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Spring - Primavera - Proljeće
Customs and Traditions
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Monsignor Cornelio Stefani celebrating the Holy Mass on July 7, 1998 in the Cathedral of St. Anthony the Abbot on the 50th anniversary of his priesthood.  (Monsignor Cornelio Stefani celebra la Santa Messa nel suo cinquantesimo anniversario del sacerdozio nel duomo di S. Antonio Abate, Lussingrande, 7 Guglio, 1998.)

Holy Week Observances - Lussingrande before World War I

Will Giacofcich has come across an interesting account of the Easter religious observances at Lussingrande as described by Nellie Ryan. Nellie was apparently a tutor of English to the children of Archduke Karl Stefan (b. 5/9/1860, d.7/4/1933). Karl Josef married Maria Theresa von Toskana on 18/9/1962 and they had six children- Eleonore, Renate, Karl Albrecht, Mechtildis, Leo and Wilhelm.

The family home at Lussingrande was the Villa Wart See (Sea Fort) or Podjavori, now the local elementary school.

Karl Stefan, who was Admiral of the fleet of the Austrian Navy has been chronicled as cruising the Adriatic in 1885 in search of a place to spend vacations and chose Lussingrande.

There is a connection also with Archduke Maximillian (brother of Kaiser Franz Josef), admiral of the Austrian navy and later Emperor of Mexico who came to Lussino in 1856 and laid the foundation stone for the breakwater in Rovenska. (Maximilian was executed in Mexico in 1867)

The following is the account taken from Nellie Ryan, My Years at the Austrian Court, published by John Lane (London & New York, 1915), pages 213-21:

Chapter XVIII
THE ISLAND LUSSIN

[...]

Lussin, peopled by so many Italians, was famous for its religious ceremonies and processions.

Soon after my first arrival on the island, I was present at some of the solemn services which take place on Good Friday, and I was particularly impressed by the evening procession.

Good Friday, that year, fell early – at the beginning of April – and the weather in the South was just like our hottest August weather. Every one wore deepest mourning all day, and the Imperial Family [of Archduke Carl Stefan] attended all the services in the Parish Church on the island, instead of going to their little private chapel.

At ten o’clock in the morning we all proceeded in solemn procession, garbed in black, through the grounds of [Palace] Podjavori [the Imperial residence], under a blazing sun, and the deepest of blue skies. Down across the dazzling white stone piazza by the side of the rocky shore, we went, to the Dome Church, which is, for the size of this tiny island, quite a large imposing church, very beautiful, very old and very Italian.

Special crimson and gold seats were set aside for the Imperial party at the altar rails; and the service lasted for about two hours, in the middle of which a lengthy sermon was delivered by Don Antonio, the old Italian priest of Lussin.

Again at three o’clock, we proceeded in the same order to the church, and an early dinner took place at six o’clock to enable us to be present at the evening service. I might mention that on Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent no meat was ever allowed at any of the meals, and on the last four days in Lent neither meat, nor eggs, nor butter, nor milk was allowed. To vary the menu on these days, the chef must have required remarkable skill and thought, for it seemed that the most wonderful dishes appeared, notwithstanding, during all these times.

The first Good Friday evening stands out very vividly in my mind, for on entering the church, which I have explained was truly immense, we found it lit with nothing but candles, and packed to overflowing with a seething mass of picturesque Italians. Around the top of the walls of this very lofty church was a tiny gallery; and along this, round the entire church, were hundreds of lighted candles.

By some mistake, on entering the church – which was certainly most bewildering and very weird – one of the ladies and myself found ourselves separated from the Imperial party, and not wishing to make a fuss we slipped quietly into a seat on the right-hand side of the church, four or five rows from the top.

At the beginning of the service, every one was presented with an enormous candle quite three feet high. The next proceedings were very sudden, and almost grotesque, because I found to my dismay, that we had seated ourselves on the wrong side of the church, apparently, for on the right-hand side, where we sat, there were only men. A bell rang suddenly, and all the men around us – there seemed many hundreds – stood up and began to put on long white flowing habits, with white hoods and girdles. The scene was amazing, and it was a very long time before we could succeed in pushing our way through this struggling mass of humanity, in that dim religious light.

We did eventually, breathless and bewildered, each clutching our enormous candle, push our way out, and stood at the bottom of the aisle to await the next event.

Then all the clergy came down from the high altar, with Don Antonio in magnificent purple vestments carrying the Cross under a great embroidered canopy.

They paused opposite to the Imperial Family, who followed on down the aisle in procession with the ladies and gentlemen of the suite. Then came the servants of the household, the nuns from the cloisters of Lussin, and the general congregation, numbering many hundreds, all with their candles lighted, and the men wearing those extraordinary white garments.

Down the many steps of the church, and on down to the piazza went this long procession, walking in twos. The moon by this time was shining full and bright; all the visitors of Lussin had flocked to see this wonderful sight, and were grouped on either side of the way, as we proceeded to walk through the principal parts of the island.

In the windows of every villa, every tiny house and hut on the hill and mountain-side, two lighted candles were placed, and the singing of this vast crowd was superb. We walked on and on, and actually entered and passed through two other churches, and wended our way up and down and round, until at last we returned to the big Dome Church, after walking for at least two hours.

The scene was indescribably weird and solemn; the heavenly night with its purple sky, and the lights dancing on the water, and the slowly moving procession going ever onwards, with its lighted candles, was a sight which one can truly say is seldom seen. In fact, only in Lussin and in Pola, I understand, does this particular procession, in this particular manner, take place.

Chapter XIX
FESTIVITIES ON THE ISLAND

EASTER was very often spent by the Imperial Family [of Archduke Carl Stefan] in Lussin, and it came as a welcome and joyous relaxation after the monotony of Lent, and the solemnities of Good Friday in which we had all just partaken.

Easter Sunday was given over to great rejoicings, rules were put on one side, and the Princes [the Archduke’s sons] and Princesses [his daughters] were practically free to do what they pleased. There was always a very elaborate lunch, to which Don Antonio and other priests were invited, besides any chance friends of Their Imperial Highnesses [Archduke Carl Stefan and his wife, Archduchess Maria Theresa] who were staying at their villas, or at the hotels on the island.

Then followed always the egg hunt, in the grounds of [Palace] Podjavori, an Easter custom which is still observed in several other European countries. Beautiful and enormous eggs, containing costly gifts, and the choicest bonbons, to each of which a name was attached, were hidden in that portion of the extensive grounds given over to the hunt.

Every one donned gala attire; the day was usually perfect weather, and the scene was always one of gaiety and amusement for young and old.

Another custom, which struck one as being very quaint, was the placing in every one’s apartment of a plate containing a dozen hard-boiled eggs, painted over in various bright colors, and another plate on which was found various kinds of cold meat. As it was obvious no one ever felt the need of this strange food, these curious gifts were immediately sent down to be given to the poor.

On Easter Monday Lussin’s little regatta took place, which was looked upon by all as if it were as great an event as the races at Kiel, or as important as the Cowes Regatta.

It proved that both Their Imperial Highnesses and visitors alike were content to lead the simple life on that little Adriatic isle, and from it they derived many days of wonderful gaiety and much amusement.

Their Imperial Highnesses always gave their patronage; and, if they were not able to be present themselves, Admiral Count Chorinsky [their majordomo] was sent.

[...]

NOTES:

  1. Nellie Ryan was a young, Anglo-Irish lady whom Archduke Carl Stefan engaged to tutor his children in the English language.

  2. Her highly personal, and somewhat egocentric memoir My Years at the Austrian Court is the only work published in English that provides an account of Holy Week observances and celebrations held at Lussingrande in the era immediately preceding World War I.

  3. Unfortunately, this Miss Ryan is all too apt to label as "weird," "grotesque" and "strange" customs and practices unknown in her native England, things she does not understand at all and meanings, especially those of a religious nature, that elude her. Nonetheless, the facts and actual phenomena that she reports, once the author’s naïve and biased glosses are stripped way, are truly "wonderful" - an invaluable little record.

Source:
  • Text - Will Giacovcich, also reprinted in Lussino Bolletino, No. 15, October 31, 2002; published by Mario Majarich.
  • Photograph - courtesy of Mario Majarich.

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This page compliments of Will Giacofcich and Mario Majarich

Created: Friday, November 01, 2002, Last updated: Friday, November 02, 2007
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