Ližnjan - Lisignano
Churches and Cemeteries


15th Century Bell from Liznjan in New York’s Metropolitan Museum

April 14, 2008

Text: Nataša Urošević/EPEHA
Photo: Nataša Urošević

The bell from the Liznjan’s church of St. Martin was removed in WWI and because of its historical value it was saved at Ljubljana’s Samassa casting factory, then found in New York in 1989

LIZNJAN - Numerous of the disappeared bells from Istrian towers are hiding interesting stories: during WWI and WWII a great number of them had been removed from the churches in Dalmatia and Istria and then made into armaments in the Austrian and Italian casting factories. Some of them were saved; very few, however, have been returned.

An interesting fate followed the bell of the church of St. Martin in Liznjan which was removed in WWI, and which due to its historical value was saved at the Samassa casting factory in Ljubljana.

After its removal from Istria, however, no one had any idea where this bell of great historical and artistic value would wind up. It was discovered in New York’s Metropolitan Museum in 1989 by a delegation of Istrian journalists and cultural workers. Investigation showed that the bell was given to the Metropolitan Museum in 1980 by Nathaniel Spear Jr., were it was registered under the number 1980.542.

On the bell it is seen that it was cast in 1411 in the famous casting factory of master Marco in Venice. The author of the museum catalogue, Carmen Gomez Moreno said that the Liznjan’s bell weighs 59 kg (120 lb), its height is 58 centimeters (23.2 inches) and diameter is 42 centimeters (16.8 inches).

At the top it has three pairs of crossed loops that were used to hold the bell-hanging yoke. It was also affixed with a steel wire that was threaded through two of the loops above the crown. One of these loops is significantly worn, which is evidence that the bell was in use for a long time.

Above the ornate band, which contains the information about the place and year of manufacture, there is also a large emblem of the casting factory: a cross on a tripod. The clapper inside the bell disappeared during the war.

Nobody knows how Liznjan’s bell ended up in America. The one thing that is certain is that it was removed in 1915 after the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of War decided on May 21 to acquire all metal to be used by the war industry.

In the meantime, many families from Liznjan and Pula had been evacuated to Austria because Italy entered the war: Many of them died from starvation and diseases in Camp Gmund. In the first addition of Liznjan’s newspaper Marlera which reported on the fate of the bell, Liznjan’s minister Ivan Grah stated that the bell may also come from the church of St. Mihovil, which was razed to the ground in 1957 and which was located near the cemetery.

Four bells tolled sadly that Sunday for the last time.

“One Sunday, Mayor Hoffmann came with soldiers to remove the bells. All the residents that were left in Liznjan were gathered around the church. The priest spoke and the people cried. He said “Our blessed bells will be melted down and turned into armaments, which will be killing our brothers. But earthly force is transitory only the heavenly is permanent”.

Translated by Pino Golja


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Created: Sunday, May 4, 2008, Last Update: Friday, July 24, 2015
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