Svetvinčenat, Savičenta, San Vincenti, three names for the same place, originating from the name of the Spanish martyr Saint Vincent and the eponymous abbey around which grew the town.
The beginnings of Svetvinčenat are most commonly associated with the Benedictine monks from Ravenna, whose community settled this region, rich in wood and part of the fiefdom of St. Apollinaris, in the 6th century. Turbulent events and profound changes have throughout the centuries made Svetvinčenat a unique place in Central Istria that attracts attention with its history and rich cultural heritage.
After many centuries of Byzantine, Langobard, and Frank rule, it appears that Svetvinčenat came into the hands of the Diocese of Poreč, subject to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Aquileia. The administrative and judicial authority in Svetvinčenat was in the hands of the laity who had, as suzerains, interfered with the mensa of the Diocese of Poreč, with complex economic transactions that were the reason of and, simultaneously, the confirmation of the political power of leading figures in the region. Thus, the relationship between the Diocese of Poreč and the Patriarchate of Aquileia, and the counts of Gorizia, the Sergi family from Pula, later called Castropola, and the Morosini della Sbarra dynasty from Venice was strained.
The largest and dominating element of the Svetvinčenat village, taking up the entire northern part of the main town square, is the stone Morosini-Grimani Castle, one of the larger Istrian castles.
Morosini-Grimani Castle in the past…
The castle was built as a traditional country estate with an economic, agricultural, and defensive role, which partly explains its surprising size. The castle’s role in determining the scope of the village is multifaceted, starting with the size of the square and various individual architectonic and urban elements. Its feudalistic symbolism of the relationship between the suzerain and the tenants is especially important. As a fort on the border of the Venetian part of Istria, Morosini-Grimani Castle was at times also the seat of military operations during conflicts with Austria (Vučić, 1996-1997). The first fort was erected at the beginning of the 13th century, but tumultuous years of war resulted in its frequent destruction and, consequently, renovations, leading to changes in the castle’s appearance. Besides its appearance, the castle also changed its owners. After the Diocese, and the Castropola and Morosini families, the owner of the castle became the patrician Venetian family Grimani di San Luca. The building got its current appearance in 1589, when Marino Grimani renovated the burnt down castle to the plans of Venetian architects Scamozzi and Campagna. The castle is today one of the most significant Venetian edifices of that time in Istria. Three towers are positioned in its three corners, while in the fourth corner a palace with rooms for the nobility and the captain’s quarters are situated. The towers controlled all four entrances to the town, and were connected by counterfort retaining walls, while, from the inside, a balcony ran along their entire length, from which guards kept sentry through embrasures. The gates, besides a drawbridge, also had a portcullis. Above the gate is carved the castle’s coat of arms – the current coat of arms of Svetvinčenat, and the coat of arms of the Grimani di San Luca and Morosini families. Inside the castle there was a spacious courtyard, village head’s quarters, warehouse for public contributions and munitions, armoury, barracks for 200 musketeers and spearmen, and a very secure prison located underground. In the 19th century, the Grimani family passed the castle to the bishops who gifted it to the municipality at the beginning of the 20th century. The castle was once again incinerated at the end of the Second World War.
What is offered today
The Morosini-Grimani Castle tomorrow...
The integrated development programme KulTERRA – Revitalisation of Istrian Castles Morosini-Grimani and Petrapilosa includes the reconstruction of two monuments of culture, development of cultural, educational and presentation content inside the castles, and the establishment and exhibition of the Ferlin weapon collection inside Morosini-Girmani Castle as well as opening a presentation centre of indigenous food products – the tasting room of Central Istria in Morosini-Grimani Castle.
The “Captain’s Room” exhibition space will be established and furnished to show how the castle captain’s room used to look in the past. An exhibition space for presenting traditions and old wedding customs in order to preserve the intangible cultural heritage, and a space for various events (festivals, conferences, fairs), equipped with all the necessary equipment, will also be arranged. Furthermore, a souvenir shop and a presentation centre – the tasting room of Central Istria with a selection of premium Istrian products from Central and South Istria, will be opened in the Castle.