The center of Cetinska krajina (Cetina Region) is best known for two things: Alka knights tournament and the Church of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj. Considering that Alka is held in August and the most important religious festivity is held on August 15, it is no wonder that August is the month in which Sinj has the highest number of tourist visits. However, this city offers many other attractions throughout the year.
In addition to the already mentioned Alka and Church of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj, there are two old fortresses, renewed Alka Halls, many interesting fountains, and Rera - once popular railway, which connected Sinj with nearby Klis and Split from 1903 to 1962.
In addition, fans of the most important secondary thing in the world will come into their own in Sinj. In fact, some argue that the first football match in Europe has been held in Cetinska krajina. Namely, the tombstone of Gaius Laberius, from the second century, depicts him holding a sphere with hexagons joined in a net-like ornament, which is actually a symbol of genuine leather ball!
Alka Tournament of Sinj
This famous knight tournament has been traditionally held in honor of the victory over the Turks, which occurred in 1715, and in 2010 it has been inscribed in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Alka is always run on the first Sunday in August. Two races are held before Alka: Bara - two days before Alka and Čoja - one day before Alka.
In alkars' (contestants) procession, whose commander is called 'alajčauš', participate at least 11, maximum 15, and exceptionally 17 alkars. Only men who were born in the Cetinska krajina can participate in the contest, which last for three days: Bara on Friday, Čoja on Saturday and Alka on Sunday. All of them are dressed in now recognizable, solemn and richly ornamented alkars' robe.
Alkars in three attempts are trying to score as many points (punats) as possible - hit in the central ring (u sridu) carries three points, and when that happens, Sinj canons (mačkulas) on the nearby Old Town are heard. The upper field of Alka ring carries two points and each of two lower side field carries one point. If after three attempts alkars have the same number of points, they gallop again until one of them collects more points than the others. That repeated race is called pripetavanje.
And, finally, a few interesting facts. Do you know from where does the name alka come? The name derives from the Turkish word halqa, which means ring or band. It is worth mentioning that until the mid of 19th century in Imotski, Makarska and Zadar knightly contests similar to this in Sinj had existed, but only Sinjska Alka endured all subsequent centuries.
Painting and Church of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj
Sinj for many brings to mind the painting of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj. Its history goes back to the year 1691, when it arrived in Sinj with Franciscans from Rama in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the painting was painted in the 15th or 16th century.
Beginning of its worship is linked to the night from 14 to 15 August 1715, when 700 Sinj defenders withstood a siege of more than 10 000 Turks. They attributed their victory to the miraculous intercession of Our Lady of Sinj, whose painting was with them all the time. Shortly after that, the painting was crowned with a golden crown and a cross as a mark of gratitude, and on September 22, 1716, at the bottom of the crown of Our Lady, it was carved in Latin: IN PERPETUUM CORONATA TRIUMPHAT - ANNO MDCCXV (SHE TRIUMPHS CROWNED FOREVER - THE YEAR OF 1715.).
Several decades later, at the turn of the 17th to the 18th century, the new Church of the Miraculous Lady of Sinj was built. In addition to that painting, the church is decorated by a very interesting front door and the bell tower, which was completed in 1927, and was built on the site of the old bell tower from the year 1775. Next to the church is Franciscan monastery, which has a spiritual and cultural significance, since Archaeological Collection was founded inside the monastery in 1860, and everything was driven by discovery of ancient 'Head of Heracles'.
If you're near Sinj on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, come by car or even on foot, because on that day tens of thousands of believers come to Sinj to thank their heavenly Mother, and the feeling is really unique.
Other interesting and historical facts of the Town of Sinj
On the elevation above Sinj is the Old Town, which is now decorated by the bronze statue of Our Lady of Sinj and votive church from 1887, built as a symbol of the 200th anniversary of coming of the people of Rama in Cetinska krajina. There are 14 Stations of the Cross around the church. Due to the numerous earthquakes and historical circumstances, in the Old Town are mostly remnants of defensive walls, but the plan is to recover them till 2015 (300th anniversary of the defense of the Town of Sinj).
On the hill above the city's central square there is Kamičak Fortress, built in 1712 and which was given its present appearance in 1890. Its clock tower is very interesting - it rings three minutes before the full hour and on the exact hour it ticks accurate time. At the top of the tower there is a bronze bell decorated with rich ornaments. At the top of the bell is the inscription: 'Good Lord, save us from lightning and bad times'.
While you climb up Kamičak, you will pass by the Museum of the Cetinska Krajina Region founded in 1956, and only fifty meters away are Alka Halls (Kvartiri) from the year 1760. They were originally barracks for the cavalry, and the whole complex could house four companies of cavaliers together with their horses.
Sinj is the city of beautiful fountains, and the most famous are Petrovac, At the Source, Three Generations and the fountain on the Pijaca (Square), which is also the oldest of all, since it was raised in 1852.