One of the biggest days on the religious calendar is being observed in Croatia today (15 August). Velika Gospa, or The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, celebrates the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life and the day probably means as much to Croats as what St. Patrick’s Day means to the Irish.
Croats have maintained a special love and devotion to the Great Lady Mary for over 200 years, and many mark the day with a pilgrim to the world-famous shrine in the town of Sinj (Split-Dalmatia county) to receive Mary’s mercy and blessing. Over 100,000 are again expected to descend on Sinj on Thursday to kneel in front of the shrine, the Miraculous Madonna of Sinj. The shrine of Our Lady of Sinj was has been present from around 1771. Four chapels were built on the lateral sides of church which are connected to the shrine via three doors, where believers make confession. Next to the shrine there is a 43.5 metre-high steeple, built between 1896 and 1927. Velika Gospa, which is a public holiday in the country, is also celebrated with pilgrims to other famous Marian towns in Croatia such as Marija Bistrica, Krasno in Split and Trsat in Rijeka.