Monday, January 26, 2009

Poreč (Parenzo)

Set along the western coast of the Istrian Peninsula, Poreč (Italian: Parenzo) is almost 2,000 years old, and is centered around a harbor protected from the Adriatic Sea by the small offshore island of Sveti Nikola (St. Nicholas). The town's population of approximately 12,000 resides mostly outside the historical center.

The old town's streets are paved with smooth white stones.

In 1267 Poreč became the first Istrian city that chose to become part of the Venetian Republic, and Venetian architecture can still be seen all around the ancient streets of the old town sector.

But the most important historical structure is the sixth-century early Byzantine Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997. Built in 553, the Euphrasian Basilica is named after Bishop Euphrasius of Poreč, who in the 6th century commissioned the building of this grandiose three-nave basilica on the site of an earlier church. The Euphrasiana complex is comprised of a church, baptistry, atrium and the former Bishop’s Palace. Of particular interest are the mosaics in the apse, as well as marble slabs with mother-of-pearl and multicolored stone incrustations.

The first sacred structure on the Basilica’s site was Maurus’ Oratory, built in the second half of the 3rd century (portions of the mosaics have been preserved) as one of the first places for corporate worship by Christians. Maurus was the first Bishop of Poreč, and is today the patron saint of Poreč and its diocese. In the period of the bloodiest persecution of Christians during the rule of Emperor Diocletian, he was executed together with the entire clergy of Poreč. His relics are housed today in Euphrasius’ Basilica.

For more than 40 years during the summer months, the basilica in Poreč has been a venue for classical music concerts. Renowned musicians from Croatia and abroad perform there. The atrium of Euphrasiana (see photo below) is the setting for chamber music concerts, notably those incorporating the harpsichord.

Poreč: Sunset over the Adriatic

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