The church of Sveti Petar na Vrhu (St. Peter on the Peak) above the famous Tundulon hill northeast of Bale is extremely interesting; a real treasure for researchers of history and cultural heritage. It belongs to the parish of Bale but is closer to the Savičenta area. The nearest settlement is the village of Kranjčići. The villages of Bibići, Štokovci and Čabrunići also gravitate to this area and it is here that their people keep their fields and pick young wild asparagus in season.
Why does the church deserve attention and why is it provoking such interest of the who have managed to visit it? Managed to, I say, because the way to it is not simple. It follows gravel and forest paths, with the final approach from the direction of Tundulon, through a crevice in the rock, overgrown with vegetation.
It is not surprising that before finding the church itself, curious visitors wander around the area, visiting the famous pond on Tundulon and climbing the hill offering a view over the Savičenta and Vodnjan areas and the seaside at Bale.
The shortest road is certainly through the nearby Kranjčići. Today, it is easy to reach the church over a macadam road leading to Bale, particularly with some directions from the locals. In addition, marked cycle path 690 also leads to the church.
The church is also accessible from Čabrunići as well as from the direction of Bale, by a macadam road directly across from the olive oil mill. Before the entry into the Šeraje forest that shelters the peak with St. Peter’s, there is a rest post on the path offering a description of the church and the path. Should you choose that route, you are certain not to miss your destination. For the adventurous, the path from the pond on Tundulon is interesting because it takes you to the hidden church through a forest and an impressive crevice in the rock wall.
Whatever path you take, your effort will be rewarded by the sight of the modest and simple church on the top off a large cliff wall of the picturesque hill. As evidenced by the inscription above the entrance, it was completely renovated in 1904.
A brief note on the creation and appearance of the church can be found in Ante Šonje’s book “Church Architecture on the West Coast of Istria”. The building has an oblong plan without an apse. Its back wall features a narrow rectangular window similar to the early Romanesque churches in the Poreč-Pula Diocese.
The legend of the horseman and his wow
On the north side is a small chapel with a pointed Gothic vault, which indicates that it is older than the church itself. According to Šonje, the Bishop of Poreč erected the church of Sveti Petar na Vrhu on his property in the 14th century at the latest. In the Middle Ages it was owned by the episcopal estate in Poreč, while after the Second World War, the then parish priest sold the land plots around the church to the residents of the nearby Kranjčić village.
Many wonder why the church was built here, in a place so remote from the populated areas. Some say that, like the church of St. Fosca in Batvači, the site radiates a special energy. We could not find confirmation of this among the locals in Kranjčići. At one point, however they did tell us of an interesting legend. The church was allegedly built in gratitude to St. Peter. The story has it that a horseman fleeing before a posse of Turks in a mediaeval war happened upon the rock where the church is now located.
He realized he had nowhere further to go and appealed to St. Peter, asking him for help. In return, he wowed to build a church on the spot. And that is what eventually happened. Residents of the nearby settlements remember the church in its better days. Back then, the Holy Mass was served there once a year, attended equally by people of Bale and the residents of the Savićenta villages.
Processions and Mass
According to their recollections, a procession would pass through Kranjčići on the way to the church, where people would camp for a few days.
Today, the church is unfortunately ruined and devastated. Locals say it was also robbed at one point. Only the inscriptions are preserved. The one above the front door tells the visitor of the last rebuilding of the church. The stone slab below the bell tower it says “Tibi dabo claves” which means “I am giving you the keys”.
There was an initiative a few years ago to have the church rebuilt, and there is hope of something like that happening in the near future. The Holy Mass was held again this year, the woods around the church itself have been cleared, and so was the pathway that leads here from the main road. As more and more cyclists, walkers, and the faithful are visiting the site, we believe that Sveti Petar na Vrhu will finally receive the attention it deserves.
HIKER’S INN PEKICI, Pekici 1
PIZZERIA GRIMANI, Svetvinčenat 71
PIZZERIA PALACE, Svetvinčenat 45A
CASTELLO RESTAURANT, Svetvinčenat 53
KAMPANJOLA EKO BIRA, tasting of fresh cottage cheese and the Kampanjola craft beer, Svetvinčenat 3
WHAT ELSE TO SEE:
MOROSINI-GRIMANI CASTLE, Svetvinčenat
WITCH MARA’S HOUSE, Svetvinčenat
SANCT MICHAEL THEME PARK, Rapanji