Sunday, 17 April 2016

Majka Božja Krasanska

Holy Mary chapel on Krasno hill

This is the Church of the Ascension of the Blessed Virgin Mary which stands on Krasanski brijeg (Krasno hill) near the village of Krasno in the area of the North Velebit. There is a local legend which tells the story about how and why the church was built where it was built. This legend is very interesting and I believe very important because it is an allegory which contains, in one paragraph, the history of Christianization of Velebit population. 

This is the full text of the legend:

"Where the church stands today, there once used to be a thick old (oak) forest. In this forest local shepherds used to shelter from the heat of the summer. One day they saw a rose growing out of an old tree stump and in this rose they saw the image of Virgin Mary. The shepherds picked the rose and brought it to Krasno village. As there was still no Catholic church in Krasno, they took the rose to the "Greek" chapel in Krasno field. But the rose didn't want to stay in the "Greek" chapel. The next time the shepherds came to the oak forest, the rose was back growing from the same old stump. Then shepherds took the rose to another church in Kosinj, but the rose didn't want to stay there either. The next time the shepherds came to the oak forest, the rose was back growing from the same old stump. So shepherds realized that the Virgin Mary wants to stay in the Oak forest. So they built a stone altar over the old tree stump and the rose and then they built a stone chapel around it. "

Now here is what I believe this story actually means:

Where the church stands today, there once was a holly (oak?) grove where local pagan population worshiped the Mother Earth. Then during the early Medieval time, the Christian missionaries, which belonged to the "Greek" church tried to convert the pagans into Christianity. These "Greeks" were either pre Schism Roman Christians or post Schism Eastern Orthodox Christians which were by Catholics called  "Grko-istocnjački šizmatici (Greek eastern schismatics).  So these "Greeks" built a church in Krasno and for a while people may have even (probably just nominally) accepted Christianity. Anyway this first conversion ultimately failed and the local people returned to their old ways, and worshiping of the old gods in the holy (oak?) grove. The return to paganism probably happened because of the disintegration of the Roman power in the Balkans during the Arrival of the Slavs and the creation of the Slavic Early Medieval states. Another attempt to Chrisitanize the local highland population was made, this time by the Catholic church, probably during the Hungarian rule, but that also failed. People again returned to their old ways. This probably happened because of the Turkish invasion and occupation. Finally after the Turks were expelled from the area, the Catholic church which moved in made another final attempt to Christianize the local population. This time they realized that in order to "Christianize" the local population, they had to Christianize the old pagan temple and the old pagan god(s) to which the temple was dedicated. And this is exactly what they did. Basically the old goddess (Baba, Mother Earth) was converted into the new equivalent Christian character (Virgin Mary, The mother of god) and the chapel of the Virgin Mary was built on top of the old temple. Why do I think that the original temple was dedicated to Baba, Mother Earth? In my post "Shepherd's chapels from Velebit" I already described how old temples dedicated to Baba, Mother Earth in South Velebit were converted to the churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Because the same shepherd population lived everywhere on Velebit, I believe that the people in the North Velebit also worshiped Baba, Mother Earth and that the same thing happened with her temple here in Krasno. 

How important this old Pagan center was, can be seen from the fact that the newly built Church of the Ascension of the Blessed Virgin Mary became the most important center of the Marian cult in Croatia. Basically the local people continued flocking to the old (new) temple, to pray to the old (new) Goddess...

Well this is what I think. What do you think?


"Usmena predaja o gradnji crkve svete Marije u Krasnu" by Ante Glavičić


  1. I have heard similar stories for other church locations both in Britain and France, where a "miraculous" cause is invoke to explain ultimate choice of the site. I totally agree with the idea that the Catholic preoccupation with Mary is the modern manifestation of the old earth-mother religion in rural areas.