Island of Brac
Description and history. Gornji Humac is a shepherds’ settlement set in the
region known for its centuries-long cattle-breeding that is founded upon the
abundance of dry, fragrant herbs and ponds. Here stood the now destroyed
shepherds’ settlement of Mosulje and Dubravice near the chapel of All-Hallows
as well as some other settlements in the surroundings with the cemetery near the
chapel of St. Michael.
When the Roman writer Pliny the Elder wrote about Brac as being known for its cattle-breeding (capris laudata Brattia) and when the Venetian travel writer, A. Fortis praised the cheese and meat of the Brac goat-kids, they probably both had in mind the region around Gornji Humac and the surrounding settlements. It is difficult to comprehend why, of all the settlements in the surroundings, only that of Gornji Humac was to develope and survive. The village is situated on the gentle slopes of the hill and it is both irregurely built and of the widely scattered type of village. The highroad skirts it from the south where it starts off towards Selca, Bol and Praznica. The two-eaved roofs are generally covered with slabs and whitened in lime and thus appear as the purifying watercourses from which water flows to the village cisterns. Behind the houses are large yards and sties, cattle-enclosures and stables. The narrow foot-paths climb up to the square where stands a baroque church with a short belfry. If we climb up the steep, cobbled road to the cemetery, to the very peak of Humac we get a view of all sides: of prehistoric remains and cairns set on the peaks of Gracisce, Hum, Brkata, St. Mihovil, Sveti Duh (The Holy Spirit) reaching the Vidova gora on the southwest of the island. Nowhere else on Brac are the prehistoric cairns so numerous as on these sided. Many of them are still neither discovered nor examined. The style of burial in them gives the impression that they were not only the shelters and graves of the prehistoric inhabitants but also served as graves for the Croats who, throughout the long centuries of Middle Ages, on these sites replaced the primodial inhabitants.
Gradisce and Gradac (from Croat. grad-fortification, stronghold) are set next to the prehistoric cairns. The Croats established settlements in the surroundings of St. Michael where there is a cemetery near the old cairns that bears the cult of a sacred place (comp. campo sancto-koposonta-grobiste, cemetery).
Monuments. The baroque parish church with an interesting belfry without the
final pyramid typical of the Dalmatian campanili is dedicated to Our Lady of
Mirca and is raised on the same site where it was already in the 15th century.
It is confirmed by part of the late Gothic triptych relief of which the Madonna
with Child is kept in the village church of St. Rocchus. On the left side of the
triptych, above the church entrance, is St. Michael, the winged warrior clad in
a Roman military uniform with a pair of scales in his hand with which he weighs
gold. He stands victoriously on the dragon, shaped like a long-legged lizard
into whose open jaws the saint thrust his sword. The saints lips are stretched
into the characteristic Gothic smile. His body is gently bent at the hips thus
revealing the Gothic style of the middle of the 15th century. In this remarkable
relief the experts see the influence of the great Juraj Dalmatinac (Juraj the
Dalmatian), from the 15th century.
Another valuable monument is the Madonna’s chapel in the cemetery, which, like many medieval little churches on Brac, frequently altered its appearance and size. In it we find a stone relief from the workshop of the master Nikola Firentinac (Nikola the Florentine, 15h century). The relief presents the Madonna and child in the middle, at the sides are St. Peter with the book and the keys and St. John, ascetic in appearance, dressed in a hair-shirt. The quality of execution in this peice of sculpturalart leads one to presume an active part taken by the master’s own chisel. Later on, the triptych was divided and the saints were set in the separate niches of the baroque altar, but the unity, harmony and the interior rhythm and style were not entirely lost on that ocassion.
The Master’s chisel revived in stone that astonishingly soft and gentle dialogue between the Mother’s sombre look and the Child’s innocent leaning on her breast. The figure of John is almost naturalistically done, with thin, veiny legs and strong feet resembling those of Bracs shepherds and the feebleness of Peter’s age, all make a very strong impression. The melancholy and sadness reflected in their faces are harmoniously impressed into the breath of solitude of the cemetery, high up on Humac.
Interesting in this chapel is also the baroque wrought-iron fence which is one of the rare peices of the artistic craft on the Dalmatian islands.
If a chance visitor, coming from a town on the coast, wishes to prolong his stay in the picturesque landscape of the highest settlement on the island (500 m above sealevel) he should follow the track for half an hour passing by the lime-pit of gustrisca to the medieval settlement of Mosuja (Lat. masiones-stables) and Dubravice with damaged dry-walls of their houses and their sheep folds. here he could imagine for himself the earliest Croatian dwellings, which the centuries scattered into the walls near by leaving behind only the ground-plans some openings in the walls or just the outlines of a house or yard entrances, like those seen around the chapel of All-Hallows. They built their little temple out of roughly cut stone dressed in mortar and domed with a barrel-vault, and then added the Dalmatian belfry above the front. In the walls they scooped out blind arcades to give to the little space of their shrine the impression of monumentality. It was only an impression because the services were attended outside, in front of the church. This is an inherited custom still maintained on the island. the chapel of All-Hallows keeps in its boundary walls the ancient graves of our first settlers, who yielded to the epidemic diseases rather than to age and therupon found their peace under the thick stone slabs in the shadow of illexes and junipers.
Not far from here are the old hamlets of Prthum and Razdajina of which there are but few remains still left. The old pond, Lokva, the chapel of St. Michael, with the walled cemetery are the best evidence of the hamlets economic and spiritual life. Again, a stone relief of St. Michael under a triangular, channeled gable. The saint with his tranquil look and pair of scales in his hand, Gothicaly bent, stands on a dreadful dragon with his paws apart and his jaws wide open in the attitude of defence. The experts see in this work the influence of Nikola the Florentine upon the Brac masters of the stone relief (15th century).