Sveti Petar u Šumi got its name after the Benedictine monastery, which appears in historical documents from 1174 with an unclear note on its 50 years of existence. Unlike other Istrian villages and towns where a settlement was built on a hilltop with a church and its tower, with the edges of the hill dotted with houses, at Sveti Petar u Šumi there were no houses around either the church or the monastery. Its inhabitants lived a bit further away, in scattered hamlets situated next to fields and vineyards, on the edges of karst plains filled with the red soil they cultivated, just the way it is today.
Legends have it that the Hungarian King Salomon (+ 1089) spent some time at Sveti Petar u Šumi after he had been dethroned in dynastic struggles. The monastery is also associated with the Istrian side of the Counts of Gorizia, who ruled in Pazin from the 13th to the 15th century and ordinarily helped the monastery, where they allegedly had family tombs.
From the times of the Benedictines there is only one Latin book preserved, written in Carolingian minuscule, from the end of the 11th or the beginning of the 12the century. The Fragment of Sveti Petar u Šumi, a stone found among the ruins of the monastery wall with Cyrillic and Glagolitic alphabet inscribed on it, dates back to the same period and shows that all the three scripts were in use at the time.
When the interest in the Benedictine order faded and the monastery was abandoned, in 1459 Emperor Frederick III handed the monastery over to the Paulines - the white monks, who restored it. Interestingly enough, they arranged the cloister in the way that they put the new Renaissance columns on the ground floor and moved the old Romanesque ones to the floor above.
At the same time, the Paulines restored the monastic church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in the Gothic style. The monastery was burnt and partially knocked down in the Uskok war of 1616. Its renovation began in the mid-17th century. In his work The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola (1689), Valvasor does not attach much significance to the monastery, mentioning only a peculiarity of the fact that in the monastic church no one had ever seen - a spider. The church was reconsecrated in 1755, after it got the Baroque style façade that can be still seen today.
Its interior was richly equipped in the same style, the one that is very seldom encountered across Istria. All the altars were made by the Pauline Pavao Riedl, whose work are also the pulpit, organ casing and the sculptures on the façade of the church. His associate and manager of the monastic household at the time, Leopold Keckheisen, was the author of all the altar paintings in the church. Their artistry was also recognized in a broader community, therefore, they equipped and painted other churches and monasteries (Pazin, Senj, Punat, Crikvenica) as well.
Two side chapels (the first on the right and the first on the left hand side)are even to the present day partially lined with the painted leatherwallpapers installed at that time, which is a true rarity.The clerestory windows and the system of cross-vaulted ceilings create special lighting effects. Around 1770 such Baroque atmosphere of the church was enriched with the sounds of the pipe organ built by Johan Georg Eisl, an organ builder from Ljubljana.
Along with all this wealth of unrivalled treasure across Istria, the main reason for the pilgrimage to the church at Sveti Petar u Šumi is the still prodigious image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, which you can still see exposed at the high altar.
The image was made by an unknown Pauline painter and it was modelled after the one which is housed at the largest Polish Marian shrine of Jasna Gora (Czestochowa). According to the statements and official records of numerous witnesses, the image at Sveti Petar u Šumi shed tears on Christmas Eve of 1721. In the years that followed, many miraculous healings were documented in the diocesan archives and monastic manuscripts, which made Sveti Petar u Šumi a pilgrimage destination.
When in 1783 Emperor Joseph II suppressed numerous church orders in the Austrian countries, the monastery became State property and the books from the monastic library were sold at a public auction. The notable Pauline collection from 1644, the manuscript containing many monophonic liturgical chants and spiritual melodies in Croatian language, had been kept in the library. The Pauline church of St. Peter and St. Paul became then the parish church and thus managed to preserve its beauty up to the present time, while the old parish church of St.Rochus, which is still today adorned with the largest stone tiled roof in Istria, became the cemetery church.
After many years, the Paulines took over the parish in 1993 and are still involved in the spiritual life of the inhabitants of Sveti Petar u Šumi.