The Vodice Žudije Festival

12 Feb 2024

The Vodice Žudije Festival celebrates a Holy Week tradition in Dalmatia of re-enacting the story of the Resurrection. Twelve men dressed as Roman soldiers and a thirteenth, their commander, are charged with the duty of guarding a replica of Christ’s tomb. In some places the Roman outfits are replaced by sailor’s costumes or folk costume.

Photo by Andrija Vrcan

The re-enactment begins the day before Easter Friday. In groups of four, the men take it in turns to guard the “tomb” until midnight on Easter Saturday, when the Holy Vigil is held. In the Bible story, the Roman guards sent to prevent Jesus’s body being removed from its tomb and the women who had come to anoint his body were terrified when a strong earthquake struck and an angel appeared, after which they found the door to the tomb open and the body no longer inside. This scene is shown in the dramatisation.

The žudije is a tradition widespread in Dalmatia since the late 19th century, with every parish developing its own variation. This festival started in the coastal town of Vodice in 2001 as a way of celebrating and preserving those traditions. Žudije groups from all over Dalmatia gather in a different parish every year, but every sixth year they return to Vodice where the festival began.

This year, the festival is taking place on April 1 in the Zagorje region (Lobor) because 2024 marks 500 years of Easter customs in Croatian Zagorje.



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