March of Istria

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The Istrian march (Mark Istrien) of the Holy Roman Empire about 1000, alongside the marches of Verona and Carniola (Krain), Croatia and the Republic of Venice Republik Venedig.png
The Istrian march (Mark Istrien) of the Holy Roman Empire about 1000, alongside the marches of Verona and Carniola (Krain), Croatia and the Republic of Venice

The March of Istria (or Margraviate of Istria /ˈɪstriə/ ) was originally a Carolingian frontier march covering the Istrian peninsula and surrounding territory conquered by Charlemagne's son Pepin of Italy in 789. After 1364, it was the name of the Istrian province of the Habsburg Monarchy, the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary.

In medieval Europe, a march or mark was, in broad terms, any kind of borderland, as opposed to a notional "heartland". More specifically, a march was a border between realms, and/or a neutral/buffer zone under joint control of two states, in which different laws might apply. In both of these senses, marches served a political purpose, such as providing warning of military incursions, or regulating cross-border trade, or both.

Istria Peninsula on the Adriatic Sea

Istria, formerly Histria (Latin), Ίστρια, is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. The peninsula is located at the head of the Adriatic between the Gulf of Trieste and the Kvarner Gulf. It is shared by three countries: Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy. Croatia encapsulates most of the Istrian peninsula with its Istria County.

Charlemagne Emperor of the Romans

Charlemagne or Charles the Great, numbered Charles I, was king of the Franks from 768, king of the Lombards from 774, and emperor of the Romans from 800. During the Early Middle Ages, he united the majority of western and central Europe. He was the first recognised emperor to rule from western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. The expanded Frankish state that Charlemagne founded is called the Carolingian Empire. He was later canonized by Antipope Paschal III.



The settlement area of the ancient Histri tribes had been conquered by the Roman Empire until 178 BC and was incorporated into the northeastern Venetia et Histria region of the Italia province under Emperor Augustus. Upon the Decline of the Roman Empire and the Migration Period, the Lombards under King Alboin from 568 onwards conquered Venetia, where they established the Duchy of Friuli, part of their Kingdom of Italy. The Istrian peninsula remained under Byzantine (Eastern Roman) influence, while South Slavic tribes (Croatians and Slovenes) settled in the east and north.

Histri were an ancient tribe, which Strabo refers to as living in Istria, to which they gave the name.

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–476 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of ancient Rome, consisting of large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean sea in Europe, North Africa and West Asia ruled by emperors. From the accession of Caesar Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, it was a principate with Italy as metropole of the provinces and its city of Rome as sole capital. Although fragmented briefly during the military crisis, the empire was forcibly reassembled, then ruled by multiple emperors who shared rule over the Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and the Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when it sent the imperial insignia to Constantinople following the capture of Ravenna by the barbarians of Odoacer and the subsequent deposition of Romulus Augustus. The fall of the Western Roman Empire to Germanic kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Augustus Princeps Civitatis

Augustus was a Roman statesman and military leader who became the first emperor of the Roman Empire, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. His status as the founder of the Roman Principate has consolidated an enduring legacy as one of the most effective and controversial leaders in human history. The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. The Roman world was largely free from large-scale conflict for more than two centuries, despite continuous wars of imperial expansion on the Empire's frontiers and the year-long civil war known as the "Year of the Four Emperors" over the imperial succession.

Aistulf, King of the Lombards from 749, attacked the remaining Byzantine territories in Italy and even threatened the Byzantine Papacy in Rome. As Pope Zachary expected no help from Constantinople, he forged an alliance with Pepin the Short, the powerful Mayor of the Palace of the Frankish kingdom north of the Alps, whom he legitimized as King of the Franks. In 755, Pepin invaded Italy and forced Aistulf under Frankish suzerainty. Pepin's son Charlemagne in 773/774 finally incorporated the Italian kingdom into the Carolingian Empire.

Aistulf Duke of Friuli

Aistulf was the Duke of Friuli from 744, King of Lombards from 749, and Duke of Spoleto from 751.

Byzantine Papacy Byzantine domination of the Roman papacy, 537 to 752

The Byzantine Papacy was a period of Byzantine domination of the Roman papacy from 537 to 752, when popes required the approval of the Byzantine Emperor for episcopal consecration, and many popes were chosen from the apocrisiarii or the inhabitants of Byzantine-ruled Greece, Syria, or Sicily. Justinian I conquered the Italian peninsula in the Gothic War (535–554) and appointed the next three popes, a practice that would be continued by his successors and later be delegated to the Exarchate of Ravenna.

Rome Capital of Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Carolingian march

Charlemagne at first attached the Istrian peninsula to the Lombard Duchy of Friuli, part of the Carolingian Kingdom of Italy under his son Pepin. Though officially a duchy, Friuli de facto was a march with a merely titular ducal dignity, from 776 ruled by Frankish appointees.

Pepin of Italy King of the Lombards

Pepin or Pippin, born Carloman, was the son of Charlemagne and King of the Lombards (781–810) under the authority of his father.

An Istrian margraviate itself first emerged following the death of Duke Eric of Friuli in the 799 Siege of Trsat on the Frankish border with Littoral Croatia. Istria was enfeoffed to the Frankish count Hunfrid, who also bore the title of a dux Foroiulanus. The original Carolingian march stretched from the Julian Alps and the Kras Plateau down to the Gulf of Kvarner. It was one of three marches, along with Friuli and Carantania, guarding Italy from the Avars, Slavs, and Magyars successively. In the first decade of the 9th century, Istria was ruled by one Duke John, nominally according to its ancient Byzantine customs, but in fact as a Frankish vassal. The region then had nine cities, Trieste foremost among them.

Eric was the Duke of Friuli from 789 to his death. He was the eldest son of Gerold of Vinzgouw and by the marriage of his sister Hildegard the brother-in-law of Charlemagne.

Siege of Trsat

The Siege of Trsat was a battle fought over possession of the town of Trsat in Liburnia, near the Croatian–Frankish border. The battle was fought in the autumn of 799 between the defending forces of the Dalmatian Croatia under the leadership of Croatian duke Višeslav and the invading Frankish army of the Carolingian Empire led by Eric of Friuli. The battle was a Croatian victory, and the Frankish commander Eric was killed during the siege.

Hunfrid was the Margrave of Istria and, according to some sources, Duke of Friuli from 799 to c.804, when a Duke John was ruling Istria. He was the founder of the family called the Hunfridings.

After King Pepin had made several attempts to conquer Venice on the Adriatic coast, his father Emperor Charlemagne under the 812 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle finally recognised the formal Byzantine control over the city along with Istria, at least its western coast. After this, it falls into obscurity, but perhaps the Byzantines never succeeded in re-establishing their government in the returned territories, if they were actually handed over. The remaining parts of Istria were probably eventually just re-integrated into the Carolingian duchy of Friuli.

Republic of Venice Former state in Northeastern Italy

The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic, traditionally known as La Serenissima, was a sovereign state and maritime republic in what is now northeastern Italy. It lasted from 697 AD until 1797 AD. Centered on the lagoon communities of the prosperous city of Venice, the republic grew into a trading power during the Middle Ages and strengthened this position in the Renaissance. Citizens spoke the still-surviving Venetian language, although publishing in (Florentine) Italian became the norm during the Renaissance.

Pax Nicephori, Latin for the "Peace of Nicephorus", is a term used to refer to both a peace treaty of 803, tentatively concluded between the Frankish ruler Charlemagne and the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros I, and the outcome of negotiations that took place between the same parties, but were concluded by successor emperors, between 811 and 814. The whole set of negotiations of the years 802–815 has also been referred to by this name. By its terms, after several years of diplomatic exchanges, the Byzantine emperor's representatives recognized the authority in the West of Charlemagne, and East and West negotiated their boundaries in the Adriatic Sea.

When after the deposition of the last Friulian duke Baldric, Emperor Louis the Pious at the 829 Reichstag in Worms divided his vast duchy into four marches. Istria with the March of Friuli was ruled from Aquileia by Margrave Eberhard and his Unruoching descendants. It became part of Middle Francia after the 843 Treaty of Verdun, and was allotted to Emperor Louis II's Italian kingdom in 855. The Unruoching margrave Berengar of Friuli even succeeded Charles the Fat as King of Italy in 888.

Imperial march

After the German king Otto I had campaigned northern Italy under Berengar's grandson King Berengar II, in 952 he merged Friuli into the vast March of Verona, which he granted it to his brother Duke Henry I of Bavaria, who already controlled the adjacent Carinthian and Carniolan marches. After the deposition of Henry's son and successor Duke Henry the Wrangler in 976, Emperor Otto II separated Carinthia from the Bavaria as a duchy in its own right, ruled by Duke Henry the Younger who was also given suzerainty over the southeastern Bavarian marches, including Verona, Istria, Carniola and Styria.

There appear counts of Istria late in the 10th century, but Istria together with the March of Carniola was separated from the Carinthian duchy in 1040, when both were bestowed on the Thuringian Count Poppo of Weimar, heir by marriage to the last known Friulian margrave Weriand (Werigand (Friaul)). The Carniolan margraves gradually acquired the northeastern territories of the peninsula, while the western and southern coast was gradually occupied by the Republic of Venice. The German king Henry IV nominally assigned the remaining march to the Patriarchate of Aquileia, the margravial title and the Istrian territories were however retained by Carniola. In 1173 the Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick Barbarossa enfeoffed the Bavarian noble House of Andechs, who attached Istria to their Duchy of Merania. Aquileia regained Istria in 1209, when the Andechs margraves were banned due to alleged entanglement in the assassination of the German king, Frederick Barbarossa's son Philip of Swabia.

By mid-century most of the Istrian coast had been conquered by Venice. The patriarchs had ceased appointing margraves and had given the remaining interior of the peninsula into the direct control of their Vogt officials, the Counts of Görz. The Görz territories were finally acquired by the Habsburg archdukes of Austria in 1374, who since 1335 had held the Carniolan march. In 1382 they also gained control over the City of Trieste.

Habsburg Margraviate

Margraviate of Istria
Markgrafschaft Istrien(German)
Marchesato d’Istria(Italian)
Markgrofovija Istra(Croatian)
Mejna grofija Istra(Slovene)
Part of the Austrian Littoral
Crown land of the Austrian Empire (1861–1867)
Cisleithanian crown land of Austria-Hungary (1867–1918)
Flag of Istrien.svg
Wappen Markgrafschaft Istrien.png
Coat of arms
Markgrofovija Istra.jpg
Map of the Istrian margraviate (outlined in yellow) by Justus Perthes, 1855
Capital Rovingo
  Type Monarchy
Legislature Diet of Istria
 Crown land according to February Patent
  Cisleithanian crown land
  Ceded to Italy
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of the Kingdom of Illyria.svg Istrian Circle
Kingdom of Italy Flag of Italy (1861-1946).svg

After the secular territory of the Patriarchs of Aquileia had been completely conquered by Venice in 1420, most of Istria belonged to La Serenissima. The Austrian House of Habsburg only held a small territory in the interior of the peninsula around Pazin (Mitterburg), which it administered from its Carniolan duchy. The Habsburg rulers nevertheless added the title of a "Margrave of Istria" to their other titles, persisting until the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1918.

Venetian Istria fell to the Habsburg Monarchy (the Austrian Empire after 1804) according to the 1797 Treaty of Campo Formio but was subsequently seized by Napoleon in the 1805 Peace of Pressburg, forming part of the Kingdom of Italy. It was then incorporated into the French Empire as part of the Illyrian Provinces in 1809. In 1815, after Napoleon had been defeated, the territory was returned to Austria as part of the Kingdom of Illyria by the 1815 Congress of Vienna.

After the partition of the Illyrian kingdom in 1849, the Margravate of Istria became a subdivision of the Austrian Littoral crown land. It received considerable autonomy as a crown land in its own right with the establishment of the Diet of Istria at Parenzo by the 1861 February Patent.


Carolingian March of Istria

Margraviate re-established (held by the Counts of Weimar)

House of Sponheim

Counts of Weimar-Orlamünde

House of Sponheim

House of Andechs

The title was held afterwards by the Habsburg monarch and the "Margrave of Istria" was included in the grand title of the Emperor of Austria.

See also


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