Sveti Lovreč nestles in the immediate hinterland of Vrsar and Poreč. It is one the best preserved medieval fortified towns in Istria, The town was named after the small church St. Lawrence (1) built in the 8th century on the town graveyard located outside the town. The Romanesque bell tower next to the church was added in the 11th century.
The circular shape of the settlement originates from the prehistoric period when a hillfort was located on the hill top. During the Byzantine era Lovreč had already been fortified with walls and towers, which were later thoroughly restored on various occasions. Most of the remaining fortifications date back to the Venetian era when Sveti Lovreč was the seat of the military administration of the Venetian Istria – the so called Pazenatik.
A step into the past
During the administration of Captain - Podestà Giovanni Contarini very strong town walls were built extending to the east and including St. Martin`s Basilica. The monumental Velika vrata - Main Gate (2), built in the same period, is decorated with the coat of arms of the families Grimani and Moro and the recurring Venetian symbol – Lion of St. Mark holding his book closed meaning that the gate was built in a time of war.
Passing through the gate we enter the irregularly paved square - Plac (3). The square is dominated by the spacious town loggia – a place still used for official gatherings. The stone pillar of shame reminds us that the gatherings were not always of festive character. Inside the loggia, along the southern wall of the parish church, there are numerous stone fragments from all historical periods of the town from Roman times to the end of the 19th century.
The parish church – the three-nave St.Martin`s Basilica (4) is accessed from the neighbouring smaller square - Placeta. The church is furnished with partly conserved and recently well restored frescoes, so far the oldest frescoes in made in the 11th century. Younger frescoes were painted in the 16th century. Remains of original stone church furniture are on display in the lapidary. Basilica of St. Martina is the best preserved early Romanesque basilica in Istria. It also has the oldest organ in Istria, the work of master Petar Nakić from 1735, and was restored in 2013.
North from the parish church there used to stand the Town Palace but today we can only see the beautiful stone Town Water Well (6), decorated with the coats of arms of the Contarinis and the Zulians, and the figure of St. Lawrence – the Patron Saint of the town. St. Lawrence can be recognized by the gridiron, which has been inserted into the present official coat of arms of the Municipality of Sveti Lovreč. To reach the Water Well one must climb the steps north of the church.
The street continues to the square tower Funtanela (7). The interior of the tower hides a water well dating from 1331. This water well is decorated with the coat pf arms of the Soranzos, a family which gave four podestàs to Sveti Lovreč. If you go behind the tower, you can check for yourselves the defencive might of the town walls.
By continuing your visit of the town clockwise, the next landmark is the triangular tower (8), followed by a tall belfry - tower (5). At the foot of the toweryou will notice the walled up gate surmounted by the coat of arms of the Grimanis. The following walls, which have been incorporated into residential buildings during later reconstructions, bring you back to the Main Gate.
It is worth looking through the window of the church St. Blaise (9) built in 1460. The interior hides a sequence of frescoes which can seem confusing at first sight. The frescoes that can be seen today are actually two equally visible layers. The older layer dates from the second half of the 15th century and later was over-painted with paintings from 1864. You can see the scene of the legend of St. Blaise, while on the sanctuary wall actually is the figure of St. Paul.
In the past, the bell of the church of St. Blaise marked the time of the distribution of water during the great droughts, which were not uncommon back then. For this reason, special attention has always been paid to public cisterns and sources of drinking water within the town and those outside the city walls, such as the spring in Vošteni.