Venturing into Pučišća’s Stonemason School feels like entering another era. The soundtrack is the hammering, sanding, and chiseling of stone. A snow-white dust dances in the air, hugging every surface, and carpeting the ground. Classic urns, intricate fountains, and a regal lion fill the school’s sun-drenched workshop. Indeed, the only details that may transport you back to the present are the sweatpants, t-shirts, and earbuds worn by the aspiring stonemasons.
The Pučišća Stonemason School (Croatian: Klesarska škola) has trained students in the art of stonemasonry for more than one hundred years. Located on the rugged Croatian island of Brač (pronounced Bra-ch), in the sleepy town of Pučišća, the school currently has 79 students, two of whom are young women. While most of the students come from all over Croatia, there are also a handful from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and even the Czech Republic.
The students choose between three and four-year tracks, with one path leading them to become stonemason technicians, and another preparing them to be stonemasons. There’s even a dormitory and traditional classrooms inside the complex – spaces that Shawn and I accidentally discovered as we navigated the building in search of the main entrance.
Not wanting to interrupt the students for too long, I asked some young men in the workshop why they’d decided to become stonemasons. One of the teenagers confidently took on the role of translator.
“It’s beautiful, that’s why,” the young man said, gesturing to a partially finished window.
The frame he drew my attention to was delicate, white, and similar to windows I’ve seen on historic churches throughout Croatia and Europe. This similarity wasn’t surprising given the traditional techniques employed at this school, and that Brač’s stone has been cherished internationally for centuries.
Incredibly, Brač limestone has been used to adorn parts of the White House in Washington, D.C., as well as parliament buildings in Budapest and Vienna. In Croatia, you can find Brač limestone showcased in UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Diocletian’s Palace in Split, the Saint James Cathedral in Šibenik, and the Cathedral of Saint Lawrence in Trogir.
There are numerous quarries on Brač. Some are still in use. While others, like the quarry used to source stone for Diocletian’s Palace, were abandoned centuries ago.
As Shawn and I wove between the barrel-like workbenches, I was struck by the patience, passion, and attention to detail the teenagers devote to this art. With a plethora of electronic gadgets to distract them these days, coupled with their own coming-of-age challenges, I was impressed by their emerging talent and dedication.
As we left the school, a trio of boys began teasing a classmate with a compressed-air gun intended to remove stonemasonry dust from clothes. In many ways, the students seemed less like future masters and more like typical teenagers – a forgivable condition considering that Michelangelo was probably the same way in his younger years.
Video of this Experience:
Where in the World?
- The town of Pučišća is located on the Croatian island of Brač. For more details about the community, see the Official Tourist Board of Pučišća website.
- The Stonemason School (Klesarska škola in Croatian) is less than a 5-minute walk from Pučišća’s main bus stop. The address is: Novo Riva 4, 21412, Pučišća, and telephone is: +385 (0)21-633-114. Visitors are welcome, but it’s advisable to check the school’s website (link above, note that the site is in Croatian) to verify ticket prices and ensure the school will be open when you intend to visit.
- The island of Brač is accessible by ferry or catamaran, and the journey from the city of Split to Brač takes about one hour. The catamaran goes to the town of Bol, whereas the ferry travels to Supetar. Both vessel types are operated by Jadrolinija, which lists the fares and timetables on its website. When we made the trip in the autumn of 2016, the catamaran fare was 40 kuna one way, per person.
- Distances on Brač appear deceptively short when you look at a map. However, since Brač’s terrain is rugged and many of the roads are curvy, it takes longer to get around than you might think. If you’re traveling by bus, as we did, use the Autotrans Bus website to plan your journey. We stayed in the town of Bol, about 22 km (13.5 miles) from Pučišća. Our journey from Bol to Pučišća took roughly 35 minutes and cost 30 kuna one way, per person. You can buy the tickets on the bus, or online. We got a better overall price by buying round-trip tickets.
- While on Brač, we stayed at the Apartments Milena (affiliate link), in the lovely town of Bol. While it was a bit of a walk from our apartment to Zlatni Rat (Croatia’s most famous beach), grocery stores, cafés, and restaurants, were an even shorter distance. Bol’s main bus stop, as well as the catamaran point, were about 15 minutes away by foot. Milena, the apartment owner, was friendly, brought us homemade cookies, and allowed us to have a late check-out. We didn’t speak a common language, but used Google Translate to converse. Milena and her family also kindly offered for us to use their outdoor oven, which would be great for cooking a traditional peka there.
- Would you like more ideas as you plan your Croatian adventures? Here’s an index of all my posts from Croatia.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved. My husband, Shawn, crafted the video.