Deep in the hinterland of the eastern coast of Istria, before the winding road descends into the Raša River Valley, this early medieval town is an ideal stopping point. Throughout the entire Middle Ages until Austria acquired the possession in 1374, it was the cause of dispute of Pula's bishops, Patriarchs of Aquileia, mighty feudal lords and captains of Pazin. In spite of this, ever since 1199 and the prefect Pribislav, Barban preserved its customs and right to elect its prefect, judges and priest. The names from historical documents, form of self-government (commune) headed by the prefect, as well as a great number of Glagolitic graffiti testify to the Croatian population that settled as early as the 8th c.

To end the constant conflicts about the property lines between individual Istrian counties, their feudal owners and the Venetian Republic, in 1275 a special land commission covered the territory and drafted a document in Croatian (Glagolitic), German and Latin known as the Survey of Istrian Land Boundaries (Istarski razvod). This document states that already in 1025 the land division between Vodnjan, Gočan, Barban and Svetvinčenat was determined, which proves the continuous existence of Barban as a permanent, probably fortified settlement.

The toponym Gradišće or Gračišće indicates that this area, near the cemetery, was the location of the original settlement. The settlement was established on the site of a prehistoric hill-fort, overlooking the Raša Valley. It was probably destroyed in 1328 – 1330 in the belligerent attacks of Sergius Castropola from Pula, adversary with territorial pretensions towards Barban, whose troops from Pula and Bale destroyed the early medieval fortresses of Gočan and Rogatica.
In the area where the town stands today there are no traces older than the 14th c., therefore it can be assumed that the castle was built at the new location. The town formed from it, along patterned streets which from the central square lead towards the fields, cemetery and the Raša Valley. What remains today of the rectangular castle with its four defensive towers is just one square tower which was used as a prison. Until the beginning of the 20th c., beside the town loggia from 1555 was a tall tower topped with a bell. In the 15th c. the townspeople erected two small churches: confraternity Church of St. James with frescoes depicting Virgin Mary the Protectress with members of the confraternity and legends of the saint, unique in these areas; and the chapel of St. Anthony the Abbot, also decorated with frescoes.

Being weary of disputes concerning possessions, Barban came under the rule of Venice in 1516, hoping to keep its centuries-old autonomy and institutions. However, in 1535 Venice sold the fief of Barban together with Rakalj to the Venetian nobles, the Loredan family, who remained the owners until 1869 when feudalism was abolished.
To improve the living conditions in the medieval castle and make them suitable for the Venetian aristocracy, in 1606 in the eastern part of the castle ruins, the feudal lord, Captain Antonio Capelo built an inner wing of the feudal palace with portico supported by stone columns. Such a feat was marked by the coat of arms of the Loredan family, his own coat of arms and inscription. In the beginning of the 18th c. the palace with representative facade and balcony, turned towards the square with grain storehouse and town cistern (1567). The parish church was constructed and consecrated in 1701, on the site of an earlier one from the 14th c. and part of the castle. On the remains of a circular tower a sacristy was built, whereas in 1585 a belfry was added to the square tower. The western wing of the castle was destroyed in the 19th c. and a palace garden was arranged at this location.

Although in the 18th c. war had long ago ceased, Captain Antun Franković undertook the reconstruction of the town walls between the square tower and the western town gate, and commissioned the building of the western Large Gate (Vela vrata) and the eastern Small Gate (Mala vrata) with crenellation. Outside the central square, one can see the traditional houses from the 18th and 19th cc. with stairs and a terrace in front of the residential part (baladur), cisterns and economic structures in the courtyard.

Don't miss:

St. Anthony's Church and St. James's Church decorated with frescoes from the 15th c.
St. Martin's Church in Bičići with the mural painting of the Crucifixion dating from the first half of the 14th c.
In the second half of August: Tilting at the ring, traditional chivalrous game from the 17th c., revived in 1976.

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