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zaostrog1_1200Zaostrog is tourist settlement on the Makarska coastline, about 35 km from Makarska . Today Zaostrog, as a tourist settlement of the southern Makarska coast, is completely oriented to the development of tourism. Zaostrog is settled permanently by some 350 inhabitants, mostly employed in hotel and restaurant services and tourism. The town has around 750 beds available in private residences, villas, and boarding houses, with a further 600 places at the Auto Camp "Viter".

Located in an evergreen valley and surrounded by the foothills of the Biokovo Range, with spectacular beaches, and with a rich historical and cultural tradition, in the immediate vicinity of numerous attractive destinations for excursions, Zaostrog is an attractive place for a pleasant vacation. It was mentioned for the first time in 1494, but this area was inhabited in the ancient past, as is shown by a granite handle quem from the late Stone Age, discovered at Viter, the hill about Zaostrog, in 1953. Zaostrog was also settled by the ancient Illyrians, as is confirmed by the numerous cemeteries of burial mounds.

A rich cultural life existed at Zaostrog in the period of Roman rule, as can be seen from the numerous classical monumentszaostrog1, particularly the stone ones: a relief of dancers and flute players in Illyrian attire, a relief showing the deity Mithras, and two tombstones. After the arrival of the Croats in the 7th century, the settlement received the Slavic name Ostrog, mentioned around 950 AD by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenetus as one of the four fortified cities of the "Pagania" of the NeretvanPrincedom (Mokron, Berulia, Ostrok, Labinetza).

Medieval Ostrog (meaning "fortress") was located at a high point below Mali Viter, and later a new settlement called Zaostrog developed below the hill of Šapašnik on the north of the Zaostrog plain and to the northwest of the town cited by Porphy rogenetus. In the 15th century, the feudal lords of Zaostrog were Croatian noblemen, the Vlatkovic-Jurjevic brothers, who had a fortified castle at Viter, as is shown by the ruins, the remains of ancient fortifications, particularly a stone threshold with a relief of a hand. In the 17th centuru, the inhabitants of Zaostrog began to settle on the coastline, and finally everyone moved from the upper settlement to the area along the sea after an earthquake in 1962. The old town of Zaostrog contains three churches: the early Gothic Church of St.Barbara with a cemetery in the Roman section, the church of St.Roccus from the 17th century, and the newer church of St. Barbara from 1872. There are a further three small chapels: St.Anthony in the village (1893), the church of Our Lady at Kucina (1911), and St.Elias at Prosik (1894). The largest and most important cultural monument in this area, and even beyond, is the Franciscan monastery of St.Mary.

The monastery is considered to havebeen founded in the 14th century. It was established by monks of the order of "hermits of St. Augustine", called Augustinians, who abandoned the monastery after the fall of Bosnia in 1463 and retreated to the islands. Franciscans from the Province of Bosnia Srebrena settled in the abandoned monastery in 1468, and are still present today. The zaostrog5Franciscans succeeded in improving the monastery, even under the difficult conditions of Turkish rule, to the extent that in 1640 it was proclaimed one of the most beautiful monasteries of this large province, according to the evaluation of a visitation team from Rome.

One of the most important cultural monuments that illuminates the cultural level of the monastery at that time is a stone inscription written in the Croatian lanuage and a special script ("Bosancica") from 1589, located above the main entrance to the church. The monastery at Zaostrog was at that point an internationally famous pilgrimage site that was included in a list of Marian sites throughout the world. The monastery also had an important role in education. During the more than 500 years of its existence, a school for the education of future priests was located in it.

Even during the period of the Turkish rule, an elementary and liberal arts school existed in 1640, later followed by a classical secondary school, and philosophy and religious faculties. The monastery possesses a rich library with around 20.000 books and an archival department. Among the many famous names of Croatian culture and history who lived and worked in the monastery at Zaostrog was Father Andrija Kacic Miošic, the Croatian poet, writer and philosopher, born at Brist in 1704 and died at Zaostrog in 1760, and Father Ivan Despot (1886), a Croatian writer and poet. A.K. Miošic-"Old Man Milovan", ashe called himself, was educated in the Zaostrog monastery, took orders there, further created his literary works there, died, and was buried at the monastery.

The monastery at Zaostrog is often called "Kacic's monastery". The monastery also contains a picture gallery featuring one of the most famous living Croatian painters, Mladen Veža, born in Brist in 1916. The monastery museum also contains an ethnology collection, of rustic furniture and tools, as well as various examples of Croatian folk attire. The collection is registered as a cultural monument under state protection. The monastery garden has been turned into a botanical garden containing more than 250 plants, particulary featuring: seven types of mimosa, five types of palms and maples, four types of eucalyptus, a Chinese jujube tree, Chinese currants, etc.

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