Piran - Pirano
Cities, Towns and Hamlets

The Town of Piran - Pirano

Piran (Pirano) is a coastal town and municipal centre at the far north-western tip of Istria. It has approximately 5000 inhabitants. The natural framework inside which the town has grown up, the fertile hinterland which supplied the town with agricultural produce, the rich and extensive saltpans, and the good fishing provided by the waters of the Adriatic are all indirectly expressed in the fabric of the town and in its past.

The town began to develop in the early Middle Ages. Archaeological finds give evidence of continuous settlement since prehistoric times. Not much is known about the original appearance of the town. Piran is first mentioned in written sources in the first decade of the 7th century.

The embryo of the town of Piran was undoubtedly a late-Roman castra, whose traditions survived up until the middle of the 14th century. The castra occupied the central section of present-day Punta. The town was probably fortified with a defensive wall as early as the 7th century. The wall had four main gates and one auxiliary gate. Three of these gates (Stolna Vrata, Osrednja Vrata and Miljska Vrata) opened towards the south and the sea. The fourth, Poljska Vrata, connected the town to the inner harbour and the arable hinterland. The administrative and commercial centre of the town was the Old Square (today called First of May Square).

At about the same time another settlement, Marèana, was developing to the south-east of the inner harbour, along the present-day Ulica Svobode. The town did not develop beyond this point until the Venetian occupation in 1283. The Venetians transferred the town administration outside the walls, right to the edge of the inner harbour, and in 1291 built a new Town Hall. This was followed by the Palazzo Fontica (granaries) and the loggias and St. James's Church at Poljska Vrata. These first buildings outside the walls occasioned the extension of the town around the monastery of Ss. Francis and Anthony and the Church of St. Peter in the inner harbour.

The danger of Turkish invasion was acute in the second half of the 15th century. The municipal authorities in Piran decided to refortify the town. The old walls around Punta were repaired and a new wall (1475-1534) was built on the hill. In the 18th and 19th centuries the town expanded onto reclaimed land by the outer harbour. In the second half of the 19th century major renovation work began on the palazzos around the inner harbour. In 1894 the inner harbour was filled in and transformed into a new town centre - Tartini Square. Development in the town then came to a standstill for thirty years, except along the coast towards Portorož. Only after the Second World War did Piran embark on a new phase of building: outside the walls in the direction of Beli Križ (White Cross).

Tartini Square

Tartini Square has been the focal point of the historical centre of the town since the end of the 13th century, although it only began to acquire its current appearance in the 19th century. By filling in the inner harbour (a quay for boats and small ships) a square was created around which municipal institutions and palazzos for the nobles and gentry were built (or rebuilt on old foundations). 

The square was named after a famous native of Piran, the violinist, composer and music theoretician Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1777), who was responsible for carrying the name of his birthplace far and wide across Europe. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Tartini's birth the people of Piran decided to erect a memorial to him in the middle of the square.  The work suffered delays, however, and it was not until 1896 that a larger-than-life bronze statue of the maestro was placed on a high stone pedestal in the square. Tartini is bowing slightly and in his right hand he clutches a violin bow. 

His left hand holds a violin, hidden behind his back as though he wanted to take a break from the strenuous exertions of music-making and simply watch the bustle of humanity milling about below him. The memorial is the work of the Venetian sculptor Antonio dal Zotto. 

The imaginative positioning of the statue means that it commands the square and at the same time connects it to the complex of the Church of St. George which dominates the town. 

The town authorities had ambitious plans for the transformation of the town centre. In the 19th century this ambition was reflected in the planning and execution of all major building work. 

In 1818 the Church of St. Peter was rebuilt on its old foundations. The work was entrusted to the architect Pietro Nobile, who in the same year became the head of the architecture department at the Vienna Academy of Arts and - by imperial decree - an adviser to the imperial court, and Antonio Boso, one of the most important classical sculptors in Trieste. 

The monumental neo-Renaissance Town Hall was built in 1877-79 by Giovanni Ribetti, an architect from Trieste. The transformation of the Palazzo Fontica and the Pawnbroker's into the new Law Courts in 1885-91 was overseen by Giuseppe Moso and Enrico Nordio. 

Of the buildings which surrounded the inner harbour during the Gothic period, the 15th  century corner building known as the Venetian House still survives. It is the most beautiful example of Venetian Gothic architecture in Slovenia. The row of older houses includes Tartini's House. Today the house has a neoclassical facade. During renovation interior murals based on designs by P. Gaspari and G.B. Tiepolo were discovered and restored. 

The transformation of the palazzo in 1984-88 into a headquarters for the Italian community highlights the cultural wealth of Piran's civic architecture and has immeasurably increased the value of the building as a monument. At the same time it has provided a fine setting for the cultural and other activities of the Italian community. 

Tartini Square remains today the lively administrative, cultural and social centre of the town and the municipality. In recent years the majority of palazzos and houses which surround the square have been restored. Since 1988 the gradual renovation of the entire area of the square has been underway, following plans by the architect Boris Podrecca

The Minorite Church of St. Francis

The minorite friars began to build the church in Piran in 1301 and the church was finished in 1318, when it was also consecrated. This is confirmed by the inscription in the Gothic alphabet outside the church on the right side of the church's facade. 

At that time the mayor of Piran was Matteo Manolesso, who supported the building of the church and the monastery. The architect of the church is supposed to be Jacopa da Pola.  The front of the church dominates the upper part of the square. On the east side of the church rises the belfry. Right from the church's front there is the main entrance of the Minorite Cloister. The external appearance of the Minorite Church dates from the 18th and 19th centuries but the external appearance hides the original building. 

There are six altars inside the church. The pulpit and the altar discovered below it date from 16th century. 

The renovated baroque antependium covering the front side of the sacrificial altar is very beautiful too. 

The first cupola on the left side nave is richly made. 

Under the church's pavement there are 32 tombs, among them the Tartini Family Tomb. The pipe organ and choir date from 1796. 

The richest and the most beautiful is the altar of St. Anton of Padua erected and finished in April 1st 1690. 

The church and the sacristy are full of valuable paintings. 

Some of them were taken abroad durign World War II, the most valuable among them "Mary with the Saints" a work of art by the Italian painter Vittore Carpaccio. There are some 16 painting in the Museums of Piran and Koper. 

Behind the main altar there is a prayer's choir made of nut tree wood originating from 1736. The paintings in the church and the sacristy were painted by the following artists: Lazzarini, Angelus Marzin, Tomaž Gregolin, Andrej Celesti, Carletto Caliari, Palmo jr. Ricci and their pupils, as well as by anonymous painters from the Venetian workshops. 

The Minorite Cloister

The cloister had presumably been established one year before, because at that time the monks began building the church and the cloister. 

According to the cloister archive documents the first building was a one-storey gothic building with a cross-archway. Towards the end of the 17th and 18th centuries the cloister was modernized as the refectory wall began collapsing. At the same time a plan was made to enlarge the building. In those two centuries the cloister counted 11 monks and about 10 brethren of the order. 

The friars were active in other fields too (music, architecture, art, education). In the 17th and 18th centuries they established and ran 22 layman schools. The oldest schools date back in the year 1639. In the cloister itself there was a friars school and the music school. 

The cloister archives show that the church as early as 1535 owned an excellent organ pipe made by the brothers Vicentini. From 1535 on there are a lot of documents about organ pipes in the church. The cloister has plenty of music literature showing that masses were played by orchesters. 

The cloister historians (Trani, Granich, Frasson and others) claim Giuseppe Tartini got the basics of his musical education in this very institution and that his parents rented a room for him in it for two years after 1700 AD. Besides Giuseppe Tartini also other numerous talents were given the basic musical education by the Minorite friars. 

The friars were carrying out their mission in the cloister untill 1954. After that year the cloister was confiscated by state and the friars settled in the parish house in Kumarjeva Street 4. The friars filled a suit to get the cloister back and the procedure is now in progress. 

The cloister keeps an enormous amount of old books (about 2500), dating back in the year 1480. When the cloister is turned back to the old owners, these books will be accesible to the public. Special rooms are under construction to house books and church inventory of the old origin. 

Since 1301 the cloister has produced a couple of bishops, 12 provincials, some scientists and plenty of good preachers who carried the glory of Piran abroad, especially to Italy. The best known among them was Johannes Torre. He met Giuseppe Tartini in Assissi in the 19th century and as a relative of the Tartinis he enabled him to continue his music studies. 

Cross Archway of the Minorite Cloister

The cross archway has always been a focusal point of life of the brethern as numerous church and cloister activities took place in it. In place of the present late baroque cross archway. There are not many material remains of the old cross archway except for the gothic bifora, preserved in the wall of the archway. 

The first report about the cross archway dates back to 1676 when the plaster in front of the inner door was laid anew. The works were paid by the family Pitacco who got a tomb as reward. 

In 1694 the monumental portal of the cloister began to be built. The guardian of the cloister at that time was the excellent organiser and artist, monk Gian Domenico Furian. 

Bigger works on the cloister were continued in 1698 when it was enlarged and the stone material to pave the whole archyard was prepared. 

In 1705 the friars asked in a letter addressed to the community assembly of Piran for money to finish the works on the new archway. According to the stone plaque in the sacristy from 1722, it was Mg. Silvester Apolonio who did a lion's share at the enlarging of the cloister. The cross archway was finished in 1735. The fountain was finished towards the end of the l8th century. 

The cross archway is according to experts one of the most acoustic places in Slovenia, and therefore it has been hosting the Piran music evenings for years. 

The Tartini Family Tomb

At the 300th anniversary of Giuseppe Tartini s birth the exact plan of old tombs was found in the archives of the cloister. Among those tombs there was also one belonging to the Tartini family. The church but as many tombs have never been marked, the exact place of the Tartini's tomb could never been located. Besides the tomb plans another document was discovered, confirming the discovery. 

The friars chose the father of the famous violin player, Giovanni Antonio Tartini, patron of the monastery. On 25 May 1699 he was given a church tomb that earlier belonged to the Petronio family. He received the tomb as a sign of gratitude for his close ties with the monastery. The family of Tartini was reminded several times to mark the tomb with their name, which never happened. On 12 March 1992 the tomb was opened and it was confirmed that the remains of the deceased are still in it. 

Nine members of the Tartini family are buried in the tomb; there are no documents whether the father Tartini lies there too. In March 1992 the monastery furnished the tomb with an inscription in Latin: 


(In English translation: this tomb was donated to the Tartini family by the Minorite Cloister in 1699 A.D.) 

Tratto da:

  • "Jožef Stefan" Institute, Piran 1997 - The Town of Piran (photos by Bobo) - http://www.ijs.si/piran97/eng/ob_srecanju/piran/index.html-l2

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Created: Tuesday, June 03, 2003; Last updated:Tuesday December 11, 2012
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