Sinj: A Town nestled between two fortresses
Sinj is located in the embrace of the protector and consoler of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj, and it is well-known that it is the home of the knightly Alka. It takes pride in its narrow streets and picturesque squares, centuries-old green oases of refreshing shade, museums and galleries showcasing works of artists it has produced, and a touch of rich and turbulent history in every corner.
Sinj is like a gem
Like a gem that broke off from the slopes of Kamešnica, Dinara, and Svilaja, Sinj has nestled itself within the course of the clear and cold Cetina River, the beauty of the Dalmatian hinterland. Nature has spread its most valuable and beautiful assets here, gifting the Cetina region with fertile fields, gentle orchards, forests, and wild, rugged slopes. Unexplored and untouched landscapes lure everyone, both adventure enthusiasts and those yearning for carefree relaxation. Well-maintained promenades, as well as hiking, cycling, and walking trails, never fail to impress every traveler.
Sinj also takes pride in having the second-largest hippodrome in Croatia, the home of the noble Alka stud farm and a center for numerous domestic and international equestrian competitions. The sports airport attracts a large number of recreational flyers and aviation enthusiasts.
Sinj locals riding horses at the hippodrome
The fact that Sinj offers everything can be seen in its splendid and always popular galleries and museums. The Sikirica Gallery preserves and nurtures the entire legacy of the great artist Stipe Sikirica and often organizes exhibitions, workshops, and lectures. The Archaeological Collection of the Franciscan Monastery and the Cetina Region Museum are rich treasure troves of valuable archaeological and historical artifacts from inexhaustible local sites. The Museum of the Sinj Alka is a masterpiece in the world of contemporary museum presentation, immersing visitors into the world of the knightly Alka through multimedia and interactive means.
The picturesque Kamičak fortress
A star-shaped fortress, there is also a very unusual clock, older than London’s Big Ben and bearing the papal seal. Resourceful hosts have turned this location into an open-air stage – in summer evenings, musical notes for every taste flutter through the evergreen slopes. The Kamičak Ethno Festival gathers famous names from domestic and foreign ethnic music, and the Music Evenings on Kamičak captivate with jazz and ambient music.
From the old Sinj fortress, a vow church now watches over the area, built by the people of Sinj as a sign of gratitude on the 200th anniversary of their arrival from Rama, fleeing the Ottoman invasion. Along the way to the top, there is a unique Stations of the Cross, the work of the greatest Croatian sculptors. The gentle ascent is worth the effort – the view extends to the enchanting landscapes of the Cetina region, offering undeniable proof of exceptional beauty and richness.
Hidden gems that few know about
A 5,000-year history Traces of human life dating back 5 millennia have been found in this region, always situated at the crossroads of ancient military and trade routes. The settlement of Osinium is first mentioned on a damaged inscription dedicated by Signifer Publius Rapidius to the Genius Osinijata, the divine protector of Osinium’s inhabitants. The area was home to ancient Illyrians, Romans, Byzantine and Venetian rulers, as well as a centuries-long presence of Ottoman conquerors. It is presumed that the name “Delmati” comes from their word for sheep, preserved in Albanian as “delme.” The Dalmatian defiance against the Roman empire surprised Emperor Claudius, who built a proper city, Aequum, today’s Čitluk, for his veterans. Octavian himself experienced Dalmatian resistance firsthand – he was struck by a stone in the knee in Šušanj, now the hamlet of Đipalo in Lučani, where the fortress of Setovija is believed to have been located.
Fra Pavao Vučković – the father of modern Sinj The merits of this exceptional preacher and polyglot go beyond being the leader of the exodus of the Croatian people from Rama, Prozor, Bugojno, Livno, and Duvno in 1687. He defended his people and the image of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj, escaped from Ottoman captivity, and rebuilt the destroyed churches from the ashes. In his honor, the people of Sinj erected a monument at the eastern entrance to the town.
The grave of Wally Neuzil – Vienna’s Mona Lisa
The grave of the young muse of the giants of Secession and Expressionism, Egon Schiele, Walburga “Wally” Neuzil, is located in the St. Francis cemetery in Sinj. After a long-lasting love affair with the Austrian artist, she worked as a nurse in Vienna and then in Šibenik, on the frontlines during World War I, and finally in Sinj. She died young from scarlet fever. In the chaos of war, she befriended an Austro-Hungarian officer who died before her, and their graves lie side by side.
Intangible heritage encompasses various forms of folk and traditional cultural expressions. Preserving endangered intangible heritage is an important factor not only for cultural and national identity but also for efforts to enrich the vibrant tourist offerings and attract welcomed guests with diversity in line with sustainable development.
Sinj is home to the famous knight’s tournament called Sinjska Alka, established as a commemoration of the victory of the people of Sinj over the Ottomans in 1715 and as a gratitude to the Miraculous Lady of Sinj, who, according to tradition, saved Sinj and its defenders. Since then, the Alka has been held almost continuously according to the Alka Statute, a strict set of rules that ensure authenticity and provide detailed information about its origin, purpose, and regulations. It has been protected by UNESCO since 2010.
Sinj is adorned with numerous other intangible heritage elements that are worth preserving:
- Ojkavica: A characteristic singing technique with many melodic embellishments and tremors on the syllable “oj,” which can occur at the beginning, middle, or end of a song. It has been included on the UNESCO list since 2010.
- Nijemo kolo: A dance from the Dalmatian hinterland characterized by its unique manner of performance—either in a circle or, more commonly, in pairs moving in a circular or free manner within the dance space, sometimes accompanied by rera, gange, ojkavica, or dipla, but in the Dalmatian hinterland mostly performed without any musical accompaniment.
- The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia protects the art of building lađa (traditional boat) in Otoku near Sinj—a traditional specialty closely related to the location of the village of Otoka in the immediate vicinity of the Cetina River.
- The annual carnival processions of the mačkare masks from the sub-Kamešnica villages in the cities of Sinj and Trilj and the municipality of Otok have a long tradition of preservation and are the best carriers and guardians of carnival customs in those areas.
- Klape singing: Traditional multipart singing without instrumental accompaniment, characterized by its internal musical structure, harmony, melody, and lyrical content. Despite various external influences, klapa singing has preserved its originality and has a dedicated audience to this day.
- Traditional pottery of the handwheel from Potravlje has been recognized as an intangible cultural heritage since 2013 and has been nominated for UNESCO protection by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia.
Here are 10 things you must not miss when visiting Sinj:
- Visit the Museum of Sinjska Alka.
- See the painting of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj.
- Climb up to the Grad Fortress, which is reached by following the 14 stations of the Cross.
- Enjoy the panoramic view of the city of Sinj, with its surrounding mountains and Sinjsko Polje.
- See the Alka stables.
- View the statue of Gaius Laberius, the head of Hercules, and the statue of Diana Lucifera.
- Witness the clock mechanism on the Kamičak Fortress, which is older than Big Ben.
- Visit the Rera railway station.
- Explore the Franciscan Classical Gymnasium, the first gymnasium in southern Croatia with Croatian as the teaching language.
- Experience the ritual of enjoying coffee at Pijaca (the Market Square).
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