Although some historians think that a Franciscan monastery existed in the Cetina region as early as the 13th century, and that it was destroyed by the Mongol invasion, there is no concrete evidence or findings for that statement. However, according to written and preserved documents, the beginning of the arrival of the Franciscans in the Cetina region and in Sinj began in the second half of the 14th century under the auspices of Ivan Nelipić, a very powerful Croatian nobleman, prince of Cetina and Hum. Namely, after the death of his father, Duke Nelipac II. Cetinski (1344), the powerful lord of Knin, the Croatian-Hungarian king Ludovik I. Anžuvinac (1342-1382) in order to destroy the power of nobles and noblemen and strengthen his position in Croatia, he wanted to come into possession of all the cities that Nelipić held in their hands. According to the final agreement with King Louis from November 21, 1345, the king took the towns of Knin, Počitelj, Srb, Ostrog and Unac with their associated parishes, and gave Ivan Nelipić his royal town of Sinj (castrum nostrum regale Zyn) and an important confirmation of the Cetina region. principality over Sinj. It was in 1345 that the name "Sinj" (Vsinj) was mentioned for the first time in history, the name for a fortress on a stone hill, 438 meters high above the old Illyrian settlement Osini, and below the fortress was a town called Cetina, Cetin-grad, and then Sinj actually became the city of the Cetina princes.
Prince Ivan Nelipić of Cetina as a true Catholic, faithful to the church and to God Almighty, because of his great sympathy for monasteries, monks, especially the Franciscans, with the blessing of Pope Innocent VI. received (April 30, 1357) permission to build a Franciscan monastery and the church of St. Mary in the area called Kula, where today the Croatian barracks "Petar Berislavić" is situated. Under the then protection of the powerful Nelipić, the monastery belonged to the Bosnian Vicariate with a large number of Franciscans, so that the Cetina Custody was soon created, whose curator has been mentioned since 1372. In the middle of the 15th century, the monasteries of Cetina pod Sinjem, Vrlike, Knin, Skradin, Visovac, Karin and Klis also belonged to Nelipić, as the seat of the great Cetina Custody.
When the Turks burned the monastery and the mentioned church in 1490, on May 23, 1492, Pope Innocent VIII sent a letter to the prince of Poljica, Žarko Dražojević, to restore the church under the walls of the town of Vsinj. The Pope himself encourages all the faithful to help with alms to repair and sustain the parish church. The church and monastery were probably rebuilt then, but, like the entire Cetina region, they continued to suffer the attacks of the Ottoman invaders until Sinj finally fell under their rule, some sources state in 1524 and some in 1536, with the betrayal by a certain Ivan Bilić and had remained under Turkish rule for the next 150 years. At that time the Franciscans fled and for the most part, they took refuge with the Uskoks defenders under Klis. However, when Klis fell (1537), they fled in Senj. Before the first Turkish occupation of Sinj / first half of the 16th century, the Franciscans left the city and took with them numerous archival documents, writings, valuables, among which was the parchment Codex of the Bible from the 14th century. They took the Codex first to Trsat, near Rijeka, and today it is kept in Madrid. While others took refuge in Rama in central Bosnia.
During the Moravian War (1683-1699), when Sinj was finally liberated from the Turkish rule, driven by fear of Ottoman retaliation, the Franciscans decided to leave their Rama parish and move to Sinj and liberated Cetina, where they occasionally went as spiritual shepherds. The most massive migration of people after the liberation of Sinj in September 1686 took place in October 1687 under the leadership of the Franciscans - 15 of them - from Livno, Duvno, Kupres, Glamoč, Rama and the area below Mostar, led by father Pavle Vučković, but also the migration of people from Herzegovina and Poljica in 1691. Along with other objects, they brought with them the picture of then-called the Mother of Mercy, which would later become Our Lady of Sinj, the main patroness. After a short stay in Dugopolje, they settled in the beginning of 1688 in the abbey of Sv. Stjepan (Sustipan) in Split. In 1690, they received lands in Sinj around the Muslim mosque. A year later, the Franciscans returned to Sinj and turned the mosque into the church of St. Francis and the minaret in the bell tower. However, this position was not satisfactory and therefore they began to build a new church on the land below the Kamičak fortress, which they received in 1695, as early as 1699, according to the designs of Ivan Macanović Ragužanin. The construction was carried out by Andrija Ruspini from Bergamo. The church was completed only in 1714. Next to the central nave it had four side chapels and an apse. However, the Ottoman army set fire to the newly built church just before the famous battle of 1715.
When the Ottoman invaders plundered the Cetina region in 1715, destroyed the Kamičak fortress, devastated Zagora to Drniš and Vrlika, the military crew withdrew to the Sinj fortress. With them there were several Franciscans with the painting of Our Lady. The attack on the fortress began on August 8, and the last assault was on August 14 on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption. However, with numbers and weapons, the incomparably superior conquering army withdrew unexpectedly and inexplicably. The defenders and the people were convinced that the relatively small and exhausted crew was being helped by the Mother of God on the eve of her feast - the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (15th August).
The grateful soldiers and officers collected between them 80 Venetian golden coins (Cekini) and had a golden crown made, of which the Archbishop of Split, Stjepan Cupilli, crowned the painting Sinj fortress on September 22, 1716. during the great procession and celebration. Although the Franciscans tried to return the painting back in the church under Kamičak, it remained in the fortress for some time, because the officers and defenders did not want to give it. After several years of opposition, the Venetian doge himself ordered the painting to be handed over to the Franciscans. Thus, the painting was transferred to the new church in 1721.
After the war, the church was slowly repaired, and was covered only in 1723. In 1733, a wooden altar of Our Lady was made, on which a picture of the Mother of Mercy was placed, which, thanks to numerous worshipers and pilgrims outside Sinj and the Cetina region, after the miraculous defense of Sinj in 1715, generally accepted over time. The painting was allegedly painted in the late 16th or early 17th century. She was worshiped in Rama even before coming to Sinj. In 1758, a silver frame was made for the painting. He received decorative accessories in 1766. The frame was repaired in 1973 by the academic sculptor Ante Jakić.
In 1743, the marble altar of St. Ante, and in 1750 two more altars were made, st. Joseph and St. Pascal. Picture of St. Joseph was painted by Toma Giazi. The marble baroque altar of Our Lady of Sinj, as a votive gift of the entire Cetina region, was completed in 1795. Whenever. 1803, at the memorial of St. Paulina (June 22) hail destroyed all crops, the people of Sinj made a vow to the saint and sowed millet and other seeds so during that period there was no famine. Therefore, the altar at the bottom of the church was dedicated to St. Paulina. His painting was painted by Nikola Blašković.
On November 28, 1769, Sinj was half-destroyed by an earthquake in which the church was also destroyed. During the reconstruction of the church, the chapels built according to Macanović's design were demolished. The inner wall is divided by three high arches in which the altars are set. Between the pillars are windows and on the front a large rose. This gave the church a simple shape that it has largely preserved to this day. The church was renovated in 1862. The walls were erected for several rows of stones.
On September 11, 1944, during the U.S. Allied bombing of Sinj, the church was hit by three air bombs. The facade of the church, the organ and two altars were completely demolished, and the entire interior was damaged. The entire repair was done in 1953. The façade was raised from the foundation and the ceiling was temporarily made of planks. In 1957, a new organ by Franc Jenko from Ljubljana was purchased, and it was enlarged by several registers in 1962.
In 1959, two marble altars were purchased from the old monastery church in Makarska. On one is an old painting of St. Paulina and on the other a new St. Nikola Tavelić by academic painter Bruno Bulić. In 1962, according to the design of the architect Ante Barać, a barrel roof was made, which was later painted by Bruno Bulić. The Way of the Cross by the academic sculptor Mile Wood was procured and placed in the presbytery around the main altar in 1963. In 1964, the same artist made seven plaster medallions for the Sanctuary depicting the seven joys of Blessed Virgin Mary.
The new renovation of the church began with the arrangement of the sacristy in 1967. The furniture was made according to the designs of the architect Bernard Bernardi. In 1974/75. under the guidance of the same architect, the arrangement of the Sanctuary began. The main altar was replaced by a new, simple altar above which a baldekin was built. The wooden antependium of the altar, which depicts the people who are influenced by Our Lady of Sinj, was made by the academic sculptor Vinko Fabri.
During the restoration of the church at that time, a tomb was found under the main altar in which the Franciscans were buried in the 18th century. A new access to the tomb at the bottom of the corridor next to the sacristy has been opened. It is arranged as a crypt without any particular purpose. In 1986, Joseph Botteri Dini closed three Romanesque arcades of the religious choir behind the main altar with stained glass windows: the Annunciation, the Resurrection and Our Lady of Sorrows. Above the arcades he made mosaics: the battle under Sinj and the adoration of the Virgin. In the jubilee year (1687-1987), a new bronze door was erected on the church (the arrival of the friars with the image of Our Lady from Rama and the victory over the Turks) by the academic sculptor Stipe Sikirica.
In 2001, the monastery yard was renovated. In that courtyard, in front of the monastery, in 1977, a bronze statue of St. Francis, the work of the academic sculptor Stanko Vukadin. In 2009, the statue was moved to the entrance to the churchyard. In its place in the same year was placed a stone statue of the Mother of Mercy, the work of academic sculptor Josip Marinovic.
Probably the circumstances of the war in which the church was built and set on fire the following year (1715), and since then demolished and rebuilt several times, were the reason why it was not consecrated - at least there is no document about a possible consecration. That is why the church, together with the new altar, was consecrated only on May 21, 2009. The foundation stone for the new bell tower was laid only on July 19, 1896, and by the fall of 1897 half of it had been built. Due to lack of funds, the work was interrupted, to be continued through the guardian of the monastery, Father Josip Šimić, and was completed on September 12, 1927, as a "three-story" bell tower in the neo-Romanesque style. It is 43.5 meters high. In July 1927, the old bell tower was demolished. On the occasion of the celebration of the 700th anniversary of the death of St. Francis, the Bishop of Split K. Bonefačić blessed the new four bells of the company De Poli from Vittorio Veneta, 25.09. 1927, and the bell tower 3.10. the same year.
In 2012, according to the design of the architect Ivan Vučković, a "cloister" was built on the site where it was envisaged by the design of the monastery and church of Eng. Antonio Benoni from 1702. In that multipurpose space, on the right side towards the church, there is a bronze relief of the Mother of Mercy (Our Lady of Sinj), the work of the academic sculptor Kuzma Kovačić. In fact, it is a casting of a relief made by the same artist for the Franciscan church and monastery on Šćit, in Rama. The relief was placed in that area in 2007. With the construction of the cloister, the relief was placed in a niche which, according to the idea of the same artist, was decorated with a part of the votive gifts to Our Lady of Sinj. Candle stands have been set up next to this niche.
On the occasion of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the people, friars and the image of Our Lady of Rama (1687 - 1887), a votive chapel was built on top of the Sinj fortress from which, with Our Lady's help, Sinj was defended in 1715. The roof, vault and floor of the chapel were renovated in 2006. In 2012, the staff of the Restoration Institute from Split cleaned the stone altar, which had been painted on several occasions. In the same year, a replica of Our Lady's image without jewelry was placed on the altar, which, according to the size of the existing frame from the very beginning of the 18th century, was made by Sanja Šustić using the oil on canvas technique. On the occasion of the opening ceremony of the seven-year preparation for the 300th anniversary of the miraculous defense of Sinj (1715-2015), in 2008, a bronze statue of the Mother of Mercy, the work of academic sculptor Josip Marinović, was placed next to the votive chapel on Our Lady's Town.
Since 1996, the devotion to the Way of the Cross has been performed in Our Lady's City. In 2001, the path to the Way of the Cross was breached. In the same year, a life-size project of setting up bronze stations of the Way of the Cross was made, which was entrusted to fourteen Croatian academic artists.
Members of the Sinj monastery were pastors in a wide area from the Dinara to the Krka. Through their work, confession, spiritual guidance, and preaching, the Franciscans made the Sinj Monastery and the Sanctuary a centre of faith and grace. All this work was imbued with love for Mary and the spread of glory and devotion to Our Lady of Sinj.
In more recent times, a more modern way of working has begun, such as the printing of pictures, paintings, wreaths and prayer books, and the publication of the Herald of Our Lady of Sinj, which has been published again since 1974 as the Herald of the Shrine. Festivities are also being organized, one of which was especially solemn. 1887 or 1965 as well as the annual pilgrimages that take place in the summer days, especially around the feast of the Assumption, including the novena. A sign of the devotion and devotion of the faithful are the gifts in the picture and relief, alms, visits to the church, and group pilgrimages that are transformed in the Sanctuary into the Graceful ending by receiving the holy sacraments.
The celebration of the many pilgrimages on the day of the Assumption is growing every year and remains a visible proof of the faith of our people. The Sinj monastery is known for its grammar school, which opened in 1854. Namely, the Franciscans had to accept the education reform in 1828, but only in 1838/39. school year the study was arranged. It was then decided that the supplement to the grammar school (lyceum) - philosophy - would be taught in Sinj. When the new school reform took place in 1848, it was 1852/53 in Sinj. school year established lower grammar school. Since then, lower classes were gradually opened in Sinj, and in 1854 the Public Higher Croatian Gymnasium with Croatian as the language of instruction. A building on the square and a hall were built for the grammar school, and later a seminary was arranged in the building in the monastery yard. In 1908, a large building was built at the entrance to Sinj for the seminary school.
After World War II, the communist government confiscated the building and two floors of the new monastery wing. With all this, the school did not cease to function but continued as a Franciscan high school for the preparation of priests. Some classes were in Makarska, later in Zagreb. In 1962, the entire high school was united in Sinj. As most of the building on the square was nationalized, in 1966-67 a new gymnasium building was built to the east of the monastery while the seminary school was located on the third floor of the monastery.
U samostanu je knjižnica s preko 50.000 knjiga, 14 inkunabula, oko 100 fascikla rukopisa, 120 zemljopisnih karata. Samostanski arhiv bogat je materijalom iz redovničke, ali i mjesne prošlosti. Gimnazijski arhiv danas u gimnazijskoj zgradi pod državnom zaštitom. Godine 1860. stvorena je u samostanu arheološka zbirka s veoma vrijednim antičkim spomenicima među kojima se ističe kip božice Hekate (Dijane) i Heraklova glava. Zbirka je pod državnom zaštitom. Uz arheološku zbirku u samostanu je i bogata etnografska, numizmatička i paleontološka zbirka zajedničkog naziva Arheološka Zbirka Franjevačkog samostana Sinj. Zbirke Franjevačkog samostana u Sinju, nakon dosta seljenja, od g. 1972. nalaze se u suvremenoj postavi u novosagrađenoj zgradi uz sjeverno krilo samostana.