After the fall of the Roman Empire the Muggia territory, like a large part of Friuli and Slovenia, was crossed by a succession of peoples and dominations. There ensued a period of considerable social insecurity which drove the population to abandon the settlements along the coast, being more difficult to defend, in favour of the fortified ones on the hill.
Between the 5th and 6th centuries there may have been a settlement at Muggia Vecchia which has, however, left few traces, being for the most part made in wood.
The first document in which the name of Muggia appears goes back to 931: “castellum nomine Mugla, adiacens supra littus oceani maris, in comitatu Istriense”. It is a deed of gift on the part of the Kings of Italy Ugo and Lotario who ceded the castrum to the Patriarch of Aquileia. The gift was designed to secure the eastern border from possible waves of invaders coming from the east and in this design Muggia Vecchia occupied a remarkable logistic position.
Many dwellings were built at that time, using the excellent sandstone, warm in colour and weather resistant. Two areas of the park show us the remains of the houses, including arcades and small internal farmyards where the animals that accompanied the life of the people found shelter.
The houses were small and close together so as to take up as little space as possible, but also to protect each other from the wind. Behind the Basilica two major roads crossed, from which the smaller roads led off.
The village remained inhabited and compact within its encircling wall until 1353, when the Triestines besieged Muggia Vecchia and burnt it to the ground. It was a time of continual disputes over maritime supremacy and control of the salt pans.
Thanks to the careful work of the archaeologists, the traces of the fire, until then documented only in historical sources, were confirmed by the excavations carried out in 2001, when there came to light arrows stuck into the wooden beams of the roofs – flaming arrows shot by the invaders.
After this destruction the village was rebuilt and the houses once more rendered habitable. This phase was short-lived, however, since the population gradually moved downwards in order to live along the sea coast, where there had already arisen the first nucleus of present-day Muggia. In 1420 Muggia, the Patriarchal state having collapsed, passed to the Venetian Republic, and with this new power there were more advantages to living along the coast.
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption is the only existing building of the village on the hill, despite numerous restorations.
The final act of this lengthy phase was the development, following upon the destruction of 1353, of a cemetery under the present square of the Basilica, where 9 tombs have been found. They were pits dug out so as to receive more people, accompanied by a few burial objects such as combs, belt buckles, or necklaces, and covered with stone slabs,
The walls, the houses, the church and the hill itself, with its little fortified summit, succeed in stirring the imagination of whoever climbs up to this height, thinking upon the footsteps taken by the people who lived here in medieval times.
The archaeologists have recognised four clear phases of occupation between the 6th and 15th centuries and, as is natural in all excavations, the remains we see today are mostly those belonging to the more recent phases, between the C11th and the withdrawal from the village.
The dwellings had a plan consisting of two floors: on the lower was the artisan workshop while on the upper was the living space.
This is evident in sector F at the back of the Basilica where, in the centre of the area, one sees the perimeter of a house with the first steps to go up to the floor above. Here workman’s tools and scrap iron have been found, enough to make one suppose that this house belonged to a blacksmith. In sector D, too, placed to the right looking at the Basilica, are visible the foundations of houses and three balusters which indicate that the dwellings had a colonnade and farmyards to receive the domestic animals.
To have an idea of the strength of the boundary wall take a look at the thickness near the entrance gates. The bigger and better preserved is the one dedicated to St.Odorico, situated behind the Basilica; to the right one finds that of St.Margherita, while opposite are to be found the few remains of what was once the gate of St. Caterina. Each of these possesses a small niche to honour the saint to whom it was dedicated.