Visiting Porec: An Istrian Day Trip, Part 4

Visiting Porec: An Istrian Day Trip, Part 4

This four-part series details the four stops on our Istrian day trip. Our adventure through Istria included Truffle hunting and sampling, Istrian Brandy processing and sipping, visting Motovun, hilltop town, and visiting Porec, seaside town. It was a day full of new tastes, sights and experiences. 

Click here for a review on the previous stop on our Istrian day trip: Visitng Motovun

The colorful and glittering mosaic in the apse above the altar immediately drew my attention when we entered into the vast interior of the Euphrasian Basilica. I struggled to contemplate how in nearly 1500 years of time, under different rulers and at war, this Byzantine work of art is still intact.

Visiting Porec

The final stop on our Istrian day trip was visiting Porec, a coastal town north of Rovinj, Croatia. Our guide, Adriano, led us through the streets, sharing the history and stories of his hometown. Like so many of the shoreline towns in Istria, Porec resides on a peninsula, has remnants of a range of rulers and, today, relies on tourism, agriculture and fishing. Swimming in the award-winning clean waters of the three lagoons – Green, Blue and White Bay – attracts the holidaying type, but we were interested in the history of Porec and the Euphrasian Basilica.

Visiting Porec: waterfront and harbor

The Porec waterfront.

Porec History

Porec isn’t as compact as Rovinj or as preserved as Pula, due in most part to it being bombed 34 times during World War II, destroying homes, but creating parks. The historical center of the town was at one time protected with 11 towers, but most of them have been deconstructed, the stones being repurposed into other buildings. Liberty Square, the main town square, features a modern work of art, but is also houses the gathering place for the large Italian community, still prevalent in Porec.

Looking down a lane from Liberty Square in Porec, Croatia

Looking down a lane from Liberty Square.

Euphrasian Basilica in Porec

The Euphrasian Basilica is the centerpiece of historical remains in Porec, most of it dating back to the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries. We entered the complex under an arch decorated in mosaic art, which reads, “I am the gate; he who passes will be saved,” but learned that it wasn’t constructed until 1902, which Adriano tells us in “brand new,” with a wink and a smile.

The street entrance to the Euphrasian Basilica complex in Porec

The street entrance to the Euphrasian Basilica complex

Before entering into the church, we walked through the courtyard into the baptistery. The room featured pieces of mosaic art and in the center was the in-ground baptismal font, which most likely pre-dates the church. From the doorway, we could see the church façade. Mosaics cover the middle portion, the details of meaning lost, but nothing exists from the upper portion, which is thought to have been a scene of The Last Supper.

The Euphrasian Basilica facade has remains of mosaics, but the upper section is completely void of the artwork that was once there

The church facade has remains of mosaics, but the upper section is completely void of the artwork that once was there.

Rounding the corner, we entered the Bishop’s Palace, used as the bishop’s residence from the year 504 until just 20 years ago. Restoration is underway to bring the building back to its original state and it now houses artifacts from the region.

When we entered the Bishop's Palace (part of the Euphrasian Basilica in Porec, we noticed the solitary chair bathed in light and imagined walking in with the bishop sitting there

When we entered the Bishop’s Palace, we noticed the solitary chair bathed in light and imagined walking in with the bishop sitting there.

Ceremonial dress, various artwork and life-size crucifixes fill the rooms. When a crucifix was commissioned, the artist could depict Jesus as still being alive or deceased. Some works were originally crafted with Jesus as alive, but then later altered (cut the wood at the right knee and cross it over the left ankle, cut the wood at the neck and angle the head downward) to show Christ in death.

This painting, housed in the Bishop's Palace at the Euphrasian Basilica complex in Porec, was found in the Hum Cemetery and dates to 1529

This painting, found in the Hum Cemetery, dates to 1529.

Three separate churches were built over the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries, part of each previous church incorporated into the new. The use of floor mosaics date back to the 4th century, with an astounding number of pieces still complete. A replica floor of the first church has been installed in the courtyard (where the church once stood) and the remaining pieces put on display indoors. The early art was simple, often in black and white and funded by (and attributed to) members of the church. The bigger the donation, the bigger the mosaic. The idea reminded me of the bricks we see at the entrance to many university sports stadiums today.

The fish mosaic, displayed in the Euphrasian Basilica complex in Porec, dates to the 4th century

The fish mosaic dates to the 4th century.

After wandering through what is left of the previous churches, we finally entered the basilica through the side door. Named the Euphrasian Basilica for the bishop (who was not a saint), the 6th century church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In the apse behind the altar is the most elaborate and vibrant mosaic work that remains.

Looking up at the beautiful mosaics above the altar in the Euphrasian Basilica in Porec

Looking up at the beautiful mosaics above the altar in the Euphrasian Basilica.

At the top, Jesus is surrounded by the 12 Apostles. Below, Mary is featured in the middle, with baby Jesus on her lap, surrounded by angels, martyrs and Bishop Euphrasian holding the basilica in his arm. On the right side, a mosaic illustrates the story of when Mary visits Elizabeth (of which 84% remains original) and on the left, shows the story of Angel Gabriel visiting Mary.

Part of the 6th century, Byzantine mosaic above the altar at Euphrasian Basilica in Porec. It shows Mary and Jesus surrounded by angels and martyrs...and Bishop Euphrasian, of course.

Mary and Jesus surrounded by angels and martyrs…and Bishop Euphrasian, of course.

Mary visits Elizabeth; a 6th century mosaic at the altar in the Euphrasian Basilica in Porec

Mary visits Elizabeth; a 6th century mosaic.

Surviving earthquakes and wars, the church has undergone little change since it was originally constructed. Structural reinforcements enhance the left side arches (added post-earthquake) and the heavily decorated canopy of the ciborium was added in 1277, but the marble pillars are 6th century original.

The 6th century, mosaic altar at the Euphrasian Basilica in Porec

The 6th century, mosaic altar at the Euphrasian Basilica

We want to know: Have you visited Porec, Croatia? What did you like best about the town? Do you like visiting ancient churches, like the Euphrasian Basilica? Let us know in the comments below!

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Visiting Porec Istrian day trip JetSetting Fools

To book Adriano as your tour guide in Porec, you can reach him by phone (098 258 609) or email (novus@pu.t-com.hr).

Thank you to the Croatian National Tourist Board and Istria Tourist Board for organizing our trip to Karlic Tartufi and our Istrian day trip. 

8 thoughts on “Visiting Porec: An Istrian Day Trip, Part 4

  1. Anonymous

    Enjoyed your Croatia posts and photos, thanks! Love the idea of visiting a truffle farm and the wineries. How did you book your Istrian day trip, was this specially arranged for you or is this something one can book through the tourist office?

    • Thanks! Glad you are following along 😉 Our Istrian day trip was arranged for us, but it is something a Tourist Agency can help with. There are different tours, so I would suggest going to different agencies to find one that matches your desired itinerary and price. Also – it wouldn’t be all that difficult to do on your own…if you drive or hire a driver. Book the truffle plantation in advance, but everything else is drop in (just check on hours of operation). Let us know if you have any other questions!

      • Anonymous

        Thank you very much! I wasn’t sure whether your tour was a one off that wasn’t generally available to the public, so your answer explains that. We are thinking of renting a car so we’ll have more flexibility, but I think the biggest problem will be of what to do / where to park the car in the cities we’ll be staying…. I’ll be be doing a lot of research between now and next year, but I have to ‘rough in’ our itinerary now so I can book our flights to Europe very soon. Getting quite excited about the prospect! I believe you are back in Croatia now? Will be following with interest. Happy travels!

        • Yes, we are in Croatia now and will be in the area for another few weeks. How exciting to be planning your trip (I love the planning stages!)! We’ve never had a car in Europe, so I’m not sure about parking, but I guess it would just depend on where you go. In Croatia, there are usually parking lots and a small fee to park if you are visiting. If you are staying, the accommodations usually offer parking, but often off-site – but all of that really just depends. Hopefully you’ll find the info in your research. Travel well!! 😉

  2. Anonymous

    Those mosaics were beautiful. I am getting my first opportunity to travel outside the Americas. The churches I have seen do not have as much of a history but my favorite is Primada American in the Dominican Republic which claims to be the first cathedral built in the Americas. Our itinerary overseas includes a lot of churches and I am super excited to see them. I am now going to call your nephew Adriano.

    • I didn’t know the first cathedral in America was in the DR! I’m sure you will be seeing many many churches on your trip to Europe – I think you will LOVE them! And, YES, AJ is now Adriano 😉

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