The island is uniquely known for its remarkable sword dances, in the city and six villages.
These men's dances are performed traditionally on saint's feast days, as well as during the summer months for local and foreign tourists.
In the villages these single-sword dances in one army are accompanied by bagpipe and drum, while the city's double-sword dance with two armies is accompanied by a full brass band.
Following the sword dances performed in the villages, women join the men to dance the stari bal (the ancient dance), also simply known as tanac (dance), and which is also accompanied by bagpipe.
Performed are other social dances that became popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, such as the četvorka (quadrille), waltz, polka, manfrina.
These dances accompanied by accordion, are seen in scheduled programs in the villages.
See events for these programs in the villages.
Visitors can enjoy performances of the famous sword dance events of Moreška, Kumpanija and Moštra - time-honoured links with a past.
Performed only by males from Korčula town families, the mock battle dance with each soldier holding two swords is traditionally performed on July 29 (St. Theodore's Day) and weekly during the summer tourist season. Documentation shows that the Moreška sword dance has been performed in Korčula since at least the 17th century, but the dance may be older, since double swords were part of known sword technique in the 16th century.
Dramatic dialog sets the context for two armies to battle for the "bula" (a lovely young female), who was abducted by the Moro (Arab) King. Clashing swords in seven battles end with the bula being freed from her chains and returned to her beloved Osman (Turkish) King.
Historically the accompaniment for the Moreška was based on the musical fashion of its time period, since the city of Korčula was in accord with European cultural trends. Today a brass band plays a 20th century arrangement specifically composed by Krsto Odak for Moreška's battles that produce sparks from clashing swords.
The battle is more than just a folkloric performance; it is part of Korčula's identity and a symbol of Korčula struggle for freedom through the centuries.
KUMPANIJA AND MOŠTRA
Six villages across the island continue to perform a sword dance with a type of sword that is dated in style to the 16th-17th centuries.
The men are organized into a village military unit with a captain and flag-bearer, and each soldier holds a single long sword. Dialog precedes their performances, where the captain of his army asks permission from the head of the village to perform their "ples od boja" (war dance). The captain leads his soldiers into synchronized and highly coordinated formations where each soldier holds the tip of his neighbor's sword to form a single linked group.
When the linked figures are completed the soldiers are led into a sword fencing practice that also tests the soldier's ability to clash swords with a partner, while performing leaping and skipping movements.
The linked and unlinked sword techniques of the dance are accompanied by rhythmic sounds of a bagpiper and drummer.
See calendar for events when the villages (Žrnovo, Pupnat, Čara, Smokvica, Blato, Vela Luka) enact their moštra or kumpanjija performances on saint's days or during the summer months.
On the island there is a customs
connected with winter carnival ceremonies, such as a dance ball were
mostly the relatives following the Kumpanija sword dancers ("kompanjoli").
In Blato this couple dance is called "Blatski tanac", in Pupnat and Žrnovo "Stari bal" and in Čara and Smokvica "Tanac".
The contemporary way of life and other social and cultural influences contribute to the changing roles of Kumpanija.
The stari bali or tanac are being performed in a cultural programe with kumpanija and moštra chain dances in summer months.
One of the most pupular events in Korčula town is Masked welcome of the half of the new year on June the 30th and the summer carnival parade.
Most of the island's songs are about fishermen and seamen and their sweethearts.
Some of them are happy and delightful,while others are melancholic, seeking the return of their beloved.
Many Croatian mariners consider the most beautiful Croatian songs are those sung by the fishermen of Vela Luka.
In Žrnovo place next to St. Rocco's
church in Postrana the single-sword dances Moštra is performend only
on August 15 on feast day of Assumption of Mary, a day before St. Rocco-patron
saint of Postrana.
The captain leads his soldiers (moštrants) into synchronized and highly coordinated formations where each soldier holds the tip of his neighbor's sword to form a single linked group. The linked and unlinked sword techniques of the dance are accompanied by rhythmic sounds of a bagpiper and drummer.
The traditional professions are
stonemasonry, ship-building, viticulture, olive farming, fishing and
seamanship. Stonemasonry is not so important nowadays, but some 50 or
so Korčulans retain the skills. Forestry and wood-working are also important.
In boat-building, local wood has traditionally been used since Hellenic times, but today it has largely been replaced by steel (Korčula and Blato) and by fibreglass (Vela Luka).
Korčulans are skilled and respected seamen, sailing under Croatian and international flags. Korčula is an important Croatian olive-growing area and its olive oil is one of the island's best known products.
Korčulans skilfully worked and sold their stone all over the Adriatic. The high quality limestone from Korčula is incorporated in some of the best known buildings in the world such as the Haggia Sophia in Istanbul, the parliament in Vienna, the Town Hall in Stockholm etc.
The most beautiful public and private buildings in Dalmatian towns such as Dubrovnik, Hvar, Kotor etc. were also built with it. This millenium-long tradition has brought to the stage of contemporary Croatian culture the greatest sculptor Frano Kršinić and many other Korčulan and Lumbardan sculptors: Radica, Pallavicini, Trpimir Ivančević, the brothers Ivo and Lujo Lozica, Stecca, Radovanović, Jurjević-Knez and Duhović.
Forestry was the main occupation of the inhabitants of Pupnat and they would collect resin and make lime and charcoal for use in Korčulan workshops. The women would transport firewood to Korčula, using mules and donkeys.
In St. Mark`s Cathedral the ceiling of the central aisle (reconstructed in 1961) is reminiscent of a boat, a link with the traditional Korčulan profession of shipbuilding.
In Korčula Town museum there is a replica of an old kitchen in the attic, where the visitor can get an impression of the functional arrangement of medieval dwelling houses: business was conducted on the ground-floor, the living quarters were on the first and second floors and the attic, affording some fresh air, was the kitchen.
Today, only a few families live in this picturesque village, letting rooms and apartments to the guests.
There are 29 local quarries on the island.
Next to the former local school on the coast, there is the new church of Our Lady of Succour from 1856.
In front of one of the quarries on the northern coast, there is the old church of Our Lady of Succour from 1674.
West of Vrnik is the well-known island quarry Kamenjak (Stone Island).
Numerous valuable art objects, statues and paintings
can be found in the house of the St. Rocco Confraternity, founded in
The traditional procession of the Assisi pardon "Perdun", which used to be a special characteristic of Badija, was reinstated in 1991.
The main altar was adorned
with an altar painting by the great Venetian painter Jacopo Tintoretto
in 1550 (Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto, 1518-1594), which depicts the
three patron saints of Korčula and Dalmatia:
Saint Mark the Evangelist, the patron saint of Korčula and on either side,
Saint Jerome, the patron saint of Dalmatia and
Saint Bartholomew, the patron saint of shipbuilders.
Below the altar table, there is a sarcophagus with the relics of the town's other patron saint, Saint Theodore.
The masterpiece of Marko Andrijić, a fine stone ciborium with statues of the Annunciation from 1486, is raised above the altar.
The Church and Confraternity of All Saints is steeped in the town's oldest traditions. The Church was built at the beginning of the 15th c. on the site of an older church (10th c/13th c.), which was the first cathedral of the bishopric (1300); the oldest Korčulan confraternity - All Saints or the Confraternity of Good Death - was founded there in 1301. Icons from the Greek island of Crete are exhibited in the Icon Collection. They were brought to Korčula by the Korčulan war galley which took part in the battle between Venice and the Turks for the island of Crete (Candian wars). The battle ended with the defeat of Venice and the general evacuation of the Venetian garrison, administration and priests from the island. Opposite the church entrance, there is the entrance to the house of the Confraternity of All Saints. The reliefs on the wall ( above the entrance door) depict the brothers of the fraternity from 1301. The photos are a reminder of the annual gatherings and processions of the brothers.
The Church of St. Michael (1408/1615),
opposite the Town Hall, is characterised by its pleasant facade
and beautiful bell-tower "on distaff".
The church is connected with the house of the confraternity of St. Michael, which was founded in 1603.
The hall of the confraternity has exhibits evoking the rich history and high aesthetic criteria of Korčulans over the centuries.
Of particular note are the "torci" - wax candles which are carried in processions around the town, some of which weigh up to 73 kilos.
They are given names like "Zero", "Primo" etc depending on the weight.
A very attractive "piazetta" in front of the church of St. Rocco lies in the locale of Postrana.
Chain dance "Moštra"
- a struggle for the defence of the home and the election of the village king –
is performed infront of the Curch of St. Rocco.
It is hidden in a valley, high up among the hills so that enemies and pirates couldn't see it.
Finds from the Illyrian and Roman periods have been found in the village.
There are numerous ancient single-storey houses covered by stone slabs, in particular those for sheep and goats southwest of the village.
sword dance is performed in Korčula town during the summer
More info on Calendar of events
Visit the Church and the Confraternity of All Saints wich preserves the oldest town traditions and the exhibited Icons from the Greek island of Crete.