LIFE IN THE VEINS OF PREINDUSTRIAL JUSTINOPOLIS (MODERN-DAY KOPER)
The guided tour will take us to the heart of the town – the Platea Communis or common square (nowadays called Tito square) where the most representative buildings are located: the Pretorian palace (where the appointed governor of the Istrian province resided) and the cathedral (dedicated to the Assumption of Mary), which is the biggest church in Slovenia. Before entering the church, notice the fine chiseled door pillars. In the apse a gothic sarcophagus of Saint Nasarius (who was allegedly a miracle maker) is preserved, made out of ancient Greek marble (Excursus: the sarcophagus was made in the workshop of Filippo Calendario the architect and sculptor of the capitals of the Doge’s palace in Venice. Find out about the similarities between the two monuments).
In the right transept hangs a masterpiece of Renaissance art, the altarpiece “Sacra conversazione” by Vittore Carpaccio that would have the right to be placed in any great world gallery.
The baptistery was built in the 12th century and displays above the entrance door the oldest lion of Saint Mark in existence (shallow stone relief). Inside the baptistery (closed most of the times unfortunately) there is a precious fresco of the Christ Pantocrator (in preaching pose) from the 14th century.
Next we will: see what is left from the first early gothic municipal loggia, now an integrating part of the Pretorian palace. Try to mentaly reconstruct the appearance of the building before the devastating fire started during the Genovese occupation. We will point out where a wooden pending bridge used to link the bell tower of the church to the old tower (Potestas Iustinopolis) of the Pretorian palace. (Excursus: Find out about the roman statue of a Senator (Togatus) unearthed in the 17th century and mistakenly identified with the legendary Palas Athena, goddess of wisdom and protector of the town, and placed on the crenellations of the palace).
Under the arch of the Pretorian palace we will point out the site of the denunciation letter box for tax evaders and corrupted officials. Inside the above-mentioned palace the wooden cases of an old pharmacy are kept. Excursus: In the Istrian towns there were several operative alchemists.The most notable among them was Pietro Bono da Ferrara who lived in Pola the others being: Sergio da Pola and Daniele di Bernardo del Pozzo from Koper.
The tour will lead us to the square-park Brolo where, by looking on two 15th century carved wells, we will bring to memory the struggle for water supply, the accusations of the Jews to have poisoned the water (“untori”) and ask ourselves why gambling on the edge of the fountains was so popular: well, the pillar of shame was just a few steps away.
On the Cobbler’s street (via Calligeria) look to the entrance of the Jewish ghetto while descending (in 1386 Jews were allowed to settle in the town and lend money). Follow to Muda gate, the entrance door of the old town. See the bullet holes of Napoleon artillery in the fabric.
At Carpaccio square you will be surprised by the mighty reinforced warehouse for salt from the 16th century. A statue of Justina topping a column commemorates a great maritime victory over the invincible Turks at Lepanto in 1571. See the house of Vittore Carpaccio. Follow us to the palace Belgramoni Tacco, the Regional Museum (notice Tiziano Aspetti remarkable door knocker in form of Venus on see shell), discover the most charming among the gardens of the town, constellated with old reliefs and statues. Learn more about the tormented history of the Istria region, contested by different countries (Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia, Slovenia) in the 20th century, inside the modern history museum department.
Remarkable citizens from Koper (Capodistria):
- Vittore Carpaccio (c. 1460–c. 1525), painter.
- Pier Paolo Vergerio the Elder (1370–1444/1445), humanist, writer of the first comedy in Italian.
- Santorio Santorio (1561–1636), medical scientist, inventor of the thermometer.
- Ioannis Kapodistrias (1776–1831), Greek patriot and first governor of the Greek state (1828–1831).
- Daniele di Bernardo dal Pozzo (Daniele da Giustinopoli), Alchemist from the 14th century who wrote a poem about the philosopher stone in italian vulgar language.
- sarcophagus of Saint Nasarius
- Sacra Conversazione altarpiece by Vittore Carpaccio
- the baptistery with the oldest winged lion of Saint Marc in existence
- the ex Jewish getto
- the 16th century warehouse for salt
- Palazzo Belgramoni-Tacco
2 hours to half a day.
Other places of interest:
Hrastovlje church of the Holy Trinity
surrounded by an encampment wall (protection from the Turks). The interior of the small church is entirely covered with frescos –, among them the famous Dance Macabre from the 15th century.
The Holy Cave
the refuge of Saint Servolus. Servolus was a roman citizen from Triest (ancient Tergeste). He was 12 years old when he moved to a Karstic cave in seclusion, living as a hermit for almost two years. When he returned to Tergeste he started working miracles and spreading Christianity, therefore he was imprisoned and martyrized in the year 284 A.D. The remains of his body now rest in the church of St. Just in Triest. The mass in his memory is celebrated on May 24th every year.
Excursus: on the wall in front of the entrance door of the Holy Cave (the only underground church in Slovenia) don’t miss a prehistoric graffiti, showing a hut, a rustic cross (symbol of the knights Templars ) and what remains of a Glagolitic inscription. In the cave you can see: the water basin behind the altar from which the saint used to drink (used as holly water) and a stone bed from stalagmites where the saint has slept.
The English healer Stephen Turoff have visited the cave several times claiming to be the reincarnation of Servolus and reporting to have witnessed the apparition of the Vergin Mary in the cave.