Croatia is a land reach with cultural and historic heritage, among which an important place is taken by small medieval towns.
Medieval Istrian Towns
The inland medieval towns are mostly situated on hill tops that offer them a natural protection.
Their outward appearance reminds of a fortress, whilst from the inside theres a medieval town with its narrow streets irregularly wrapped. The city life centre is situated around the church and the square.
Some of the numerous istrian towns of this kind worth seeing are Beram, Buje, Buzet, Dvigrad, Gračišće, Grožnjan, Hum, Labin, Motovun, Oprtalj, Pazin, Pićan, Sveti Lovreč Pazenatički, Vižinada, Vodnjan, Žminj.
The ruins of the fortified medieval town in the western part of the Istrian interior, near Limska draga, 3.5 km west of Kanfanar.
In the early Middle Ages, two castles were present here – Parentino and Moncastello. The life of the first ended in the early Middle Ages, while the second, under the name Dvigrad – Duecastelli, was inhabited until 1631, which the residents were forced to leave due to the plague, founding Kanfanar instead.
The ruins offer a unique picture of the medieval city structure, belted by walls and towers at the town’s entrance. The perimeter walls of some 220 structures and the communications lines between them have been preserved. At the central square are the ruins of the Church of St. Sofia (11-12th century).
The pulpit from the 14th century, with its relief of St. Sofia with the two cities in her hands is today in the Kanfanar parish church.
In the surroundings of Dvigrad are several prominent chapels. In the graveyard Church of St. Mary (Gothic structure with bell tower on the distaff and its semicircle apse) contains a series of frescos, the work of the so-called colorful master, a domestic artist from the 15th century. The same master also painted the Chapel of St. Anthony, which in terms of style belongs to the shift from the Romanesque to the Gothic.
Near Dvigrad are the ruins of the Benedictine Abbey, established in the 10th century and abandoned in the 18th century, with the Church of St. Petronil. East of the settlement is the Romanesque Chapel of St. Eliah, which in 1442 received a Gothic arch construction.
Settlement in the interior of Istria, 8 km southeast of Buje; situated on the northern plateau above the Mirna River Valley, at an altitude of 260m. Population 193. Within the revitalization project, Grožnjan in more recent history has been enriched with cultural activities (Summer Music School). It is connected to Buje with local roads.
The medieval castle was the property of an Aquilean patriarch until 1358. To 1394, it was under Venetian ownership and became the center of the northern part of its territory in Istria.
Preserved monuments include a portion of the defense system: the main city gates on the eastern side (15-16th cent.) and a part of the defensive wall, which was restored on two occasions (1360 and 1367). Near the gates on the interior side lies the Renaissance loggia (1587), above which was the wheat storage. The Baroque church St. Mary, St. Vid and Modesta from 1770 is located on the main square. The separate bell tower is from the 17th century. The church contains valuable Baroque choir benches, an oil painting from the 17th century depicting St. Peter of Alcantara and the marble late Baroque altar.
Before the city gates is the chapel of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, built in 1554 and adapted in 1834, and the chapel interior was painted by the modern Croatian artist Ivan Lovrenčić (1990). On the foothills of the town on the Mirna River, in a place called Bastia, the small Baroque Church of the Merciful Mother of God was preserved.
Hum is said to be the world's smallest town. The western side of the town is enclosed with a wing of city walls, while on the remaining three sides the defense system consisted of the interconnected outer walls of houses.
Within the wall system, near to the city gates (1562) is the bell tower (1552). The parish church, with its classical façade, was built in 1802 in the same place as the church from 1609. The painting above the altar is the work of B. d’Anne. The church has a late Gothic chalice and ciborium from 1539.
The Romantic church St. Jeronim, with its semicircle apse stands at the graveyard. The church contains valuable wall paintings from the 12-13th century.
Settlement in the central region of the Istrian Peninsula on the south side of the Mirna River Valley. Economy is based on agriculture, wine and ranching.
The oldest core of the town is belted with well preserved city walls from the 13th and 14th century, and today serve as a promenade. Within the core are several Romantic and Gothic houses. The three sections of the town are connected with a system of external and internal fortifications with walls, towers and city gates. Situated on the main square is the Gothic-Romantic bell tower with scalloped parapet at the top (18/19th cent.) and the Renaissance palace-castle with adaptations from the 16-19th centuries.
Beneath the main square is the public water reservoir, and stone plaque with city crest dating back to the 14-15th centuries. The parish church, St. Stjepan (St. Steven), the construction of which began in the early 17th century carries late Renaissance markings. The painting of the Last Supper in the sanctuary is attributed to Stefano Celesti (17th cent.); the marble statues at the main altar are the work of Francesco Bonazza from 1725; the Baroque carved chair (17th cent.); ceiling painting were made by the neoclassicist Giuseppe Bernadino Bisson in the late 18th century; the organ is the work of Gaetana Callida (Venice, 18-19th cent.).
Of the church inventory, the gilded movable altar with reliefs of the crucifixion and saints (14th cent.), the processional cross from the 14th century with ornamental handle from the 15th century, the chalice with enamel ornaments (15th cent.), the osculatorium (1606), the reliquary (17th cent.) and the candelabras (from 1714 and 1739) stand out in particular.
Pazin is mentioned in a document of the Emperor Otto II, issued in Verona on 7 July 983, upon which basis the castle came into the ownership of the Poreč diocese. In the 12th century, it was owned by the Count Majnhard, born in Crni Grad near Roč, the founder of the Poreč county. After the Majnhard family died out in 1248, the castle passed into the hands of the counts of Gorica. In 1374, it was passed on to the Hapsburgs and given in feud to various families, the last of which (from 1766) was the Montecuccoli family.
From 1825-1861, Pazin was the administrative center of the Istria Interior. In 1899, the first Croatian secondary school in Istria was opened, which did much to contribute to Croatian culture and national awareness. During World War II, it suffered significant damage from bombing (1943), and following the war, it was annexed to Croatia.
The castle, built upon a cliff above the abyss Jama, was first mentioned in 983. It received its current appearance between 1537-40, when the northern and eastern wings were added. The Pazin castle is one of the best preserved and loveliest in Istria. It has attracted the attention of numerous artists, such as Jules Verne and Vladimir Nazor.
The parish church, St. Nikola (St. Nicholas), was mentioned in 1266, and in 1441, and it received a late Gothic polygonal presbytery. On the walls and the vaults of the sanctuary, there is a series of wall paintings by an unknown author, from around 1470. On the vaults is the cycle of Creation of the World and the Battle of Angels, with the figure of St. Mihovil (St. Michael) in the center; the great painting of the crucifixion is hidden by the Baroque altar. The church was expanded with the chapels in 1659, and the Baroque additions and expansion were completed in 1764. The church was equipped with exceptional marble altars; the Renaissance stone Custody is particularly valuable (1541). The organ is the work of Gaetana Callida (Venice, 1780). The Franciscan Church has a late Gothic sanctuary from 1481; it was extended in 1729; the bell tower was erected in 1730. The main altar is the work of Domenica Cavalieri (1726). A significant work from the Baroque period is the carved Immaculate Conception (18th cent.).
The Istria Ethnographic Museum, situated in the castle, was founded in 1955. In addition to the ethnography collection, the bells of Istrian churches from the 14-20th century are on display.
The city has preserved its distinctive medieval appearance – within the ring of houses are narrow and irregular streets. The city was first mentioned in 1150 as vicus Atinianum. In about 1300, a castle with a moat was erected on the western side (and destroyed in 1808). In the old part of the settlement, many houses built in the Venetian Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles have been preserved.
Today’s parish church, the Church of St. Blaise on the northern edge of the town now stands on the site where up until 1761, a pre-Romantic church stood (with fragments of braided ornaments). The current church is a monumental Baroque structure from 1800. It contains the Renaissance Custody from 1451, several valuable paintings from between the 16-18th centuries and two wooden angels from 1616. Within the framework of the church, the collection of sacral art with the valuable exhibits from the 14-19th century was opened in 1984.
Among the paintings, the most exceptional are the polyptych of blessed Leon Bembo, the work of Paolo Veneziano from 1321, the painting of Mother of God, protector (Jocobello del Fiore), icon of the Holy Virgin Mary (15-16th cent.) and the Renaissance triptych of the blessed Leon Bembo (Lazaro Bastiani, early 16th cent.). The collection also consists of rare examples of metal, glass and woods relics (15-19th cent.). The majority of the articles in the collection were brought in 1818 from Venice by painter Gaetano Grezler; several Baroque paintings of the same origin are found in the rooms of the former City Hall, erected in 1911.
The Baroque Church of Our Lady of Carmel was built from 1630-64; the church contains an altar painting of St. Stjepan (St. Steven; Antonio Zonca, Venice, 17th cent.). In the Church of Mary of Traversa, there are altar relief representations, dating back to the first half of the 17th century. East of the road which leads to Bale are the ruins of the Romanesque church St. Marguerite, with a semicircle apse and frescoes from the 13th century. On the very road to Bale is a single nave Romanesque church St. Francis, with semicircle apse. Along the rail line (to Juršići) is the Church of St. Lucy with built-in pre-Romanesque spolia. On the road to Juršići is the Church of St. Quirinus, an original (6th cent.) triple nave basilica, in which several stone monuments (6th and 9th cent.) have been found.
In the settlement of Guran, northeast of Vodnjan, was a late antiquity village with a triple nave early-Christian basilica begun in the 7th century; of this church, only portions of the frescos and the altar have been found. It appears that the basilica was in function until the 15th century. The graveyard church St. Simon dates back to the 6-7th century (later adapted), with its characteristic walled graves around the church.