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Hermitage Blaca

Date of Submission: 29/01/2007
Criteria: (ii)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture
State, Province or Region:
Splitsko Dalmatinska County
Coordinates: N43 17 05 E16 32 08
Ref.: 5103

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Under the Karst caves of Vidova gora on the southern shores of the island of Brač a number of hermitic monasteries were founded in the Renaissance period but in continuity with earlier traditions: the convent Stipančić (1416), hermitage Silvio (Dubravčić 1497) and below them, only little closer to the sea - Dračeva luka that was inhabited in 1512 by priests from Poljica, and Dutić where "picokara", tertiary nuns came to in the same year. In the cave called Ljubitovica on the steep cove on the southern tip of the island two Glagolitic monks who came to Brač in 1551 from the nearby continental Poljice found shelter which soon developed in a hermitic monastery. It was maintained and renewed by generations of monks up the last one, father Niko Miličević who died in 1963 and was well known as an astronomer. The telescope from Blaca has remained to this day the third most powerful one in Croatia. The journey traversed from cave to observatory, transforming the meaning of reclusion from cavelike introversion to businesslike extroversion (the Hermitage traded its own products on sailing ships along the route MilnaBolMakarskaTriesteBlaca) has condensed and repeated in the course of four centuries universal human history.

The Blaca karst valley extends from Dragovode to the wide sea cove where the Chapel of the Lady on the Beach is located. The hermitage is accessed by a wide road from the Blaca cove or by the walking trail from the inner part of the island, through Nerežišća, Žurmo pool and hamlet Dragovode with houses that once belonged to earlier Blaca colonists and shepherds. The villages Obršje and Smrka also belonged to the Hermitage.

Through diligent work and sacrifice, the small monastic community acquired large estates, clearing extensive forests and cultivating and vineyards and olive groves enlarging considerable their in mid 18 th century when Blaca began flourishing for the first time. The first church devoted to the Assumption of Virgin Mary was completed in 1614. After the great fire in 1724 it was rebuilt in 1757. The complex of buildings without distinctive stylistic characteristics developed throughout the 18 th and 19 th centuries. The second extensive reconstruction of Blaca took place at the end of the 19 th century during the administration of father Niko Miličević senior. At that time the entire hermitage was encircled with a high wall, a fortress about 120 m long, 8m high and 2m thick. The church was reconstructed together with the cemetery, two stone threestorey buildings were constructed, the wine cellar equipped, the New House and "Peasant House" added and water supply regulated. The interior of the buildings was furbished with exclusive furniture, paintings, libraries and an very large number of clocks which showed time according to the most famous world observatories. Of the 11,000 books in the monastic library a considerable number dates before the year 1800. Blaca has preserved its inventory which is displayed today in the museum collection.

All the mentioned hermetic monasteries, of which Blaca is most preserved having kept is entire inventory, are located in a landscape that has all the characteristics of a unique cultural and natural reserve in which Vidova gora - as the highest peak of the Adriatic archipelago (780m), dominates with a series of classical examples of karst geology. In regard to the vegetation is belongs to the EuroMediterranean vegetation unit in the class of Quercetea ilicis, due to the dominant holly oak (Quercus ilex). Today, only one fourth of the island is under forest which mainly comprises the indigenous Aleppo pine or Scots pine (Pinus Halepensis) which grows up to 300m in height, and black pine (Pinus niger, var. Dalmatica which reaches a height of 400m. Agriculture on the island is primarily based on wine and olive growing, as well as the fig, carob, marasca cherry growing, and in more recent times of citrus fruit too.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The property meets all conditions of integrity and authenticity with an adequate protection and management system to ensure its preservation. The Blaca Hermitage with the observatory is protected on the basis of a Decision of the Regional Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Culture in Split no. 35/6363 (RST)123. The Blaca valley is protected as a significant landscape on the basis of the Law on the Protection of Nature (Official Gazette 75/05) and Decision of the former Municipality of Brač 1986. Regional plan of the Municipality of Nerežišće, 2006.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Blaca hermitage is much more than a monastic complex that has developed in the 16 th century from a cave that was its first nucleus - shrine and dormitory. It is also a unique ecosystem in a landscape of extreme value as well as a unique historic metaphor through which, as if in a time capsule, the entire history not only of the island but the whole Adriatic can be comprehended. Comparisons could be made only in regard to some specific traits (for instance the comparison of the first shrine in the cave with similar cave shrines on both sides of the Adriatic, or else comparison in landscape management). However, the Hermitage is unique precisely due to the total of this cultural and natural characteristic which has been preserved to a large degree in their integral and authentic form.