May 14, 2018 - In honor of the people of Perast and their courageous defense of the Turks in 1654, every 15th of May, Perast celebrates Votive Day, which is marked as a Lecture Day in the church calendar. To local people, the common name is “Gađanje kokota” (Shooting the Rooster).
The bigotry between the Turks of Risan and the people of Perast was a great one. The reason for this is the power of Perast both on the sea and land, their skill on the sword and in the trade. The insecurity for the possession of Risan near the free Perast was a cause for the Turks to invade Perast. The Turks were convinced of a good victory, but they were surprised by the struggle and readiness of only a few hundred defenders of Perast.
Perast's ability in the seventeenth century on land and sea, skill on the sword and in the trade, the Chadian War, and the takeover of Risan by Perast in 1649, were only some of the reasons for the Turks to strike at Perast. Having learned that the Turks would attack Perast, the people of Perast had transported furniture to both islands in front of the town, because they believed the enemy would attack only from the land. The commander of local trades, K. Šilopi, developed the flag of St. Marc with the municipal coat of arms on his home, which obliged the mayor of the place to be ready to help all of the nine batteries of the town forces with 30 armed men in every moment they needed help. Since then, the custom of the Perast Navy on the 15th of May was accepted by the local battalion from the captain's house. This tradition of consecrating the Perast flag was interrupted when the Perast Navy was abolished.
Although the fleet of Perast counted a large number of sailboats at that time, and its citizens were known as equally skilled traders and warriors, at the time of the Turkish attack on the city, more than 30 their ships were trapped between Korcula and Molunat in the cause of severe weather. The help of Kotor was symbolic with about 30 pedestrians and some ammunition. The battle between the enormous Turkish army with some 5,000 troops and only a few hundred defenders of Perast broke out. The Turks hit the city from the land early in the morning of May 15, 1654. In the bloody battle, Marko Tomašević took the main flag from the slain Turkish flag bearer. Mahmud- aga had been killed by the rifle of Perastian Tripo Burović, so that Krsto Kolović would have his head crushed, and Burovic took the sword. Tripo’s son, Nikola Burovic, gave the sword to the Municipality as a sign of loyalty. This sword is no longer there, and the Mahmud Aga rifle, kept in Viskovic's house, is today one of the most valuable exhibits in the Perast Museum.
The strike from the sea surprised the Perastians. The Turks were led by Ulcinj’s Mustai Reis attacking Lepetane, destroying the fortress of Our Lady of Angels and going through the Verige to Perast. They devastated the islands of Saint George and Our Lady of the Rocks, from where they took the venerable gifts and mischief, but they did not find the image of Our Lady, because the Perastians, the day before they were informed about the attack, went to the island and brought the image of Our Lady. Not to save the Lady, but to be protected by Her. They took it to the Church of the Holy Cross in the fortress and entrused in Our Lady as the "chief commander" in the city's defense.
The Perastians had succeeded in defeating the Turks in the sea and returned to the city with three Turkish flags attributing their success, unrecognized in European history. The town administration decided to honor Our Lady by organizing a ceremony on the anniversary of the Battle on May 15th every year, and this year the celebration is being organized for the 364th time.
In honor of the defense of the city, on the western wall of the parish church of Sv. Nicholas in Perast, there is a memorial plaque with text in the local language, which was given by Archbishop Andrija Zmajević at that time. Croatian ban, Count Petar Zrinski, just 20 days after the battle, congratulated this victory by donating the sword of Vuk Brankovic to the Perastians.
A great number of customs, such as the task of the women of Perast to make a bouquet of the most exquisite white carnations (in the local dialect “garoful”), came from the celebration with particular symbolism. The bouquet is intended for Our Lady, her spiritual purity, and the desire to make us, ordinary mortals, happy. One girl dressed in white carries a bouquet in the church and puts it under the picture of Our Lady, placed under a silver curtain of great artistic and material value.
On May 15, four masses are held. The last mass is preceded by a procession at 16:00, led by a respected citizen of Perast, inheriting the role of the former captain of the place. It is followed by the City Music of Kotor and the Bokelian Navy, whose flagbearer carries the flag of the Perast municipality. The music, with representatives of the Bokelian navy, the locals, and family members, goes to the Perast cemetery to honor the Bokelian Navy Admiral academician Vladislav Brajković and sets flowers. Then, on the return, around 16:30 at the square of St. Nicholas, the Bokelian Navy performs the “kolo” - a traditional round dance dedicated mainly to the patron of Kotor, St. Tripun. At 17:30, the fourth Mass is served. At the end of the Mass, four men hold the Our Lady picture at the front door of the church or inside the church itself, and the people go under it, touching and praying for mercy. One of the men from Perast shares one flower from Our Lady's bouquets for those present for happiness.
The people of Perast also guard a rather unpleasant habit, especially for fighters against brutality toward animals, for which the ceremony carries the name. In commemoration of the defenses and the skill of the Perastian archers, the "gađanje kokota" (shooting the rooster) is maintained. With the participation of the Bokelian Navy, whose representatives shoot first, competitors fired a rooster attached to a seabed that is placed on the sea surface, about 200 meters away from the shore. The winner gets a towel (in local dialect “šugaman”) with the printed year of victory over the Turks and the year of the celebration. In the past, the winner had to pay a barrel of wine for sailors and a festive parade that followed him in the streets of the city.
For the end of the program of this year's celebration, at 20:30, the group "Ensemble Toć" will hold a concert at the square of St. Nicholas. The event is being organized by the NGO Friends of Perast, the Perast Municipal Co.