The first things that pop into your mind when imagining your vacation in Omiš are probably the sun, the sea and beautiful beaches. However, the municipal district of Omiš also includes the territory of Poljica – a group of villages situated along the foot of the Mosor mountain, boasting quite a rich and interesting history.
Situated away from the sea, on the other side of the Dinara mountain, Poljica are a rural area that offers escape from the hustle and bustle of the crowded town streets and beaches. But although an oasis of peace today, throughout the history the villages of Poljica were a venue of many significant battles.
From the 13th century onwards, the territory of the today’s Poljica was organized as the so called Republic of Poljica, which has remained a unique phenomenon in Europe due to its at the time quite progressive administrative form and social structure. The medieval Republic of Poljica was, in fact, governed by the people, who elected their leader – the great Prince of Poljica – through a democratic voting process held each year on St. George’s Day.
One of the basic legal acts governing the functioning of the Republic of Poljica was the famous Poljica Statute, originally written in the 14th century. This invaluable piece of Croatian legal history regulated in detail all aspects of economic and social life in the Republic of Poljica. Furthermore, the document is also a testament of how much ahead of their time the inhabitants of Poljica were, living, as they did, in one of the few truly democratic societies of the period. The Republic of Poljica was such a well-organised social system that some scientists today believe it was precisely the visit to this small community that inspired the writing of Thomas More’s indicatively titled masterpiece – “Utopia”.
The more than 600 years old Republic was finally abolished in 1807, following Napoleon’s conquest of Dalmatia, but numerous churches, houses and other monuments stand as silent witnesses of its rich history until today (such as the Early Christian Church in Podgrađe (5th century), the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church and cemetery in Tugare(13th century), the 13th Roman Villa Rustica (5th century), as well as the famous Poljica Statute and “soparnik” – a delicious traditional dish from Poljica, today included on the official list of Croatian Intangible Cultural Heritage).
In addition to soparnik and the famous Poljica Statute, the most popular tourist attractions on the territory of Poljica are:
- The Church and Museum of Poljica from the 6th century in the village of Gata – the old Early Christian Church bears testimony of the rich life of Poljica ever since ancient times, and the Museum of Poljica boasts a valuable historical collection from which you can learn a thing or two about the culture and everyday life of the old inhabitants of Poljica.
- The Pavić Bridge (“Pavića most”) – one of the oldest bridges over the Cetina river was built in year 1900, but despite time having taken its toll on it and the damage done to it by explosives during World War II, remains in use until today. After extensive reconstruction works in 2012 it was finally renewed and reinforced and is today even passable by car.
- Gradac/The Church of St. George - built the high up on the hill of Gradac (at 353 meters above sea level), the Church of St. George is one of the most beautiful and most visited churches on the entire territory of Poljica.
The legend of Mili Gojsalić
Although a true oasis of peace today, throughout the history the villages of Poljica were a venue of many significant battles. One of the crucial battles faught by the inhabitants of Poljica was the one in year 1530, when the territory of the Republic of Poljica was gravely threatened by a large Ottoman army advancing from the East. Being far stronger in number, the invading Ottoman army was on the verge of victory over the people of Poljica. However, as legend has it, a young beautiful girl from Poljica named Mila Gojsalić went into the tent of the Ottoman leader Ahmed –Pasha and sacrificed her own life for the freedom of Poljica. Having seduced the Pasha, after he fell asleep she snuck into the gunpowder storage of the Turkish army and set the stockpile on fire, along with the entire Ottoman army camp. The Ottomans tried to capture Mila, but – as any true heroine – she could not allow herself to fall into the hands of the enemy. With the Turks at her heels, she courageously ran to the edge of a cliff overlooking the mouth of the Cetina River and jumped to her death.
Encouraged by Mila’s bravery, the people of Poljica launched a counterattack and once and for all drove the Ottomans out of their Republic. In memory of her heroic act a statue of this young heroine, rightfully referred to as Jeanne D’Arc of Poljica, today proudly stands at a vantage point near the village of Gata. The impressive statue is a work by the world-famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović, and stands precisely at the place from which, as legend has it, Mila jumped to her death fleeing the Turkish army.