Gospa od Tarca

In the heart of the Adriatic Sea, lies Croatia’s Kornati Islands National Park. A marvel in its own right, the archipelago is home to over 140 islands and islets, each known for its natural beauty. Among these, a special site stands out – the Church of Gospa od Tarca, a pilgrimage spot with a profound historical significance that enchants its visitors with its simple beauty and rich heritage.

The site of Gospa od Tarca

Located on the largest island of the archipelago, Kornat Island, the Church of Gospa od Tarca, also known as Our Lady of Tarac, is a beautiful monument in this otherwise barren landscape. Constructed on the ruins of an early Christian basilica, the church dates back to the 16th century, serving as a place of solace for sailors who sought refuge amidst the storms of the sea. The church’s isolated placement on the Kornat island and its modest structure in stark contrast to the barren landscape, captivates its visitors.

For several years now, starting with the preparatory actions in 2006 for the renovation of the small church of Our Lady of Tarca on Kornati, work has been ongoing at this important site. Originally envisioned as a construction and conservation project lasting a year or two, it has also taken on an archaeological dimension after the discovery of the walls of an earlier building during the necessary excavations around the exterior and interior walls of the medieval church.

The result of these investigations revealed that the present St. Mary’s church was built on the foundations of an earlier, early Christian church, the floor plan and remnants of whose walls indicate that it underwent multiple modifications in the form of additions and alterations to specific parts. In fact, the site consists of multiple layers that show traces of settlement dating back to Liburnian times. It is not excluded, and indeed very likely, that a Roman villa or administrative building was here before the sacred complex.

There is also a ruin of a late Roman/Byzantine outpost on the hill above the field and the church called Tureta. A very special site that most of the pilgrims visit after the mass. And some even during the mass.

Tradition of Pilgrimage

The pilgrimage to Gospa od Tarca traditionally takes place every first Sunday of July. Although the Mass typically commences at 11 AM, pilgrims usually arrive earlier. The event attracts a diverse group from the region, and while attendees from Murter traditionally make up the largest proportion, the pilgrimage draws a significant number of people from Zadar to Šibenik.

Every year, people from a different inlet host the traditional lunch for the priest and some other guests. One year, the folks from Kravljačica host, the next year, those from Vruje take over. Each inlet features a few houses – former fishermen cottages – that the Murter folk built in the past. Each family thus has some sort of estate. Nowadays, locals mostly rent properties to tourists or run restaurants. Not so long ago, fishermen used the cottages or people handled sheep there.

Gospe od Tarca these days

The pilgrimage is a popular event for all of us. This was actually, my first attendance as I was always busy before and would just pass by. But this year, we stopped to enjoy the site. Boats, people, sunny weather and unforgettable landscape of Kornati… Tarac is simply a must if you are in the area.


  1. Anna says:

    So good to see these traditions keeping strong! I love how each village prepares lunch!

  2. Thx! It is quite hard to find any details on the real life accounts. Everything is so broad. This I know as we used to work on the islands in late 1990s and early 2000s so I thought it would be nice to mention the actual tradition.

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