March of Istria

March of Istria
Holy Roman Empire in 972: Istrian march (Mark Istrien) in the lower right, hatched alongside the other Bavarian marches
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The Margravate of Istria 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.



Carolingian march

Carolingian Istria was incorporated into the Carolingian Duchy of Friuli in eastern Italy, de facto a march with a merely titular ducal dignity. The Istrian margravate itself was first created following the death of Duke Eric of Friuli in the 799 Siege of Trsat. He was the margrave who had thitherto guarded the Pannonian plain which led into Italy and the heart of the Empire. The march was enfeoffed to the Frankish count Hunfrid, who also bore the title of a dux Foroiulanus. The original Carolingian march covered 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 eastern Lombardy from the Avars, Slavs, and Magyars successively.

In the first decade of the ninth century, Istria was ruled by one Duke John, nominally according to its ancient Byzantine customs, but in fact as Frankish duchy. The region then had nine cities, Trieste foremost among them. Under the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle of 812, by which the Byzantine Empire recognised the Frankish emperor Charlemagne, Istria, at least its western coast, along with Venice and the Dalmatian coast was returned to Byzantine control. 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. Istria was probably eventually just re-integrated into the Duchy of Friuli.

After the deposition of Duke Baldric, Emperor Louis the Pious at the 829 Reichstag in Worms finally divided the vast duchy into four counties, with Istria and Friuli 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.

Imperial march

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

There appear counts of Istria late in the tenth 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. The Carniolan margraves gradually acquired the eastern territories, 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 Margravate

Markgrafschaft Istrien
Marchesato d’Istria
Markgrofovija Istra
Mejna grofovija Istra
Margravate of Istria
Part of the Austrian Littoral of the Austrian Empire
Flag Coat of arms
Flag Coat of arms
Capital Pula
Government Monarchy
Legislature Diet of Istria
 - February Patent 1860
 - Disestablished 1918

After the secular territory of the Patriarchs of Aquileia had been completed 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 according to the 1797 Treaty of Campo Formio, was seized by Napoleon in the 1805 Peace of Pressburg as part of the Kingdom of Italy and the Illyrian Provinces and with the Kingdom of Illyria all of Istria was finally allotted to the Austrian Empire 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 with the establishment of the Diet of Istria at Poreč by the 1861 February Patent.


  • Hunfrid, c. 799
  • John, c. 804 (duke)

Margraviate re-established, held by the Counts of Weimar

  • Poppo I, 1012–1044, also Margrave of Carniola from 1040
  • Ulric I, 1060–1070, son, also Margrave of Carniola
  • Henry I, 1077–1090

House of Sponheim

  • Engelbert I, 1090–1096
  • Burchard, 1093–1101

Counts of Weimar-Orlamünde

  • Poppo II, 1096–1098, son of Ulric I, Margrave of Carniola since 1070
  • Ulric II, 1098–1107, brother, also Margrave of Carniola

House of Sponheim

  • Engelbert II, 1107–1124, son of Engelbert I, also Margrave of Carniola, Duke of Carinthia from 1124
  • Engelbert III, 1124–1173, son, also Margrave of Carniola

House of Andechs

  • Berthold I, 1173–1188, also Margrave of Carniola
  • Berthold II, 1188–1204, son, also Margrave of Carniola, Duke of Merania (as Berthold IV) since 1183
  • Henry II, 1204–1228, son, also Margrave of Carniola
  • Otto I, 1228–1234, brother, also Margrave of Carniola, Duke of Merania since 1204, Count Palatine of Burgundy since 1211 (as Otto II)
  • Otto II, 1234–1248, also Margrave of Carniola, Duke of Merania and Count Palatine of Burgundy (as Otto III)

See also


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