Only fifteen years ago it seemed that this old little town standing over the hilly landscape of central Istria had been ignored by modern changes. Life was thriving here already in prehistory and it is said that the name Gallignana was given to the town by the ancient Gauls more than two thousand years ago. A more active life was brought in by the Slavs, whose spiritual heritage can still be discerned in the name of the hill – Perunčevac, named after Perun, the highest Slavic god, but also in the thousand-year old worshipping of Svantovid, the origin, some people believe, of the Christian St. Vitus, Patron of the Parish of Gračišće.
One of the most remarkable particularities of Gračišće is its urban structure: the town, once surrounded by walls, is divided into districts of which every one has its own square with a church. The most representative is, of course, the town centre – the Plac, with the church dedicated to the Mother of God, the chapel of St. Anthony and the Salomon Palace. This part can be accessed through the West Gate with a Loggia erected in 1549. On the other side of the Gate the street splits left towards the Parish Church of Sts. Vitus, Modestus and Crescentia, and to the right towards the residential district around the square and the church of St. Pancras dating back into the 14th century. The street going along this church used to lead towards the south town gate.
The Church of the Mother of God na Placu (on the Square)
A Late-Gothic church of the Mother of God, dominating the Square, was built to the right side of the Town Gate by Master Dento in 1425 to the order of the local villager-nobleman Petar Beračić. This fact witnesses that in the Middle Ages there was a privileged class, which had money to build churches, but also profane building such as the Salomon Place. The internal eastern wall of the church is covered over its whole length by a large wall painting depicting the Adoration of the Magi, originating from the same period. Many would ask what the nails driven between the blocks of the external wall of this beautiful church mean. The legend says that over the times, on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, childless women would drive in the nails believing that they would conceive by Devine Mercy.
Chapel of St. Anthony
Next to the Church stands the Chapel of St. Anthony, built by Master Almerigo in 1381 with regularly cut stone blocks. The Chapel was renovated in 1486 by Pascasius, Bishop of Pićan, born at Gračišće. The Salomon Palace from the 15th century, with its luxurious facade, is the most beautiful late-Gothic profane building in central Istria.
Church of St. Euphemia
At the end of the street leading from the Square, between the Church of the Mother of God and the Chapel of St. Anthony, is the Church of St. Euphemia, built in 1383 and thoroughly renovated in 1864. The church still keeps the monumental crucifix from the 13th century and the renovated altar of the Mother of God, Patron of the Church of the Mother of God na Placu. From the church of St. Euphemia to the south stretches the Pod Fumiju Street. It was the street of craftsmen and one of them, a blacksmith, engraved a hammer, the symbol of his craft, over his door next to the year 1451. The Street, which has retained its original appearance without major modifications, led out of the town through the South Gate, next to the recently renovated and impressive round tower built around 1500. It was through this Gate that the poljanci – the inhabitants of the surrounding villages entered the town looking for the services of craftsmen.
Gračišće is the centre of the Gračišće Municipality, which extends over 60 square kilometres and has a population of about 1500 people. The well preserved landscape has encouraged a few households to engage in agritourism. The traditional commitment to wine production, on the other hand, has given rise to an already popular annual Exhibition of the Wine of Central Istria. The beauty and singularity of cultural and historical monuments located in the preserved landscape are the greatest value of Gračišće. The town is visited by more and more visitors every day, not only for the Exhibition of the Wine of Central Istria, the St. Vitus Feast or the Festival of the Harmonica Zasopimo na organić. Many enthusiasts often come to this town to feed on the tranquillity inundating its streets lined with old architecture and converging at the tall bell tower and the parish church, both from the 18th century. Everyone will receive a gift here: from the lawn surrounding the church, visitors obtain probably one of the most beautiful views extending over the undulating landscape of Istria, merging into the peaks of the lofty Učka Mountain.