The surrounding area of Poreč was inhabited already in prehistoric times, which is testified by the many hill-forts (Picugi). The town started developing in the 1st c. BC, when it became a Roman colony. On the fertile land of the surrounding countryside, where famed olive oil and wine were produced, magnificent Roman villas are built. The urban plan of Poreč is defined by the pattern of Roman military camps, in the layout of the streets, crossing each other at right angles and forming regular town blocks. In spite of medieval and Baroque reconstructions, such a grid plan is even today visible in the direction of streets. The ancient Forum was situated on the westernmost point of the peninsula, and next to it was the Capitolium, with temples. The remains of the Temple of Neptune and probably the Temple of Mars testify to the construction commissioned in the 2nd c. by the vice-admiral of the Ravenna fleet, Titus Abudius Verus.

The complex of the Euphrasian Basilica gradually developed from the 4th c. onwards, on the site of a house where the first worshippers met, situated by the northern town gate. In the following century it grew into a complex of basilica gemina dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. Maurus, Bishop of Poreč and martyr from the 3rd c., decorated with splendid mosaics, with octagonal baptistery and atrium. To display the power of the Church after Justinian's conquest of the Adriatic areas in the mid-6th c., on the site of the southern basilica Bishop Euphrasius commissioned the building of a new three-aisled church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, luxuriously decorated with columns and altar screens of Proconnesus marble, stucco decoration and gold mosaics. Proud of this magnificent project, he had his portrait made on the mosaic in the apse by the Virgin Enthroned with Child and St. Maurus. The basilica and baptistery are connected by the atrium with arches supported by columns with Byzantine basket capitals. Somewhat later a triple-apsed votive chapel was constructed next to the sanctuary of the Euphrasiana, where in 1247 a marble sarcophagus with the remains of St. Maurus was placed. Bishop Euphrasius also commissioned the building of the Bishop's Palace by the basilica, with impressive audience hall on the first floor. This palace was the seat of the Poreč bishops until the 1990s when they left it because of extensive restoration work. In spite of numerous later alterations, the complex has remained within its preserved basic dimensions defined in the 5th and 6th cc. In 1997 this gem of cultural heritage was inscribed on the UNESCO's World Heritage List.
St. Thomas's Church from the 5th c., remains of which are preserved within the complex of the Istrian Parliament Building, was also decorated with multi-colored mosaics.

In the Middle Ages, Poreč bishops were among the most powerful Istrian feudal lords, with possessions spreading all the way to Lim Channel. The number of preserved houses from the Romanesque period is astonishing, such as the Canon's House within the Euphrasian Basilica complex from 1251 with a wooden balcony on the upper floor, as well as a number of smaller houses in the narrow streets. Many palaces were later built on the remains of Romanesque houses, thus preserving the urban pattern inherited from Antiquity.
In 1297 the town swore its loyalty to Venice and became an important port on the Adriatic route, especially because of the export of agricultural produce. However, the medieval town walls did not save it from being plundered by the Genoese in 1354 when the holy relics of St. Maurus were stolen from the Euphrasian Basilica (not returned until 1934). After that, the Pentagonal Tower at the town entrance was renovated in the 15th c., and on the northern and western corners round Renaissance towers were built.
During the 15th and 16th cc. epidemics of the plague devastated the population, so Venice settled refugees from Dalmatia, Albania and Greece. In spite of hard times, luxurious Late Gothic palaces sprang up in town, as well as Renaissance palaces decorated with ornate, sculpted architectural details. In the spirit of humanistic aspirations, citizens resort to the use of artifacts from earlier historic periods, so that the popular Renaissance House of Two Saints was decorated with Romanesque figures of saints.
In the Baroque, the restricted medieval core underwent transformation with the construction of larger complexes with inner courtyards. Representative palace facades now looked onto the street, whereas aristocratic salons were decorated with mural paintings and stucco work (Sinčić Palace, Vergotini Palace complex, new wing of the Bishop's Palace).

In the 19th c., under Austrian rule Poreč recovered economically, especially after 1861 when it became the seat of the Istrian Provincial Parliament. The abandoned Franciscan church was then partitioned in two floors, where the upper one was used as the Parliament. In that very hall Bishop Juraj Dobrila delivered his memorable patriotic speech in 1863. On the ground floor the Polesini family arranged a wine cellar.

Just like other fortified towns in Istria, the town walls of Poreč lost their defense purpose in the 18th c. Town palaces emerged there, articulated with loggias towards the sea. At the end of the 19th c. at the site of the Capitolium the Polesini family erects a Historicist palace surrounded by a garden. In the 19th and 20th cc. the western part of the walls open up into a row of houses and hotels facing the open sea and Sv. Nikola Island.

At the same time the town spreads outside the town walls around the Baroque Church of Our Lady of Angels, whose belfry, together with that of the Euphrasian Basilica and St. Francis, dominates the silhouette of Poreč. The ravages of World War II damaged the urban tissue, forming squares at the site of closely built medieval blocks, remembered only from old photographs. Owing to its favorable location, pleasant climate and beauty of its monuments, today Poreč is the leading tourist destination in the region.

Don't miss:

The Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica and Diocese Museum in the Bishop's Palace
Modernly arranged enotheque in the one-time wine cellar under the Istrian Parliament Building.

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