What’s unique in Istria is that the bell tower is always separate from the church building.
A small village like Gračišće had seven churches at one time and today six are remaining. St. Vitus church (dedicated to the patron saint of the village) is the largest and the one with the bell tower, which is 30 metres high. Though the church was built in 1769, the bell tower dates back to the 13th century. This probably means the church was rebuilt at some point, maybe more than once. The tower is visible from almost every corner of the village and I can see it from my window.
(Left: the bell tower of St. Vitus church in Gračišće)
The bells also ring when there’s a death in the village or surrounding area. We know that when the bells start at a random time and go on for 20-30 minutes, it's bad news.
I recently climbed up the bell tower to get a view from the top.
(Right: the entrance to the bell tower)
A rope hangs all the way down the shaft, with a small hole cut in the wooden floor at each level to let it pass through. Of course today there's an electronic system which is programmed to automatically set off the bells, but at one time this was done by hand.
To get to the last level there's a trap door to open and a narrow stairway to climb.
I was now at the top! It was a windy day, so the sound of the wind was quite loud...