One of the most impressive structures in Vodnjan and entire Istria is certainly the parish church of St. Blaise, well-known to pilgrims from all over the world. On the site of the present-day parish church once stood a basilica, most probably from the 11th century, that was pulled down in 1760. The new church was modelled after the Venetian church of San Pietro, and the project itself cost 13,000 gold coins. The church was financed by the townspeople and its construction lasted from 1760 to 1800. At that time the locals set aside 10% for the building of the church, whereas over the next ten years they set aside 10% of wine and olive oil. Today this church is the largest and one of the most magnificent ones in Istria.
Apart from the relics of St. Blaise, Vodnjan's parish church also keeps 370 relics belonging to 250 different saints. In addition to one of the thorns from Jesus' crown, fragment of the Holy Virgin's veil, particle of Jesus' Cross and many others, a special attraction are the desiccated remains of saints whose bodies or body parts have been completely preserved: St. Sebastian, St. Barbara, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Leon Bembo, St. Giovanni Olini and St. Nicolosa Bursa. These remains in St. Blaise's Church have been there for centuries, without being embalmed or hermetically sealed which presents a true mystery for scientists. However, this is not the only mystery. According to legend the preserved bodies of saints are considered to have magical powers.
In 1818 the saintly relics were brought to Vodnjan from Venice, since everything sacral was destroyed because of the French Revolution. The great painter and member of the Royal imperial academy of fine arts, Gaetano Grezler from Venice took charge of the relics and stored them. In search of an artist that would decorate the newly-built parish church, Vodnjan's Church Fathers chose Gretzler. He arrived by sailing ship, bringing with him the relics.
The Collection of Sacral Art in the parish church of St. Blaise is the most magnificent one in Croatia. There are over 730 exhibits dating from the period between the year 400 and the 19th century. The collection comprises stone reliefs, fifteen paintings on canvas and wood, fifteen sculptures, some hundred precious reliquaries, numerous books and manuscripts, jewellery, vestments, etc, presenting a complete picture of the Middle Ages. Although St. Blaise's Church hasn't been officially proclaimed a place of pilgrimage 15,000 worshippers visit the church every year.References:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.