PUCISCA

(Puchishtcha)



Pucisca is the biggest Brac settlement with genuine Mediterranean features, creating with its white roofs the original local atmosphere, but this place seems to dislike the sea because of the northern wind that whistles in the harbour during the winter months. Therefore it was situated on the fringes of the bay, out of the wind. The houses gradually climb up to the steep clearings above the port. The inlets created by the descent of the Brac uplands to the sea are thus left uninhabited. Although the white slab roofs, being heavier, better resist the force of the north wind, they are slowly being replaced by industrial tiles. And this means an unnecessary withdrawal of the white, stone-built Pucisca.

The amphiteatrical arrangement of the houses on Batak, Veli and Mali Rac (The Big and the Little Rac), on Stog and on the Latese Brdo (The Latesa Hill) is made in such a way that the houses longer fronts are turned to the harbour as if to a stage. The foot of the harbour is called Talija, probably with no connection with the theatre godess (Thalia), but it is, though unconsciously, associated with it.

The coast in the history of Pucisca belonged only to the nobles and to the artisi, the stone-masons. The farmers had no admission there. The houses on the coast were big, spacious, awith four-eved roofs because the ground-plans were wider and the arrangement within the houses more luxurious. Up the hill, towards the peak, the stone was more negligently cut. The roofs are two-eaved, slabcovered, the yards are larger and the burden of life heavier
and more obvious. In this amphiteatrical arrangement, the peasants chose the sites for their houses up on the gallery, linking themselves to the uninterrupted connection with inland Brac. From there many seabound paths
emerge, along which, centuries ago, Pusisca is very interesting. On the edge of the harbour there the earliest buildings were erected. But the conditions demanded that forts should be built instead of Renaissance houses.

The harmony of the Renaissance froms, fortification works, baroque buildings and rural setting give to this place some special charm and the colouring of a Mediterranean settlement. Resembling a long narrow pipe, during the winter months the bay draws in the northern wind that forcefully plays roughly with the waves in the port. On days when the wind is blowing, the ships pass by
without putting in. This place is used to the sound of the the pick in the fields, to the disobedient oar during the wind and to the heavy iron rods and hammers that cut stone in Puciscaís quarries.

Pucisca lives for stone and from stone.

Stone-masonry is here a centuries-old profession which is confirmed by some worked out and exhausted quarries. But the stores of good stone are still very rich. The powerful stone undustry with modern technology is hardly sufficent to cover the orders coming from abroad. Stone-masonry in Pucisca has a very long tradition. The young hands of apprentices, which get used to the phenomenon of stone early in life, produce even in their school workshop some remarkable pieces of work. These exhibits can be seen at a few places in Pucisca.



Archaeological discoveries like Jupiterís sacrificial post and the
Roman stele bear witness to the Roman settling of Pucisca. In the Stipanska luka (Stipanska Harbour), there was probably a Benedictine monastery in the11th century, to which our thoughts are led by parts of some inscriptions (like: Nicolaus abas fecit). There was a pool near the cemetery in the harbour but later on it was filled in with sand. In the background is the
pool Dunaj, the indispensable prerequisite for the development of the settlement. The story goes, that the now destroyed church of St. Michael on Cad, belonged to the church of St. Stephen in Luka. Some relics of the ancient sculptures were found in the surroundings.

The second settlment was in the Puciski dolac (The Puciscaís Valley) where there is also a spring of water and a pool on Rogaj. This hidden bay going far inland was probably the site of the sheperdís abodes. But the piratesí attacks forced these original dwellers to withdraw into the Brac interior. Those from Stipanksa Luka probably settled in Strazevnik, while those from Puciski Dolac settled in Praznica.

It was only on the arrival of more peaceful times, after 1420, that the people from the Brac interior started descending to the bay of Pucisca. The inhabitants of Puciski dolac, who had their houses far from the sea, Turks, who governed Neretva and the coast, threatened them again, they erected forts. The first was Zuvetic in 1467, then Akvila, Prodic, Mladinic, Pinesic, Ivelic, Davidovic, Cipcic, Bokanic etc. These thirteen forts, some of which are still preserved, gave the second name of Pucisca, Luka kula (The Port of Forts). They are caled castrum in the Venetian documents of 1600. No other place on Brac was so fortified as Pucisca. It successfully resisted the Turks, as, for example, in 1571.

Stipanska luka had no forts so the new settlers more often occupied the west side of the bay, round the forts so that the nucleus of the present settlement was made in this western cove.

Pucisce became a very strong cultural centre. Already in 1516 the first private school on the island was open. Pucisca produced some expert chroniclers of the island, such as Vicko Prodic (1628-1666), Petar Dominis (1654-1728), Trifun Mladinic (1680-1708), Andrija Ciccarelli (1759-1822) who also wrote a history of Pucisca. Our old writers Jure Zuvetic (in the 16th century) and Rev. Sabe Mladinic (in the 17th century) are also from Pucisca. During the cultural and artistic flowering of the Renaissance, the stone masonry in the quarries of Tesisca and Veselje was very highly developed.
Masters like Juraj Dalmatinac (Juraj the Dalmatian, -1473), Andrija Alesi (second half of the 15th century) and Nikola Firentinac (Nikola the Florentine, -1505), used stone from these quarries. The Turkish threat, however, prevented a stronger development of architectural and stone-working activities in Pucisca. In the full blossom of the Renaissance, kasteli (forts, strongholds) were built here, because it was the time when even churches on the island were fortified (q.v. Postira and Mrdulja near Milna).

Pucisca preserved many cultural and artistic monuments. Under the
protection of the forts, the Croatian tongue was nourished here. In 1868, the first reading-room on the island, Hrvatski Skup (The Croatian Assembly) was founded. It has been continuously active since that time. Pucisca produced the best two Brac sculptors, Branko Deskovic (1883-1939) and Valerji  Michielli (1922-), who originated from this stony earth but, curiously enough, found their expression in bronze.

The Puciscans say that their settlement was called Spuzisca because
their ancestors crawled down (spustili, spuzili) from the Medieval settlement of Strazevnik and Praznica. This popular etymology keeps the tradition about the placeís origin. However, Pucisca originates from the Croatized Latin word puc (Lat. Puteus) meaning a well. This well was set in the present Soline, a place of brackish water.

Stipanska luka (Stephenís Harbour) is called after the curch of St. Stephen which belonged to the complex of the Benedictine monastery. The record of it is kept in the name Abacija (the abbey).



Monuments.
Povaljska listina (The Register of Povlja) now kept in the parish office, is considered to be the cultural-historical monument of supreme importance. According to a specimen of it from 1184, it is the oldest register preserved and written in the Croatian language and letters, it is one of the oldest and most important Croatian language monuments in general. It gives information about the islandís authority and many other sociological
and economical events on Brac in the 12th and the 13th centuries, and therefore its importance is manifold.

As for the architecture, we have already mentioned the harmonious
Renaissance building near the fort of the Ciprijan Zuvetic. Kasteli (the forts) are very intresting for their historical and architectural aspects. These fortifications are formed out of the blocks with clean level surfaces, made in that restless time which did not allow this mine of quarries and stone-masons to accept the architecture of a different nature and purpose. Some forts are now (1972) being restored, while the fort of Akvilin will house the collection of the exhibits of Pucisca. The Latin inscriptions on the houses of Ivo Eterovic and A. Cicarelli reflect the level of a high culture which encourages stone inscriptions.

The most monumental religious monument is the parish chuch (St. Jerome) raised in 1566. It very soon became too narrow so as early as 1750 it was enlarged and renovated inthe baroque pattern which marked other parish churches on Brac as well. Above the main altar is the wooden relief which presents Puciscaís patron St. Jerome in the cave with all the details accompanying this well known motif. The vividness of his realistic
expression, the rythmical surge of the cliffs, all this gives a strong
artistic expression to the painting which was later on painted over and
therefore the effect was lessened eventually. in 1628, F. Ciocic, from
Korcula worked on this painting for the old church and he knew how to treat
wood and how to reach the highest level in Dalmatian wood-carving in its
decline. (K. Prijatelj).

The wooden altar of St. Anthony is one of the most beautiful on the island.
The most valuable piece of art is undoubtely the painting of St. Rocchus by
the pupil of the famous painter Titian, Palma the Younger. In the
foreground we see the upright statue of the saint dressed in blue robes,
wrapped in a red cloak, touching with his hand the forehead of a sick man.
The part most successfully done is the landscape in the background where the
blue sky with bright clouds flying over the soft green meadows appear as a
very harmonious accompaniment to the scene in the foreground. This altar
also has a beautiful wooden antependium carved with various spiral lines,
flowers and saintsí figures. in the complex of the parish chuch it is
interesting to see a few paintings, a collection of church objects and
ecclesiastical robes.

The church on Batak was raised by C. Zuvetic. It is said that he was
ordered to raise a church not larger than three transversal stones forming its front. The shrewd Zuvetic built in, over the entrance, three very long stones and so raised quite a big church. Then he erected the belfry and the placeís cemetery. In 1533 the chuch was visited by the bishop of Sibenik, which is noted on the lintel of the church. The altar of this Renaissance church bears the stone-relief of the Madonna and Child. In the side niches, which are divided from one another by pillars are the saints Nicholas,Anthony the Friar, Ciprian and Lorenzo. Crist with angels is set in the gable. The relief originates from the first half of the 16th century. It reveals a skilful master who knew how to use his chisel in drawing out the
flowing folds of the garments and how to round the smooth faces which somehow lack the strength of an inner expression. Under the main altar is the grave of Zuvetic while at the sides are the graves of other Brac stone-masons and builders, Radojkovic, Akvila and Bokanic with their tools engraved to mark their profession.

Round the cemetery curch of Our Lady of Consolation, some remains of the oldest settlement were discovered, the pagan sacrificial post and the Roman stele (they are not in Pucisca). It was probably also the site of the Renaissance monastery in the 11th century. From the 16th century up to 1762 it was in the hands of the Augustans who added the apse in which they gathered for prayers. The front part of the church was built in the 18th century.

It is worth mentioning the Early Croatian Chapel of St. George with stone-relief on Bracuta, on the right side of the road leading to Postira. The relief presents the well known scene when St. George kills the dragon. This rigidly modeled and rustic relief with the expressive feeling for the composition illustrates all the stiffness of the provincial manner.

For the little churches of St. Dujmo on Bracuta and St. Michael on Cad we know only from historical sources.

The sculptor Deskovic did not in Pucisca leave any of his works while V. Michielli made the monument to the fallen soldiers, set near the sea, on the western side of the entrance to the harbour.

 

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