Tuesday, February 12, 2013

CROATIA - Cover from Nedelišće, Croatia to Braga, Portugal

Cover with stamps posted on January 5, 2013.
(A very special thanks to my best friend Tomislav Dolar)

Croatian Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO
The Festivity of St. Blaise
The life of St. Blaise and his celebration in Dubrovnik St. Blaise, the bishop and martyr, is the celestial patron of the town of Dubrovnik and of the Dubrovnik bishopric. He was born about year 260 in the Armenian town of Sebastia (today’s Turkish town of Sivas) in the region of Cappadocia. He acquired basic education in his native town and his higher education in the town of Caesarea (Cappadocia), cultural centre of that time. There existed already from the second century a Christian community headed by an archbishop. Most probably it was here, in Caesarea, that St. Blaise became better acquainted with Christianity. Generous by nature, he chose a generous and to his fellow humans close occupation of a physician. Upon return to his native Sebastia he diligently served the duties of his occupation and testified his faith by his life. In 302 the Sebastia bishop Mehrudin died and the Christian community needed a new one - the leader in faith. To general surprise, the priests and the believers unanimously elected for bishop not one of the priests but the physician Blaise. Since that was the period of Diocletian’s chase of Christians, Blaise opposed to that election: in his modesty he explained the reasons of his not being mature for such an honourable and responsible duty. However, the Christian community did not give up its proposal so he was left with no choice but to go to Caesarea and receive the consecration from the archbishop. The Constantine’s Edict from 313, by which Christians became equal citizens of the Roman Empire has not yet become effective in the far east of the state. In Asia Minor, depending on the Emperor’s governor the prosecutions increased and decreased in intensity, but never ceased. The generous bishop Blaise sedulously visited his believers: he helped the poor, cured the sick, fed the hungry and protected the chased. To the profane government, however, the devotion and the kindness of the bishop of Sebastia were disturbing and the Emperor’s governor in Asia Minor, Agricola was furious at the God’s man and saint bishop. He chased him, caught him and tortured him in most cruel ways. Martyred to death the beloved bishop, the doctor of soul and body, in 316 changed this worldly life for the other, eternal and heavenly. There is a legend known under the name St Blaise and the Vicar Stojko, connecting St. Blaise with Dubrovnik. Actually, in 971 the Venetians started with more than hundred ships towards Levant. With an excuse to take supplies in water and food before continuing, they stopped near Dubrovnik. During night while all citizens of Dubrovnik were peacefully asleep and the Vicar Stojko was praying in the church, there appeared to him an unknown figure of a white-bearded, old man who said: “I am St. Blaise, the bishop of Sebastia and a martyr. I have come, sent from Heaven, by the God to protect the city, to prevent – with my Heavenly army – the Venetians whom you received as guests, from taking you by surprise at night and attacking your city walls and conquer your and my town.” Further the vicar said that the old man sent him to the rulers of the town to tell them to get ready and prepare themselves to protect the town and in future to be more cautious and not let themselves be deceived by the nice talk of armed guests. Having recognised in that act a special fondness of the saint toward their town the citizens of Dubrovnik chose him for their celestial patron. In the year 972 they decided that 3rd February, the day of the martyr’s death, should become the day of his celebration in Dubrovnik. Since that decision and that year Dubrovnik has celebrated St. Blaise 1040 times on his holiday called „The Festivity of St. Blaise“. The festivity has ever since been the spirit of the town, and St. Blaise the patron saint of its inhabitants - primarily as a physician and wonderworker - curing from throat illnesses and all other evil, how they use to say in the prayer called grličanje (head laying between the two lit candles during blessing). The festivity is celebrated during several days with acts of devotion taking place in the church and entertainment in town. It starts with the solemn opening of the festivity on Candelora Day and ends at the Hill of St. Blaise on the first Sunday following 3rd February. The celebration is led by the bishop of Dubrovnik and organised by the rectors of the St. Blaise Church and the Cathedral. The Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament actively participates in its organisation in the cathedral while a special contribution to the event gives the Brotherhood of festanjuls of St. Blaise, that prepares the working and aesthetic framework of the celebration. The festanjuls are the godfathers of the procession – citizens, a sea captain and a craftsman. Regularly the festivity is also joined by the city government and almost all of the parishes of the Dubrovnik bishopric with their church flags and flag-wavers in folk costumes. Since in a solemn procession along Stradun the richness and beauty of relics, Saint’s flags, church robes and folk costumes is most noticeable, the festivity has become well known throughout the Christian but also non-Christian world. Exactly for its richness and long tradition (more than 1000 years) it has been put on the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Dubrovnik and all inhabitants of the city and bishopric are very proud of it and the bond between the citizens and Saint Blaise is best felt at the opening and closing ceremony when from the thousands of throats the exclamation is heard: “Long live St. Blaise!”
Toma Lučić

The Lace from Hvar
The renaissance Hvar by its culture could have stood comparison with far bigger Mediterranean towns. The women from Hvar had the chance to acquire precious lace but also to learn how to make it in the techniques of that time, especially in the 16th century when many foreign families of tradesmen, seafarers and state officers immigrated to Hvar from different parts of Venetian Republic. About highly developed taste but also top lace skill testify also preserved priests’ shirts from the Franciscan monastery, decorated in the 17th century with needlepoint lace and bobbin lace as well as the altars of the cathedral in Hvar decorated with bobbin lace, characteristic by techniques and motifs for the period from the 16th to 18th century. Home textile and clothes decorated with lace, but also tools for lace making are mentioned in the notary documents referring to noble families from the 20-ties of the 17th century while in the 18th century lace was often mentioned in documents referring to families from all social classes. The founding of the Benedictine monastery in 1664 also influenced lace making in Hvar, since the monastery cherished various skills, among them also at that time much appreciated lace making. Also connected with the monastery is till today preserved skill of making lace from agave threads, whereby Hvar is known in the world. Therefore on the mounds beneath the tower walls in the first half of the 19thcentury a kind of agave (Agave Americana) was grown, which provided very good quality threads for lace making. In 1846 a lower Benedictine sister’s school was founded. It was the first school for girls from lower social classes - for the children of fishermen, labourers and craftsmen – where they were - apart from obligatory school subjects instructed also in lace making. For the needs of handicraft the Benedictine sisters ordered from different European countries journals with instructions and templates for different handicrafts and thus also for lace making. A post employee and a writer Theodor Schiff mentions data about lace making from agave threads in the 60-ies of the 19th century and in 1912 Natalie Bruck Auffenberg, a writer and an expert in lace making also mentions lace made of agave thread in her book “Dalmatia and its Folk Art“. Women from Hvar, of different social classes, made lace selling it to travellers and officers who took it with them as a present and souvenir. Already from the last quarter of the 19th century the lace from agave threads was gladly seen at many international exhibitions and in 1900 it was awarded an honorary diploma and a gold medal. The Benedictine sisters pass down, from generation to generation, a demanding procedure of turning agave leaves into silky threads for lace making. They make lace in various techniques of sun lace, ripple, needle lace on netted background, but they developed also their own technique called antique. The lace is made without a scheme, it is a product of imagination and spirituality of the Benedictine sisters. After the Second World War a tourist interest in the preservation of the cultural heritage of Hvar and their interest in buying agave thread lace helped preserve the lace skill of the Benedictine sisters from Hvar. After the independence of the Republic of Croatia this lace became a much appreciated protocol present. In September 2009 the skill of making lace in Hvar, along with the lace making in Lepoglava and on the island of Pag was entered on the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Tihana Petrović Leš

Gingerbread Craft
Gingerbread Craft in North Croatia The development of gingerbread craft and candle-making craft in medieval monasteries in the territory of central Europe was based on the tradition of beekeeping and the use of bee products - honey and wax. From precious wax, candles and votive offerings were made, while from flour and honey – by adding some aromatic spices, appreciated honey biscuits were baked, known in Germany already in the 13th century under the name Lebkuchen. For making biscuits wooden moulds of different shapes and motifs were used and the gingerbread production flourished in the period from the16th until the end of the 19th century. The gingerbread craft and candle-making craft in Croatia are connected with the development of crafts in towns and developed due to immigration of artisans from German speaking countries, especially from Austria, where the name Lebzelter become common name for the type of biscuit. The word was adopted in Croatian language in the form of licitar, lecetar as the name for the craftsman but also his products. Gingerbread producers from small and few Croatian towns associated in guilds. Already in the 17th century licitari - the gingerbread producers, of the town of Varaždin associate in the old and big Styrian guild with the seat in Graz; in the 18th century they are joined also by the gingerbread makers from Zagreb and Koprivnica. Some Croatian museums keep in their collections very valuable and old examples of moulds from that time – so the Zagreb City Museum has got several moulds from the 17th century and the Ethnographic Museum in Zagreb one of the largest collections of wooden gingerbread moulds. In the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century there exist many gingerbread makers in Croatia who have gained their skill through a number of years of practice with masters from Austro-Hungarian territory. The decreasing number of gingerbread makers from the middle of the 20th century is a consequence of political and social changes and the changes in the way of life. Gingerbread production in Croatia is practiced today by a couple of families and individuals in Hrvatsko zagorje and Međimurje regions, in Zagreb and its surroundings, in Samobor and Karlovac and in Podravina and Slavonia regions. For making their products - biscuits and cakes, Croatian gingerbread makers have used wooden, clay, metal or plaster moulds of different shapes and decorations, which changed dependent on fashion trends, local tradition and taste. Very often the mould shapes had also a kind of religious symbolic, depicting scenes from the Old and New Testament, the figures of saints, motifs with mythological characters and scenes, profane characters etc. The most often moulds were heart, baby, horse-shoe, horse etc. In Croatian s special subkind of gingerbread developed, made of a mixture of flour, yeast and water, baked and then dried and coloured with characteristic red, yellow, green or white colour, decorated with sugar mass, mirrors, pictures and verses. The licitars – gingerbread in form of heart, rosary, honey cookies, biscuits and the bonbons were very often objects of donations among relatives and friends, both in town and in country, on the occasion of childbirth, baptising, confirmation, engagement or marriage. Wax candles accompanied one in the time of curing illness or dying and the wax votive offerings of different shapes were laid as a vow on altars of patron saints. Licitar products were bought and given as present at fairs and church celebrations, when people enjoyed the taste of another sweet gingerbread product called gvirc, gverc or medica (alcoholic drink made of honey). Its particular application in expressing folk and national identity the licitars acquired between the two world wars, when it became traditional in bourgeois families to decorate a Christmas tree with gingerbreads of different shapes, but smaller size. In that period giving licitar heart presents inspired Krešimir Baranović for his ballet and the licitar products and tents in fairs become also a theme in painting. Although the procedure of making gingerbread has been perfectionised through centuries, some recipes have remained family secret and making and decorating has until today remained manual. In the 90-ties of the 20th century gingerbread becomes Croatian souvenir and the producers begin to look for new ways of application and expression, making among other, also Christmas nursery from gingerbread. The gingerbread craft of North Croatia was in 2010 for its cultural importance included in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Tihana Petrović Leš

Wooden Children’s Toys
Ancient wooden toys In a beautiful fairy tale by Andersen a queen who earlier was a fairy, begins to shrink from unlove: first her gloves become too big, then her dresses and then little by litter, she returns to her old world. Many things begin to shrink from unlove. Also long-lasting baroque wardrobes and chairs began to shrink when people stopped loving their curved lines, pompous shapes and painted flowers – and on their shrinking way, they reached dwarf dimensions. They saved themselves as toys. Those small, red, blue, yellow, black, white pieces of furniture, plotted and spotted, actually preserve the heritage of ancient centuries. From the history of (applied) arts they transited into ethnology in the first chapter of the history of evanescence. And, in the second chapter they have directed themselves toward the collection of rare objects, since their manufacturing material and techniques are replaced by global plastic and Chinese patterns. Together with small furniture, on that same way are also small horses, their carts, butterflies that in proto-kinetic imagination wave their wings but also move our legs and arms, equally as the little men on the marry-go-round or birds that due to the mechanism of cork and rope peck the seeds drawn on the tablet; then, the music instruments, tamburitzas and pipes. But, before they fade away as real toys, and come back in the world of applied arts, not to say souvenirs, these little objects have created a fascinating aesthetics of taming everything that existed, by following the development of technique and generally the development of mankind: so, to the repertoire of these wooden toys gradually also trains and later aeroplanes were added. Their vulnerability and effort by which they want to connect worlds is touching. From the toys that taught children about everyday life, they became toys that teach adults about the rights and the kindness of memory. Once, for sure, wooden toys were there where the children were; however, such as we know them today, they mainly inhabit Hrvatsko zagorje i.e. Prigorje regions. In somewhat different form they can be found also in Dalmatinska zagora. The centre of production is still around Marija Bistrica, especially in the villages Laz and Vidovec. Most probably has the vivid church fair, granting sale, influenced the subsistence of this small world. Writing with joy this text for the stamp by which the Croatian Post will pay international tribute to these small objects – their being entered on the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity – I recall a personal episode which is already a part of their history. It was winter 1982, Christmas was approaching, Christmas that at that time, surely, was not publicly celebrated or marked. Since I had been collecting these small wooden toys for a long time, I had a respectable quantity. I took a selection of it to the bookstore Znanje, situated in - at that time Street of Socialist Revolution, across the then Officer’s club of the Yugoslav National Army. Actually, I was given at disposal huge shop-windows of the bookshop for the exhibition. Christmas exhibition! The shop-windows were white, full of branches of evergreen trees; on them, wooden toys were hanging in the solemnity of their vivid colours, especially red. On a huge piece of hammer paper in the middle of one shop-window, the catalogue text about toys was written. It mentioned the villages of Prigorje and H.C. Andersen who is still today at he beginning of this text. On several occasions persons in uniforms entered the bookshop to check what was happening. And, since everything took place before Christmas, there could be no excuses by attributing it to the New Year. The excuse was hence of general, ethnographic nature: winter is the most favourable time for traditional crafts because there is no work in fields – thus it is also the most favourable time for exhibiting them. In the meantime, Christmas became again public holiday; wooden toys were first put on the list of the intangible heritage of the Republic of Croatia and now also on the UNESCO’s list. Thus, it is even greater pleasure for me to remember their first exhibition. From the lack of love many things get smaller. But if the love hurries after them, the dimension is lost and only proportion remains - proportion in which the one who loves is equal to what he/she loves, so nothing is too small or too big. Most probably just for the anticipation thereof, Croatian wooden toys have become an international memorial.
Željka Čorak

Technical Details
Gingerbread Craft
Date of Issue: June 12, 2012
Values: four stamps of 1,60 HRK, 3,10 HRK, 4,60 HRK and 7,1 HRK
Designer: Orsat Franković, dizajner iz Zagreba
Printer: "Zrinski" - Čakovec
Process: Multicolor Offset Printing
Size: 35,50 x 35,50 mm
Perforation: Comb,14
Paper: white 102g, gummed
Sheet: 8 stamps sheetlets
(Information and texts from Croatian Post)

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