Vodnjan, a locality which has lived for 2,200 years now, was also called Attinianum, Adignanum and Dignano. Located in the south of the largest Croatian peninsula in Istria – the gateway of the east to the west, the only one of its kind in the Mediterranean.
During Roman times, the population in the Vodnjan area, agricultural land in the hinterland of Pula, was 35,000 people. Slave labour facilitated its progress, therefore it’s not surprising that precisely here, as a cry for freedom, Christianity spread more forcefully than in other areas of Istria. This fact is witnessed by six early Christian basilicas built from the 5th to the 8th century, and fifty or so sacral buildings.
In 1212, Vodnjan became a parish which up to 1843 had a cathedral chapter. In the monasteries of the Benedictines, Franciscans, Conventuals and Capuchins, at one time a female monastery too, Vodnjan was the intersection of religious activity. During the time of the plague, the Pula bishops withdrew to Vodnjan.
Already in 1492, Vodnjan, a locality which lived as a municipality modelled after Rome, received a renewed Statute. The surrounding villages, hamlets and settlements lived in an exemplary Slavic social order, headed by a county prefect. .Vodnjan keeps one of the oldest Registry books in the world. The first entries about local inhabitants are from the year 1559. In the Venetian age, Vodnjan had exceptionally good relations with the capital city of the world at the time, Venice. The Parish Church, built in the period from 1760 – 1800, is a copy of the Venetian Cathedral of St. Peter in Kaštel, while its bell tower was modelled after the bell tower of the Cathedral of Saint Mark.
Exceptional personas originated from Vodnjan: the world renowned botanist Bartolomeo Biasoletto (+1859), the self-taught painter Venerio Trevisan (+1871), the opera composer Antonio Smareglia (+1929.), the technical inventor, Pietro Marchesi (+1929.), the renowned Latin scholar Giuseppe Del Tona who during the 70’s in the Vatican worked with six Popes and died a saint in 1997.
The Vodnjan area is criss-crossed with drywalls, the monuments of hardworking people and with almost a thousand “kažuna” (traditional Istrian stone huts) which farmers, modelled after the first dwellings in the Mediterranean which were erected over five thousand years ago, built as shelters.
Connected by contemporary roads, with a pleasant climate, clean environment, surrounded by a clean coastline, Vodnjan was a locality predestined for housing a world collection of relics of 290 saints, a unique spiritual oasis. More detailed information about the collection can be found in the book “Galerija velikana“.
The relics encompasses a time period of 2700 years, and extend over the territory of the entire Roman Empire, a time when mankind achieved, up to then, the greatest thought and technical progress. In their unique ideas, the saints spoke of spiritual globalisation which neither Rome nor totalitarian regimes could impose, and which we hope for. This unity of spirit, about which the saints spoke, draws its origin from eschatology.
We believe that Vodnjan, to the benefit of many, will become a unique tourist-pilgrimage destination on the Adriatic so we will leave it to the conscience of those who care and UNESCO.