13.02.2018. | Cultural Heritage
Today is the final day of the famous Poklad of Lastovo
(Carnival) which atracts more and more tourists to this beautiful remote Adriatic island of rich cultural heritage in this part of year.
Poklad of Lastovo is an old-fashioned custom and is associated with the historical events which happened in 1483. Poklad of Lastovo is one of the most distinctive and authentic carnival traditions. It's unusual and there's not similar event in any part of the world.
Legend says that Catalan pirates (Maures) attacked and besieged neighbouring island Korčula and sent a Turkish messenger to Lastovo to tell the islanders to surrender or they would be next. The inhabitants of Lastovo did not let themselves to be intimidated – instead they armed themselves and went on the attack. The women and children walked to Hum barefoot from Lastovo and prayed to Sv. Jure (St. George) for help and their prayers were answered: a storm destroyed the pirates ships and the inhabitants of Lastovo caught the messenger. In order to mock him, he was taken through the village on the back of a donkey and was afterwards sentenced and burned to death. This event is celebrated through the Poklad every year over a period of two days just before Lent.
The first recorded mention of the Lastovo Carnival is from the 16th century. In 1597 the Prince forbade the often riotous carnival crowd to bear arms. Those who disobeyed his decree ran the risk of being banished from the island.
In the morning of Obese Monday the doll or puppet called Poklad is made. The festivities follow a detailed pattern: in the early morning on the Monday before Lent, the Poklad is made. The body is filled with straw and grain husks, while the feet are filled with sand from the local cemetery. The doll is then dressed – a red costume and fez hat – the face is drawn in with coal, and a cigarette is placed in the mouth. Afterwards, the carnival participants go from door to door collecting eggs and entertaining their hosts.
On Carnival Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday) at eleven o'clock church bells halt all activity in the village. The carnival crowd, known as Pokladars gather with and start playing their lyres. Pokladars are dressed in traditional folk costumes with wooden sabers. The carnival procession begins and is accompanied by the music until the end. The Poklad is placed on the village donkey judged to be the most beautiful. The flag-bearer of the Croatian national tri-colour, the doll on the donkey and the carnival participants make their way towards City Hall (in the past to the Dubrovnik Rector) in order to get permission to visit respected locals.
As they stop at the houses of the most prominent villagers singing and shouting, and performing the sword dance – similar to the more famous Moreška and Kumpanija from nearby Korčula – will take place on some of the locals' terraces. The carnival crowd who, up until the last century were armed with real swords, are followed at some distance by the "beautiful maskers" (girls in costumes and masks). The procession halts when it reaches Pod kostajnu (the tree growing in the middle of the village). A length of rope measuring over 300 meters has already been stretched between the pole set here and another mounted on the top of the hill in the background of the western side of the village. The procession climbs up to the top of the hill and the puppet is attached to the rope down which it slides three times, with petards cracking under its feet. Each time it reaches the bottom of the rope, the Poklad is met by drawn swords.
After this, the procession heads to the parish church where they are joined by the masked women at dusk. Dancing with the "beautiful maskers" and a sword performance takes place at which also includes circle dancing all of which stops at the signal given by the Admiral. His gesture means that the Poklad must be impaled. The Pokladari set it on fire and start running with the puppet around the circle of dancers. Once the Poklad is burnt down to ashes, the crowd starts shouting, "UVO! UVO! UVO!" After this, the islanders head home and the church bells mark the end of the carnival.
Since 2006, Poklad has become a major tourist attraction on the island. The local population enjoys this event and the inhabitants from whole Croatia are returning to Lastovo during the Poklad to enjoy and magnify this event alone.
On January 17th 2008, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, Poklad of Lastovo proclaimed the Intangible cultural heritage of the Republic of Croatia and put it under its protection.