ZUDIJE (pronounce: zue-de-yeah)
Who are “zudije”?
They are men dressed in the uniforms of
Roman soldiers, portraying their role in Jesus’ suffering during the Roman
Catholic celebration of Holy Week. The role of zudija is to guard Jesus’
What the word “zudija” means?
The word zudija comes from the Roman and
Greek language and it means Jew.
The tradition to guard Christ’s tomb on
Easter, is brought to Metkovic during the 20th Century by Rev.
Ante Gluscevic from Loreto, Italy. Then the surrounding, local villages
started with this Easter tradition as well. However, as time passed,
every Parish in the area had their own tradition that was specific and
different from each other. In some areas, zudije are wearing the
traditional clothing specific for that region.
History and activity of
Vid are among the oldest group in the area that still preserves this
Easter tradition. They were established in 1935. Until 1980, zudije were
guards 24 hours during Holy Week. In the last twenty years this has
changed and they only guard during the Rites of Holy Thursday, Good Friday
and Holy Saturday. In beginning, there were only four guards. Then it
rose to thirteen from which 12 of them are guards and the 13th
is the leader called Jude. There are three groups of zudije with four
people in each group. Each group of zudija is different from each other
by the uniform colors which are red, yellow and purple. The leader’s
uniform is blue. Every color represents the place from where zudija’s
After World War II, the Communist regime
ruled and they persecuted the Catholic Church. Indeed, most of the zudija
has experience some kind of Communist provocation as well. One of those
incidents is remembered well in this area. Groups of Communist were
passing by St. Vitus Church which was the main local church in the area.
In the Church zudije were guarding Jesus’ tomb. One Communist from the
group walked in the Church and started to force zudije out the church. In
that chaos, one Communist even fired a weapon. As much as the Communists
tried, they were unable to destroy this beautiful Easter tradition and the
faith of the people in this area that is so much alive even now.
Twelve of the guards and their leader
Jude, wearing the uniform of the Roman soldiers, will come in front of the
Church altar on Holy Thursday. They have to stand still without any
movement on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The only time they can make a
movement is during the relief of the group of four with another group. On
Saturday, there is an Easter Midnight Mass. Few
minutes before midnight, all of the thirteen zudija are in front of Jesus’
tomb and due to fear and panic, they begin to tremble. Exactly at
midnight, the church bells ring and at that moment the zudije collapse. A
few minutes afterwards, the choir begins to sing a song “Glory to the
God”. After the singing is done, the zudija’s leader Jude gives a signal
to them to get up and stand still until the mass has ended.
Distinguished difference in tradition of
zudija in Vid from other places is that after collapsing on the floor and
then getting up and not moving until mass is done, those zudije will do
the same procedure during the morning Easter masses in Vid and also in the
village of Prud. Since, it is very hard to stand still, this represents
penance. For the same reason, not everyone can be a zudija. First, it is
an honor to serve as a zudija. Then, zudija must be powerful, strong and
attended the Government army. The age of zudija is not important as well
as if he’s married or not. Due to the larger interest of men to serve as
zudija, there is a list of names for a few years ahead. Zudije in Vid
also have their regulation book where it is described in words and
sketches the whole procedure: when and how the zudije are coming, the
order and change of guards, the order of procession etc.
Why are the zudije in Vid after collapsing
still staying in Church? That is solely the job of the zudija in Vid. At
other places, zudije flee the Church at midnight. Roman soldiers, who
guarded Jesus’ tomb, did not flee after his Resurrection. They stayed
with locales. Therefore, the zudije in Vid are doing the same, they stay
Easter tradition in Vid:
This long time Easter tradition of this
place is very important to its natives. During Holy Week, zudije decorate
the Church mostly with palms and branches from the weeping willows.
Holy Thursday – Mass of the Last
Supper is held at 6:00pm. Church bells do not ring until Easter midnight
Mass. After, zudije have come out, the choir sings about the suffering of
Good Friday – The Rite of Good
Friday is held at 6:00pm and it’s about three hours long. People in the
Church go up to the Cross, kiss it, and then kneel and weep. Afterwards,
everybody leaves the church to participate in a procession which goes
through the streets of the village, and the choir is singing “Suffering of
Christ”. During the procession, zudije are guarding Simon. Simon is the
person who helped Jesus carry the cross. The cross is large and made from
solid wood. Simon is completely covered with black clothing, so that his
identity is unknown. This has been done for protection due to the
Communist regime, prosecution of the Catholic Church and its believers.
There is a large interest to serve as Simon, so the list is filled for ten
years. The procession goes back to Church where the choir continues to
sing for the next 15 minutes and then the Rites of Good Friday are over.
Holy Saturday – The Rites of Holy
Saturday starts at 11:15pm. Zudije will begin to guard Jesus’ tomb two
hours earlier. The readings from the Holy Bible are read. A few minutes
before midnight, all thirteen zudija are present and they begin to
tremble. Exactly at midnight, the priest begins to sing “Glory to the
God” and the zudije are collapsing. For the next 10 minutes the choir and
people are singing which is followed by the scene when zudije are getting
up and standing still until end of mass.
Easter Sunday – First mass is held
in Prud at 8:30am where zudije are present during the mass. Guarding
Jesus’ tomb in this village began in 1989 when St. John Church was built.
Then the main mass follows at 10:30am in Parish of Vid. In Vid the
procession throughout the village is held as well. At both churches,
zudije are standing without exchanging of the groups. Since 2003, on
Easter Monday, zudije from Vid are participating at the traditional
“Zudija’s March” in Vodice, near Sibenik, Croatia. A parade is held
throughout the town where each group of zudija is demonstrating the
customs of their own city/village.