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 Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.