Vodnjan, or Dignano, as it is known in Italian, is a town and municipality in Istria County of Croatia. Vodnjan was known by the name of Vicus Attinianum in the Roman times and is also mentioned in historical archives under the rule of Pietro Candiniano in 932, to whom the Istrian towns gave amphorae of good wine in exchange for security.
According to legend, it grew out of a settlement of seven villas, which were part of the colonial history of Pula-Pola. This land of ancient traditions has managed to uphold its characteristics as a medieval urban and rural center that confirms its rich history. Its wide expanse of land is scattered with nuemrous typical little stone houses, known as kažuni or casite. These are built with dry-stone walls. An old technique, it indicates the agricultural roots of the locals, especially olive-growing and wine-growing, which contributed to Vodjan’s prosperity.
Things to see in Vodnjan
The historic center of the town displays its distinctive medieval look with narrow streets twisting among houses with cobblestone roads and façades with their Gothic, Venetian Renaissance and Baroque style. There are also many churches that are works of art, such as St. Jacob Church in the old town ,or delle Trisiere that was elected as a parochial church as early as 1212 and witnessed historical events like the peace treaty with Pula-Pola in 1331 and the writing of the Statute of 1492.
The large People’s Square in the center of the town symbolizes the old place where a castle with towers was erected, probably in the 4th or 5th century and torn down in 1808. Significant buildings such as the Benussi house, the neo-Gothic City Hall, the Bembo house, and the Bradamante palace with its decorated facade and an elegant triphora surround the square.
Vodnjan's is also one of the many stops on the Olive Oil Highway, or Cesta Maslinova Ulica, a tourist trail marking the various local olive producers. Mostly they are just family homes from where you can buy a bottle or two of their homemade produce if you knock on their door and enquire politely, while quite a few have shops and some offer tour.
St Blaise (St. Blaž) Church
The church of St Blaise was consecrated in 1800. It preserves numerous culturally and artistically respected works including a custody in bas-relief from 1451; paintings and wooden from the 14th to the 18th centuries, works by great masters such as Antonio della Zonca, Jacopo Contarini, Jacobello del Fiore, Lazzaro Bastiani, Gaetano Grezler, Paolo Veneziano, Avenerio Trevisano and so on. This handsome neo-Baroque style church was completed in 1800 after construction was initiated 40 years earlier, when Venice influence reigned supreme in Istria. The 63-meter tall bell tower was modelled on St Mark’s in Venice. It is Istra’s largest parish church, and worth visiting especially to see its splendid altars. The church is also famous for the mummies, which are behind the main altar in a curtained area.
In the dimly lit area, visitors can view the mummified remains of Nikolosa Bursa, Giovanni Olini and Leon Bembo, which seem to look similar to wooden figurines in their glass cases. Besides the complete remains, there is also an assortment of body parts of three other saints that completes the display. You can listen to a guiding narration, which details the life stories of these old saints while examining the skin, fingernails and hair of the timeworn remains. The body of Nikolosa is considered to be Europe’s best-preserved mummy, and in a bit of mysticism, is said to be responsible for many miraculous healings. If the mummies have sharpened your appetite for religious history and saintly relics, you can head to the Collection of Sacral Art, where you can view the displays of hundreds of relics from 150 different saints.
St. Our Lady of Health
The church of St. Our lady of Health was built in 1854 on the remnants of one older church from the 13th century. It is located on the road leading from Vodnjan to Bale. The churchyard is a lovely resting place, and offer a great view towards the west Vodnjan area, the olive groves and the Brijuni islands.
St. Biago Church
St. Biagio church is the biggest church in Istria. It was built on remains of an early Romanesque church that was torn down in 1781 is another important and frequently visited square. The church was consecrated in 1800 and it maintains numerous artistically and culturally valuable works, such as a bas relief work from 1451, wooden figures and paintings made from the 14th to the 18th centuries, works by great masters like Paolo Veneziano, Jacopo Contarini, Jacobello del Fiore, Lazzaro Bastiani, Gaetano Grezler, Avenerio Trevisano, Antonio della Zonca and others.
Connecting Diocletian’s Palace to the west lies Split’s medieval district, built mostly when Dalmatia was under Venetian law. Here you will find Narodni Trg (Pjaca), now considered to be the city’s main square. A spread of white marble paving, it is bordered with busy shops and cafés, with the 15th century Town Hall towering over it and the Venetian-Gothic arches making up its ground floor loggia. The center is Narodni trg, comprised of several neo-Gothic palaces in varying phases of deterioration and renewal. The large People Square in the town’s center signifies the old place where a 4th or 5th century castle once was before being torn down. The square is surrounded by important buildings such as the City Hall in the neo-Gothic style, the Benussi house, the Bembo house and the Bradamante palace with its decorated façade. There is also fascinating graffiti scattered around in the form of diminishing Partisan slogans applied in red paint and the square is worth a visit for the food and atmosphere.
Vacation Rentals in Vodnjan, Croatia
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