In the 17th century when Ottoman Turks plundered the area, the Franciscan Guardian Petar Kumbat took refuge on the easternmost part of the island of Brač. He sailed across from Makarska harbour accompanied with a dozen families from the Dalmatian hinterland, Bosnia and Herzegovina. On reaching the safe shores of Brač, they built a small shrine devoted to their old patron, St. Martin. The name of Sumartin, first mentioned in the 19th century, derives from this early shrine. The settlement, however, was initially dubbed Vrh Brača (top of Brač). In this case, Vrh does not refer to the altitude of the settlement but to its position: the easternmost end of the island. Since the refugees originally settled the shore, and the settlement spread to the surrounding slopes only gradually, it is no wonder that many of the locals are ship builders and fishermen. If you take a walk through the old part of this peaceful town, you will notice that all of the house doors face south and that not a single house has a door to the north. Sumartin population grew until 1784, when a plague epidemic halved it to only 200 people. In the same year, Sumartin was accorded parish status. Its current population is 320.
Photo by Rainer Eschlboeck
Sumartin is the easternmost and the youngest coastal settlement on the island of Brač. It was settled as early as 1648 by families from the Dalmatian hinterland (Biokovo mountain) and Herzegovina. It gets its name from the local church of St. Martin. Sumartin is the only štokavian (one of three major Croatian dialects whose name is derived from što = what; the majority of Dalmatians are čakavians who say ča instead) settlement on the island and the only parish administered by Franciscans. Other parishes on Brač are run by Dominican friars.
The Franciscan monastery founded by friar Andrija Kačić Miošić (1704-1760) and the parish church of Our Lady of Angels, built in the period between 1911 and 1913, are the most prominent local landmarks. World-famous white Brač marble used in church construction was quarried at the local Planik quarry run by the Štambuk brothers.Sumartin is the easternThe Franciscan monastery founded by friar Andrija Kačić Miošić (1704-1760) and the parish church of Our Lady of Angels, built in the period between 1911 and 1913, are the most prominent local landmarks. World-famous white Brač marble used in church construction was quarried at the local Planik quarry run by the Štambuk brothers.
The Franciscan monastery museum is home to valuable paintings, including an early Baroque representation of the Last Supper from the second half of the 17th century, and a collection of shells (Malacological museum). Both can be visited on request to the Guardian. Monastery archives contain yet another valuable exhibit, church records of births, deaths and marriages for the period between 1665 and 1755 written in bosančica, an old Croatian script
This Christian community was formed under Franciscan leadership around the rebuilt remains of a small church of St. Martin in mid-17th century. The Croatian poet Andrija Kačić Miošić (while serving as guardian in Sumartin) started the construction of the present-day monastery. The old church of St. Martin was pulled down in 1911 and the foundation stone of the new church was laid and consecrated in the same year. The building was completed by 1913. The centennial of the first consecration was joyfully celebrated in 2013. The celebrations were led by bishop Slobodan Štambuk.
The chapel of St. Nicola (10th century) on Kruška hill above Sumartin is one of the oldest early Romanesque churches on Brač. Its outer frame and interior, harmonized by a slender square dome, make it one of the most beautiful churches of this type on the island. The chapel of St. Rocco was built in 1696 by the settlers who arrived from Veliko Brdo. It is located east of Sumartin, on the very tip of the island, the present location of the local cemetery. The chapel of St. Spiridon stands in the very center of Sumartin. It should not be surprising that there are so many small churches in and around Sumartin as Brač is renowned for the largest number of preserved early Christian churches in the whole of Dalmatia.
Prominent inhabitants of Sumartin
Friar Andrija Dorotić (25 October 1761 – 4 September 1837) was a Dalmatian provincial, philosopher and writer. He is best known for his political activity. His views were similar to other Franciscan monks and he passionately advocated the joining of Dalmatia with the rest of Croatia. In the period of French (Napoleon’s) rule, friar Dorotić was one of the leaders of the local uprising of 1806. Local Croats rebelled against the French whose behaviour was offensive to the religious feelings of the local population.
Mario Puratić (in English texts Puretic; born in Sumartin in 1917) revolutionised the technology of purse seine net hauling in the 1950’s by his design of a power block, presently known as Puretic Power Block. Until his invention, nets had to be hauled in by eight to ten people, which was a tremendously exhausting job. No wonder that Puratić is listed among the greatest inventors of the 20th century. In 1972, Bank of Canada issued a series of five-dollar bills featuring a fishing ship with the Puretic Power Block on the reverse.
Brothers Albin and Petar Štambuk, master stone cutters, were prominent and engaged citizens of Sumartin. Between 1911 and 1913, together with their employees, they quarried and prepared the stone for the new church in Sumartin. Wherever you look, on the stone facades of Sumartin houses, you can see a lasting testimony to their skilful treatment of stone, a craft verging on art.
Velibor Mačukatin, sculptor, was born in Sumartin on 3 November 1919. After graduating from Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts under Frane Kršinić and Ivan Meštrović in 1945, Mačukatin exhibited his work in Paris. In 1946 he completed a master class under Antun Augustinčić. Later he collaborated with Augustinčić on some of his major projects. Mačukatin had many solo exhibits in Zagreb and globally. He died in Zagreb in 2010.