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Cultural sights

Lighthouse of Savudrija


It is situated on the westernmost tip of Croatia and is 36 metres high. The architect Pietro Nobile designed it at the request of the Stock Exchange Deputation from Trieste (nowadays Chamber of Commerce). Its building begun in March 1817, was sponsored by Francis I, emperor of Austria, to whose memory there is an inscription at the base of the lighthouse. By December some 80% of its overall height was finished. The local stone used for the purpose came from the nearby beach and was carved on the spot. On the night of 17 April 1818, just over one year later, it was already in use!

The lighthouse was activated in the presence of the emperor himself, who was then visiting Trieste, including perhaps even Savudrija into his itinerary. The building of the lighthouse was financed through the shares issued by the Stock Exchange Deputation, the most interested in making navigation to Trieste safer. Let us not forget that one of the spots the lighthouse of Savudrija is visible from is Opicina, above Trieste. In those times this was an important thing, because by using flags it was possible to provide information on which ship was about to enter the harbour. The harbour authorities and commercial agents were thus able to learn of the arrival in advance and bring to an end all the necessary arrangements before the ship put in.

This was the first lighthouse in the world to derive its light from coal distillation. The raw material čame from coalmines on the eastern coast of Istria - Labin area, to be precise. Oil was another possible source of light, in case of gas malfunctioning. Much more money than initially envisaged was spent due to the decision to have gas as an alternative source of energy. The building of a lighthouse on the rock of Pomer, near Cape Kamenjak, had therefore to be postponed.

The Savudrija lighthouse, still amazing for its beauty, was truly a curiosity at the time. We know of instances when the natives or visitors attracted by the phenomenon insisted on climbing to the top at all costs. The lighthouse keepers were allowed to have a weapon and fire it, if necessary. The first 'lighthouse assistants' were Stefano Schmidt and Bartolomeo Micala. In 1828 the first was replaced by Giovanni Giacomo Maurel, member of a Savudrija family still resident in the place. Today there is only one keeper, since the beacon mechanism has been automatized. Near the lighthouse there used to be a radio aerial, 60 metres high! It was put up by a Navy order in 1934. It was dismantled in 1949 and reinstalled in the hills above Portorož, which was actually the beginning of Radio Koper.

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