Lady of Loreto – the patron saint of Primosten

Lady of Loreto – the patron saint of Primosten

Lady of Loreto, emblem of Primosten

Emblem of Primosten Municipality

Lady of Loreto has been the saint patron of Primosten for almost two centuries, at the moment of this writing, 184 years precisely.

Primosten residents display her image in the insignia of Primosten municipality, in the emblem of Primosten tourist board, locals use her as a logo on their products (such as wine bottles)

Nobody outside Primosten paid too much attention to this until one day people came to their favorite summer destination and noticed this huge statue above Primosten.

On May 6, 2017, a 17-meter high statue depicting Lady of Loreto was erected on the Gaj, hill next to Primosten. Gold, silver, and stained glass coat the statue in a mosaic pattern. Seven rings form a base with various abstract motifs. The top makes the head of baby Jesus, Mary, and her crown.

The space around the statue is turned into sightseeing point. The view from there is simply put – magnificent. It takes less than 10 minutes by car from Primosten to get there. There’s a sign on the road showing where to take the turn from the main road. Parking space is 50 meters away from the top. There’s also a cafe/bar with a memorabilia gift shop at the top.

The trip to the top is definitely worth making.

Lady of Loreto statue in Primosten

Lady of Loreto statue in Primosten

Why “Lady of Loreto?


Of all the saints they could choose from, why did Primosten decide for her?

The story goes like this;
There was this man, Marko Prgin, who was very ill. One day he had a dream. And in this dream he saw a painting of the Lady of Loreto with a message that the painting would heal him if he took it to Primosten from Loreto.
He wanted to get well so bad. And when he did, he borrowed a boat from one of the locals (because his was too small) and off he sailed across the Adriatic to Italy.
And he returned with the painting with him.
He naturally wanted to give the painting to the church, but the administration wanted nothing to do with this “Italian Lady“ and they banned it from entering.
So Marko took it home and kept it there.

The painting would probably remain there until who-knows-when if it weren’t for cholera. This nasty disease was spreading across Primosten rapidly, taking casualties from 5 to 6 houses a day.

It was the parson Mate Livić who had an idea; On Sunday mass he addressed the villagers: “It is clear we sinned against someone or something. Nowhere around Primosten can cholera be found, only here among us. If we don’t do something, we will all most certainly die. Come on people, let’s take Lady’s painting from Marko Prgin and make a procession with it!”
And so they did. They made a procession around the village holding the painting high above in the air. In the end, they did what they had refused to do before; they placed it inside the church.
From that day on, nobody died from cholera again.

That was on May 10, 1835. They made a vowel to the Lady of Loreto and called that day Feast of Lady of Loreto.
Primosten celebrates that day every year since then.

How does Primosten celebrate Feast of Lady of Loreto?


Since the Feast is a religious holiday, it naturally passes in a spiritual ambience.

The ceremony lasts for 3 days.
The first two days are dedicated to prayer and cleansing of the “soul” as a preparation for the Feast.
The third day, on May 10, starts with early morning service, followed by several others and the procession around the village.
Members of the congregation, young and old, dress up in Primosten folk costumes (or their finest Sunday clothes), gather around and with a song take a stroll around the village showing the painting of Lady of Loreto to everyone.
The procession ends in the church.

The day ends with magnificent fireworks above the Primosten sky.

Fireworks in Primosten on Feast of Lady of Loreto

This photo was taken from PrimostenPlus gallery.

Primosten history, how it all started

Primosten history, how it all started

Primosten in 1971

Primosten, a small town in Croatia, is located merely 28km from Sibenik in direction to Split. It is recognizable for its stone houses, narrow streets typical for Mediterranean (called ‘kala’), crystal blue sea, beautiful promenade, and vast and beautiful beaches. Today, Primosten is one of the most desirable summer destinations for families with children or anyone seeking relaxation away from the city crowd.

The beginning


In its earliest days, Primosten was known as ‘Capocesto’ (or ‘naked head’), a small islet close to the mainland. In the beginning, there was only a small church on the hill, Church of St. George, with a graveyard around it. At first, the people mostly used the place as a temporary sanctuary from Turkish invaders. But as attacks grew more and more frequent, the local population, tired of constant running, finally inhabited the island for good.

Unlike the rest of the dalmatian coast, which was inhabited first with settlements later growing into towns, Primosten hinterland was populated first. Although only 10 km away from the coastline, temperatures in Primosten hinterland are lower (this can especially be felt in summer and winter days) and the land is much more fertile. And that was the reason villages Prhovo, Krusevo, and Krculj were the first settlements in the Primosten area.

So, as Turkish attacks were growing more frequent by the day (remember; Bosnia was centuries under the Ottoman Empire occupation), stripping locals of those hard-earned fruits of their labour, people eventually gave up and made ‘Capocesto’ their permanent home.

In 1542, with the help of Venice (which was governing Dalmatia at that time), as protective measures, walls and towers with a drawbridge were raised around the island. Sometime later, when the Turks finally retreated, the drawbridge was replaced by the causeway of stones.

From that moment on, Capocesto was known as Primosten or, in Croatian, Primošten. Its name derives from the Croatian verb ‘primostiti’ (or to bridge).

Primosten history between 1800-1941


With the fall of Venice, the French became new rulers of Primosten. And they were good, according to people’s stories. They didn’t ask for anything from the people and although they did not stick for long, (1806–1814), those eight years were enough to build (themselves) a road through Dalmatia.

From 1814 for the next 110 years, these territories were a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 

And what did Austria do in those 110 years? 

They established the first harbour master’s office in1852. Since then, every boat, its country of origin including the flag, its starting port and its destination, the purpose of the voyage, number of crew and cargo was recorded into harbour master’s diary.
The diary also included the number of local fishing boats and weather reports. 

In 1866 they built the first school in Primosten introducing the act of compulsory school attendance. In 1895 the first shipping (steamship) line Rogoznica – Primosten – Sibenik started to operate on a regular schedule. In 1905 a seafront (riva) was built. The post office with telephone/telegraph connection was established in 1910.

After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, and with the end of WW1, Italy once again occupied the entire Dalmatian region. It lost it in 1921 only to regain it back in 1941 and kept it until 1943. 

Primosten in WW2


At first, nothing terrible happened; the Italians were all friendly and nice. Shops were filled with goodies no one ever saw before, let alone had. Free trade was established (and the black market too). Groceries like flour, sugar, rice and pasta were divided among the local population. School, which was closed from the beginning of the war, was reopened, but this time the Italians allowed no Croatian word to be spoken. Everything was and had to be in Italian.

As partizan’s attacks on Italians were growing more frequent, as retribution from the Italians, many civilians were shot dead or taken prisoners under suspicion of favouring partizans or being in some way linked to them (this link also assumed being a cousin or a father-in-law).

But wars are run by people. And some people are bad, some are good. Primosten history remembers a good one. On Sunday, November 15, 1942, the brigadier of the carabineer tipped don Grgo Roglic, the local vicar, and his chaplain don Ivo Saric, about the bombing on the village scheduled at 8 o’clock the following morning. Both priests spent the entire night taking villagers to safety. The village was bombed but with no casualties that day.

Primosten was not spared from air bombing, twice from Italians and then, as an attempt of liberation, from the English.

From 1943 Primosten was part of the Republic of Yugoslavia.

Construction of houses in Primosten

Post-war era


After the Second World War, the solemn focus was on building and rebuilding.

From 1960s Primosten experienced a sudden economic growth; an Esperanto-camp was open for visitors coming from all over the world. Power and water lines were built supplying households with running water, electricity and telephone.

Jadranska magistrala, until today the main dalmatian road, was built, opening Primosten to the world.

Hotels’ Zora’, ‘Raduca’ and ‘Slava’ on the peninsula Raduca, the hotel ‘Marina Lucica’ and camping site ‘Adriatic’ were opened.

In 1983 marina Kremik, one of the most protected marinas in Croatia, located in the cove beneath the Bucavac hill (on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Site), was open for sailors.

Tourism was in bloom and Primosten was one of the most beautiful summer locations in the Adriatic coast.

Here is one of the promotional videos from that time “Primosten 1971”:

But then, sadly, it was all put to stop. The Homeland war took its toll on entire Croatia.

Dalmatia was cut off from the rest of the country. Over 3,000 young men left their Primosten homes to take part in defending their homeland. Primosten was empty of tourists for years…

But Primosten folk are tough and hard-working people.

There’s no enemy, famine, drought, separation or isolation, no fear or anxiety, that can get their spirit down. Centuries of hard life taught them to adapt and to survive.

Slowly and steadily, Primosten regained its previous glory. And by the looks of it, it surpassed it by far…