It’s 2018 right now. As this post is being created Croatia doesn’t have a long distance pilgrimage like Camino de Santiago yet. However, during my research I found people talking in travel forums that there is a project undergoing that aims to make a Camino chain and to connect all St. Mary’s worship places across Croatia. The project is real and it is called The Way of Our Lady (or “Marijanski Zavjet Za Domovinu” ). The website is in Croatian and English and you can find a schedule of the pioneer pilgrimages together with already mapped routes. Best of luck and looking forward to its completion.
Well, when the long-distance pilgrimage in the country about to be visited are not yet available, there are two options: create a route yourself or just visit pilgrimage sites. In case you’re visiting Croatia with your family and not all of the members are able to hike (like mine), here’s the list of 5 most famous sacred destinations in Croatia.
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The most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in Croatia seems to be the Shrine of St. Mary of Marija Bistrica. The patroness of this shrine is the Mother of God of Bistrica and you can find her statue, dated to the 16th century, inside of it. It is located 30 km from Croatia’s capital city Zagreb and is easily reachable by car or bus (timetable, in Croatian only, it’s leaving from the central bus station every hour or so). Visitable all year around it also has some options for overnight stays. Behind the shrine is a Calvary Hill, where devotees can walk a short pilgrimage and pray at 14 cross stations.
St. Mary’s Trsat
The coastal city in the northern part of Croatia – Rijeka – has another famous pilgrimage site called St. Mary’s Trsat. It is famous not only for the miraculous paintings but also for the unique way to it: pilgrims used to climb around 500 stairs on their knees on the Peter Kružić Stairs leading to the sanctuary (detailed history and visiting information can be found here). The patroness of the sanctuary is St. Mary or Our Lady of Trsat known for the healing powers and miracles. The main pilgrim attractions are a painting called “the Merciful Mother” and the Chapel of Votive Gifts where the gifts from healed ones are kept. Find where to stay in Rijeka.
Aljmaš is a small village with a unique looking Crkva Gospe od Utočišta (or The Shrine of Our Lady of Sanctuary in Aljmaš) situated in the eastern part of Croatia on the border with Serbia. The main pilgrims’ attractions are the Statue of Our Lady of Osijek, walk on a Calvary Hill, and numerous pilgrimage related religious celebrations. It is advised to contact the sanctuary before visiting it. There are several overnight stay options. Travelers reach Aljmaš by car or organized tour. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any public transport means going there. Perhaps, you could ask locals when you are in Croatia.
If you tend to visit the Krka National Park in Croatia, one of the stops could be the Franciscan monastery in the middle of Visovac river. Due to long-term religious devotion, the island of the monastery is also called Mother of God Island and is reachable only by water. Usually, it is included in Krka park boat tours, or you can reach it by ferries from Stinice and Remetic. For a more spiritual experience, you can join mass every Sunday at 11 a.m.
Sanctuary of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj
Sanctuary of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj is located in a town of Sinj about 35 km outside Split. This sanctuary is famous for its miraculous painting of the Mother of Mercy. This pilgrimage site is easily reachable by car or by bus in only 35 minutes (Split – Sinj timetable). The sanctuary hosts various pilgrimage related events and celebrations, visitors are welcome to stay at various accommodation sites.