Through the centuries, Novigrad has seen the rise and fall of many rulers and great empires. Napoleon and his troops reached Novigrad, as did Charlemagne, ruler of the medieval Frankish state and founder of the Carolingian Dynasty, a thousand years earlier.
Novigrad during the Carolingian period
In the Carolingian era, Novigrad acquired the attributes of a town and wielded a political and ecclesiastical influence that it was never to regain. In Central Europe, Charlemagne created a unified state, the first after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and in it, he brought about a great revival in culture and Latin literacy.
Istria was the first of the Croatian regions exposed to what was taking place on the European scene of that time. It became a part of the Frankish Empire towards the end of the eighth century, and similar to Catalonia or the north-west of France, it operated as a border province (provincia maritima).
Novigrad – the seat of the new administration
Novigrad was the centre of new government and a powerful stronghold from which Carolingian influence spread throughout the broader region. It was the seat of a Frankish Duke. The Bishop of Novigrad, also a Carolingian vassal, strongly influenced the cultural and social setting of the time.
Some believe Novigrad Cathedral was built in the eighth century because of the strong resemblance it bears to the basilicas constructed in the heart of the Frankish Empire at the time.
The remains of Bishop Mauritius' ciborium
Also dating back to the Carolingian era are the remains of the ciborium of Bishop Mauritius (a freestanding stone canopy supported by four columns over a high altar). The monument is vital in understanding the ties linking this small Istrian town to major trends in European culture and literacy in the early Middle Ages. Once set in Novigrad Cathedral, the ciborium is today exhibited at Lapidarium Museum. Research has shown that the ciborium was not made in Istria’s stonemason workshops, but rather by craftsmen from Furlania, the builders of major church centres of the Carolingian Empire.