Kotor Stari Grad – Kotor Old Town

Kotor is magical town of Montenegro, located in the south-eastern part of the beautiful Boka-Kotor Bay which since 2000 has been regarded one of the most beautiful bays in the world, and one of the most distinctive landscapes anywhere on the Mediterranean. The gigantic mountains in the hinterland of Kotor – Lovcen Mountain, 1694 meters and Orjen Mountain, 1894 meters, divide the 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 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 greatly developed – Morinj, Risan, Perast and Kotor, guarding wealth and reputation of rich Boka merchants and their families, hidden and protected from unforeseen attacks.

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 i 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. 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 Boka-Kotor Bay settlements has developed through the blending of different styles, especially Romanesque and Baroque. The city 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 city 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. During the Venetian rule, between the 16th and 18th century the settlements of Perast, Dobrota, Prčanj and Stoliv developed and gained power, acquiring the status of wealthy seafaring communities.

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 scent of the wild basil and fresh air coming from the surrounding mountains, visitors are awarded with memorable panorama of the Boka Bay. Gornja Lastva is tiny Mediterranean settlement on the Vrmac Hill, at elevation of 300 meters, 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 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, Vrmac Institute for treatment of bronchitis, asthma and allergic diseases was established. The Church of the Holy Virgin in Prcanj was built in the period from 1789 till 1913 under plans of the Venetian constructor Bernardo Macaruzi. The maritime captain Ivo Vizin (1806-1868) from Prčanj was the first south Slavic seafarer who sailed around the world with his ship „Splendido”. 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 patron for centuries was Saint George. Kotor succeeded in preserving its original form so typical for towns between the the 12th and the 14th centuries. The asymmetric structure of the historical center of Kotor feature narrow and curvy streets and a number of squares, combined with the numerous valuable monuments of medieval architecture, 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, constructed in 1166 and built on the remains of the former temple from the 8th century. 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. There are the 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 is always shown with a model of Kotor in his hands, and 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 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 was built during the reign of the Serbian Grand Duke Nemanja and his son Vukan in 1195. The Romanesque Church of St. Ana dates from the end of the 12th century and houses frescoes from the 15ht century. The Romanesque Church of St. Mary 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 /St Michael/ 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. St. Clara’s Church 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 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 is one of the symbols of Kotor and dates from the 17th century, occupying the central place in the square opposite the main 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 spectacularly interesting site taking in consideration modern relationships. Day of Saint Tryphon is traditionally held in Kotor and dates back to the 9th century. Ceremony in honor of the city 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, 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.

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 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 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 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 and dates from the 16th century. It was built in the Renaissance style and on its facade is the coat of arms of the old Kotor pharmacy. Beskuca Palace sits in the street that leads from the main town square to the Flour Square. It 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, 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.

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.

The local market of Kotor is one more 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…