Hum – the smallest city in the world

17 February 2023.

Written by Matija Čaić

When discussing what is the smallest city in the world, first we must define what term city actually means. There are many settlements that formally have the status of a city but are abandoned. The Vatican is a very small area and population, but the Vatican is an independent state, not a city.

According to some common definition the city can be considered as a settlement that has acquired this status through history or in recent times, and has its own administration.

The smallest city in the world

Considering that, Hum in central Istria is a true city. It was built in the early Middle Ages, and was for the first time referred as the city in 1102. It has its own major whom the citizens choose according to the ancient custom. Each year, the second Sunday in June, male residents gather in the city’s lodge. There are always two candidates for the major whose names are cut into two ends of the staff. Each participant makes a cut on the end of the stick with the name of his candidate, and the major becomes the one who gets more cuts.

Administratively Hum belongs to the town of Buzet, but because of its historical status it is considered a city, and this is also confirmed in the Guinness Book of Records, which recognized it as the smallest city in the world with its miniature dimensions of just one hundred meters in length and 35 meters wide and the population that according to the last list counted 21 people.


A long, long time ago, giants lived in Istria. Most of them were good and helped people around difficult jobs such as grooming or building houses. In order to protect their friends from enemies, the giants decided to build fortresses in the valley of the river Mirna.

Giants started to work and built cities like Motovun or Grožnjan, but when they finished the job and settled people in them, they saw that there were still rocks that were insufficient to build another city the size of the others. They didn’t want to waste that much stone so they built on the top of a mountain town and surrounded him with a thick wall and called him Hum.


Hum is situated in central Istria between the town of Buzet and the Učka Nature Park. With nearby Roć, it is connected with the seven kilometer long Glagolitic alley. The whole city is surrounded by walls with few houses outside them and as a whole it is a monument of medieval architecture.

Outside the town on top of the hill there is a cemetery with St. Jerome’s church. Inside the church there are exceptionally valuable frescoes from the 12th century.

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Church of St. Jerome and graveyard

The western wall of the city is built as a separate fortification, while on the other side the houses are built to form a defensive barrier. The city has two main streets separating three rows of houses in the east-west direction, at the main gate there is a trapezoidal square.

Significant buildings in Hum are watchtower with a bell built in 1552 along the southern wall. It was also used as the last stand in case enemy eneters town

At the site of the first church of St. Mary dating back to the beginnings of the city, in the nineteenth century a parish church of the blessed virgin Mary was built.


Biska is a traditional Istrian brandy whose place of origin is officially considered the town of Hum. It’s healing properties came from the recipe in which, besides the brandy, there are also white mistletoe and four types of healing herbs. This recipe is over 2000 years old, and it has come from the Druidic magic rituals of the old Celts who lived in this area.

Glagolitic alley

The Glagolitic Alley is a seven kilometer long promenade along the road from Roč to Hum. It consists of 11 monuments dedicated to Glagolitic scripts, the first Slavic letter. They were designed by the writer Zvane Črnja, sculptor Želimir Janeš and professor Josip Bratulić. All monuments are carved in stone except for the main gates of the city of Hum, which is made of copper.

The monuments in the alley are the following (from Roč to Hum):

1. The Čakavian Assembly Column. A stone statue in the form of a glagolitic letter “S” symbolizing the beginning of Slavic literacy. The Čakavian Parliament is a cultural association that has realized the project.

2. Table of Cyril and Methodius. Cyril and Methodius were Christian missionaries who spread their faith and literacy among the Slavs. On the edge of the table, their names are printed with three Slavic letters, Latin, Cyrillic and Glagolitic. Two cypresses around the table represent holy brothers.

3. Chair of the Clement of Ohrid. It consists of a teacher’s chair and eight chairs for students. Clement of Ohrid was a student of Cyril and Methodius who founded the first Slavic University.

3. Glagolitic monuments. Copies of the most important glagolitic monuments situated in the park of small church.

5. The Canyon of Croatian Lucidar. Drywall dedicated to Lucidar, a medieval encyclopedia that was the most common source of information for the Glagolitic scientists. Drywall is built in the form of a styled Ucka mountain with a cloud at its top. Viewpoint of Grgur Ninski. It is a stone block in the form of a book in which the letters of Glagolitic, Cyrillic and Latin alphabet are written in a way that the reader can compare them. Grgur Ninski was a Croatian bishop who, together with the first Croatian king Tomislav, strongly advocated the introduction of Slavic language and Glagolitic scripture into worship.

6. Viewpoint of Grgur Ninski. Stone block in a shape of book in which the letters in Glagolitic, Cyrillic and Latin are written in a way that reader can compare them. Grgur Ninski was Croatian bishop who, together with the first Croatian king Tomislav, strongly advocated introduction of Slavic language and Glagolitic scripture into worship.

7. The rise of the Istarski razvod. The road that begins with stone gates in the form of a Glagolitic letter L. Next to the road are also stone letters that print the name “Istarski razvod”. Istarski razvod (direct translation is „Istrian divorce“) is a collection of documents from the 13th and 14th century of division of feudal property in Istria: the Aquileian patriarchate, the Pazin and Venice.

8. The Wall of Croatian Protestants and Heretics. Drywall on whose plates are written quotes from the works of famous Croatian Protestants, and their names are written in the negative glagolitic “S” in the middle of the drywall.

9. Resting place of Juraj Žakan. Seven stones that print the name of Juraj Žakan on a glagolitic and stone book with the prints of “Misal of knez Novak” expressing the joy of printing the first Croatian book „Misal by the law of the Roman court“. Juraj Žakan was a Glagolitic priest and author of these verses.

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10. Monument to Resistance and Freedom. Three stones are placed on each other, symbolizing the three historical periods: the old age, middle ages and new age, and the constant struggle of the inhabitants of this area for freedom

11. City Gates of Hum. A copper gate through which people enter the smallest city in the world. They are decorated with a bucrania (horns of the sacrificial bull), rings with welcome words written on glagolitic and calendarium, twelve medallions representing months of the year and showing works in the field of the month.

Bloody mill


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