Pula (Croatian pronunciation: [pǔːla]; Italian and Istro-Romanian: Pola; Latin: Colonia Pietas Iulia Pola Pollentia Herculanea; Slovene and Chakavian: Pulj, German: Polei, Ancient Greek: Πόλαι, Polae) is the largest city inIstria County, Croatia, situated at the southern tip of the Istria peninsula, with a population of 57,460 (2011). Like the rest of the region, it is known for its mild climate, smooth sea, and unspoiled nature. The city has a long tradition of winemaking, fishing, shipbuilding, and tourism. Pula has also been Istria's administrative centre since ancient Roman times.
Sights and landmarks
The city is best known for its many surviving ancient Roman buildings, the most famous of which is its 1st-century amphitheatre, which is among the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the world and locally known as the Arena. This is one of the best preserved amphitheatres from antiquity and is still in use today during summer film festivals. During the World War II Italian fascist administration, there were attempts to disassemble the arena and move it to mainland Italy, which were quickly abandoned due to the costs involved.
Two other notable and well-preserved ancient Roman structures are the 1st-century AD triumphal arch, the Arch of the Sergii and the co-eval temple of Rome and Augustus, built in the 1st century AD built on the forum during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus.
The Twin Gates (Porta Gemina) is one of the few remaining gates after the city walls were pulled down at the beginning of the 19th century. It dates from the mid-2nd century, replacing an earlier gate. It consists of two arches, columns, a plain architrave and a decorated frieze. Close by are a few remains of the old city wall.
The Gate of Hercules dates from the 1st century. At the top of the single arch one can see the bearded head of Hercules, carved in high-relief, and his club on the adjoining voussoir. A damaged inscription, close to the club, contains the names of Lucius Calpurnius Piso and Gaius Cassius Longinus who were entrusted by the Roman senate to found a colony at the site of Pula. Thus it can be deduced that Pula was founded between 47 and 44 BC.
The Augustan Forum was constructed in the 1st century BC, close to the sea. In Roman times it was surrounded by temples of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. This Roman commercial and administrative centre of the city remained the main square of classical and medieval Pula. It still is the main administrative and legislative centre of the city. The temple of Roma and Augustus is still preserved today. A part of the back wall of the temple of Juno was integrated into theCommunal Palace in the 13th century.
Two Roman theatres have withstood the ravages of time: the smaller one (diameter c. 50 m; 2nd century AD) near the centre, the larger one (diameter c. 100 m; 1st century AD) on the southern edge of the city.
The city's old quarter of narrow streets, lined with Medieval and Renaissance buildings, are still surfaced with ancient Roman paving stones.
The Byzantine chapel of St. Mary Formosa was built in the 6th century (before 546) in the form of a Greek cross, resembling the churches in Ravenna. It was built by deacon Maximilian, who became later Archbishop of Ravenna. It was, together with another chapel, part of a Benedictine abbey that was demolished in the 16th century. The floors and the walls are decorated with 6th-century mosaics. The decoration bears some resemblance to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia at Ravenna. The wall over the door contains a Byzantine carved stone panel. The 15th-century wall paintings may be restorations of Early Christian paintings. When the Venetians raided Pula in 1605, they removed many treasures from this chapel to Venice, including the four columns of oriental alabaster that stand behind the high altar of St Mark's Basilica.
Church of St. Francis
The Church of St. Francis dates from the end of the 13th century. It was built in 1314 in late Romanesque style with Gothic additions such as the rose window. The church consists of a single nave with threeapses. An unusual feature of this church is the double pulpit, with one part
projecting into the street. A 15th-century wooden polyptych from an Emilian artist adorns the altar. The west portal is decorated with shell motifs and a rose window. The adjoining monastery dates from the 14th century. The cloisters display some antique Roman artefacts.
The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was built in the 6th century, when Pula became the seat of a bishopry, over the remains over the original site where the Christians used to gather and pray in Roman times. It was enlarged in the 10th century. After its destruction by Genoese and Venetian raids, it was almost completely rebuilt in the 15th century. It got its present form when a late Renaissance façade was added in the early 16th century. The church still retains several Romanesque and Byzantine characters, such as some parts of the walls (dating from the 4th century), a few of the original column capitals and the upper windows of the nave. In the altar area and in the room to the south one can still see fragments of 5th- or 6th-century floor mosaics with memorial inscriptions from worshippers who paid for the mosaics. The windows of the aisles underwent reconstruction in Gothic style after a fire in 1242. The belfry in front the church was built between 1671 and 1707 with stones form the amphitheatre. There also used to stand a baptistery from the 5th century in front of the church, but it was demolished in 1885.
The Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas with its Ravenna-style polygonal apse, originally dates from the 6th century, but was partially rebuilt in the 10th century. In 1583 it was assigned to the Orthodox community of Pula, mainly immigrants from Cyprus and Nauplion. The church owns several icons from the 15th and the 16th century and an iconostasis from the Greek artists Tomios Batos from the 18th century.