500 years anniversary of Snow Madonna

For many years I have been photographing religious procession "Our Lady of the snow" also known as "Snow Madonna" on island Ugljan. Clearly it is one of the biggest events in Croatia during month August which is loaded with religious and cultural events all over the country. In August the competition for the event of the month is huge and other more famous events have been photographed extensively for many years. Unlike those more famous events "Snow Madonna" is still not nearly visited or photographed but that does not mean it's less authentic, respected or visually beautiful. Even if you're not practicing religion, like me, attending this amazing over 500 years long tradition will bring peace to your mind and if you are a foreigner it will get you familiar with tradition and deep beliefs of local people.

In the summer of 2014 a catholic procession of „Our Lady of the Snow“, which is a patron of place Kukljica on island Ugljan, celebrated 500 years anniversary, a long tradition amongst local believers equally important as Eastern. In a small and picturesque place Kukljica on island Ugljan on fifth of August when Our Lady of the snow procession is held everything revolves around so called „Snow Madonna“.

Line of folklor societies during Or Lady of the snow procession in Zdrelac, island Ugljan, Croatia
 

 
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It's the biggest and most important date and event on island attended by many priests from nearby churches, parishes, and people from all parts of Croatia and surrounding countries like Slovenia and Italy. Preparations for this event lasts for months. Many folklor societies, choirs, church brotherhoods and singers are contributing the celebration with their performances and concerts. In the week prior to the event many exhibitions and book promotions takes place in Kukljica.

 

 
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First gathering on the day of the event is at a morning mass in a small church at 08:00 AM in channel Zdrelac from where, after the mass, statue of Snow Madonna is taken at 09:30 AM to the ship with which is further taken to local church of St. Paul in Kukljica.

 

Our Lady of the Snow pilgrimage
 

Snow Madonna is taken on a boat
 
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Main ship transferring Madonna statue is followed by other ships loaded with people singing songs about holly Mary. Other smaller ships and boats are circling around the main one and it can be a bit chaotic in that narrow channel „Zdrelac“ between islands Ugljan and Pasman.

Boat carrying statue of Snow Madonna in Kukljica, island Ugljan, Croatia
 
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When the statue is taken off the ship young girls are carrying it on handbarrow to the church of St. Paul in Kukljica while singing church songs.

Taking of the Snow Madonna statue from the ship in Kukljica, island Ugljan, Croatia
 

Young girls are carrying the Snow Madonna statue on handbarrows in Kukljica, island Ugljan, Croatia
 

Pilgrims and helpers of Our Lady of the snow procession in Kukljica, island Ugljan, Croatia
 
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Procession is passing the narrow streets of this small place. Once the statue is in it's native church of St. Paul another mass begins. After the mass everyone is going home for the lunch with family.

 

 
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They will gather again later afternoon this time for more earthly amusement and fun during the festivity: climbing the greasy pole for prosciutto, rope pulling contest, donkeys race and the concert in the evening. Place Kukljica is filled with stands where people sell local delicacies, homemade jams, olive oil, wine, etc.

Man climbing for prosciutto during "Our Lady of the Snow" fiesta
 

Rope pulling contest in Kukljica, island Ugljan, Croatia
 

 

 
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Even if you're not practicing religion visiting this amazing event will get you acquainted and familiar with history, heritage and tradition of local people. All the worries and prayers are compressed in this one day packed with emotions. It's an experience of authentic local life, beliefs and tradition.

 
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To a photographer the procession is very interesting because you can photograph people in a religious trance. They pray, sing, kneel and sometimes even cry out of happiness. You will have a chance to shoot some portraits but be respectful since this is an religious procession, not a photo shooting. Photographing is, off course, allowed but stay discrete, invisible and unobtrusive.

Our Lady of the Snow helper
 

 

 
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The procession is decorated with flags of many fraternities and brotherhoods of nearby islands. Members of folklor societies are wearing national folk costumes and there's a chance to shoot many details of beautiful and rich costumes.

 

 


Very interesting to shoot is when ship with statue is on the way to Kukljica and other smaller ships are circling around. You can try to board on some ship but if you plan to board on the main ship with the statue be aware this can be a futile attempt.

 
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Later afternoon you can enjoy shooting folk games like rope pulling, climbing the greasy pole for prosciutto, donkeys race and the concert in the evening. If you are coming from some other place or off island and planing to spend the whole day in Kukljica fill the gap between the end of procession and later afternoon festivity by visiting some local restaurant/pizzeria or resting in a beautiful pine shade on a local beach.

 


One word of a caution. The procession takes place in the heart of summer season (05.08.) when temperatures can reach even 36 Celsius. Luckily mass starts at 08:00 AM in the morning but when ship with the statue takes off to Kukljica the sun is already high up so do take a hat and water and put some sun cream on if you have delicate skin. You will surely enjoy this procession even if you are not a believer or a photographer.