The hermitage of Blaca, island of Brač in Croatia

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General presentationGeneral information
The hermitage (author Miki Vlahovic). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).The old hermitage (of the Greek έρημος, desert), or monastery with the desert, of Blaca (Samostan Pustinja Blaca) was a monastery of Franciscan hermits founded at the 16th century close on the southern part of the island of Brač in Croatia.

It was a monastery known as of order glagolitic in what it used and maintained the language glagolitic in its liturgy. The glagolitique one (or “glagoljica”) was an old Slavic alphabet - and especially Croatian - who was supplanted later by the Cyrillic alphabet.

The hermitage was used as astronomical observatory at the time of the last higher father, the Father Nikola Miličević; after the departure of this last monk, in 1963, the monastery was transformed into museum and research center.

The hermitage of Blaca has a great financial asset: it was in the center of the culture and the scientific events on the island during centuries. The inscription of the hermitage of Blaca on the list of the world heritage of UNESCO was required in 2007.

EtymologyEtymology
The toponym of Blaca (to pronounce “blatsa”) probably finds its origin in the mud carted in this valley by the intermittent torrents at the time of strong rains.

Under the Republic of Venice, Blaca was named in Italian Piaggia or Blazza.

SituationSituation

The hermitage of Blaca (Cyberjani author). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).The hermitage of Blaca is located in a steep valley at approximately 3 km on the southern part of the island of Brač, about halfway between the towns of Milna and Bol.

The monastery, completely isolated in an austere site, is built on a small plate below an abrupt stone cliff, on the Eastern slope of the valley.

The long karstic valley of Blaca extends since the hamlet from Dragovode to a large handle from the coast where a chapel of the Virgin is and where one can approach to go up to the hermitage.

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VisitsVisits

The Hermitage of Blaca
For one 400 years period, starting from extremely modest districts located at the origin in the cave of Ljubitovici, the hermits built a vast monastery and an economic complex, where they lived in an autonomous way until 1963 on the thin grounds of the monastery.

The hermitage consists of buildings leaned with cliff and connected the ones to the others: cells of the hermits, of the agricultural buildings, a chapel and even a school to inform the children coming from the villages of surrounding shepherds. The unit, built with the abundant stone of the place, is integrated perfectly into the environment.

This whole of buildings without distinct stylistic character was developed especially along 18th and 19th centuries. A first rebuilding took place after a large fire which destroyed the monastery in 1724. A second extension took place at the end of the 19th century during the administration of the higher father who preceded Nikola Miličević (besides pertaining to the same Miličević family: he was the uncle de Nikola and carried the same first name). At that time, the whole of the hermitage was surrounded by a raised wall, a wall of approximately 120 m length, 8 m in height and 2 m thickness. The church was rebuilt with the cemetery, two buildings out of stone of three stages were built, a fermentation in vats with wine was created.

The hermitage of Blaca is not the only hermitage on the island of Brač, but the chances of the history made that it is the only hermitage to be preserved in all its aspects. The visit makes it possible to understand the life in a hermitage and it is also one of the most beautiful sites of the Dalmatian islands.

The hermitage of Blaca (Kork author). Click to enlarge the image.The hermitage of Blaca. Click to enlarge the image.The hermitage (author Marilyn Cvitanic). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).
The Church
The first eremitic church of the monastery, devoted to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, was built at the beginning of the 17th century, in 1614; this church was of Renaissance style.

This first church was completely destroyed by a large fire in 1724. A new church, larger, was built in 1757 in the style baroque; one added a bell-tower to it.

The interior of the church conceals tables of furnace bridge of the 18th century and an organ of the 20th century.

The Museum of the Hermitage
A text in glagolitic writing (author Wolfgang Schneider). Click to enlarge the image.The monastery understood a library of 8000 pounds - including one great number going back to before the 19th century -, and had even its clean small printing works created in 1895. There is also a collection of old firearms.

Kitchen of the hermitage (author Wolfgang Schneider). Click to enlarge the image.The cells of the hermits simple but are elegantly furnished. The monastery also had a room of music with a piano transported here on the back of man.

The kitchen of the hermitage is all against the wall of cliff; it is said that fire was maintained there throughout the year and was extinct only at Easter to clean the hearth.

The school of the hermitage (author Wolfgang Schneider). Click to enlarge the image.The school of the hermitage (author Wolfgang Schneider). Click to enlarge the image.The hermitage had also a school intended for the instruction of the children of the surrounding villages. Teaching was free there, the children not having that the only obligation to bring each day a log for the maintenance of fire. This religious school continued to function even for the period of the Communist regime.

Under the direction of the Father Nikola Miličević, when the monastery was used as observatory, a collection of clocks was made up, which told the time in the principal observatories of the world.

Blaca preserved an inventory of its collections which is posted in the collection of the museum. All these parts are presented today in the museum of Blaca. However, in the famous library of astronomy of the Miličević Father, there was an extremely rare specimen and almost priceless (evaluated to several million dollars) from the Atlas of the sky of the Dutch astronomers Hondius and Jasonius (going back to 1623), which, after the death of the Father disappeared without leaving of trace.

History and traditionsHistory, literature, arts, traditions, legends, religions, myths, symbols…

HistoryHistory
The name of Blaca is mentioned as of the year 1305; it is not whereas a place being used as shelter for the shepherds.

In 1551 two monks glagolitic of the close area of Poljica in the south of Split on the continent, reducing in front of the conquest of Balkans by the Othoman Turks, took refuge in the island of Brač which was managed by the Republic of Venice. They were installed on the grounds which were granted to them by prince de Brač and established initially their districts in one of the many caves of this place, the named cave Ljubitovic.

In 1552, they created a monastic community and, in 1570, they obtained from the bishop of the diocese of Hvar-Brač the permission to build a monastery eremitic and a church.

In 1588, the construction of a church started, and, in 1614, the monastery was completed with the dedication of the church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

At the time of a visit of the bishop Petar Cedulina to the hermitage of Blaca, on July 12th, 1621, this one confirmed that the monks lived under a good rule shared by all the brothers.

In 1724, the church was destroyed by a fire; it was rebuilt in 1757.

At the era of prosperity, with 18th and 19th centuries, which were built of the prestigious buildings several stages.

The hermitage was maintained and renewed by the successive generations monks until the last, that of the Father Nikola Milićević, deceased in 1963.

CharactersCharacters
The Father Nikola Miličević
The Father Nikola Milicevic. Click to enlarge the image.The last monk, and last Father Superior, of the hermitage of Blaca were Nikola Miličević.

Nikola Miličević was born on June 6th, 1887 in Zvečan close to Omiš. Once its completed secondary studies, he studied with the seminar of Zadar; after its ordination with the priesthood in 1910, it turned over to Brač, where his/her uncle was the Father Superior of the hermitage of Blaca.

His/her uncle encouraged his interest for astronomy and allowed him to study it with the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Vienna, as well as mathematics; as mathematician, he dealt mainly tear-off calendars and with problems of celestial mechanics.

In 1923, after the death of his/her uncle, Don Nikola Miličević succeeded to him in charge of the monastery.

The telescope of the Father Milisevic (author Wolfgang Schneider). Click to enlarge the image.In 1926, it could buy in Austria a telescope, having a lens 175 mms in diameter and weighing 900 kg, which it made transport in Blaca on mules since the port to the monastery along narrow processions. It installed an observatory on the terrace of the hermitage. The hermitage was also equipped with a library of astronomy, instruments and other telescopes.

The telescope of Blaca was most important in this part of Europe and would be still to date the third telescopes most powerful of Croatia; it is always with the monastery.

Nikola Miličević directed its research towards binary stars and the search of comets and novae. He discovered two stars, of which one which he called “Croatia”, like several comets and novae. Its many treaties were generally published in Vienna by the review “Astronomische Nachrichten”.

Nikola Miličević lived with the hermitage of Blaca until its death in 1963. Its death put an end to the existence of this extraordinary monastery. From 1862 to 1963, Blaca had been managed by priests of the Miličević family.

In tribute to the memory of the Father Nikola Miličević, the International Astronomical Union gave to two asteroids, discovered by the Observatory of Visnjan, the names of Miličević (asteroid 10241) and Brač (asteroid 10645).

EconomyEconomy
The hives (author Nick Welford). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).The cuvage of the hermitage (author Francis Kirigin). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).Starting from the grounds granted to the hermits of Blaca by Prince de Brač, the small monastic community gradually acquired, by a diligent work, great landowners, the benefit of vast forests, vines and olive groves - in particular in second half of the 18th century when Blaca started to thrive for the first time.

A village was then built close to the monastery, whose inhabitants were wine vine growers and merchants. The villages of Obršje and Smrka also belonged to the hermitage.

The hermitage produced wine, olives, honey, cultivated orchards and kitchen gardens, and raised sheep. These products were exchanged thanks to the ships surfing along the Milna-Bol-Makarska-Trieste-Blaca sea route; one can see with the Museum of Brač with Škrip the figurehead of the one of the ships of the monastery. The monks built a stone apiary surrounded of rosemary; this scented honey, which was formerly produced in the apiary of Blaca, was famous like the best of the Mediterranean, while the wine produced by the monks was also appreciated by the European merchants. Although the apiary of reputation was devastated by fire, the buzz of the bees can still be heard today.

InformationPractical information

General information
The hamlet of Dragovode (Roksoslav author). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).The site of Blaca cannot be reached by means of modern vehicles, but one can go to the hermitage of Blaca in several manners:
  • since Nerežišća, by the pedestrian path of the interior part of the island, the tank of Žurmo and the hamlet of Dragovode. One can go by car until Dragovode then to walk 30 minutes to the hermitage.
  • by the motor-road of the mount Vidova Gora; it is then necessary to go approximately 45 minutes to go down towards the monastery.
  • by the littoral path, from the village of Murvica; after 8 km (2 H of walk), one arrives at the port formerly used by the monks; to go up towards the hermitage into 45 min. Since Bol, it is necessary to count additional 2:00 of walk.
  • in season, excursions in boat, organized by the Tourist office or of the travel agencies, lead since Bol to the handle of Blaca. It is then necessary to go approximately 45 minutes to arrive at the hermitage.

To envisage one half-day. The paths are stony: it is to better avoid the sandals.

Geographical coordinates: 43° 17 ’ 35.50” NR; 16° 31 ’ 46.62” E

Visiting timesVisiting times
Schedules: The hermitage of Blaca is opened with the visit the every day, except the lundis, of 9:00 to 17:00 the visitors are held to telephone in advance to announce their visit.

Telephone: 00,385 (0) 91,516 46 71/00,385 (0) 91,512 93 12

Tariff of entry: 30 kunas.

The hermitage was closed in 2010-2011 for repair work following a rock-slide on the monastery.

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