Skip to the main content

Original scientific paper

Spiritual Kinship on the Island of Lastovo in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century

Marko Rašica
Ljiljana Marks ; Institut za etnologiju i folkloristiku, Zagreb, Hrvatska

Full text: croatian pdf 551 Kb

page 531-571

downloads: 715



Based on the fieldwork conducted in September 2015, this article investigates and analyses spiritual kinship on the island of Lastovo in the nineteenth and twentieth century in terms of the choice of godparent, confirmation sponsor and marriage witness as well as the role of godparenthood in everyday life. Considering that in ethnographic and folkloristic research it is important who the speaker is, informants have been exhaustively quoted. Personally toned and accentuated statements afforded by the elderly informants, based on life-long experience and memory, provide a general and, more so, an individual snapshot which is not confined by the given theme. The informants constitute a representative data sample of 7.5% of the island’s population of 65 years of age and older. As they are all residents of the settlement of Lastovo, they also constitute 15% of the population of the island’s urban centre above the age of 70. Over the past centuries, the island of Lastovo was a closed and isolated community subject to frequent changes of the political regime, in which the institution of godparenthood tended to play a cohesive role. Being considered a type of kinship, godparenthood represented an impediment to marriage from as early as 1449, as regulated by the Lastovo Statute. This attitude survived till the end of the twentieth century. Baptism was conveyed as an act of religious, cultural and even national affiliation. According to the reports, a child most commonly had two baptismal godparents, two men at first, and later one of each sex. The selection was made among kin and friends, of Catholic faith generally, and the choice mainly rested on the family elders, in accordance with the patriarchal family structure. Being a witness at confirmation did not carry the same significance as compared to witness at baptism. Confirmation witness was usually sought among kin and friends according to the child’s choice or that of his parents. Greater attention and importance was given to marriage witnesses. Namely, a person chosen for a marriage witness acted as godfather to the first born child in this marriage, and it was his responsibility to care for the child’s future and well-being. It was customary for the bride to have her brother as witness. Spiritual kinship consolidated the already established social networks, because marriage witnesses were mainly family members or very close friends. This sacrament, too, was at first witnessed by men only, to be extended to women in the second half of the twentieth century. The analysis of relevant demographic data and informant statements leads to a conclusion that depopulation of the last several decades had a greater impact on the centuries-old type of the institution of godparenthood and the social role of godparents than the island’s isolation due to the permanently stationed military troops.


Lastovo; spiritual kinship; 19th and 20th century; social networks; customs; baptism; confirmation; marriage; fieldwork; demographic changes

Hrčak ID:



Publication date:


Article data in other languages: croatian

Visits: 1.663 *