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Town’s brass band was founded in 1923, as the second musical association, since the first one had been Tamburiza band founded few years before. The town’s brass band gathered over fifty musicians at its beginnings. Throughout the history, it has won great significance in the cultural life of the town. It participated in every carnival and accompanied many to their burial place. The town brass band of Pag had many stage appearances, and won several prizes, mostly in the twenty fifties. The members were intellectuals, merchants, city government officials, but one of the most popular was Zvonko Usmiani, the great archivist, initiator of numerous researches of Pag’s history, erudite. The band was also conducted by Mr. Ivo Pogorelić, an academic musician and the father of the famous pianists, Ivo and Lovro Pogorelić. The town’s brass band is the oldest association in Pag and has never stopped working, not even during the Second World War and the Croatian War for Independence. The number of the members oscillated but there had always been enough of the musicians to perform when needed.
The history of the Benedictine monasteries in Pag has begun with the male community in the abbey of St. Peter on Prosika long ago, in times of the Croatian national rulers, few centuries before the foundation of women’s Benedictine community in the old town of Pag. The history of the women’s community is so old and rich, that we describe it only in fragments.
• In 1318. Juran and Milica Pogančić built a convent for the Benedictine nuns northeast of the Great church in the old town of Pag. Nikola Petradi, the archbishop of Zadar, in the honour of St. Margarta, virgin and martyr, consecrated the church. The archbishop of Zadar, on demand of the founders who equipped the convent, gave permission for the invitation of several nuns of the Benedictine order that should have been equal to the nuns in the convent of St. Marija in Zadar. Nicefor, the archdeacon of Zadar, initiated the approved abbess Marija into the property and service and also wrote the convent’s book of regulations. The nuns were subordinated to the church body of Pag.
• In 1321. the founders richly donated the convent with five salt pools, seventy sheep, six cows, one table, one third of their land, vineyards and beehives, whereas the rest of their property after their death.
• In 1393., in times of rebellion of the inhabitants of Pag against Zadar, the Benedictine convent in the old town of Pag was tremendously devastated, as were all the other churches and the town itself. Pag has never recovered from those crimes on that location.
• In 1409., because of the sale of the Dalmatia, Pag fell under the rule of Venice, which confirmed the rights and privileges gained from the Austro-Hungarian rulers.
• In 1435. the Franciscan, Ivan Tutinić Pažanin (who was going to become the abbot of St. Petar in Prosika, in 1443.) presented the commune of Pag, national parliament and the Cathedral with the Holy Thorn, which he had brought from the Holy Land to the old town of Pag. This was done under the conditions that:“these Most Holy powers of the Lord’s Crown of Thorns should forever remain in the church of the nuns in Pag in a cupboard or in a chest with four keys guarded by the Cathedral, the commune of Pag, the abbess and father Ivan”. The reliquary of the Holy Thorn from 1435. is the most valuable object of the gothic jewelers-trade that is kept in the Benedictine treasury in Pag. It is the most important sacred thing of Pag along with the miraculous statue of the Mother of God of Stari grad and the crucifix from the church of St. Ante the abbot in Stari grad.
• In 1443., after the destruction of the town, coming under the rule of Venice and liberation from Zadar, the inhabitants of Pag decided to transfer the whole town to a more secure place. Blessing the foundation stone of the church and the town walls, they laid the foundations of the new town.
• In 1467. a nobleman from Pag, Juraj Mišolić, the church procurator, signed the contract with Juraj Dalmatinac for the construction of the chapel of St. Nikola in the church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Marija (today’s chapel of the Lady of Mercy). Juraj Dalmatinac accepted the offer and promised to entrust his nephew Radmilo Alegreti Hvaranin with the job. Alegreti indeed realized the arranged deal, but the chapel, as well as the church, got devastated in later adaptations and different stiles. He has also been given credit for the monumental tomb of the family Mišolić. The church was constructed with a help of Juraj Slovinja, the canon of Pag, and the aristocratic family Mišolić.
• On 18th May, 1474. the townsmen of Pag relocated to the new town in a solemn procession led by the prince.
• In 1483. the convent and the church of the Benedictines were completed in the new Pag. The church was dedicated to the Annunciation of Marija, while the convent was dedicated to St. Margareta, virgin and martyr, in memory of the church and the convent in the old town of Pag. When the construction of the church and the convent was completed, the archbishop Maffeo Valareso refused to give the permission for relocation of the Benedictines from the old town of Pag to the new one. On 13th April 1485. the Holy Chair with the bull of the papal chamberlain and cardinal Rafaelo, settled this dispute. The bull allowed the Benedictines and the abbess of Pag, Marija Radošević, to relocate to the new convent after 167 years in the old one, out of what the last 11 years, alone in the deserted town.
The life of the Benedictine nuns in the convent of St. Margarita in Pag has always been exemplary in every way. Only Croatian language has been used in the convent. The number of the nuns has varied from 3 to 20. The nuns have developed very rich and diverse activities, especially educating girls from the year 1597. The Benedictines had been teaching lace making, and selling laces to the Venice and later Austria. They are responsible for establishing the lace making in the town of Pag and making it an important source of profit for many families.
• In 1807. during the French occupation, children were taught without charge: reading, writing and handwork, especially lace making in the convent.
• In 1842. the girls’ primary school free of charge was inaugurated in the convent. The qualified nuns had been the teachers until 1896. when the school moved into the governmental hands. Kristina Vojvodić, Paula Staimbach, Tereza Zorović, Metilda Bukša, Placida Tabor and Terezija Fabrović were prominent at that time.
• In 1919. the first private kindergarten was opened in the convent. The qualified nuns also supervised it. During the World War II, form 1941. to 1945., the convent was organizing the nourishment for the children and the poor people. The abbess and the supervisor of the kindergarten, Getruda Magaš, was taking a special place in the life of the convent and the town of Pag during the troubled times from1919. until 1974. She took part in Christian and patriotic education of the generations which marked the 20th century of this town. Her complete contribution is yet to be valued.
• 1991. – 1995. during the Croatian war of Independence the nuns once again share the hardest moments with the inhabitants of Pag, the refugees and the expatriates. They were contacting the Caritas from Italy and France and all the friends of the convent in the world. They were accepting and accommodating numerous refugees and the expatriates, distributing medicines, food, clothes and footwear.
• In the period 1999. – 2000. the Benedictines started thorough restoration of the convent’s church and a part of the decrepit convent committing in this mission all of their organizational, working and material possibilities.
In this fragmented review of the convent’s history it should also be mentioned the priests who were associated with the church and the monastic community by their service. Many of them became prominent on various fields of human activity, as writers, teachers, educators, benefactors, reformers and patriots. Those were: Vicko Sabalić, Frane Petar Rakamarić-the bishop of Kotar and Osor, Vicko Tičić, Ivan Orlić, Ivan Rakamarić, Nikola Portada, Šimun Nasso, Alojzije Glitsch, Vicko Segarić, Stjepan Buljeta - the originator of Croatian reformation ideas in Pag in the 19th century, Šimun Stanić, Frane Vidolin, Ante Benzija, Petar Rumora – publicist and patriot, Josip Crljenko, Joso Felicinović – writer, educational and welfare worker, Pavao Badurina, Andrija Iličić, and present priest Josip Dučkić and the others who occasionally served the church, like Ante Adžija, Jerko Juravić, Ante Banić, Niko Rodin, and the confessors Juraj Palčić, Antun Toljanić, as well as priests Modesto Borak and Ilija Borak, Capuchins from Karlobag.
It is impossible to list here all the changes that the church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Marija has experienced, because there were so many of them ever since the 15th century. The coat of arms of Pag’s prince Paolo Malipier (1429. – 1431.), brought from the old Pag, was built in over the main entrance later on. Today, the church has the main altar constructed in the 18th century, the chapel of St. Benedikt and in the chapel Mišolić – a marble altar of the Merciful Lady and the tomb of the family Mišolić. The convent premises form with the church a unity in the shape of the letter “L”. The convent does not have a cloister. In the yard, there is a large well with a crown brought from the old Pag, which distinguishes with its monumentality. The inscription on the crown is a testimony that it was made on the request of Pag’s prince Frane Bon in 1353.
The convent keeps valuable objects of art manufacture and visual arts. The most important pieces of art manufacture, beside the already mentioned exquisite reliquary of the Holy Thorn from the 1435., are the silver altar and the cross from the 14th century, known as the cross of St. Benedikt and attributed to the workshop of Zadar; the reliquary of St. Klara, made of gold - plated silver of Zadar’s workshop from the 15th century; a Gothic-Renaissance monstrance made of gold - plated silver, the work of the jewelers from Venice in the late 15th century; ten candlesticks in hammered silver, brought from Venice; several reliquaries; a baroque censer and the preserved votive presents to the Lady of Mercy (crosses, tablets, rings, buckles, earrings of the shape typical for Pag, corals, garnets).One part of this jewlery in gold and silver had been hammered by the masters from Pag, know already from the middle of the 18th century. The sculpture is represented by several statues of Mother of God and wooden crucifixions. We single out an interesting sculpture of St. Margarita. The legend says it comes from the old convent. This sculpture is carved in Gothic fashion and reveals the work of native masters. Among wooden crucifixions, the one in the chapel of Lady of Mercy from the 18th century is worth of mentioning. The stature of Merciful Lady comes from 1626. The most interesting piece among the artistic paintings is Madonna in tempera on wood from the 15th century, made in famous workshop of A. Mantegna. Several works of different value belong to the baroque painting. St. Ante of Padova, Jesus and a Samaritan woman, oil on canvas, are the works from a domestic workshop in 17th century, while the works Christ’s Trial, Ecce Homo and The Holy Family date from the 18th century. The convent possesses a miniature showing the Holy Family, the work of a German painter Franz Defregger. Some of the paintings from other churches in Pag are in custody of the convent, like: St. Ante of Padova and Lady of Karmela from Stari grad, the works of late Venetian mannerism from the 17th century, the works of Venetian painter of Flemish origin Baldassar d’Anna and Lady of Ruzarija from the collection which is traditionally and according to the notes of the ancient writers, attributed to Jacopo Tintoretto.
Basing on the above mentioned data we can conclude cultural- historical value of the convent of the Benedictine nuns who throughout their long history have prayed and worked with the people of this town, preserving the sacred things they inherited, promoting the Croatian culture to the honor of our homeland. In the restored church and convent, the Benedictines will continue to promote, self-sacrificing as ever, the sacred principle of their order which says “Pray and work
Pag lace is the most beautiful and the most authentic souvenir of Pag. It originates from the ancient Mikena, from where it came by merchant roads in the olden days, and has been kept preserved as such until today. It is extremely beautiful embroidery - needlework suitable as a souvenir but also as a gift. Its beauty is best evident against the dark backgrounds (black, dark red or blue). It is often framed. Pag lace is made in different shapes. They differ from the other embroideries being sewn exclusively with a thin, white thread and being very stiff. To be certain it is a Pag lace one should take it by the edge and gently lift. If it dangles it is not authentic Pag lace. Pag lace can be purchased from the women lace-makers who sell them in front of their houses during summer. There is a lace-making school at the high-school “Bartul Kašia” and the Lace-makers Association “Frane Budak”. These institutions can be contacted for special requests such as purchasing a large number of laces.
Pag lace of a smaller size is used as a beautiful detail on the peoples clothing for special occasions. Pag lace should be kept in a white paper and should never be folded.