The Slovenia Times

Koper celebrates 1500th anniversary

The 15th century Praetorian Palace in Koper. Photo: Mitja Volčanšek/STA

The coastal city of Koper is celebrating 1,500 years since the consecration of its first bishop this year with a series of events that will spotlight the town's milestones and its greats.

The consecration in 524 of Bishop Nasarius, patron saint of Koper, is seen as an event symbolising the foundation of Koper, which used to be an island.

An ancient legend has it that Koper was founded on an island that was transformed from the shield of Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, as it fell into the sea during her battle with Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.

Plague and Napoleon

An exhibition on show at the 15th century Praetorian Palace until the end of February, tells about that legend, as well as about the consecration of Bishop Nasarius and presents other key historic events.

Visitors can learn about a plague that decimated the local population, about Napoleon's arrival in the town and a decision to connect the island with the mainland.

Also on display is a 13th century plaque honouring the city's governor Marino Morosini for his many construction projects. At the time, Koper was linked to the mainland with a kilometre-long artificial causeway.

The plaque was built into a fortress just before the city walls in 1269, ten years before the city fell under Venetian rule in 1279.

Notable painter, thermometer inventor

Among the notable persons highlighted at the show are Vittore Carpaccio, a Venetian painter who spent the last decade of his life in Koper, and Santorio Santorio, a doctor and inventor of the thermometer, who was born and lived in Koper.

Carpaccio's altar painting is to be presented at the Koper Cathedral following a decade-long restoration project as part of the anniversary celebrations later this year.

This is after two of his other restored paintings from the cathedral, the Massacre of the Innocents and Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, which were originally part of the organ case, were on show as part of a retrospective exhibition on Carpaccio at the Doge's Palace in 2023.

First written records

As part of the celebrations, a facsimile of the city's laws, known as the statute, from 1423 is on show at the Koper Regional Museum until the end of February.

In Istria, legal relations were governed by town statutes, and Koper's oldest is kept at the state archives in Venice, Italy.

The Koper statute was first mentioned in 1238, but only two manuscripts from 1423 have survived, the one kept in Venice and the other in Rijeka, Croatia.

First traces of humans living in the area of Koper are from the Stone Age, while the island was first settled at the time of the Roman Republic.

Ancient written sources mention an ancient Greek settlement in the area of Koper in the period between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC.

When north Istria came under Byzantine rule in the mid-6th century AD, the island Capris was well consolidated and renamed Iustinopolis, after Emperor Justin II.

In the 8th century, Slavic populations settled in inland towns in Istria, gradually moving to the coastal towns.

Festive city

Today, Koper is Slovenia's fifth largest city with a population of 26,000, including members of the Italian ethnic minority. It is also the fourth largest of the country's 212 municipalities in terms of the population with over 53,000 residents. It is home to Slovenia's sole maritime port.

Apart from exhibitions, the 1,500th anniversary festivities will also feature conferences, debates, theatre festivals and other events, including the unveiling of the renovated St Elijah's Baptistery, the town's oldest sacral building.

In tribute to its patron saint, Koper will be decorated with sprigs of lavender, once called St Nazario's ears (spighi di San Nazario in Italian).


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