GREAT MADONA


The town of Sinj is situated in Split hinterland, about 15 km far from the highway A1, on the west side of the field that extends along the middle flow of the river Cetina.The Illyrians were the first to settle here, then came Romans, and finally, in the VII c. arrived the Croats, who founded the town Sinj. The name of Sinj was first mentioned on November 21st 1345, and the name of Franciscan monastery in 1357. Vsinj (Sinj) was, in fact, the name of the fortress at an elevation of 438 meters above an old Illirian village Osinium. Under the fortress there was a small town called Cetingrad. Its ideal position provided a magnificent view on the whole Cetina County. All important roads from Bosnia to Split used to pass along Sinj which was the headquarter of royal county governer of Cetina County. On November 21st 1345 Sinj became the town of Cetina dukes, Nelipić of whom were the most famous. Having conquered Bosnia in 1463, Cetina County became the target of Turkish attacks. Since then Sinj changed its ruler several times, until 1536 when it fell in Turkish hands and remained under their domination till September 25th 1686. The Turks could not cope with the loss of Sinj. They tried to conquer it again the following year (1687) but they failed. At the beginning of 1715 Turkey announced the war to Venice. Therefore the attack on Sinj was supposed to be their next step. On July 23rd 1715 Mehmed pasa Ćelić and his numerous army encamped along the river Cetina. On August 8th, 1715 the Turks started to attack Sinj. The most forceful onslaught happened on August 14th. At that time friars, women, children and the rest who could not fight, prayed in front of the painting of Our Lady Mary for help. As written by one annalist Madonna gave such strength to defenders that they fought so bravely and therefore managed to defend themselves. On the holiday of Great Lady Mary morning (August 15th) none of the Turkish solders remained under Sinj. It’s still incomprehensive why the Turks gave up conquering Sinj since they had much bigger army: there were 700 defenders against 40.000 to 60.000 Turkish solders. In commemoration of their victory the surviving defenders instituted the Alka tournament, a famous equestrian competition held every year since then.

The most beautiful jewel of Sinj and Cetina County, and also one of the most beautiful paintings of Christian art painted on the canvas (58x44 cm.) in the XVI. century, is certainly the Miraculous Painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, painted by an unknown artist. According to some people the painting was originally located in Sinj. When Sinj fell in Turkish hands (1536), the friars took it to Rama where it remained until 1687. That year, running away before the Turkish invasion towards Cetina County and the sea, the friars accompanied with other people, took with them the most valuable treasure. They stopped for a while in Dugopolje, Klis and Split, and finally, in 1691 they brought the painting back to Sinj. That’s how the holy painting housed Sinj from which it has never been taken away again. After the famous victory in1715, which happened thanks to Madonna’s spiel, as a sign of thanksgiving, the military officers of the Sinj army collected 80 shiners and had the gold crown with cross made to decorate the Miracle Painting. The Painting was crowned on September 22nd 1716.an four years later (1721.) it was taken to new church, where it is still today.

Sanctuary of Miraculous Madonna of Sinj
The church of Madonna of Sinj, being built from 1699 to 1712, and rebuilt various times, kept its original structure. On November 28th 1769 huge earthquake hit the Sinj area caused damage to the church. During the reconstruction in 1795 an old altar was replaced by a new marble one. The sanctuary also hosts the altars of St Joseph, St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Nicholas Tavelić and St.Pauline. In the XIX and XX century, the church was reconstructed and repaired several times. During the Second World War it was partly demolished, but the painting of Madonna remained undamaged. The church was completely renovated in 1953, and in 1958 were blessed new organs made by company Franc Jenko from Ljubljana. Finally, in 1975/76 the Sanctuary was renovated, too. In 1987 the main entrance door to the church was made of bronze by an Academic sculptor Stipe Sikirica. In the Presbitery that got its present look in reconstruction of 2002/03 the main attention is given to altar made by Kuzma Kovačića. On the south and the north side of the presbytery there is some stained glass by academic sculptor Antun Vrlić. Stained glass by academic painter Ivan Grgat is placed above the entrance door.The central rosette displays the ascension of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is a figure of fra Pavao Vučkovića, the architect of the Sanctuary on the left side, and a figure of St. Nikole Tavelića on the right side. On the lateral walls of the nave there is stained glass by the same painter which displays evangelists: blessed Alojzije Stepinac and God’s servant friar Ante Antić. Behind the main altar there is a mosaic and stained glass displaying the coronation of Blessed Virgin Mary with Christ on the cross, done by academic painter Josip Botteri Dini. In 2007 a new bronze relief with the image of Our Lady of Sinj was set in the yard. This relief is a detail from the door of one Franciscan Church on Šćitu in Rama, done by academic sculptor Kuzma Kovačić. In that way historic and spiritual connection between Rama and Sinj was put out one more time. In 2007 first five stations of the way of cross were set around the town. All fourteen stations are going to be works by eminent Croatian sculptors. In 2008 a bronze sculpture of Madonna of Sinj, done by academic sculptor Joža Marinović, was placed at the peak of the Town, next to the church built in 1887.

Church bell
In 1775 along the north side of the church there was built a small church bell made of domestic stone (muljika). The groundwork to a new church bell was set in 1896, and, after a longer break, a new church bell (43,5 metars high) was finished in 1927.