History of Buje
The excellent strategic position of the Buje hill attracted the area’s ancient inhabitants as early as the Bronze Age. The origin of these people is unknown. They lived in a fortified, prehistoric settlement on the top of the hill. The remains of some 20 such hill-forts have been uncovered in Buje and its environs. The Histrians, the first documented people of Istria, lived in these hill-forts during the Iron Age.
Buje in Roman times
With the coming of Roman rule to Istria, the territory of Buje became the landed property of the Trieste colony and a part of the Venetia et Histria region. The prehistoric hill-fort was abandoned at that time but resettled in late Antiquity by refugees fleeing barbarian invasions. Buje gradually acquired the features of a fortified medieval town.
The period up to the 13th century
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the reign of the Ostrogoths, the town peacefully became part of the Byzantine Empire. Slavic colonisation soon began, and by the late 8th century, Buje was absorbed by the Carolingian Empire. In documents, the town is first mentioned as Castrum Bugle in 981 in a charter of the German-Roman emperor, Otto II. At the time, the Kaštel (Castle) of Buje was under the Patriarchate of Aquileia, an ecclesiastical and administrative unit of the Holy Roman Empire.
In the 13th century, the town was given a higher level of autonomy and became a Free Commune. In the early 15th century it was occupied by the Venetian Republic following the signing of a surrender treaty in 1412. In retaliation for the town’s resistance to the Republic and loyalty to the Patriarchate of Aquileia, the Venetians tore down its defence walls, fortification and belfry. The fortification was rebuilt several decades later.
The Venetian Republic
Over the next four centuries, the Venetians set the foundations of the town’s historical centre. The resplendent Church of St. Servulus and its belfry were built, at the same time as the town loggia in Liberty Square. In 1427, a municipal statute was adopted, a major step in the community’s development. Based on an earlier text and in accordance with old customs, the 139 chapters of the statute prescribed the duties of the mayor, public servants and citizens. In the centuries that followed, Buje continued to grow in terms of population and economy, and it provided a haven to refugees fleeing from the Turks.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy
With the fall of the Venetian empire in 1797, Buje came briefly under French rule, following which it became part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Under Austrian rule, a train station, which today houses the local fire station, was constructed in Buje.
The post-war period
After the First World War, Istria and Buje came under the administration of the Kingdom of Italy. Following the end of the Second World War, the town and its environs became part of the Free Territory of Trieste, a contested area partly administered by Allied forces, and partly by the Yugoslav army. Its status was resolved in 1954, when the northern part of the Territory with Trieste was given to Italy, and the southern part to Yugoslavia. With the collapse of Yugoslavia, Kopar remained in Slovenia, and the towns of Umag, Buje and Novigrad in Croatia.
Traditionally Buje was always the judicial, educational and administrative centre of north-western Istria. Although the economic importance of the coastal towns of Umag and Novigrad has grown through tourism development, Buje continues to be the centre of several vital institutions in this part of Istria.