Europe

Poreč (World Heritage)

The basilica, built in the 6th century, together with the atrium, baptistery and bishop’s palace form an outstanding ensemble of sacred architecture in what was once a Roman city. The apse is adorned with magnificent gold mosaics. According to historyaah, the Euphrasiana Basilica is one of the most important churches in Croatia and is a fascinating testimony to late antique and early Byzantine art. The old town has Roman, Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque monuments.

Poreč: facts

Official title: Euphrasian Basilica and the historic center of Poreč
Cultural monument: Roman traces such as the Marafor, formerly the Roman Forum, the Neptune and the Great Temple, Decumanus and Cardo Maximus, as well as the Euphrasian Basilica with the relics of St. Maurus, the city saint of Poreč, and St. Eleuterius, with the Gothic one Host container (1277) and magnificent mosaics like in the main dome of the apse with the representation of Christ and the twelve apostles, as well as the baroque Sinčić palace, the round and octagonal tower, the Franciscan church (13th century) and the Romanesque »House of Two Saints «
Continent: Europe
Country: Croatia
Location: Poreč, west of Rijeka
Appointment: 1997
Meaning: the basilica, the atrium, the baptistery and the bishop’s palace as an outstanding example of sacred architecture in the midst of a Roman city complex that is still recognizable today

Poreč: history

2nd century BC Chr. A Roman castrum was built at the site of today’s Poreč
1st century Conversion into the Colonia Julia Parentium
3rd century first Christian communities
4th century Construction of the first basilica
535-550 Construction of the early Byzantine Euphrasian Basilica
1262-1792 under the rule of the Maritime Republic of Venice
1861-1918 Part of Austria-Hungary
1884 Establishment of the National Museum in the Sinčić Palace

Splendid mosaics in the mild light of Istria

For the Roman city planners, the case was clear: they had the Decumanus built through the middle of the narrow peninsula on the coast of Istria and the usual Cardo Maximus at right angles to this central axis. Most summer tourists do not notice that these streets with many shops that are still run by Serbs and Albanians today have retained their ancient names. You stroll tightly packed and sometimes pushing forward along these formerly Roman streets, as well as next door along the seaside road from Poreč, named after Marshal Tito, the former Parenzo, which was Venetian for seven centuries and then Austrian, but has long since belonged to Croatia.

On the other side of the Decumanus, a few steps further north, things are quieter: the complex of the Euphrasius Basilica is located in a remote location that is easily understandable historically. The ensemble of magnificent buildings was erected where the first Christians of Poreč met secretly and in violation of the prohibition. Maurus, their first bishop in the third century AD, paid for the profession of the new faith with his life and was buried outside the city. After Christianity was officially recognized, the precious relics of this bishop were brought home in triumph. On one of the central mosaics above the main altar of the basilica, which Poreč already proudly points out at the entrance to the city, Maurus is shown with the laurel wreath of a martyr. This famous mosaic could of course only be created centuries later than the one with the depiction of a very realistically designed, colored fish from Maurus’ time. In that epoch of Christian persecution, this scaly creature was the badge and identification mark of the first Christians who gathered in secret. They chose the fish because the letters of the Greek name, ICHTHYS, refer to the Son of God and Savior: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter – Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. The fact that converted merchants, soldiers and officials met in the dining room of a house under the sign of the cross at a fairly early stage and built a church in the same place does not justify the later construction of an extraordinary basilica: Euphrasius, a successor of Maurus, had taken office with ambition in the flourishing little town. This rich bishop, who was connected to the building-mad Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian, wanted to increase his own prestige and at the same time strengthen the imperial power in Istria. Even if the church that Euphrasius found was already quite large, it seemed too simple to this man of the church. Even their splendid mosaics, which can still be seen under today’s basilica floor and which were made by local craftsmen in the style of Roman villas and palaces, did not dissuade Euphrasius from his building plans, as he was looking for something higher. At his request, the church was torn down and the complex with the bishop’s palace, the solemn, austere atrium and the baptistery redesigned. For this project he brought experts from Constantinople and had marble brought to Poreč from the coasts of the Marmara Sea. On an inscription in the apse he justified this procedure with the alleged dilapidation of the previous church and with a personal vow: “When Euphrasius, the caring priest, endeavored to believe, saw that his residential church would collapse under his own weight, he followed it the holy thought beforehand. «In all the care on the central mosaic, it was not forgotten to pay tribute to the bishop as the founder of the church with a model of the church in his arms right next to Saint Maurus.

The basilica with its three apses and the slender, lavishly decorated rows of columns is a unique building for the eastern Adriatic, stylistically influenced by the late antique works in Ravenna and Byzantium. With their realistic liveliness, two mosaics fall out of the ordinary: a scene of the Annunciation, in which an earthly dynamic archangel meets a visibly perplexed Mary, and the pregnant Mary’s visit to her relative Elisabeth. Both scenes have background colors that reflect the particularly mild light of Istria.

Poreč (World Heritage)