A pope declared Croatia the "front-line of Christendom." Just taking a quick look at a little the religious history of that courageous Christian nation, we can understand why.
The Croats, a Slav people from southern Poland, arrived to their present day territory in the 7th century. They received their baptism around the same time, and beginning in the year 640 A.D. their archbishop was John of Ravenna, in Salona. For eight centuries, Croatia was attached to Hungary. Later, part of its territory was taken under Ottoman rule between 1526 and 1669, while the rest of the country will continue to be ruled by the Habsburgs, until 1918.
On December 1, 1918, with some other regions from the Balkans, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia, Croatia chose to form an independent kingdom, later called "Yugoslavia" (Slavs of the South) in 1931. In 1946, when Tito came to power, Yugoslavia became a Marxist and Socialist Federal Republic, composed of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro.
A nation indefectibly faithful to Mary
Today, since October 8, 1991, Croatia is an independent Republic. In the course of its history, Catholic Croatia kept the faith during the schism of Photius who split with Rome in the 9th century and prepared the Orthodox schism, during the Bogomilian heresy (a sort of Manichaeism come from Bulgaria in the 13th century), during the rise of Islam in the 16th century, when Protestantism emerged in the 16th century also, through Hungary. And then, in the 1940s and after, it had to resist the atheistic Marxist-Leninist ideology!
However, in spite of so many profound differences inside that cultural and religious crossroads of the Balkans, the Croats remained indefectibly faithful to their Catholic faith. The Croats' deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of its most ancient characteristics. In Croatia, 1 church in 8 is dedicated to Mary. There are no less than 235 Marian shrines:
- The oldest is that of Remete (1272), near Zagreb
- in Zvornik
- in Sinj
- in Aljmas
- in Marija Bistrica, the most popular in the country...