This medieval fortified town is perched high above the Kvarner Gulf, on the eastern coast of Istria. It proudly stands overlooking the Raša River, historical boundary between the Illyrian tribes of Histri and Liburnians, and afterwards the Roman provinces of Histria and Dalmatia. In Roman times the settlement of Alvona had the status of a municipium. In 804 representatives of medieval Labin participated in the Assembly of Rižana where they presented their complaints to the Frankish authorities, which included the protest against the settling of Slavs and abuse of the Frankish ruler of Istria, Duke John. At that time the Church of St. Justus was built on the highest point of the town, today only visible in ruins. Labin flourished at the time when it was governed by a gastald, representative of the Patriarch of Acquileia (1207 – 1420), from the castle on the very hilltop.
The urban pattern of Labin with ring-like streets, encompassing the hill and descending radially, has its origin in the Middle Ages, but most of the preserved buildings date from the 16th - 18th cc. The medieval historic core is situated in the most elevated part of the town (Gorica). The walls that surround it were built in 1300 and re-fortified in the 15th and 16th cc. when the town spreads downhill towards the parish church with square. Their construction was completed with the gate of St. Flora in 1587 with the relief of St. Mark and round bastion, as well as sliding gate towards the square outside the walls.
Inside the town walls, around the small lower square is the Praetorian Palace with prison (1555) and town granary, later turned into a theater (1843). At that time the very heart of the town was the square with Gothic Parish Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was enlarged in the 16th and 17th cc., and its Baroque facade was decorated with, apart from the customary relief of the lion of St. Mark, also with the sculpture of Senator Antonio Bollani, which is a rare occurrence in Istria. As a sign of gratitude for the ceded land which enabled the church to expand, Pope Urban VIII permitted the Scampicchio family to connect their Renaissance palace with the church, by a private chapel above the street. The square was completed in the 18th c. with the splendid Baroque palace of the Battiala-Lazzarini family, next to which is the private chapel of St. Stephen. In the vicinity of the old Parish Church of St. Justus a slender belfry was constructed in the 17th c.
As wars gradually ceased during the 17th and 18th cc. the defensive town walls lost their primary function. This enabled the nobles of Labin (Franković-Vlačić, Negri, Manzini) to build residential palaces on them. Aristocracy turns towards country life, so already in the 16th c. residential-economic palaces (Kature, Dubrova, Martinski) are built in the fertile surroundings (Kature, Dubrova, Martinski), ideally incorporated into the landscape.
From the square with town loggia, along the ridge of the hill outside the walls, new districts spread at the end of the 17th and in the 18th cc.: Borgo and Sv. Katarina. At the beginning of the 20th c. the square became the center of communal life with municipium, café and fish market. The town completely opened up in the 1930s with the promenade of San Marco with fountain, offering a spectacular view of the Kvarner Gulf.
In the 19th and 20th cc. the area of Labin was the mining center of Istria. Coal, bauxite and marl for cement production were mined. After the initial research as early as 1623, the real development of mining began in 1785 when the first mine is opened in Krapan. It intensified in the 19th c. when the mining shafts in Vinež and Štrmac are opened and smaller settlements formed. The period of the greatest prosperity was between the two World Wars, when according to the projects of Italian architects, modernly planned towns of Raša and Podlabin were built. Below Labin emerged the complex Pjacal with entrance shaft (šoht), power plant and administrative building (today's town library). Land improvement of the Raša River was carried out and loading ports in the Raša and Plomin Bays were built. The fight for better working conditions of miners arriving from distant parts of eastern and southern Istria on foot, by bike, or even by boat in 1921 initiated the rebellion crushed in blood, commonly known as the Labin Republic.
The shafts were abandoned at the end of the 20th c., but today some new miners-artists descend into the underground.
Labin National Museum with reconstructed mining shaft.
A walk through Raša with St. Barbara's Church, Podlabin and Pjacal.