Municipality of Žminj | Cultural heritage
The Church of Saint Anthony the Abbot
The Church of Saint Anthony the Abbot was built in 1381 by a master called Armitigus, as evidenced by the Gothic stone inscription on the front part of the church.
It was built with large, skilfully made squares with barely visible couplings. Among the various features, the windows and its frames made with single monolithic stone transennae are especially interesting. The roof is covered with stone shales while the interior reveals a pleasant surprise: the walls are covered with high-value frescoes. The frescoes address motifs of Christ’s life, complemented with frescoes of the apostles Peter and Paul and scenes of temptation and whipping of St. Anthony the Abbot. In the apse one can find the painted crowning of the Virgin Mary, surrounded by angelic choir with medieval instruments. This fresco has been classified as one of the most valuable works of Istria’s medieval art. Namely, Mary and Christ are shown, Christ is crowning his Mother, while eight angels are surrounding them with instruments in their hands. This is the oldest display of musical instruments in Istria. It is the work of an unknown master from the end of the 14th century, who was educated in the circle of the Venetian Trecento. This church can be compared to the finest monuments of Gothic architecture in the western coastal Istrian cities. The frescoes have been restored and preserved, and are, according to numerous experts in wall painting and art history, among the best examples of wall painting of medieval Istria. Professor Andrija Mohorovičić called this church “small basilica”, which itself sufficiently speaks of its artistic value.
The church at one point became desacralized and people began using it as a wine cellar and an agricultural warehouse with a barn. But after a calf with two heads appeared, people, filled with fear, abandoned the church. With the financial support of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1911, it was repurchased from its former owner and repaired. Three years later, they preserved the painting on the front wall. Archival documentation partially confirms this unusual legend.