Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Destruction of Palazzo Longo in Capodistria

Palazzo Longo, build in the 16th century
Demolished in February 2018

The destruction of Italian heritage in Istria continues, as the Slovenian government recently demolished the historical Palazzo Longo in the city centre of Capodistria.

The historic Palazzo Longo is – or rather was – an imposing and prestigious 16th century building, built in Venetian Renaissance style, which belonged to the noble Longo family who lived there for centuries. The Longo family originated in Venice in the 6th century, but later spread throughout the Italian world, with branches in Italy as well as in Istria and Dalmatia. The oldest mention of the family in Istria dates back to 1202 with Martinus Longus.

One member of the family in Istria, Francesco Longo, was Podestà of Capodistria in 1510, when the city belonged to the Republic of Venice. The last members of the Longo family lived in the Palazzo until the 1890's. The building was regarded as one of the most important Renaissance buildings in the city of Capodistria.

Coat of Arms of the Longo Family
Palazzo Longo, Capodistria
Abandoned for many decades, the building – owned by the Slovene government – was neglected and left to rot. It was sold by the municipality to a private owner named Doris Božič in 2010 during an auction. In 2015 there was a plan to restore the building. However, representatives of the Slovene Ministry of Culture declared that the building was unstable, dangerous and needed to be demolished.

The implicit and shameful admission behind this declaration is that the Palazzo had been so severely neglected by the Slovene government for so many years that they allowed the building to fall into decay, no doubt intentionally so.

On January 31, 2018 the government declared that the building must be demolished within 30 days. The demolition of the Palazzo Longo was completed in February 2018. It is expected that a new shopping centre or hotel will be built on the site of the old Italian Renaissance building.

As was recently admitted by Slovene author Vesna Mikolič, following the exodus of the Italian population after World War II the city of Capodistria was repopulated with Slovenes from other regions of Yugoslavia who did not identify with the Mediterranean city nor with its historical cultural heritage. The new Yugoslav administrators and Slovene immigrants deliberately neglected buildings in order to hide or suppress the Italian character of the Istrian city. As a result, many of the old Italian structures fell into decay and were often vandalized by hoodlums.

In light of the long history of destruction of Italian heritage in Istria on the part of the Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav governments, as well as the frequent desecrations of monuments and buildings still conducted by anti-Italian vandals to this day, it is difficult not to see this most recent demolition as part of an intentional plan to neglect an ancient building and purposefully allow it to fall into ruin in order to provide a justification for its destruction. Whether this negligence was intentional or not, the responsibility nonetheless must fall on the Slovene authorities, who owned and irresponsibly neglected the structure for so many years.

Today an alarming number of other historic Italian buildings of Capodistria are falling into a state of decay and are also facing the threat of demolition. The Palazzo Totto, Palazzo Bassegio, the ex-Servite Monastery, the Venetian “A Gheffo” House and several medieval structures are all in danger of being demolished. If this occurs, then what will be left of old Italian Capodistria?