables such as raštika and mišancija (wild cabbage), legumes and cereals such as wheat, rye and corn.

3. FOLKLORE AND UNESCO

“Uniform of the Duke of Poljica from the 18th century”

Folklore is part of the tradition and culture of Poljica. In the village of Gata, the Cultural and Artistic Association “Mosor” Gata has been operating for more than sixty-five years through two sections, drama and folklore. Thanks to them, the custom of electing the Grand Duke of Poljica can be experienced first hand even today. Theatrical amateurism in Gata has existed for more than a hundred years. At the beginning of the last century, Don Stipe Kaštelan wrote three plays related to the history and life of Poljica, the first play “The scatter of Poljica” was performed in 1919.
The folklore group, in addition to traditional dances from all over Croatia, perform and keep DEAF CIRCLE DANCE FROM GATA from oblivion. With Vrlika and Sinj, the Gata circle dance belongs to the SILENT CIRCLE DANCE, which has been on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2011. I was lucky to see a silent circle performance live. I was thrilled by the whole atmosphere with which the scene vibrates, where dancers without voice and music perform the dance. The sound of dancing steps and the rattle of jewellery is the only thing that can be heard. Trust me, quite enough to delight and make you shiver.

“Studenci”

4. NATURAL BEAUTIES AND SIGHTS

THE RIVER CETINA is one of the Poljica borders, partly from the town of Trilj to the mouth of the river in the Omis. Its canyon from the Prančevići dam to almost the mouth itself is a significant landscape.

THE MOUNTAIN MOSOR is the center of Poljica and is often called the heart of Poljica. At the foot of the mountain is the Vranjača cave, a protected geomorphological monument of nature since 1963. Although there are several opinions as to how Mosor got its name, what I like most is the one related to the Illyrian words mol (hill) and sor (source) which would in some figurative sense mean ‘hill the source of life’. Mosor is separated from the sea by a mountain range that was cut by the river Cetina and divided into Omiška Dinara and Poljica Mountain.

THE STUDENCI is an area at the foot of the village of Kostanje where several springs connect with the river Cetina via rapids and waterfalls. I experienced this fairytale area from both the river and the land side. First on rafting, and then on off-road tour. I would sincerely advise you to go on both excursions and experience this area first hand yourself.

“Beach in Blato on the Cetina from the Poljica side”

POLJICA BEACHES include sea and river beaches. Although it is difficult to match the sea beaches, especially the sandy ones in Duće, I was especially impressed by the beaches along the river Cetina. However, not everyone is on the Poljica side, so I will mention one real Poljica beach, Stružica near Trnbusi.

THE ILINAC WATERFALL is the highest waterfall in Croatia, although the ‘magic Google’ will most often give information which the 78-meter-high Veliki slap on Plitvice Lakes is the highest waterfall in Croatia. The Ilinac near Zakučac crashes from a height of 130 meters. The reason why this waterfall is no longer exposed may lie in the fact that it often dries up so its beauty cannot be enjoyed at any time.

THE ŠĆADIN (don’t try to pronounce it 🙂 ) is an old forest (almost rainforest) of oak trees located between Podgrađe and Blato on the Cetina, in which 446 plant species have been recorded.

5. ELECTION OF THE GRAND DUKE

“The place where the prince was elected”

The act of electing a Grand Duke is just one item of an incredibly democratically organized government structure. In short, there was legislative, judicial, and executive power.

Legislature – National Assembly (all classes)
Judicial power and executive power – the government, or Poljica table, consisted of the Grand Duke and judges

The Grand Duke was elected by 12 little dukes, katunars every year on the day of the patron saint of Poljica, St. Jure in Gata, district Podgrac. Voting was done between katunars, so that everyone would put a jacket (kumparan, kanparan) in front of them, on which a pebble would be thrown. The one with the most pebbles would be the new Grand Duke of Poljica. After the election, he would take over the box with the Poljica Statute, seals and other important documents.

6. SACRAL HERITAGE AND GLAGOLITICS PRIESTS OF POLJICA

There are as many as 106 sacral buildings in the Poljica area. It’s not that it would be impossible to list them all, but I don’t see the point in listing when the real experience is actually a live visit. Personally, I visited them quite a bit, although similar, each has its own atmosphere and a story related to the places where they were built. Apart from the churches themselves, it was especially interesting for me to go through the Poljica karst landscape and the villages on the way to them.

I will list a few churches that have somehow touched my heart.

“The parish church of St. Cyprian, Gata ”

In Gata, I visited five of the ten churches and chapels. Parish Church of St. Cyprian was built on the remains of an early Christian basilica from the 6th century, and in its vicinity is the Historical Museum of Poljica. Church of St. George on Graz Hill is also called “Poljica Cathedral”. From this place, you can see the Cetina canyon, the surrounding hills, the sea and the island of Brac. I was most impressed by the mysterious atmosphere of the Church of the Assumption of Mary in Smovo. Chapel of St. Anthony is located in an abandoned, but still beautiful hamlet Skočibe.

In Zvečanje on the Gračina Hill is the parish church of St. Michael with an amazing landscape view. The church existed on this site in the 16th century, and over time it was repaired and upgraded.

In Donji Dolac I visited the parish church of St. Martin and the Church of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The parish church was built in the 19th century near a demolished 18th-century church. In fact, there was a third, the oldest mentioned in 15th-century documents. The bell tower is separated from the church and a copy of the bell tower of the chapel of St. Arnir in Split.

A story is connected with the parish church on the border between Gornji Dolac and Srijane, which says that the grave of one of the founders of Poljica, Elem, is located there. The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary dates from the 18th-century and houses old family graves with inscriptions written in Croatian Cyrillic. The church was built of carved stone. Its oldest part is today’s sacristy, which is located in a special chapel on the north side of the nave. This chapel is from pre-Turkish times.

“Double churches from Jesenice”

Finally, I will mention another double church from Jesenice from the 17th century, built on the foundations of an early Christian basilica from the 5th century. These are the churches of St. St. Stephen and St. Anthony Abbot.

The shrine of the Croatian Catholic saint Leopold Bogdan Mandić is located in Zakučac. His great-grandfather Nikola was from Zakučac. In the 18th century, he moved to Herceg Novi where the future saint would be born. The sanctuary consists of a cave and a plateau with an altar. In front of the cave is a statue of St. Leopold Bogdan Mandić, the work of the academic sculptor Kažimir Hraste.

“Monument to the Glagolitic priest, Gata”

The Glagolitic priests of POLJICA were priests of the people. They preached in the Croatian language, they held Masses in Croatian, not Latin. After the holy rites, they would work in the field, but also fight when the need arose for war. They used three scripts, Latin, Poljičica (Poljica version of Western Cyrillic) and Glagolitic script. In the Middle Ages, schooling was individual, priests taught future priests, the literate illiterate, and the main ones in the literacy of the people were the Glagolitic priests.

Only in the 18th century was the Illyrian seminary opened on Priko in Omiš, near the early Christian church of St. Peter, the oldest church in Poljica. Glagolitic Priests were educated in the seminary, it was used for the upbringing and education of Catholic priests for worship in the Old Slavonic language.

7. STORIES AND LEGEND OF POLJICA

THE ORIGIN OF POLJICA is connected with a legend which says that the descendants of the murdered Croatian King Miroslav, who was killed in 949, Tješimir (or Tišimir), Krešimir and Elem settled in Poljica. They were divided at the source of Pokornik and from them will descend three tribes Tješimirovići, Limići (Flemovići) and Krešimirovići (Kremeničani), from which in turn will be formed Gornja, Srednja and Donja Poljica.

“Mila Gojsalić, kipara Ivana Meštrovića”

MILA GOJSALIĆ is the most famous heroine from Poljica. Originally from the village of Kostanje, where the hamlet of Gojsalići still exists, Mila sacrificed her own life to save Poljica from the Ottoman army in the 16th century. There are different versions of the legend of Mila. According to some, she was abducted by the Ottoman military leader Ahmed-beg, raped and disgraced. According to others, she voluntarily went down to the enemy camp and seduced him. But the end is the same in all versions, she blew up a gunpowder warehouse with a torch at dawn, causing great damage and confusion, and she herself lost her life. The people of Poljica finished what Mila started by defending her homeland. The world-famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović made a statue of Mila, which still stands proudly on the cliffs of the canyon above Omiš.

From the time of the Ottoman conquerors, several other brave Poljica heroines stand out, such as Mara, Bara and Kate.

POLJICA DIDN’T HAVE AN ARMY. IN CASE OF DANGER AND NEED TO DEFEND THEIR LAND, EVERYONE PARTICIPATED, MEN AND WOMEN.

Duke ŽARKO DRAŽOJEVIĆ AND HIS PETS RAVENS – you have to admit it sounds intriguing. Throughout history, birds such as falcons or parrots have been associated with human, and I did not hear about trained ravens until I came across the story of the Poljica duke Žarko Dražojević. First of all, Žarko Dražojević was an exceptional warrior, so respected that after his death he was buried in the Split Cathedral. The story goes that the ravens lived on the roof of his Nutjak fort. He communicated with them with a whistle, allegedly they shared raw meat too, and birds faithfully guarded Nutjak from the sky and warn him with their croaks if anyone approached. Žarko was killed in an ambush after the Ottomans captured Nutjak in his absence and prevented the ravens from warning him of the danger. Allegedly, on the day of his death, January 5 ravens have been flying around the fort since 1508 and croaking to pay homage to their master.

8. VIEWS THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND

My favourites are in the Middle Poljica overlooking the canyon of the river Cetina. However, the breathtaking locations are equally found in Lower, coastal Poljica with a view of the sea and Upper Poljica with a view of the hills of the surrounded Poljica valley. My favourites are the lookout at the statue of Mile Gojsalić, the church of St. Georg in Gata and one in Ostrvica.

9. ONE OF THE OLDEST CROATIAN LEGAL CODES – POLJICA STATUTE

It is based on customary law, which over time was consolidated into a collection of laws. The original has not been preserved, some believe it existed as early as the 11th century. The oldest preserved Poljica statute is from the 15th century and is today kept in the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU) in Zagreb.
It is interesting what details the Poljica Statute went into in order to protect the justice and life of every being, nobles (grandparents and nobles) or peasants (commoners and peasants), both humans and animals. Over the centuries, the statute has been amended and rewritten several times. It is written in Croatian Cyrillic (Bosnian).

10. WHAT TO DO IN THE POLJICA?

You may have got a clear picture of what you can do in Poljica, if no I suggest a few options:

  • tour of Poljica accompanied by a local guide
  • guided tour of the Historical Museum of Poljica
  • tasting and soparnik culinary workshop
  • hiking, biking and off-road on hidden Poljica roads
  • visit one of the cultural and artistic events or participation in the race “Mosor Grebbening”
  • a visit to the lookouts and taking selfies because if you haven’t shared a couple of photos from Poljica on social networks, I will count that you haven’t even been here 🙂

If you need help booking any of the excursions, feel free to contact me for an offer at info@bohotravelart.com

Greetings from Poljica

Photo is emotion captured in time. See and feel the world you look at.

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