Witnesses of Brijuni history

Architectural heritage

The rich and diverse architectural heritage dates back to different historical periods. In Venetian times, a settlement with a tower and castle and the churches of st. Germanus, st. Rochus and st. Anthony. At the end of the 19th century, the island would flourish with the arrival of Paul Kupelwieser, when the transformation of Brijuni began. The Austro-Hungarian presence on the archipelago since the middle of the 19th century has also been marked by the construction of numerous fortifications. Recently, a valuable and interesting traditional drywall heritage has been recorded.
Venetians on the island

Venetian castle and tower

Venetian castle and tower

Some sources claim that the three-storey tower was built in late 12th and early 13th centuries, while others date it to the 16th century. Its original defensive function was the result of frequent pirate attacks in the area. The Histri, an ancient people that inhabited these lands before the Romans, were also extraordinary navigators and real-life pirates.

The tower was built using massive non-carved stones bound together by lime mortar. The first floor was accessible via a movable wooden bridge from the nearby castle. The square tower had openings in its walls that served as embrasures or loopholes. The Venetian castle was formed by integrating several structures next to the tower. The building that afforded entrance to the tower was also the Venetian administrative centre on the island.

The residential castle next to the tower bore an inscription with the year 1426. The house had four storage rooms in the basement and four residential rooms on the first floor.

Over the centuries, the castle was renovated periodically, but it retained its basic Renaissance and Baroque characteristics.

A description of the castle can be found in the following 16th-century note: “A fine, large settlement with well-made houses and master stonemasons, who send high-quality stones to Venice.”

The island was governed by the Venetian families of Donà, Canali, Cornero and Franghini/Franzini for over four centuries.

At the end of the 19th century, the tower became the home of Alojz Čufar, forester and steward of the Brijuni estate, who lived there with his family until 1907. Behind it was probably the oldest cypress tree on the island – around 30 years old – which embellished the views from the Čufar home.

Sacral building in a medieval settlement

St. German’s church

The St. German’s Church is the largest sacral building of a medieval settlement erected along the main Brijuni port. The single-nave church with polygonal apse has distinct Gothic features: the portal with pointed arch is decorated with Gothic single braid rope and teeth. The arches of the window are also pointed, as well as the openings of the buttress where the year of construction, 1481, was engraved. A statue of a saint is located on top of the tympanum.

Gothic frescoes

The walls of the church were decorated with gothic frescoes that, together with the church inventory, had been damaged by fire in the late 19th century. The church was renovated in 1910 according to the concept of Anton Gnirs, when a polycromatic mosaic with a portrait of Jesus Christ with an open book in his hand was placed in the lunette on the facade of the church. In the same year, a black and white mosaic, dating from the 1st century, from the dining area of the Roman villa in Verige Bay was built in the church floor.

Votive church

St.Rochus church

At the very edge of the medieval settlement is the votive st. Rochus church, protector against the plague. It was erected in 1504, after one of many epidemics. In the period from the 14th to the 17th century, the plague ravaged the archipelago on several occasions and caused drastic population declines.

The church is Gothic, single-nave with a semicircular apse. On the front of the church is inscribed: AP 1504 (lat. Anno pestis - year of the plague). The west-facing church door indicates the direction of the plague's arrival - the plague came across the sea - from Venice.

In the interior of the church, as well as in the immediate vicinity, Brijuni residents who died of the plague were buried.

Nowadays, the church is a gallery space for occasional exhibitions.

Cemetery church

Church of st. Anthony

Outside the former medieval settlement was the cemetery church of St. Anton. The former residents of Brijuni found their final resting place around the church.

The church is Gothic and dates from the 14th/15th century. century. It was painted with frescoes, and even today you can see their remains - depictions of circles with an inscribed red cross. Inside the church there is a stone table for laying the deceased. The cemetery was in use from the Middle Ages until the 18th century. Tombstones found next to the church of St. Anthony were installed in the sacristy of the church of St. German.

Traditional island house

Villa Pava

Villa Pava is the oldest preserved traditional profane building on the island, sometimes called the "peasant house". Its origins date back to the 16th to 18th centuries. It is a two-storey building with a fenced yard. Built-in exteriors and traces of later alterations can be recognized in its walls. The most notable are the additions from the time of Paul Kupelwieser, the owner of the Brijuni Islands from the early 20th century, such as a mosaic chapel erected around 1910. According to the accommodation, the house was located on the outskirts of the oldest part of the settlement next to the main port of Brijuni. A special feature of the building are the two external staircases in the upstairs room directly from the courtyard.

Art Nouveau Lady


In 1901, Paul Kupelwieser hired Ast & Comp., a construction firm from Graz, to cover the existing boat storage with a reinforced concrete slab and erect a house on top of it. This was cutting-edge technology at the time. Eduard Kramer, a young Viennese architect and student of the renowned Otto Wagner, was hired to do the works.

The one-story building rising out of the sea is a great challenge for a young architect, who will show all his skills while constructing it. The ground floor of the house opens towards the sea through four tall arched openings that were used to store boats. Hence its original name—Boothaus, or the Boat House. The top floor is dominated by a spacious open balcony with an elegant wrought iron fence. On the land side, the house has an entrance leading through a winding staircase and into the living area. Here is also the entrance to the boat storage, and above it a beautiful coat of arms with the symbols of metallurgy, which was Kupelwieser’s calling. Today, the boat house is the only completely preserved Secession building on the island.

From 1903 to 1938, it served as the home and office of Dr. Otto Lenz, the island’s doctor, and his family. From the end of the Second World War until the 1960s, the Boat House housed the Islands Authority. Through the years, the exhibits changed, and the facility has undergone a restoration and renovation.

Today, the Boat House serves as an interpretation and education center of the Brijuni National Park. It is the Park's new permanent exhibition. This innovative and interactive exhibition enables visitors to independently discover and learn all kinds of information about the cultural, historical and natural heritage of the archipelago. The exhibition is divided into six thematic units: “Brijuni Time Machine”, “Brijuni Archipelago”, “Mainland”, “Submarine World”, “Threats” and “Awareness”. Each unit places an emphasis on environmentalism and the preservation of nature and cultural heritage in a novel, contemporary, multimedial way.

Elegant Kupelwieser lookouts


The beauty of Veliki Brijun inspired various artists who visited the island. Professor Charlemont, a master watercolorist, discovered some of his prettiest motifs on the island. His paintings received high acclaim at Viennese exhibitions and were the best advertisement for Brijuni—even while the archipelago was largely unknown still. Klimt was one of the artists who created on the Brijuni Islands. The island provided so many opportunities that anyone could find something of interest. If you wanted to enjoy solitude, you only had to venture to the center of the island, where you would soon find an idyllic place to enjoy by your lonesome, surrounded by the beautiful nature. In 1900, wanting to provide a lookout for visitors, Paul Kupelwieser installed three belvederes on Brijun's three hills: On the hill above the Saluga Beach, on Javornik/Monte Cypro and Opatija/Monte Carmen. The belvederes were built by the Vitkovice steel plant in Czechia, which was run by Kupelwieser until his purchase of the Brijuni Islands.

The Austrian neurologist and court advisor Dr. Heinrich Obersteiner was a big fan of these observation points. His favorite was the one on Javornik, which has a magnificent view of the islets of Vanga and Galija in the west, Peneda and the open sea in the south and Pula, Učka and the Istrian mainland in the east. Two of these belvederes have been preserved: the one on Crnikovac Hill above the Saluga Beach and the one on the Javornik Hill, which was refurbished in 2012. Only the foundations remain of the lookout on Opatija Hill. During the Italian rule, this lookout deck was transferred to a polo court so spectators could enjoy polo tournaments there.

The view from the lookout points is still impressive today, although somewhat different as the lookouts have been overgrown by the forest.

Mausoleum of the Kupelwieser family

Kupelwieser's peace

Impressive system of Austro-Hungarian fortifications

Fortification architecture

With the construction of the Austro-Hungarian naval war port in Pula in the middle of the 19th century, Brijuni gained extremely important strategic importance in the defense of the city from the sea. The construction of a number of fortifications begins, which will be refurbished, equipped and renovated until the beginning of the First World War, such as Fort Tegetthoff, Fort Peneda and the Monte Peneda / Giacone battery on Veliki Brijun and Fort Brioni Minor and the batteries Sage, Glavina and Sv. Nikola on Mali Brijun. A special value and a kind of attraction of this interesting architecture is certainly the very well-preserved equipment that includes as many as five Škoda cannons.

Battery Monte Peneda / Giacone

Nowadays, the Monte Peneda battery is the only Austro-Hungarian military facility on Veliki Brijun that is under the management of the National Park. The battery consists of four cannon positions in which Škoda cannons (150 mm) are located in different degrees of preservation. One is fully preserved, the other lacks only a cannon barrel, while two are cut into pieces. In the immediate vicinity of the cannon positions, there is an observation post from which gunners were sent instructions to shoot.

Fort Brioni Minor

Fort Brioni Minor is the largest defensive fortress in the defense system of the port of Pula. The fortress located on Mali Brijun, built from 1895 to 1900, is part of the second defensive belt that surrounded Pula. An impressive fortification with an elongated ground plan, basic dimensions 175 x 90 m, was built into the hollowed rock, and its main task was to control the northern approach to Pula through the Fažana Channel. Artillery weapons consisted of long-range and short-range defensive weapons. In 1910, a torpedo battery was built near the fort, on the shore - a station for launching torpedoes. From its inception until 1990, the fort was occupied by various armies: Austro-Hungarian, Italian, German and Yugoslav. Despite this, its original condition remained well preserved.

Diverse drywall construction

Drywall heritage

There was no significant rural construction on the Brijuni archipelago, and what was found on the island at the end of the 19th century almost completely disappeared. However, numerous remains have been preserved that point to various drywall construction from different periods, from the prehistoric hillfort, limestone, the remains of drywall fences and houses of former Brijuni inhabitants to the subwalls of roads and paths and drywall military positions (chest) from recent times. The characteristic view of the Brijuni landscape is given by the mounds - dry stone mounds, created from waste stones - karst, which were created by clearing and arranging old quarries. The partially preserved kažun is located on the islet of Vrsar, while the one on Veliki Brijun, built at the beginning of the 20th century on the model of Istrian kazuns, did not fully apply the traditional construction technique.