Ten years ago when I decided to visit most of the Istrian castes, I was left stunned. First of all, with their quantity since up till then I didn’t know that in Istria there used to be sixty castles or defensive forts, and second, how nobody takes care of those who are still left standing. They were neglected, covered with ivory, exposed to the tooth of time. Like they were abandoned forever. After ten years I’m visiting them again. Partially. And I am pleasantly surprised. Some of them are restored and open for visits even though they are in ruins, and some of them are being renovated in real attractions.
Best examples for that are San Vincenti castle Morosini-Grimani and Buzet Pietrapelosa. Both of them recently got the EU money for complete reconstruction and establishment of visitors centers, stages, info desks, tasting rooms…And those magnificent buildings truly deserve this.
Great view on San Vincenti
Because, it’s hard for me to imagine these places without this massive stone walls which determined their history. This is especially the case in San Vincenti who in history was always on border. I am inseparably emotionally connected with its castle since still it is my home place, a place where i spent my school days. The castle was our playground. Nobody was going there except us schoolkids. There was no need either.
The old castle was covered with thorns, without door, stairs were falling apart and instead of them there was a drywall. From today’s perspective it can seem unimaginable since San Vincenti castle, one of the best known in Istria besides those in Pula and Pazin, truly draws attention from inside and outside. Towers are now renovated and the square one has a beautiful lookout. The walls are walkable and they offer a great view on San Vincenti. On castle’s foothills you can see what used to be a solitary confinement and the yard is a true summer stage and medieval park at the same time. After extensive works, last piece of puzzle will be renovated as well – the palace. And it deserves it.
History reveals us it was built in late middle ages and several times it was adapted. It got its name after two Italian families who were castle’s owners. It was never a court or a resort, but fortress on the border. The first fortress on the place of today’s castle was built in the beginning of 13th century, but it was ruined and burned several times and thus renovated with changes in its appearance.
Grimaldi rebuilt the burnt castle
At first it was owned by Castropola, then Morosini family who is creditable for today’s shape of San Vincenti and its renaissance square, one of the most beautiful from that time. After that the owner became Venetian patrician family Grimani di San Luca. Today’s shape dates from year 1589 when Marino Grimaldi rebuilt the burnt castle. It stayed in their ownership until 19th century after which Grimaldi family left the castle to bishops who then left it to the municipality. After the WW2 until the end of 90s the castle was neglected.
It has three towers and main palace with rooms for gentlemen and captain’s apartment. Towers are connected with walls where soldiers could walk around. It is intriguing how besides drawbridge main door had huge sliding grids. Also, there used to be an underground prison. Castle of course has many legends and the most known one is about witch called Mare who was burned in the castle in 1632 for allegedly poisoning people.
Although 80 kilometers away from San Vincenti, Pietrapelosa near Istrian spa is closely connected with the Morosini-Grimani castle on the south of Istria. And that is with European renovation project of this north Istria pearl to which one comes over narrow steep road above river Mirna. The name of this demolished but conservatory preserved castle, and locals simply call it Castle, in translation means hairy fortress. The assumption is this is due to its position on a cliff above Mirna and Bračani, in the middle of thick plants. Long time ago this used to be a waterway. From Pietrapelosa the traffic was carefully observed which was important also for protection of feudal property. Its position was perfect. Castle dominates in space sharply rising above Mirna and it can be seen even from slopes of Ćićarija.
Prvi put se ova pitoreskna utvrda spominje u dalekom 10. stoljeću, a bila je u vlasništvu akvilejskog patrijarha, pa biskupa, pa jedne njemačke viteške obitelji, pa Mletaka, odnosno plemića Nicole Gravisija u čijoj obitelji ostaje sve do 1869. godine.
His head was cut off
This picturesque fortress was mentioned for the first time in far 10th century and it was owned by the Aquila Patriarch, then by one German knight family, then by Venetians, that is the nobleman Nicolo Gravasi all until 1869. It is interesting that despite unstable territory and often changes of authorities, the fortress was never ruined. It comprises housing building, court chapel of Mary Magdalene from 12th century and main tower polygonal shape.
The castle is surrounded with walls except in housing part which was literally build on the cliff. Walls and main tower are preserved up to original height. Of course, this castle has legends too. One says that in 17th century a peasant shortened the Pietrapeloso master for a head while digging a ditch around the castle with other peasants. The master was whipping peasants because he thought they were too slow and at one moment he made a big mistake by taking off of his horse. His head was cut off with a shovel and after that the peasants united and burned down Pietrapeloso for revenge.
Some of the palace walls and towers are being preserved until today up to their original height. The tower is 16 meters high and it had six floors, while the palace had three more, including cellar. Regarding history, this picturesque fortress was first mentioned in scriptures in 11th century as St. Martin fortress. It was owned by Aquila Patriarch, followed by families Guteneck and Moyses and in 1529 the ownership was passed to Barbo family who renovated it. It is then when the fortress got another name, Shabez.
Three remained families