The history of the Lipica Stud Farm is so rich that it tells thousands of different stories with cultural and natural heritage.
All of them are woven around breeding pure-bred Lipizzaners which gave an indelible mark to the appearance of Lipica as we know it today.
Here you can read some interesting facts about its never-ending story.
The history of the estate
The oldest site plan of the Lipica estate dates back to 1817. A comparison with today’s area of the cultural monument reveals that the boundary of the area is identical to that of 1817. Back then, the estate was surrounded by a dry-stone wall which has been preserved until today. The border dry wall is slightly taller than the characteristic Karst dry stone walls.
The core of Lipica has been developed on the remains of the buildings of the former estate of the Bishop of Trieste. The key element of the settlement was the manor and the pertaining area around which the ‘Hof’ developed. The road from the direction of Trieste led through a triumphal arch on the right of the portal of ‘Velbanca’ – the main stable and architecturally the most accomplished building of the old core. Outside the ‘Hof’ are an inn, a chapel and other stables.
The historical core of Lipica was completed in the first decades of the 18th century. In addition to the manor and ‘Velbanca’, it also encompassed a storehouse for grain called 'Magacin' and small houses around the courtyard. To the south of the ‘Hof’ there was a chapel and, where there is an inn today, a chaplaincy. In this period there were already some buildings erected on the location of today’s stables called ‘Na borjači’. In the 19th century expansion took place towards the south-east and the jubilee stable called ‘Abrihtunga’ was built. The centre of the estate thus moved from the elevated area where the old core is located in the direction of the village of Lokev.
On the location of the present ‘Borjača’ new buildings were constructed to the south-east. In 1852 the stables called 'Na borjači’ and a riding hall were built, while in 1898 and 1899 the stable called ‘Abrihtunga’ was erected. There is another, slightly remote stable along the Trieste axis which was built in 1819.
In the 1970's a new riding hall had been built behind ‘Abrihtunga’ with a smaller riding hall with stables. The hippodrome was built in 1977. All of the above buildings were used solely for horses and for working with them. The entire activity was concentrated in this area which is the largest land plot with buildings, as besides the stables there is also an outdoor area for equestrian events and working with the horses.
Water has always been of vital importance to the farm and was collected in 'Karst ponds', made from dolines. Once, seven large ponds in the estate were used for watering the horses, but after the water supply system had been established they became redundant and only three survived.
Today the estate is criss-crossed by several routes and roads with main boulevards winding in the shade of centenary trees. These tree-lined routes start with sculptured portals which symbolically mark the entrances to the estate. Today, they are lined with white wooden fences to keep the horses away from traffic. All the fences in Lipica have the same design and are a distinctive feature of the Lipica Stud Farm.
Velbanca is apart from the manor the oldest building within the old core. It is located on the northern side of the 'Hof' and covers its entire width. Its name derives from the word ‘velb’ meaning vault, as the entire building has a vaulted ceiling. It was built in 1703 as is inscribed on a plaque found above the entrance, but it is possible that another stable had previously existed on the same spot. The chronograms above the portal show the same date – 1704.
On both sides of the sculptured portal there are three highly perched, barred windows with stone, profiled frames. ’Velbanca’ occupies the central part of the old core. The former route to Trieste ends in the axis of its entrance portal. Throughout its history, Velbanca was the stable for stallions.
It is the building with the highest architectural value in the entire historical core. The central position it occupies is symbolic of the key activity of the Lipica Stud Farm.
Reportedly, the manor is the oldest building in the historical core which is said to be constructed on the basis of a Renaissance residence of the Bishop of Trieste. It is difficult to describe, as neither its exterior nor the interior show any special stylistic characteristics. It has the shape of the letter L. The ground plan of the short wing reveals that it was designed on the basis of an older plan. This uniform appearance of a modest baroque palace dates back to the same period when the 'Hof' was established.
Throughout the history of the stud farm it was used as an administrative building and the place of residence for the manager and higher-ranking employees. For this reason it did not have a large main entrance and the rooms in the interior are small and plain.
Architectural details are very scarce. Worth noting are profiled lintels above the windows of the western façade and above the portal leading to the southern wing, and the characteristic Karst-style chimneys rising above the typical tiled roof. Behind the manor is a terraced garden which was also entered in the 1817 Land Register. The entrances to the garden are not aligned with the axis of the rear façade, as one might expect, but lead across the terrace in front of the southern wing. Each entrance is marked by two stone pillars, which are not on the axis of the building. It is possible that such a disposition followed an earlier pattern which was aligned with the original manor.
The Chapel of St. Anthony of Padua is dedicated to the Catholic saint who is also the patron saint of cattle and helps protect them against diseases. Historical sources mention the chapel in the 17th century, whereas its present appearance shows architectural characteristics of the 19th century. In this period the nave and the presbytery were decorated with frescoes. A staircase leads to the entrance of the chapel and, as evidenced by a painting of an unknown author from 1779, the chapel was originally located on a small elevation and was enclosed by a stone wall.
Originally, the roof was flatter and there was a shed in front of the chapel. Between the semi-circular niches on the front façade there was a rosette, probably made of stone. Similar to other buildings in the old core, the chapel had a tiled roof. The chapel had a square ground plan and a cross-vaulted ceiling; the presbytery was also square. There are three stone altars in the chapel which are older than the façade.
The tourist stable (‘Abrihtunga’)
The tourist stable (‘Abrihtunga’) was built in 1899. It was intended for horses older than three and a half years which had commenced training (‘obrihtunga’ is an incorrectly pronounced German word meaning 'to prepare, to arrange'). Presently, the stable no. 6 (on the left side) hosts mares used for carriage-driving and stable no. 7 (on the right side) hosts geldings used for riding lessons for tourists and guests.
This single-storey building has a symmetrical ground plan. The central part, where the entrance is, is slightly higher, resembling a tower, and the doors to the left and right sides lead to the stables. On the wall in the corridor a stone slab is mounted bearing the inscription 'SCHLUSSSTEIN 9. DECEMBER 1899’. This stable, called by locals ‘Obrihtunga’, was built on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Francis Joseph. On the front façade, at the beginning of the wings, there are two walled-up entrances (formerly they led to two boxes where carriages were parked, now they are accessible only from the interior and are used for storing riding equipment); two lines of four windows flank both sides of the central tower. Two entrances on the gable façades lead to the flats occupied by employees. There are two wells with square stone rims on each side of the building, to collect rainwater from the roof. When the stable was built, its roof was flat and was covered with gravel. Water was carried to the two wells from where it was drawn and used for watering the horses.
Later an electrical water pump was installed, supplying the water directly to the drinking trough; it operated until 1973. As the flat concrete roof started leaking, it was covered with a low two-sided roof under which a hayloft was made. The hayloft is accessible by two openings on the front façade. The hay is shovelled to the stables through the hole in the ceiling of the corridor. In 1998 and 1999 the external walls of ‘Obrihtunga’ were plastered and the carpentry and joinery renovated. The open-ended stalls in the stable no. 7 were replaced by enclosed stalls allowing horses to move more freely inside. The authentic hay racks, drinking troughs and stone manure gutters on the floor have been preserved.
Immediately behind ‘Obrihtunga’ there is a one-storey auxiliary building built by the Italians which was used for storing hay. Today, the left part serves as a carriage park and the right functions as a small blacksmith’s workshop. It is linked to the ‘Obrihtunga’ by a projecting roof.
The stable bearing the numbers 9 and 10
The stable bearing the numbers 9 and 10 shelters young stallions (aged between 1 and 3). It was built in 1819 as a one-storey building with an oblong ground floor and a pitched, plain-tiled roof. The design is utilitarian. The large entrance doors on the south-western and north-western gable façades (the door on the south-eastern façade was walled up) are lined with stone lintels, which is also the case with the windows. Behind the stable there is a large paddock. Once there was a well near the stable and its cistern is still preserved while its stone rim was transferred to the atrium of Hotel Klub. In the winter they used to draw water from this well for the horses in the stables 9 and 10.
Na Borjači (stables 3, 4, 5, the old riding hall (‘Rajtšula’) and well)
After the French left Lipica in 1815, the stud farm was in full bloom and needed new buildings. First, new large stables for mares and a riding hall had to be built so that horses could be trained in any weather. Therefore, in the 1850's three large stables were built, together forming a rectangle. Today, these are still the main stables for foals and mares. Formerly, stable no. 3 was used for young stallions – weanlings who stayed there until their training age (now, the stable hosts a foaling station with stalls to which the pregnant mares are moved just before foaling). In the left wing there is a clinic. The stable no. 4 hosts pregnant mares, fillies and mares with foals until weaning. In the left corner of the stable there is a fenced area where foals receive additional fodder. The entrance to the fenced area is narrow so that only the foals may pass through it and not mares which would eat the fodder. In the stable no. 5 there are 1, 2 and 3 year old fillies and barren mares. The right corner of the stable features a room for stablemen, toilets and a store for grooming equipment and tools. On the wall of this building (under the notice board) an inscription is cut into the plaster with the year 1857 inscribed.
Between the stables there is a large paddock, called ‘Borjača’, into which the colts and fillies are released when the weather is unsuitable for grazing. The stables are of a uniform appearance and their large windows have stone frames. In the middle of the courtyard façade there are huge doors which are always open. A high, movable wooden fence prevents the horses from leaving the stable. The walls are flanked with a low stone manger for grain. For the past 15 years, the floors in all of the stables have been covered with asphalt, due to it being softer and easier to clean than the previous flooring of compacted clay. These buildings have high, pitched roofs covered with plain tiles.
The rear-side of the courtyard is closed by a smaller riding hall so that on each side of the hall there are iron doors allowing passage through the building. The old riding hall is currently used for training young horses (aged 3-7) as its smallness makes it perfect for this type of training. Its design is the same as that of the stables; the only difference is that the entrance door is on the gable façade (the door on the south is walled up) while the two façades facing the courtyard and the park have five windows. The floor is covered with a mixture of sawdust and sand, the walls, now panelled with wood, were once equipped with large mirrors enabling the riders to control their posture. On the eastern side there was a small stand separated by a glass wall from the riding ground. The riding hall still has the original wooden roofing and on one of the beams there is a signature of the carpenter and the year of completion: 1856.
On the other side of the road passing along the riding hall, there is a large bellied well, marked with the year 1836, which was used for watering horses in the winter, when the ponds were frozen.
In 1580 when Archduke Charles took over Lipica, the estate encompassed the bishop’s manor and a small settlement with three families of colonists owning the land in the vicinity of the Fontana spring. The ‘Fontana’ stone well which we see today was built in the period of Lipica's heyday (during the reign of the Emperor Joseph I; 1705-1711). The rim is composed of nine massive, rounded pieces of sculptured stone. The cistern was built of cut stone blocks.
One of the sides of the rim bears the inscription:
QESTA FONTANA FV FATA ET PERFECIONA TA
DAL GOV RE G: GASPARO DE NICOLETI Q. ANTONIO
NEL ANO DEL SVO GOVERNO 1706 (This well was built and decorated by the governor Gasparo de Nicoletti Q. Antonio during his governorship in 1706).
The ‘Fontana’ well is fed by its own spring. The paving around the rim consists of a ring of narrow stones.
Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Dolina Valley
From 1848 to 1875 the Lipica Stud Farm was managed by the cavalry general Karel Grünne. He was seriously ill and often spent time in the doline in Krkavce He promised to erect a shrine in the honour of Holy Mary, if he would be cured. A plaque dedicated to his memory was mounted near the shrine, saying: N MEMORIAM CAROLUS Grünne 1848-1875. Besides this plaque there is another one which was made at the order of one of the managers of Lipica: Radel Alojs, quo Ovidius in exilio IDCCCXXI (1821). The valley was subsequently named ‘Quo Ovid’. The shrine was consecrated in 1889.
The semi-circular niche is carved in the rock and has small wrought-iron doors. In front of the niche there is a small altar table on which a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes is mounted. The original statue was provided in 1892 by Edmondo Legato, the chaplain of Lipica at that time. The shrine is enclosed with a wrought-iron fence which gives the impression of a small garden. The stone stairs lead from the bottom of the doline to the platform with the shrine.
Last century, up until World War II, masses of people, particularly from the Trieste region, would go on a pilgrimage to the valley of Lipica which was famous for miraculous recoveries.
The ice-pit was probably made from a doline. The rim of the ice-pit was lined with a dry wall, while the ice-pit had a shape of an inverted cone, with stone stairs leading to its bottom. The wall on the surface is more or less destroyed. The ice-pit was used for storing ice which was cut from the nearby pond during the winter.
Boundary markers of the estate are carved in the rock. All markings include the letter L, the coat of arms of Trieste and the year 1817. An annex to the 1817 Protocol on the new survey of boundaries explained that these markers defined the boundary which was not marked by dry walls.
Lipica nature trails
The area of the cultivated Karst landscape of the Lipica Stud Farm, which is under the special protection of monumental heritage, encompasses pastures and meadows with protective fences, oak groves and avenues of trees. The man-made landscape of Lipica is an integral and redesigned natural environment whose development is based on many centuries’ tradition of horse breeding. The present site plan of Lipica is the same as it was prior to 1817, evidence of which can be found in the cartographic records of the time. Even earlier than 1817, the estate was lined with an eight-kilometre long dry wall which is typical of the Karst. The role of the time-consuming construction of this dry wall was not merely functional, as the wall also symbolises the integrity and uniqueness of the Lipica landscape. From the historical aspect the land use has always been subject to the continuous breeding of the same horse breed. The spatial integrity of the stud farm which gave birth to one of the oldest breeds of horses makes this place unique – even on a global scale.