History of Brtonigla
For over two millennia, the turbulent history of Brtonigla has dictated its fate and has left a lasting imprint on the way of life in this area. Rare but exceptionally important archaeological sites dating back to prehistoric times bear witness to the first people to populate the hill on which Brtonigla is located today.
Brtonigla also has many sites from the Neolithic and Bronze Age, dating from 2100 to 1000 BCE, the most important being two caves in Mirna River valley and the kašteljer (from the Italian castelliere – stronghold) Valaron (also called Gradina, meaning hill-fort) at Nova Vas.
The Roman Empire occupied Istria in the first century BCE bringing to an end the independence of the ancient Histrians, the first known people of the Istrian peninsula. Histrian strongholds developed into towns. Roman remains are scattered over the entire region of Brtonigla. The remnants of a Roman building with mosaic-laid floors were discovered in the plowfields of Zidovišće not far from Brtonigla. Sites of Roman tombs, tiles with stamps and other remains are located at Turini and Balbije, while parts of earthenware were discovered in field known as Njiva near the village of Fiorini.
Brtonigla is first mentioned in written documents in 1234 as Ortoneglo or Black Garden. It received this name from the dark soil that dominates this area. In the 11th century, Brtonigla became a feudal estate of the Patriarch of Aquileia, and some 200 years later, it passed into the ownership of the Lords of Momjan.
The Venetian Republic
Like other Istrian towns, Brtonigla survived the plague, although data from the period 1630-1631 indicate a drastic drop in the number of its inhabitants. Because of its favourable climate and fertile soil, the town was quickly repopulated. Among the new families were the Rigo and Busin family, prominent landholders and merchants. The Venetian Republic ruled Brtonigla for more than 400 years, up to the 18th century, after which time Brtonigla witnessed a procession of rulers: Napoleon, the Hapsburgs and the Italians.
Brtonigla proudly resisted the changing tides of history, and today the Parish Church dedicated to St. Zenon, its patron saint, stands in the town centre. It was built in 1862 on the ruins of an older church dating from the 15th century. Next to it stands the original belfry from 1491. The Brtonigla area has eight more churches and chapels. In addition to the Church of St. Zenon, Brtonigla also boasts the Church of St. Rocco and the All Saints Chapel that houses tombs from 1567.