The Lighthouse of Piran

IALA Heritage Lighthouse of the Year 2023 Nominee

Location: SLOVENIA - Littoral/Istria. Piran.

Lighthouse Operator: Ministry of Infrastructure, Slovenian Maritime Administration

Visit website

Source: (photos as submitted to accompany nomination form by Ministry of Infrastructure, Slovenian Maritime Administration 2023)

Lighthouse Description and History

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by Ministry of Infrastructure, Slovenian Maritime Administration 2023)

The south-western Slovenian town of Piran is located in the Gulf of Piran and in the Northern Adriatic Sea. Some believe that Pyrrhanum is of Thraco-Greek origin, given the root “pyr” which means fire, perhaps due to the existence of an ancient nocturnal luminous point for sailors where today the lighthouse of Piran is located, at the extreme point of the peninsula. Around this important, lifesaving and symbolic point, the first settlement grew.

The lighthouse of Piran got its solid building on a defensive tower that was part of the Venetian walls. It is called Bastione and was built in 1508, at which time it was lying in a detached marshy area (tidal). It was much higher then than today. Since 1872 it has been the mighty base of the lighthouse and the lighthouse operator’s house. The tower stands on sandstone and has a strong structure. Its front, facing south-west, has two coats of arms side by side, made of white Istrian stone. The first one represents the coat of arms of the Bembo family (a former Mayor), and the second shows the crusader’s cross, symbol of Piran. Both are dated 1617. The upper part of the former walls is made of white stone and dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century, when cannons were placed there. The lighthouse and the forth were guarded against potential invaders from the sea.

In 1874 a rectangular building with a sloping roof and a few interior rooms was built. Inside the tower a cistern was constructed, which filled up with rainwater providing fresh water to the inhabitants.

Until 1976, a lighthouse keeper and his family lived in it. He had an important task – to light a large kerosene lamp and warn sailors about the tide heights on the Piran cape side. The current lighthouse light, which is a bit higher than the one positioned in the past, runs on electricity. It is set at 12 metres above sea level and has a visibility of 11 nautical miles. The building is the only stone lighthouse of its kind on the Slovenian coast.

An integral part of the lighthouse building is a neo-Gothic bell tower with beautiful sandstone blocks. The previous one, square in shape and dating from the beginning of the 17th century, was destroyed during the conflict with the fleet of the Kingdom of Sardinia (Savoie) in 1849. In 1855 the bell was replaced by the current round one with a beautiful neo-Gothic crown made of white stone on top. A complete renovation was completed in 2008. It represents a unique example of this style in Slovenia.

By the lighthouse, the baroque church of St. Mary of Health, which dates back to the 18th century, leans against the Venetian defence tower. It was built on a smaller church (known as long ago as 1274), which was dedicated to St. Clem, the protector of sailors. After the great plague of 1631, the church was consecrated to Mary of Health. In its interior, recently restored stucco and ceiling paintings are noteworthy. The salt, unfortunately, has destroyed the beautiful marble altars. The original relief of the high altar is located in the Parish Museum of the Church of St. Yuri.

Reason For Nomination

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by Ministry of Infrastructure, Slovenian Maritime Administration 2023)

Intrinsic Heritage Interest of the Lighthouse

The lighthouse of Piran has a symbolic and cultural importance for Slovenia – a small but proud maritime country in the Mediterranean. A well-rooted legend tells that the town of Piran got its name for the fire that was used to warn sailors right where the lighthouse is now. The settlements grew and today thousands of people come to Piran to see this gem in terms of architectural features and position, connecting the Italian Adriatic coast and the Croatian Adriatic coast.


The Municipality of Piran successfully applied for funds from the Ministry of Culture for the restoration work on the Lighthouse of Piran.

With the project of renovating the Lighthouse of Piran, the Municipality of Piran successfully applied for the Public Call for Proposals for the selection of Cultural Projects in the Field of Immovable Cultural Heritage and Cultural Projects from the Programme for the Remediation of the Most Endangered and Most Important Cultural Monuments in 2023 and 2024. 284 applications were received for the call, of which 44 applications for strand A and 26 for Strand B were selected for co-financing. In 2023 and 2024, the Ministry of Culture will financially support the renovation of the Lighthouse of Piran with the amount of 130.222,63 EUR.

The renovation works, approved by the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, will include the renovation and replacement of builders ‘joinery, restoration of damaged stone frames of windows and doors or ert, restoration or renovation of the façade made of white limestone carvings of local (Istrian) origin, and removal of the later upgraded extension on the Nort-West side, and a chimney built over half of the window frame, on the staircase side.

With this, it will be on the considered part of the lighthouse dwelling, restored the original appearance of one of the most recognizable art and architectural monuments of Piran. And will also eliminate leakage. Beside this, the project envisages the restoration of one of the oldest preserved bells of Piran on the Neo-Gothic bell tower.

Construction and craft work are expected to start in October 2023. The renovation is expected to be completed by May 2024.

The Ministry of Culture, Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia (Zavod za varstvo kulturne in naravne dediščine – ZVKDS) supervised the work during all the phases of the application and will continue to supervise the execution of the works until their completion.

Public Access and Education

The efforts that have been made to facilitate public access to the lighthouse and/or to educate the public about the heritage of the nominated lighthouse as well as the wider context of aids to navigation.

To ensure public accessibility, and cultural, scientific, artistic and environmental frames of reference during visits to the lighthouse, the Municipality of Piran gave the premises into the temporary lease and management of the self-managed Community of the Italian Nationality of Piran. This has a historically important role in the preservation of the content and maintenance of the architectural and cultural heritage of the town walls.

A tailored guided tour of the lighthouse of Piran is included and offered in the programme of all school visits. During the tours, the operator presents the events which marked the written history of the lighthouse. Visitors learn facts about the important role of lighthouses, the moral qualities and characteristics of honesty, correctness and sense of responsibility that were checked in the employment process, and important maritime educational information about winds, oceanography, signalisation on the sea, and observation requirements.

The lighthouse offers the visitors a livestream of the underwater webcam of the coastal oceanographic buoy “Vida”, which is currently the most viewed webcam in Slovenia.

Alongside the maritime heritage and marine information, the management organises monthly temporary exhibitions and various events, especially during the spring and summer, when more visitors are in town and the weather is favourable. These events include literature and poetry readings, improvisations, presentations of local groups which work to preserve the customs and traditions of the territory, such as “Voga Veneta”, publication presentations, small concerts, wedding proposals, photography, and art exhibitions.

The self-managed Community published the bilingual book Storia di un faro (Story of a Lighthouse), which presents the Piran lighthouse from the past to the present in words and pictures. Another important publication is the book La compagnia del faro (The Lighthouse Fellowship), written by a local primary school teacher, which is educational and written in both territory’s official languages, Slovenian and Italian. The value of this book was clearly seen when it sold out very quickly due to its use for educational purposes in several schools.