Barzonja, or, according to some sources, Bardonja is one of the oldest villages in the area of Polja. There is a Church dedicated to Our Lady of the Snow there, erected in 1995 by Friar Petar Krasić as a symbolic link between the Catholic people of this region, and the snow, which is a kind of symbol of the Mountain in one of the legends.
Namely, Our Lady of the Snow or Our Lady of the Ice, is a Catholic holiday celebrated every year on 5thAugust and commemorating an event that took place in Rome in the 4thcentury.
The feast originates from the legend according to which Our Lady appeared to the then Pope Liberius and the Roman patrician John on the evening of 3rdAugust 352. She ordered them to build a church in her honour on a location that would be marked with snow. Snow truly fell on 5thAugust on Esquiline, one of the seven Roman hills. The Pope of Liberius personally marked the boundaries of the future basilica. Artists depict Our Lady of the Snow surrounded by angels carrying snow in their hands or on trays.
Our Lady of the Snow patron Saint
In our region, Our Lady is the patron saint of several parishes, in Vid, Bol, Trsteno, Stomorica, etc. Of these, perhaps the most interesting is the one in Kukljice, on Ugljan island, in the Zdrelašćica bay, where the votive Baroque church of Saint Lady of the Snow from 17thcentury is located. This feast has been celebrated there continuously since 1514 with a magnificent procession by the sea, with a statue of the Mother of God aboard a ship, and a regatta of several hundred ships of various types. The most important reason for building a church of this consecration in that particular spot is the legend of another snowfall in August. Namely, during the Turkish occupation, when the friars and their flock were hiding in the safety of the mountains, when masses were celebrated under clear skies, when the church vault was celestial, when the altar was a stone wall, and when people sat on the grass instead of pews, the Mountain legend of the Lady of the Snow was born.
It may be a legend, but one thing can be verified and believed, which is snow in August.
On exactly the same date when snow fell on the Roman hill of Esquiline hundreds of years earlier, a mass was celebrated at Barzonja, at Polja, in the heart of the Mountain. Several shepherds, women, children, and elderly, gathered around noon on a hillock above the plain to celebrate the Holy Mass that Sunday. At the beginning, this mass was no different than any other, just as the hot summer day was no different than any other day during that month. The mass proceeded as usual until the moment when friar raised the chapel and communion wafer to be transformed into flesh and blood, when a strong wind rose and heavy clouds covered the clear sunny sky. By the time the friar had completed the sacramental prayer and lowered the body and blood of Christ back on the altar, people had begun to stir, cloak themselves with shepherd’s raincoats and anxiously look at the sky and each other.
The wind blew harder and harder, the sun disappeared, and a chill crept into the people’s bone. Marvel, fear and cold mixed. They all knew that the Mountain was treacherous and that heat and cold, and sun and rain, and wind and cold could all appear during day, but never this suddenly. The friar also realised that something was wrong and that the mass would not be able to continue, and commanded the people to retreat to a nearby barn to hide from the approaching storm. The people obeyed and squeezed into the barn with the friar and the sheep. When everyone settled, the friar said the mass would continue there. The shepherds separated the sheep from the people and the interrupted mass continued. No one paid much attention to the weather outside any longer, only the strong wind howling through the thatched roofs and the creaking of old beams under the gusts of the bora wind occasionally testified to the storm raging outside. When the mass was over, the friar blessed the congregation and went to the door to see what was happening outside. The shepherds opened the door for him, and he watched in wonder and disbelief the wondrous scene outside.
Everything was white, the snow blanketed all the Polja and the whole Mountain. He stepped outside, followed by the people crossing themselves and invoking saints. In the middle of summer, on the fifth day of August, it snowed from the clear skies and covered the Mountain. In commemoration of this event, in the honour of Our Lady and the mountain snow, the first mass was held on 5thAugust 1995 in the new Church of Our Lady of the Snow, at Barzonja, in the place of the barn that provided shelter from the storm for the people and the friar. It may be a legend, but one thing can be verified and believed, which is snow in August.