Grand Jubilee 1976 Collection
The private collection contains materials documenting the celebration of the Grand Jubilee, when 100,000 pilgrims gathered in Solin in Dalmatia on 12 September 1976. The Grand Jubilee celebrated the thirteen centuries of the first contacts of the Croats with the Holy See and 1,000 years of the construction of the first known Croatian Marian shrine. By commemorating the Croatian Catholic medieval rulers and statehood, the Church articulated a collective identity rooted in the past and tradition. As such, it was inherently opposed to the socialist imagery offered by the Yugoslav state. Some Communist Party members saw in the massive mobilisation of believers the “escalation of nationalism” as a follow-up to the Croatian Spring.
Solin Ulica Stjepana Radića 7, Croatia 21210
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Name of collection
- Grand Jubilee 1976 Collection
Provenance and cultural activities
In the testimony of Mario Matijević, the items in the Grand Jubilee 1976 Collection were gradually accumulated over a period of forty years. Members of the Matijević and Mihalj (Matijević's wife) families were active participants in the great national celebration, which took place in September 1976 in the Dalmatian town of Solin, once the cradle of the Croatian kingdom. The family members received recognition for their participation, and therefore, most of the items in the collection came from that period.
Its final form was achieved in the preparations and opening of the exhibition “Echo of the Vow – Forty Years of the (Non-)Eternal heart (Odjeci zavjeta-četrdeset godina (ne)stalnog srca)” set up by Mario Matijević in Solin on 8 October 2016, which celebrated the fortieth anniversary of this local event. In order to enrich his family heritage with additional items, in 2014 Matijević began to digitise the approximately 100 select photos from four albums (each containing ca. 100 photos), which are preserved in the archives of Our Lady of the Isle Parish. He additionally scanned materials from the contemporary Catholic press (Glas koncila, Veritas, Kana), which promoted and reported the event, and acquired a digitised copy of the VHS film footage of the event itself (owned by the publishing company Kršćanska sadašnjost).
Matijević intends to make this collection a part of a larger project aimed at preserving the memory to these great events in the urban history of Solin. As of 2017, Matijević administered the collection on behalf of the Society of the Friends of Solin’s Heritage (established by Matijević himself), and the collection is still held in his house in Solin. The collection is important for research into the national history of religious activism in the socialist period in Croatia, and so far has been used only for the aforementioned exhibition (2016) (Interview with Matijević, Mario)
The Grand Jubilee was a great national celebration envisaged by the Croatian Conference of Bishops and organised by the Split Archdiocese. Its primary aim was to commemorate the thirteen centuries of the first contacts between the Croats and the Holy See and of 1,000th anniversary of the death of the Croatian Queen Helen († 8 September 976), who commissioned the construction of the oldest known Croatian Marian shrine and St. Stephen’s Church, the mausoleum of the Croatian royal family at the Our Lady of the Isle in Solin. On 12 September 1976, 100,000 Catholic believers from Croatia and abroad (including Mother Teresa) gathered in Solin (the site of the celebration was proposed by the Split Archdiocese). The event was covered by the Church’s newspaper Glas koncila, accompanied by many photos, which can be seen on the front page of 19 September 1976.
The celebration project was first envisaged in 1965, but the road to its implementation, which was about to become national, was slow and cautious. First, only information about the celebration of the anniversary of the church’s construction was released. In 1975, on the eve of the jubilee year, the intention to celebrate thirteen centuries of Christianity in Croatia was announced together with the proclamation of the Year of the Great Vow [the fidelity of the Croats to God], which is documented in the brochure Thirteen Centuries of Christianity among the Croats and the front page story in Glas koncila on 26 October 1975.
The Solin event marked the beginning of the Great Novena (nine-year period) entitled “Thirteen Centuries of Christianity among the Croats.” Church writers justified its celebration exclusively in religious, that is, theological terms: it connected “the ecclesiastical-historical, Eucharistic and Marian elements” that were crucial to the “path in the history of the salvation of God's people.” The main intention was the renewal of faith in the Church among the Croats (Crkva među Hrvatima), which had recently faced “manifestations of secularization, urbanisation, industrialisation and atheisation” (NEK 1984, 23). Such a theological view of history was inherently at odds with the Marxist vision promoted by the state. In his comments on the 1,000th anniversary of Queen Helen's shrine for the journal Crkva u svijetu, Domagoj Šubić wrote: “We acknowledge that our understanding of history, especially of feudal relations, is not inclined to the past, and accordingly, to the special cult of kings and queens. But this does not mean that today we will renounce our past, our roots in this soil“ (Šubić 1975, 369).
The nine year celebrations lasted until 1984, when the last National Eucharistic Congress was organised in Marija Bistrica on 9 May 1984, hosting 400,000 pilgrims. In his homilies, Zagreb Archbishop Franjo Kuharić publicly advocated respect for human rights by saying: “This is neither opposition nor hostile activity, but rather a consistent proclamation of the evangelical love and justice in freedom” (Banac 2013, 129).
The reaction of the regime to the Solin event was silence, and the manifestation was ignored in the official press. The official stance of the Croatian Commissioner for Religious Affairs Ivan Lalić was that “all ecclesiastical activities were strictly religious and therefore legal“ (Perica 2000, 547). However, a confidential document originating in the League of Communists of Dalmatia labelled the Solin celebration a “nationalistic escalation and regrouping of vanquished nationalist forces around the Catholic Church” (Perica 2000, 547).
Historiographic evaluations of the Great Novena emphasise the fact that these great pastoral mobilisations may have helped to pave the way for Croatia’s independence (Banac 2013, 121 and Perić 2000, 563). In Ivo Banac's view, “the pilgrimages were [not only] the most significant religious means of resisting the authorities, but also the best expression of political Catholicism” (Banac 2013, 128).
Mario Matijević sees the mass mobilisation as a follow up to the Croatian Spring: “The movement [of the Grand Jubilee] should be seen in the light of the Croatian Spring and the awakening of national identity, it was a trigger for numerous [subsequent] events and regroupings, such as the celebrations in Knin and Nin.” Later the movement was extinguished (Interview with Matijević, Mario).
The historian of religion Vjekoslav Perica is explicit in the interpretation of the Great Novena as a “nationalist mass movement,” a “symbolic revolution” under the aegis of “clerical forces”: “After the failure of the secular-liberal Croatian nationalist revolution (1967-71), the Catholic Church among the Croatian people assumed control of the Croat Question. As a revolution in the making, the Great Novena–Thirteen Centuries of Christianity among the Croatian people–pursued the political agenda by religious ritual and rewriting the history of the Croat people” (Perica 2000, 562).
For journalist and current affairs writers Darko Hudelist, the Great Novena or “Thirteen centuries of Christianity among the Croats” was an ecclesiastical movement, which “sensitised the widest segments of the population (to be sure, believers in the first place) for great, tectonic changes (both in the world and in Yugoslavia) that would soon take place” (Hudelist 2015). To Hudelist, the movement was sort of “the Church’s peaceful offensive” in Yugoslavia (Hudelist 2015).
On the other hand, Church theologians headed by Tomislav Šagi-Bunić, who authored the bishop’s epistle Thirteen Centuries of Christianity among the Croats (1976), sharply rejected any possibility of exhortations to excessive nationalism (of which the Church had been accused ever since the suppression of the Croatian Spring in 1971-72) in the contemporary Catholic teachings: “Nationalism, together with racism, has been condemned in the encyclical of Paul VI, Populorum progressio, as one of the impediments standing in the way of building a more just world. The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) found it important to warn believers to stay away from “excessive nationalism” (Decree on missions, Art. 15,6), and Paul VI otherwise had many unfavourable words for nationalism.” … nationalism is at least suspect in the eyes of believers, but love for the fatherland and nation is by no means suspect, patriotism is not suspect; it is indeed the duty of every believer to demonstrate love for the fatherland, only without being bigoted, as the Council says” (Gaudium et spes, 75,4) (Šagi Bunić 2013, 226 and 231).
Description of content
The collection contains digitised photos and video footage of the event itself, different publications and press clippings of articles on the theme of the jubilee festivities.
One hundred of select photos from four photo albums (each containing ca. 100 photos), which are preserved in the archives of Our Lady of the Isle Parish, have been digitised. Matijević additionally scanned materials from the contemporary Catholic press material (Glas koncila, Veritas, Kana), which promoted and reported the event, and acquired a digitised copy of VHS film footage of the event itself (copyrighted by the publishing house Kršćanska sadašnjost).
In addition, there are commemorative tablets, medals (aluminium and bronze) and flags, which featured as family memorabilia to this event.
- artifacts: 0-9
- photos: 100-499
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 10-99
- Matijević, Mario
- Society of the Friends of the Solin Heritage
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
- Matijević, Mario
Geographical scope of recent operation
- Matijević, Mario
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
- Matijević, Mario
- Matijević, Mario
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Author(s) of this page
- Shek Brnardić, Teodora
Akmadža, Miroslav. Katolička crkva u komunističkoj Hrvatskoj 1945.-1980. Slavonski Brod: Hrvatski institut za povijest - Podružnica za povjest Slavonije,Srijema i Baranje, 2013.
Akmadža, Miroslav. "Katolička crkva i Hrvatsko proljeće." Časopis za suvremenu povijest 44, no. 3 (2012), 603-630. https://hrcak.srce.hr/95080.
Alexander, Stella. "Church‐state relations in Yugoslavia: Recent developments." Religion in Communist Lands 5, no. 4 (1977), 238-240. doi:10.1080/09637497708430841.
Banac, Ivo. Hrvati i crkva: Kratka povijest hrvatskog katoličanstva u modernosti. Zagreb: Profil, 2013.
Hudelist, Darko. Rim, a ne Beograd: promjena doba i mirna ofenziva Katoličke Crkve u Hrvatskoj u Titovoj SFR Jugoslaviji (1975.-1984.). Zagreb: Alfa d.d., 2017.
Mikić, Ante. Ecclesiastical and social importance of Glas Koncila from 1963 till 1972. Zagreb: University of Zagreb, 2017. https://repozitorij.hrstud.unizg.hr/islandora/object/hrstud:929/preview.
Mirescu, Alexander. "A Curious Case of Cooperation and Coexistence: Church–State Engagement and Oppositional Free Spaces in Communist Yugoslavia and East German." The Hungarian Historical Review 4, no. 1 (2015), 82-113. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24575789.
Perica, Vjekoslav. Balkan Idols. Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Perica, Vjekoslav. "The Catholic Church and the Making of the Croatian Nation, 1970-84." East European Politics & Societies 14, no. 3 (2000), 532-564. doi:10.1177/0888325400014003002.
Ramet, Pedro. "The Catholic Church in Yugoslavia, 1945–1989." In Catholicism and Politics in Communist Societies, edited by Sabrina P. Ramet, 181-206. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1990.
Ramet, Pedro. "Catholicism and Politics in Socialist Yugoslavia." Religion in Communist Lands 10, no. 3 (1982), 256-274. doi:10.1080/09637498208431033.
Šimundža, Drago, editor. Godina Velikoga zavjeta: hrvatski kršćanski jubileji: spomen-knjiga. Split: Crkva u svijetu, 1977.
Matijević, Mario, interview by Shek Brnardić, Teodora , July 30, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection