Pićan – Gračišće – Lindar


St. Mary in the Square

Gračišće attracts by a variety of events: at the maneštra festival you can try your luck on the donkey race, watch the meeting of old-timers, enjoy the wine festival of Central Istria, re-enactment of the Nativity Scene, the mountain bike race Downhill, as well as the music festival Melodies of Istria and Kvarner. The town is situated on the road that connects Pazin, the administrative center of medieval Pazin County with Pićan, the center of the one-time diocese. Gračišće was the site of the summer residence of the Pićan bishops. One of the most important town monuments in Istria with the greatest ambience value emerged almost at once, during the 15th and 16th cc., which is testified by the many dated residential and sacral buildings. The only preserved testimony of the earlier periods is the crucifix that is kept in St. Euphemia’s Church, a masterpiece of Romanesque wood carving and one of the five preserved Romanesque crucifixes in Istria. The dense urban tissue of tightly-knit two-storey houses in street rows is most characteristic and best preserved in the Street pod Fumiju. This type of town planning accentuates fortification edifices among which stands the preserved Renaissance tower.  Besides fortification buildings at the perimeter of the village, inside its tissue are sacral buildings giving an urban accent. The main town square that has ever since been the center of communal life is surrounded by two important buildings in terms of architecture: Salomon Palace built in the gotico fiorito style and St. Anthony’s Church, the chapel of Pićan bishops, in the northern style.

In the very center of the square is St. Mary’s Chapel, one of the most significant examples of Istrian Gothic sacral architecture. The epigraphic monument incorporated in the upper right side of the facade proves that the construction of the church was commissioned by the local Petar Beračić. It was consecrated on August 5, 1425 by the Pićan Bishop Gregory, of Carinthian origin, and most probably built by the local builder Dento. The church is entirely built of regular and smoothly treated massive blocks of sivac stone from Gračišće.  The lowest layer of stone blocks stands out from the facade like benches around the church making it truly a place of gathering and the center of communal life. The cornice is accentuated by thick massive stone slabs on prominent, massive consoles, while the roof is covered by stone slates – škrile. A portico was added to the front of the church in the 17th c. Beside the building is a stone measuring instrument for grain, an important utensil in trade and for measuring the offerings of local inhabitants to the church and the feudal lords. Besides this one in Gračišće, stone basins like this one have been preserved in Pićan, Gologorica and Barban.

The interior of the church was completed by three painters. Rather than painting all the walls, only the sanctuary was painted which was common practice in local medieval mural painting. On the oldest unpainted plaster are consecration crosses, a graffito of a ship and an inscription in Gothic, Latin letters in the Croatian language Stara baba Wchossa engraved in wet plaster. On the northern wall, St. Peter is recognizable by the key standing beside another Apostle recognized by the book. Unfortunately, their heads have not been preserved, but the modeling of the drapery and hands speak of quality painting in the tradition of the Trecento. Other scenes were painted by a different painter. The Adoration of the Magi occupies the greatest part of the eastern wall. In the arches beneath it is a row of saints between whom, under the window, there are two angels holding the Veil of Veronica. These Gothic frescoes have insufficiently been studied. However by their color scheme, ornaments, details of the faces and drapery they are most similar to the mural paintings in St. Anthony’s Church in Barban. On the southern wall in the sketch there is a representation of the Annunciation. The representation of the Entombment of Christ in the lunette of the sanctuary wall is brought into relation with the activities of Master Dominic from Udine. Apart from St. Mary’s Church in Gračišće, his workshop painted many other Istrian churches which is why, Dominic is, in addition to the local painter Anthony from Padova, the most fertile painter of the 16th c. We will meet him again in nearby Lindar.

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