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The Story of the Velika Gospa

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Aug 14, 2006 4:15PM

2006_08_velikagospa.jpgAugust 15th has a special meaning to Croatian nationals, Croatian Americans, and Croatian Catholics. It is on the 15th that they celebrate the Velika Gospa; translated, it means the holiday of the Great Lady Mary.

The celebration has its roots in the Venetian era. On August 7th, 1715, the Turkish army, under the leadership of Mehmed Pasa, sent an envoy under heavily armed escort to the Croatian fortress town of Sinj, with an offer to surrendur the town to Turkish control, or face certain death. The townspeople of Sinj refused, instead vowing to defend the city to the last man.

Despite overwhelming numbers in troops and arms, the Turks were defeated on Assumption Day, August 15th. The townspeople of Sinj believed that their victory was owed in part to a "miracle painting" of Our Lady Mary in the town's church, which gave them the strength to defeat the Turks. It was also noted by historians that the Turkish army was also decimated by disease - which the townspeople of Sinj also attributed to God's will, and Our Lady Mary.

2006_08_jerome.gifEvery year, the townspeople of Sinj celebrate that victory with a feast celebrating the victory. In Chicago, the holy day is celebrated at St. Jerome Croatian Catholic Church, in Bridgeport. Tomorrow's Velika Gospa celebration will mark it's centennial anniversary in Chicago. The festivities begin at 10 a.m. with a procession featuring ten marching bands, social clubs, schools, and the Sinjski Alkari, the horsemen of Sinj's Velika Gospa procession. That's followed by a street festival, featuring live music, folk dancing, and barbecued lamb. The festival runs through midnight.

For more information on the Velika Gospa and Croatian Fest, contact St. Jerome Catholic Church at (312) 842-1871. St. Jerome is located at 2823 S. Princeton.