The sanctuary of the Virgin of Sinj is one of the largest in Croatia. For centuries people has shown filial devotion to the beautiful Image of Mother of Mercy painted probably toward the end of the 16th or at the beginning of the 17th centuries. The devouts have always related their lives and work, famine and opulence, defeats and victories, health and sickness to Virgin Mary. This unity between the local Catholic community and the Virgin Mary gives special attraction to the shrine at Sinj (near Split).
When three centuries ago (1687) the Franciscans, along with the people, fled from the Turkish Empire in the direction of the district of Cetina, they carried with them the Virgin Mary's picture from Rama (Bosnia). At a first period the Franciscans were forced to settle at Dugopolje and then, for a while, at the ancient abbey of St. Stephen at that time located on the outskirts of Split, but they would soon return under Sinj from where they exercised their spiritual duties as parish priests in the hinterlands of Split and Trogir.
As early as 1699 they decided to build a new church at the foot of the small fortress of Kamičak, but warfare and, even more, the capture of the most prominent among them, Pavao Vučković, postponed these plans. When in 1705 he unharmed returned from Istanbul, he, supported by the Venetian authorities, carried on the construction of a church with four side chapels which was the unique example of its kind in the Dalmatian architecture. In 1710, after the erection of the church walls had been over, in front of the Picture of Mother of Mercy the Archbishop of Split, Stjepan Cupilli, served a mass with a procession. By 1714 the church was completed, but soon the Small War, called also the War of Sinj, fought against the Turks, broke out.
The main enemy's attack was directed toward the stronghold of Sinj. From 8 till 14 August the potent Turkish Army ceaselessly assaulted the tiny fortress defended by a handful of soldiers. While the soldiers fought bravely, the Franciscans and the people offered to the Virgin Mary's Picture, which they had carried to the fortress, their ardent prayers. The defenders were deeply convinced that the Virgin Mary heard them and intervened with the God in their behalf. This conviction filled them with fresh force to resist against a much more numerous enemy. On the eve of the festivity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary the Turks decided to take the fortress by storm, but suffered a complete defeat, after which they hurriedly retreated. So it happened that on the day of their Patron Saint, i. e. the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, not a single enemy's soldier remained under the half-destroyed fortress. The thankful soldiers descended to the burnt church at the foot of Kamičak, carrying the Picture. Here they served the rites of thanksgiving for their miraculous salvation.
They raised money among themselves so that in 1716 the Bishop could crown the Virgin Mary's Picture with a golden crown. So deep was the devotion of the soldiers and officers to the Picture that it was only in 1721 that they, on the Doge's bidding, handed it over to the Franciscans who placed it in the chapel of the restored church. Great piety developed around the Picture, and it was not unusual to see an impressive mass of some 10,000 devouts gathering here on 15th August. They ornated the Picture with votive gifts which became its external mark.
Preaching from the pulpit, singing songs and producing brochures and posters, the Franciscans, themselves devoted to the Virgin Mary, strengthened the devotion of the community to the Mother of Mercy which from the mid-18th century has been called the Virgin of Sinj. In difficult moments, especially when menaced by plague (1732, 1764, 1784, 1816), famine, war or earthquakes, people offered their prayers to the Virgin Mary. Their faith in the Mother's help and in the miraculous power of the Virgin of Sinj has born up against the blows of time and is still alive.
In 1769 a disastrous earthquake damaged Sinj and the church, and people helped its reconstruction. It was reshaped through the demolition of side chapels. Grateful for the received graces, the devout framed the Picture with a lavish, silver frame ornated in a Rococo manner and built a grand marble altar which even today attracts large numbers of grateful worshipers of the Virgin Mary. The pious devotion to the Virgin of Sinj became even more widespread after the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Picture from Rama (1887), especially so with the mass use of information media like brochures, medallions, pictures and miniatures of the Virgin of Sinj. Up to the end of World War I it was the pilgrims from Dalmatia and nearby Bosnia who were coming to this shrine, but later, with the publication of the herald of “The Virgin of Sinj”, its fame spread all over Croatia, reaching even the Croats abroad, who, because of poverty, had left their native country. After World War II the pilgrims became even more numerous. With them increased also the giving of Sacraments on the days around the holiday of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Outside the country it is the city of Chicago which claims the largest congregation of the worshiper of the Virgin of Sinj. In this city the procession is frequently joined also by the representatives of the town. The Chicago congregation is closely connected with the shrine. It helped substantially the reconstruction on the church, badly damaged in the bombing on the day of 11 September 1944. Also in Argentina, Australia and New Zealand the Croats publicly celebrate the Virgin of Sinj. In Benghazi (India) the Croatian missionary, Jesuit Ante Gabrić, erected seven chapels dedicated in honor of the Virgin of Sinj.
On hot August days the Lady altar is wrapped with ardent prayers, hot sighs and pious rapture. This single atmosphere of filial devotion to the Virgin of Sinj fills the shrine and, during the procession, the courtyard. In the end we may add that this unique scene of devotion and love defies every description; it ought to be lived in the first person.
Sanctuary of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj
Address: Fratarski prolaz 4, 21 230 Sinj, Dalmatia – Croatia
Telephone: +385 (0)21 707.010
More contact informations HERE on LINK
More informations about Sinj and Cetina region: Sinj Tourist Board
Updated: 16. 6. 2016.