The town was not established until the Middle Ages, despite the ruins of a prehistoric hill-fort near the Church of St. Mary of Traversa. The name of the town derives from the Latin vicus Atinianus mentioned in written documents in 1150. As early as 1212, the oldest church in town, St. James delle Trisiere, was proclaimed a parish church. After the period of rule of the Patriarch of Aquileia and Pula Commune in the 13th and 14th cc., in 1331 the town came under Venetian rule and became an independent commune and important commercial center. Fleeing from Pula ridden with epidemics, Venetian provveditori found shelter in town.

The town's historic core developed in the area between St. James's Church and the Romanesque Church of St. Blaise, which later became the parish church. The atmosphere of the medieval town is felt in the labyrinth of narrow winding streets, closely built houses with secluded court-yards and covered passages. Outside the nucleus a castle surrounded by a moat and drawbridge was built around 1300. Two castle towers controlled the approach from the north and south. Although the historic core was not surrounded with town walls, the historic contrade Merceria, Forno grande, Portarol and Duomo, Callenuova, Pian and Sv. Katarina had gates. The castle was surrounded by public buildings: barley storehouse, which was part of the complex of town loggia, archives, chancellor's office, as well as granary. The present-day town square was formed after the castle was destroyed in 1808. The seat of the municipality was first the Baroque Bradamante Palace where the stone relief of the town's coat of arms was placed. Then in 1911 the Neo-Gothic Communal Palace was built on the site of the grain storehouse.

The old Parish Church of St. Blaise, next to which was a cemetery, was pulled down in 1760 to make room for the Baroque three-aisled church. The belfry beside it, the tallest one in Istria (62 meters) was built in the 19th c.
The town gradually expanded from the end of the Middle Ages along the streets Portarol and Forno grande, and to the north along the Early Baroque Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel towards St. Martin's Church. The houses of wealthy families bear Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque features. While the ground floor of houses facing the street often served a public purpose (shops), in the inner part of the blocks were economic facilities, cisterns with coats of arms, baker's ovens.
Numerous medieval churches (St. Catherine, Holy Cross, Holy Sunday, St. Anthony, St. Roch) which were once situated at the crossroads outside the town, were gradually incorporated into the urban tissue.

In the 19th c. the town was an important administrative and economic center of South Istria. The Sottocorona family starts the rearing of silk worm for the production of silk, the railway line passes through the town and, as early as 1899, the power plant is built. Owing to the development of agriculture, especially olive growing, the traditional way of life in characteristic residential-economic complexes stancije is revived in the 19th c. The return to the centuries-old tradition of olive growing has recently ranked Vodnjan at the very top of the finest olive oil producers.


Sacral collection in the Parish Church of St. Blaise and the non-decomposing bodies of saints
St. Foška's Church near Batvači with Romanesque frescoes.
Vodnjan Town Museum in Bettica Palace. On the ground floor is a small collection of stone monuments from archaeological research carried out in the vicinity of Vodnjan, and on the upper floor are paintings of a profane theme donated by G. Grezler to the Vodnjan Municipality.

Interesting facts:

According to the inscription ECCLESIA S. INQVISIT ISTRIAE on the lintel of the portal, in the 15th c. the seat of the Inquisition of Istria was in St. Martin's Church.
On the palace facade in the southern corner of the square is an inscription in the Vodnjan dialect dating from 1448: Tali-me-domanda-come-sto-che-mai-co-teto-del-be-che-ho.
Composer Antonio Smareglia wrote his opera Istrian Wedding (Istarska svadba) inspired by the life and customs of Vodnjan.

Print page Send to a friend