A brief background history of Motovun-Montona
A picturesque medieval town built on top of a cone-shaped hill with a flat plateau. A town of urban lines originating from a prehistoric hill-fort. The information on its population dates back to the ancient times, more precisely, the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd century, which is evidenced by the inscriptions beside the Venetian heraldic and leonidic symbols of the interior mantle on the ground-floor of the Renaissance fort.
According to the inscriptions found on the property of the Roman senator Sissena, it was exactly at Lom and Červar that the said family had the centre for the production of Istrian olive oil that they sold all over the Roman Empire, while in the surroundings of Motovun-Montona they extracted clay for the mass production of amphorae. During the late Antiquity in the place of the today’s late Renaissance three-nave parish church of St. Stephen there was a spacious old Christian basilica. The flat plateau which dominates the late Medieval square with a well and the town’s coat of arms looks like a spacious medieval tank.
The first mention of Motovun-Montona in written records dates back to 804 in the Placitum of Rižana, as Montouna.
During the rule of the Byzantine Empire the area of Motovun-Montona was paying almost the tenth of the total taxes and duties paid by the Istrian population at that time, while during the Roman Empire it was a part of the Poreč ager.
Motovun-Montona was a place of residence of many noble families, especially in the pre-Venetian period, for example, families Barbo or Polesini. Their properties were situated in the Motovun-Montona surroundings, for example, the Church of St. Nicholas near Rakotul adorned by artistically valuable wall paintings which include Glagolitic, Latin, dialectal and other graffiti.
The life in the early Middle Ages in Motovun-Montona is evidenced by the 13th century bell tower as well as the remains of the wattle sculpture at the entrance to the Gothic fort and many other buildings. On some of the medieval houses within the town walls there are elements and structures of construction works from earlier periods. On the inner which is at the same time the oldest part of the walls, numerous modifications can be noticed. During the 12th and 13th century the walls reclined on the Romanesque part of the Praetorian Palace adorned by the stone arches of the entrance fort beside which the fortification was annexed at the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century.
In the interior of the Praetorian Palace we can still see the immured double lancets of sickled segment arches which date back to the 13th century, while the square capitals date back to the 12th century, that is, the pre-Venetian period.
This is one of the biggest Romanesque palaces in Istria and Croatia from the period of the rule of the Patriarchs of Aquilea, that is – the Free Commune of Motovun-Montona. This can be seen from the buildings’ facades in the northern and southern street which lead to the medieval town entrance, as well as the Baroque loggia with a beautiful view of the Motovun-Montona Forest. According to written records, the loggia is mentioned for the first time in 1331 under the name of Lobia Maior.
The town with the bell tower with a crenelated parapet and the Church of St. Stephen dominates the valley of the River Mirna and the Motovun-Montona Forest.
The geological findings confirm yet another interesting feature of this area. Four meters below the surface of white soil evidence was found that in the Middle Ages sea water used to reach the Motovun-Montona Forest at high tide. Since at the time the bishop Tomasini had his seat here, the River Mirna was navigable only to Bastija and Ponteporton, the bishop of Cittanova ordered that a navigable riverbed be built all the way to Motovun-Montona. Some say that during the digging a lot of people were killed, and in the immediate vicinity of Motovun-Montona huge skeletons have been found, human ones allegedly. Numerous popular legends have been created on the basis of the above mentioned, as well as literary and art works about giants who built the Istrian town walls – those from G. D’Anunzio, then Vladimir Nazor’s Veli Jože as well Tito’s present to Motovun-Montona from 1946 that represents the portrait of Nazor, the work of sculptor Vanja Radauš.
Since the Motovun-Montona Forest was rich with wood, the population of Motovun-Montona and the Venetian Republic, on one side, and the neighbouring principalities, on the other, wanted the power over this natural wealth. Wood was so important for the construction of the Venetian fleet that, for example, even Goethe wanted to see the famous Istrian oak which contributed to the glory of the Venetian Republic