How a church I never visited became a part of my book

When we visited Croatia in 2011, the last thing on my mind was sculpting a novel from the experience. But, on the flight home, an idea popped into my head that wouldn’t leave me, so I ended up writing Truffle Hunt which was finally published in 2015.

Because I didn’t know I was going to write a book, some of the things that I saw or experienced were not as well documented as they might be.

Inspiration for the church

Photo: Brent Petersen

For example, in the book, the Mattioli family is friends with Father Horvat, a priest at a nearby church. The Father Horvat character was inspired by the church near the agroturizam where we were staying.

 
Each morning, Karen and I would make some tea and sit on our balcony overlooking the grape vines and olive trees that blanket the hills of Istria, watching the fog slowly lift from our hilltop. The church was just a few steps from our accommodation, so I saw it everyday. But I never went in, although I did walk around the church one afternoon. And, when I began writing the book, I created the character of Father Horvat and imagined him and his tiny congregation in a church I never entered.

In a way, never seeing the inside of the church was freeing. I was able to imagine this character, Father Horvat, in an environment with no preconceived notions.

The only record of the church I have is the picture posted here. I never even knew the name of the church until I tried to look it up on the Internet. Originally, Google Maps claimed the name of the church was San Moro, but I couldn’t find any mention of a Saint Moro (although someone named Moro was the Doge of Venice and at one time Venice did dominate Croatia). Recently, Google Maps changed the entry to the correct name of Church of San Mauro.

Church of San Mauro coincidence

Church of San Mauro (photo: Brent Petersen)

The church is San Mauro is named after Saint Maurus, the first disciple of Saint Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century. San Mauro is often depicted with a crutch, as he is one of the patron saints of the disabled.

This is an incredible coincidence because I didn’t know the name of the church or anything about Saint Maurus until well after I had finished writing Truffle Hunt and it was published. It was only later when I was talking to someone about the book that I decided to look up the name of the church. That’s when I found out about Saint Maurus’ connection to disabled people. This is quite the coincidence because Jelena, the heroine of Truffle Hunt, is a young paraplegic woman.  

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