Kotor Stari Grad – Kotor Old Town

Kotor is magical town of Montenegro, located in the south-eastern part of the beautiful Boka-Kotor Bay of the Montenegrin Adriatic Coast. Since 2000 Kotor has been declared one of the most beautiful bays in the world, and one of the most distinctive landscapes anywhere on the Mediterranean. The Boka Kotorska Bay covers an area of 87.3 sq km and has a coastline lenght of 105 km, comprising 4 smaller bays. The Kotor area is surrounded on all sides with rugged carstic peaks of the massive Montenegrin mountains: on the southeastern side is the Lovcen Mountain/National Park (1749 meters), on the northwestern side are ranges of mountains of Orjen National Park (1895 meters), Radoštak (1446 meters) and Dobroštica (1570 meters). Proximity of the breathtaking Montenegrin mountains in the hinterland of Kotor and the Boka Kotor Bay is suitable for various outdoor activities in nature during stay in Kotor area – mountaineering, hiking, fishing…. The gigantic mountains in the hinterland of Kotor – Lovcen Mountain, 1694 meters and Orjen Mountain/National Park, 1894 meters, divide the Kotor bay into the Bay of Herceg Novi, the Bay of Tivat and the Bay of Risan and Kotor, connected via the straits of Kumbor and Verige, which makes the narrowest part of the bay – 300 meters. The Verige point is the straits named after huge chains that in the past used to be risen from the both shore sides, so to prevent pirate and enemy boats and sailing ships enter the Boka Bay and plunder the rich inner settlements. So this Verige straits was of the great strategic importance for the last third area of the Boka bay, where several settlements rapidly developed – Morinj, Risan, Perast and Kotor, guarding wealth and reputation of rich Boka merchants and their families, hidden and well protected from unforeseen attacks.

The Kotor bay, which is the inner bay of a total of three bays, opens on the Adriatic Sea through the two other bays /Bay of Herceg-Novi and Bay of Tivat/ and through the strait between Cape Ostro /Rt Ostro/ and Punta Miriste. All along the wonderful coast of the Boka Bay there is a chain of small towns and picturesque fishermen settlements all of which has its own charm, story and history worth-discovering – Igalo, Herceg Novi, Savina, Meljine, Zelenika, Kumbor, Đenovici, Baošići, Bijela, Kamenari, Kostanjica, Morinj, Risan, Perast, Ljuta, Dobrota, Kotor, Škaljari, Stoliv, Morinj, Prčanj, Muo, Lepetane, Gornja and Donja Lastva, Tivat, Krtoli, Luštica..

Boka-Kotor Bay is an exceptional cultural landscape created by the harmonious symbiosis of natural phenomena and man-made heritage, with 192 immovable cultural sites on the territory of Kotor Municipality. Kotor, first mentioned in 168 BC, was settled during ancient Roman times, when it was known as Acruvium, Ascrivium, or Ascruvium and was part of the Roman province of Dalmatia. Kotor /then called “Cattaro”/ has been fortified since the early Middle Ages, when Emperor Justinian built a fortress above Acruvium in 535, after expelling the Ostrogoths. Walls of the mighty Kotor stronghold, one of the miracles of the Medieval fortification architecture of the Adriatic, have been established gradually during the period from the 9th till the 19th century, and make the continual row of walls around the historical urban core and the steep slope of the Sveti Ivan hill /San Giovanni/ above the town. The ecclesiastical architecture of the sleepy Boka-Kotor Bay settlements has developed through the blending of different styles, especially Romanesque and Baroque. The city of Kotor acknowledged the suzerainty of the Republic of Venice in 1420. In the 14th century, commerce in Cattaro /as the city was called until 1918/ competed with that of the nearby Republic of Ragusa /Dubrovnik/ and of the Republic of Venice. The well-fortified city of Kotor was part of the Venetian Albania province of the Venetian Republic from 1420 to 1797, except for periods of Ottoman rule in 1538–1571 and 1657-1699. Maritime trade of the Boka Navy and Kotor merchants also had an important role in the economic and social affairs of the town. Residents of Kotor and Boka Bay managed to grow an impressive fleet and develop lucrative maritime trade, mostly in the Adriatic and the Mediterranean. Large profits earned and made from maritime trade allowed the development of culture, arts, architecture and music. During the Venetian rule, between the 16th and 18th century the settlements of Perast, Dobrota, Prčanj and Stoliv developed and gained enormous power and wealth, acquiring the status of wealthy seafaring communities. In the first half of the 19th century, Prcanj had 42 sailing ships and 9 boats for local navigation, and 90 captains and some 400 experienced sailors, when seafaring fraternity became extremely important. Besides sailoring, the sericulture and silk-warm growing along with numerous manufactures for the finest silk products and taffeta was well developed in the 18th and the 19th century in the whole Boka Kotor Bay area, in urban and rural places. Silk was often used in making festive traditional costumes, both men and women, as silk was highly prized to determine the social status of locals who gladly wore such intricate costumes and dresses.

From a number of observation points and various points accessible by hiking along the Vrmac hill, open new vistas to the parts of the Tivat, Kotor and Risan Bays, or to the whole Boka Bay, from the highest peak of Vrmac – the St Elijah peak. Hikers fall in love with Kotor while climbing a 4km path up the mountain and guarantee such hike is certainly worth it. The rewards is seeing the old fortress on top of the mountain and the incredible views of Tivat and out to sea.

After a pleasant walk up to the tiny Upper Stoliv village, while enjoying in wonderful and invigorating scent of the wild basil and fresh air coming from the surrounding mountains, visitors are awarded with memorable panorama of the Boka Bay. Medieval church of Saint George in Donji Orahovac village, between Perast and Dobrota in the Boka Kotor Bay, was built in 1488 on the top of the solitude vertical rock. Frescoes of the church date from the 15th and the 16th century, while the iconostasis has been paited by Špiro Đuranović. Saint George is the most common slava – patron saint in Orahovac village. Orahovac village is located in the northern part of the Kotor Municipality, divided from Dobrota by the Ljuta river. This is traditionally maritime and fishermen village. During history this village was birth place of numerous sailors and captains, with the fleet of 28 ships…. Gornja Lastva is tiny Mediterranean settlement at elevation of 300 meters on the Vrmac hill which divides the Tivat Bay from the Kotor Bay, 3 km away from the Adriatic road, by the local paved road. Gornja Lastva village is set on the sunny slope of the Vrmac Hill, and experiences the wonderful panorama of the Tivat Bay, and further to the Lustica Peninsula, direction of the open sea.

Prčanj, 5 km from Kotor, is renown as the maritime center from the time when seafarers sailed with their wonderful ships, but also for its curative factors as the air spa and natural climatic resort. Thanks to the special micro climatic conditions of Prcanj, the Vrmac Institute for treatment of bronchitis, asthma and allergic diseases was established. The Cathedral of Nativity of the Holy Virgin in Prcanj was built in the period from 1789 till 1913 under plans of the Venetian constructor Bernardo Macaruzi. This is the largest church in the Kotor Boka area. The maritime captain Ivo Vizin /1806-1868/ from Prčanj was the first south Slavic seafarer who sailed around the world with his ship „Splendido”. The Old church of Prčanj is known among the locals as the Upper church, and features very interesting story, as it is for long time deserted and completely destroyed, although it represents important cultural monument of the Boka Kotor area. The complex of the Old church in Prcanj consists of a belfry, cemetery and a chapel where is buried the magnificent Ivo Vizin and a number of the famous personalities of the Boka area. After the altar of the old church was transferred to the newly built church on the sea shore, this old church was left to vandals and grave looters. Additionally it was badly destoyed in the huge earthquake in Montenegro in 1979 when the roof was demolished and walls divided with large wholes… The Church dedicated to Saint Nicholas was erected in 1730 and distinghishes itself in Prcanj architecture by the fact that where was the Maritime School and the Pharmacy here. The shrine which is part of the Franciscan Monastery with the rich old library was place where in 1848 was held the National Assembly of Boka leaders, led by Njegos, when the Resolution on unity of the Yugoslav states within the Austria-Hungary Monarchy was declared. Among the most significant Baroque architecture of Prcanj are wonderful palaces of „Beskuća“, „Verona“ and „Luković“, with the most famous the „Tre sorele – Tri sestre“ Palace, that was the noble summer residence of the Kotor family of Buća… The palaces of Boka Bay area are kind of extended type of the civil houses, with enlarged number of premises for representation and idividual housing, in terms of inner organization and lifestyle.

On the Prevlaka peninsula – Ostrvo cvijeca, there are remains of the Saint Archangel Michael Monastery, which marked one of the most significant part of life of this area – from the 9th til the 14th century. On this place possibly was the Benedictine Monastery, where at the half of the 13th century, Saint Sava had established the sea of the Zeta Bishop at the Prevlaka. The scenic Bay of Kotor itself has been a beacon of inspiration for generations of artists and poets – now the region is becoming internationally recognized as one of Montenegro’s principal attractions and cultural treasures.

Kotor lies in the foot of the gigantic Lovcen Mountain in a fiord -bay- which is by its beauty and appearance, unique in the whole of the Mediterranean. The old town of Kotor is one of the best-preserved Medieval towns in this part of the Mediterranean, whose original patron for centuries was Saint George. Kotor succeeded in preserving its original form typical for Mediterranean towns between the the 12th and the 14th centuries. The asymmetrical structure of the historical center of Kotor features narrow and curvy streets and a number of squares, combined with the numerous valuable monuments of medieval architecture with magnificent palaces, contributed that Kotor was placed on UNESCO’s “The world natural and cultural inheritance” list. The urban core of the old town of Kotor is characterized by intersection of narrow spaces of curvy streets and 12 smaller or bigger squares, that in the past had economic role – square of arms, square of flour, square of milk, square of wood….  The cultural inheritance of town of Kotor is enriched by the unique architectural styles and the ambient atmosphere. One method of really touching the imagination and romance the city has to offer involves the Kotor city walls. The fortification system of Kotor, which protects it from the sea, is actually a wall 4,5 km long, 20 meters high and 15 meters wide, and is preserved as one of the world’s historic values. The construction of the Kotor ramparts was initiated in the Illyrian period and they were built and rebuilt up in the 18th century. The oldest town gate of Kotor, of the three existing in the town, is the “South” Gate which was partially constructed in the 9th century. The “North” and the “Main” gates of Kotor were build in the Renaissance style by the first half of the 16th century.

The most representative and most significant Romanesque monument of architecture in the Adriatic is the magnificent Saint Typhon’s Cathedral in Kotor, constructed in 1166 and built on the remains of the former temple from the 8th century. Saint Typhon was martyr saint from Asia Minor brutally killed -but into pieces by sword – in Nicea in his 18th year during the reign of emperor Decius and fierce persecution of Christians. During his short life he was gifted with numerous talents and miracles in curing ill and abused, among which was curing of obsessed daughter of emperor Gordian in Rome. Saint Typhon was highly venerated and respected in the East and West Church. The dome of the Kotor Cathedral, dedicated to the town’s patron saint, is built in Baroque style and pillars are covered with the famous Korcula Island marble. The walls of the Saint Typhon Cathedral houses remains of the frescoes from the 14th century. The valuable Treasury keeps golden reliquary artworks done by the local masters dating from the 14th till the 20th centuries. St Typhoon as the patron is always shown with a model of Kotor in his hands, as St. Bernardo of Siena standing as protector of sailors and all in contact with the sea. The most attractive are rosettes that were Romanesque and nowadays are decorated with the Gothic-Renaissance motifs. Besides the Saint Typhoon Cathedral in the hart of the Kotor, there are magnificent examples of sacral architecture originating from the 12th till the 20th century. The Romanesque Church of Saint Lucas in Kotor was built during the reign of the Serbian Grand Duke Nemanja and his son Vukan in 1195. The Romanesque Church of St. Anna dates from the end of the 12th century and houses frescoes from the 15ht century. The Romanesque Church of St. Mary / the Holy Virgin/in Kotor dates from 1221 and was built on remains of the pre Romanesque Church. The Church contains the remains of a monumental fresco painting as well as an early Christian Baptistery. The Gothic church of St. Mikhail /Saint Michael/ in Kotor was built on the remains of the Benediction monastery from the 7th century and contains frescoes dating back from the 15th century. Lapidary is nowadays located in this Church. Saint Clara’s Church Kotor dates from the 14th century with the extremely beautiful marble altars, the work of sculptor Francesco Cabianca, from the 18th century. The Church of Lady of health originates from the 15th century and it sits halfway up the St John’s Hill. The Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas in Kotor was built by the beginning of the 20th century in the Serbian-Byzantine style and comprises valuable collection of icons and remarkable iconostasis.

The Clock Tower of Kotor which dates from the 17th century is one of the landmarks and recognizable symbols of Kotor, occupying the central place in the square opposite the main town gate. Below the Clock Tower of Kotor there is the Pillar of Shame which was used for punishment of an accused person for steeling by placing him/her in front of the Pillar so that all the citizens of Kotor would know for his/her offense.

Kotor is home-town of famous seafarers and merchants who donated numerous patrician mansions to testify on their period which today proudly represents former glory and rich legacy of this magical town. There are nine palaces built in the old part of Kotor. Drago Palace, built in the 14th and the 15th centuries is located on the St Typhoon’s Square. It features beautiful carved Gothic windows and portals. Bizanti Palace of Kotor is located on the main Arms Square. It was built in the 14th century, to be thoroughly renovated after the earthquake in 1667. Its windows, portals and stairs gives the Palace Renaissance appearance. Beautiful Pima Palace Kotor sits on the Flour Square and dominates the square by its beauty, as its owner and the head of the Pima family used to be one of the largest grain traders. It was built in the Renaissance-Baroque style in the 17th century. The baroque Palace of Grgurina Kotor is located on the Square of Museums /Pjaca od Muzeja/ and is home to the Maritime Museum, with impressive collection of seafaring in the Gulf of Kotor and the cultural progress of the region. The Maritime Museum of Kotor is must see as it features the collection of ship models, instruments, weapons, maps, charters and other documents of outstanding scientific and historical interest. The Maritime Museum of Kotor treasure keeps maritime traditions from oblivion, and connects the sea in Kotor with their people, famous seaman, who have sailed from it towards the far away seas. Next to the very entrance in the medieval palace of Grgurina, there are two small cannons, which are symbols of the constant battle of the Boka seaman and pirates. Grgurina Palace was erected in the 18th century and belonged to the Grgurina aristocrat family. Specially interesting is authentically preserved Venetian order of all rooms – the house of one master has four rooms and a saloon. Grubonja Palace is located close to the Northern Gate of Kotor and dates from the 16th century. The Grubonja Palace was built in the Renaissance style and on its facade is the coat of arms of the old Kotor pharmacy. Beskuca Palace of Kotor sits in the street that leads from the main town square to the Flour Square. The Beskuca Palace was built in the middle of the 18th century. It is decorated with beautiful Gothic portal that is one of the most beautiful floral Gothic master works on the entire eastern Adriatic coast. The family legend has it that the members of the Beskuće Family arrived to Prčanj from Strp village as homeless persons, but quickly became rich, so the count Jozo Beskuća possessed 99 houses in Boka Kotor Bay and Italy. He wanted to own exactly hundred houses, in order to change his family name into Stokuca /hundred houses/, but did not succeed.

Kotor is spectacularly interesting place to visit throughout the year, taking in consideration well-preserved monuments, customs, tourist curiosity and modern relationships. Day of Sveti Tripun – Saint Tryphon is traditionally held in Kotor and dates back to the 9th century. Ceremony in honor of the city patron saint, Sveti Tripun, starts in late January and ends in the first days of February. Originally in front of the old Kotor Cathedral of Sveti Tripun /Saint Typhoon/, Boka Navy performs national dance of “kolo”, followed by liturgy and a procession through the city. The ceremony is followed by parade and church choirs, city music and dance groups.

Climate of Kotor features warm and dry summers and mild wet winter. The warmest month is July with the average temperature of air of 25 °C and the coldest month is January with the air average temperature of 7,4 °C. The most often winds come from the south-east and the common wind is bura, coming from the North. Bathing season usually lasts for 144 days. A total of 59 fish species are identified as inhabiting the Boka Kotorska Bay.

Narrow and winding road leads from Cetinje to Kotor and makes unique construction achievement and one of the extraordinary tourist attractions of Montenegro. The village of Špiljare is situated between the Kotor walls and the Saint John fortress. The old walking serpentine road features harsh ambiance, vicinity of the Kotor walls, the church from the 15th century and remains of the traditional architecture. Špiljari village is set at elevationof 636 meters and one can reach it along the old road built by the Austrian Monarchy in order to connect the hinterland of Montenegro with Kotor, then a part of the Austria-Hungary Monarchy. In ancient times until the late 19th century this mule track road was the only connection of Cetinje and littoral and to the outside world as supply line for essential provisions. Mule caravans loaded with various goods used this road that connected Montenegro with the Tabacina market in Kotor. Montenegrins were bringing woods, skin, suet-animal fat, cheese, smoked ham and smoked sheep meat from the Njegusi village and other hinterland villages to Kotor market for trade. It was in 1877 when Josip Šilović Slade from Trogir responded to the order of Prince Nikola to help with his knowledge and expertise in development of the road infrastructure of Montenegro, and building of other structures, and the next year, 1878, he had designed and built the road from the Austrian border above Kotor to Cetinje, via Njeguši village. The expecially dangerous 38 km road Cetinje Kotor is one of the most famous in the world. The second section of the road to Kotor, with the famous 25 serpentine was completed in 1884. The most famous section of the serpentine road from Cetinje to Kotor is called the Kotor Serpentine – a 8.3km long stretch, pretty steep, with 16 hairpin turns. Along this section, the road starts at an elevation of 458 meters above the sea level, and ends at 881 meters. With inward leaning concrete barriers on one side and jagged rock on the other, multiple vehicles may have to reverse their way back up the road when meeting a bus or construction vehicle coming the other way. Over this distance, the elevation difference of the serpentine road is 423 meters. Scenery is breathtaking and view to Boka Kotorska Bay from up here is unreal and make visitors speechless. All Boka Bay in its blue sea and Kotor town tucked sleep in breasts of high Montenegrin cliffs.

The local market of Kotor is one more amazing attraction of the town, as the market life ever since has pulsed here. We wanted to share with you an interesting story about the Kotor market by Marianne van Twillert-Wennekes. In the beginning of the 20th century – when Kotor was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – the serpentine donkey trail that leads from Mount Lovćen to Kotor was used a lot, mostly by Montenegrin women from the mountains going to the “bazaar” in Kotor to sell their farm products there. The trail was steep and they had very heavy burdens on their back. They entered the town carrying wine, ham, cheese and agricultural products. This was bartered against salt, olive oil, clothes and other luxurious goods. And in the afternoon they returned home, uphill, to their villages at an altitude of 1000 meters or more…