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Beram, prehistoric settlement

 Tag: Beram, Istrian hinterland, architectural heritage, archeology, historical development, SB Research Group


Summary - The research team SBRG decided to pursue further research Beram's hill-fort, cemeteries from all three developmental stages, and also sheding light on the mystery of discovering other "tower" mentioned in the deed of gift from 911th year. Through scientific researches, which will be included diverse experts, weighs the final goal is not only documenting the history, but, most importantly, quality of the revitalization of the settlement taking into account the diverse situations during development.

This study is introduction for knowledge of the historical and urban value of this important archaeological site, where SBR Group plans researching for the year 2013.

Activities will begin digging at the site of the oldest cemetery, started in the late nineteenth century, but never completed.

The Istrian peninsula is an area rich with very densely spaced urban and rural agglomerations, high values. Small towns of central Istria connect some common traits, such as accommodation on the top of a conical hill, on the positions of prehistoric hill-forts, and tight construction which depends of the ring of fortifications. At the same time, due to different conditions and time of formation, each town individually is realization of self.

In the vast period of time, from prehistory to the present day, there was created a series of use cases relevant to the culture in Istria. Starting from the archaeological finds, through ethnological objects, glagolitic text, sacred and profane objects - monuments of culture, we come to the vast cultural wealth, which in its extreme and simple form, tells of a man and space in the hinterland of the peninsula. Just this treasure is preserved in fragments, often only like the text. What is left in situ was not valorised in a timely manner, to enable better presentation, now, when almost everyone understands that Istria has an inestimable treasure.

The consequence of the closed cycle of food production and a high degree of self-sufficiency, as the basic conditions of survival, was the organic structure of the settlement. This kind of structure is formed in a situation where the available energy is reduced to that amount that can be produced in site, with primitive tools. Organic structure is apparent at all levels of spatial organization, from the divisions of wide area, through structure of the compacted settlement, until the functional organization of the house, and even the structure of the wall or sidewalk.

Beram is one of the typical Istrian villages on a hill, which continuity of natural growth we can monitoring from prehistory to the present. It is the latest in a series of settlements along the Lim bay. In the case of Beram was achieved remarkable balance between settlements (architectural heritage) and the surrounding landscape (natural heritage). For centuries, local residents use in the best vay diversity of terrain, soil type and climatic conditions.



Figure 1     view of Beram


The first mention of Beram we find at 911th in the grant of King Berengar, but traces of its existence date back to the time before Christ, at least VIII century, about what is a very detailed analytical work related to archaeological research conducted at the end of the nineteenth century. Rich historical events have left their mark on the appearance of the village and the medieval fortification, gothic presbytery in the new sacred building, but also on the street grid. Historical events are made known only in fragments, thanks to research of the most famous Istrian frescoes (painted 1474th year) in the Church of Our Lady on Škriljinah, and the painting opus of Vincent from Kastav.

Hill-forth of Beram was not investigated, but nevertheless, on the basis of position and still preserved visible construction elements it’s possible to create a picture of the former appearance. Land treatment, and subsequent work on the southern slope are mostly clear forth trace. It can still be observed during the carefully visit of ground.

The entrance to the oldest part of the hill-forth (phase I) is still used today by residents of Beram like secondary entrance, and called him LITTLE GATE. The upper plateau at +320 m above sea level still yet is the center of the village and a space of gathering in front of the main church. Life continued here at the time of Roman domination, the arrival of the Slavs-Croats, in the reign of the Franks, the Bavarian Duchy, and so consequently to the present day. There was no a period in which the settlement was abandoned by their inhabitants.



 Figure 2      Reconstruction of Beram's hill-forth (prepared by J. Drempetić)



Prehistoric hill-forth, situated on a hill overlooking the valley on which followed a Tinjan's and Lim's dell, connected with Lim's bay. It is obvious connection between Beram's forth and the other similar located within the basin of Lim fjord, to the sea and further. Very early was established trade links with maritime countries, evidenced by the most significant findings of askos from Daunia (VII century BC), in the necropolis of Beram. One can even assume that the valley under Beram was inhabited from the Stone Age. In any case, Beram was an important  point for the ancient inhabitants of Istria.

In the winter 1882 on 83rd archaeologist Marchesetti received in Trieste urn from Beram, accidentally discovered during the processing facilities in the garden. Then begins an interest for this small Istrian village. Already in April 1883rd Marchesetti goes to Beram when begins with test digging, when he found 25 urns, whose content has brought with him, and about finding wrote a short article. Afterwards come two more archaeologists carried out the research, Karl Moser and Dr. Andrea Amoroso, with which is at the end of 1883rd finished work on the cemeteries. Since then nobody has raise the question of the completion of the investigation, nor was any attempt to cleanse the southern slopes below Beram to the remains of fort walls, that the walls were accessible and detailed registered.

Amoroso has published a paper on their findings. He was only one who dealt with the issue of accommodation in relation to the ruins walls, however, he did not come to the conclusion how the fort looked like and where exactly is a necropolis. He assumed two variants: 1. outside the village if are the two walls, and 2. land between the second and third wall. In recent time, Lonza B. concludes that the Beram necropolis was located between the second and third wall (compared with an example of Picugi near Poreč), but there is no material evidence for this claim.



 Figure 3   Some archaeological finds from the necropolis Beram

 1    ceramic urn                  2     idol in the form of birds (such as those found in Troy)

3    askos from daunia         4     bronze horse length 41 mm

5    ceramic urn      




Grant from the 911th year

Year 911th King Berengar I gives to diocese of Trieste tower-castles (upper and lower) Beram near Pazin.

Historians had different opinions about it, from Kandler (author Codice Diplomatico Istriano), Carlo De Franceschi, Benussi, until to Corbanese, author of the latest history of the north-eastern part of Italy, but all of them believed that it is Beram near Pazin.

Analyzing documents, cadastral maps (the oldest available year 1872nd kept in Pazin and copy older from 1820.), land registry books, the names of land, the old ways which are still used from residents of Beram, we come to the some possible locations of "tower" that is mentioned 911 . year.  Possible options are:

I   On the location near the Church of Our Lady on Škriljinah, where the  parcel bore the name Burger, located at elevation +350 m. asl;

II   The hill from which residents of Beram fail to control the condition of crops in the valley of Cipri. It is possible also visual communication with a number of settlements on distant hills. This peak, which residents call Purgar, is located at elevation +460 m. asl;

III  The elevation +438.8 m. asl where the land is still called Purgar or under Purgar.


The development of settlement until the end of the XVI th century

In the second half of the XIIth century Beram already belongs to County of Pazin and to the Earl Mainardi. After division of property between the Emperor Charles V and his brother, Archduke Ferdinand, the Pazin's feud formally became part of the associated countries of Carniola. County of Pazin is a political term that covers the whole territory of the Austrian part of Istria.

In this period within the first phase of fort walls, at the highest elevation, was built a castle with a tower (the tower mentioned in the Xth century in document). For the first time it was devastated in the year 1344th, and after the renovation it was built the original church of St. Martin, on 1431st year, within the castle walls.

The first surviving document entitled “Urbar”, made the 1498th, talking about the population of Beram, and their obligations under the nobleman. Then, in the settlement, living 62 families.

After year 1570th in Beram settled refugees from the "turkish countries" and the increasing number of families is 148.  Then, this little town is experiencing an intense build, renew of fortifications, and was given the honorary title of "stättl" within the Pazin County. New “Urbar” was made on 9 th march 1578th, and from them are visible the names of recognizable sites today, religious buildings, and listed names of peoples which have been kept until today.




Figure 4     Beram, late XVIth century (prepared by J. Drempetić)

A    fortification (from 1578. year Stättl)               1    main entrance "big gate"

B    Citadel (a-tower, b-St. Marti                 2    secondary entrance "little gate"

K    defence tower                                              3    lounge in front of gate

4    church outside the walls



The settlement during the XVII th century

Beram reached the pinnacle of its development in the early seventeenth century, regarding the importance of size and population. Venetian-Austrian war, called the Uscoks' war, fought on the territory of Istria from 1612 until 1618th year represented a turning point. It was not just break of the structural development of settlement, but also, began a long period of devastation of the village. After the conclusion of the Madrid peace 1617th people from Beram were obliged to knock down defence walls and towers. In the eighties year of the XVIIth century, Baron J.W. Valvasor (commander, historian, topographer, ethnographer, traveller) with his drawings, permanent, marked the state of space around Beram.



 Figure 5    Beram - J.W. Valvasor graphics, 1689th


Despite the slow development and long lasting residual social structure, despite the stagnation of the some economic and demographic failures, Beram was gradually followed by phases of Istrian history, and experienced the ups and downs of social movements in political life.

In its long-term Beram has preserved evidence of the architectural development from the VIIIth century B.C. until today. Particular value is the fact that the original fortified structure became the basis of the overall development of settlements. Artistic activity until the beginning of the XVIIth century was at a high level, so today we can say that the entire Beram monument and some kind of museum. This is an archaeological site important for the Istrian, but also for European history.

Jadranka Drempetić – 29th February 2012




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