Lovcen National Park

Lovcen National Park is located in the rocky region of the Dinaric Alps, and the south-western part of Montenegro, between Skadar Lake basin and the Boka-Kotor Bay and the Riviera of Budva. Slopes of Lovcen Mountain steeply rise from the coastal region of Budva and close to the long winding bays of Boka Kotorska, forming spectacular hinterland to the ancient seafarers’ town of Kotor. Lovcen National Park is bordered with highway Budva – Cetinje on the south and with the old Kotor road on the north. A scenic serpentine road takes us up /45 minutes of drive/ to the Lovcen National Park with over 6,000 hectares of natural contrasts: imposing snow-capped mountain peaks, stunning coastal views, 2000+ plants, 85 species of butterfly and over 200 bird types including many regal birds of prey.

Visit to the Lovcen National Park and the most impressive Mausoleum of Petar Petrovic Njegos on the top of this gigantic mountain at the elevation of 1600 meters, provides memorable experience to visitors. Up to the Njegos Mausoleum, the most charismatic and cultured site of Montenegro, you can come by car from Cetinje, which is 13 kilometers away, passing through a certain climate spa and lush beech, oak and linden forests or more and more famous rest home Ivan’s riverbeds, that is the scenic road not accessible to Njegos Mausoleum the whole year, due to snow which usually lasts until May.

Lovcen National Park covers surface of 6220 hectares. Seat of the Lovcen National Park is in Cetinje. “Black Mountain” of Lovcen, after whom Montenegro got its name, rises to the spectacular altitude of 1749 meters – the Štirovnik peak, and the Jezerski vrh peak, 1657 meters. Mountain slopes of the Lovcen are rocky, with numerous fissures, pits and deep depressions, providing a spectacular scenery.

The cultural-historical heritage of the Lovcen National Park represents its significant value on this harsh mountainous area. The famous Lovcen Mountain’s serpentine curves make particular architectural and construction uniqueness. The old road to Kotor winds uphill to the picturesque Njegusi mountainous village, containing the Birth-houses of the important Montenegrin ruler and poet, Petar II Petrovic Njegos, and the last ruler of Montenegro the King Nikola I Petrovic. Petar II Petrović Njegoš (1813–1851) was born into the family which had given to Montenegro princes-bishops for more than a hundred years. The biggest and the most important monument of Lovcen National Park is the Mausoleum of Njegos, that dominates from the breathtaking Jezerski vrh peak (Lake Crest), a place chosen by this eminent poet and philosopher for his final rest. To the foot of the Njegos mausoleum leads the asphalt and pretty narrow road, which curves in the height, and when you reach the destination – to the mausoleum you can see the plateau and a pleasant restaurant in which you can find a billet shop and a mini souvenir shop, in which you can buy the tickets for visiting the mausoleum and also you can find various Montenegrin souvenirs.

Petar II Petrovic Njegoš was the father of modern Serb national identity and the author of the most patriotic Serb epic “The Mountain Wreath”, which became the most popular reading item among South Slavs. As a Montenegrin, Njegos had had a first-hand knowledge and deep understanding of heroic oral epic since his childhood. On the top of Lovcen, a tiny Church dedicated to Saint Peter of Cetinje was erected in 1851, as per wish of Njegos, to be his burial place. This small chapel contains important meaning for the Serbian Orthodox Church and the history of the Serbia. More than two centuries there is fight about this seemingly insignificant church which was supposed to keep the relics of the Serbian Bishop and one of ‘the largest pillars of the Orthodox Serb people’. Established as a rotunda, looking like a Cetinje Tablja and the Montenegrin cap that Njegos used, the church inspired the famous Frank Loyd Right whose wife Olgivina – the grand daughter of Marko Miljanov, brought here to the Jezerski vrh peak. The round chapel was destroyed in 1916 by the Austrians, when from Wien a telegram arrived : ‘Lovcen, the Serb bastion, had collapsed’ . Bones of Njegos were exhumated, but the war defeat stopped construction of the new Austrian monument on Lovcen. Grand son of King Nikola Petrovic Njegos, the King of Versailles Yugoslavia, mason Aleksandar Karadjordjevic wanted to erect the Mausoleum on top of Lovcen in 1925, as per design of the mason Ivan Mestrovic, which was prevented by the Archbishop Synod and the Holy Synod, so the Njegos chapel was reconstructed as per the project of the Russian architect Nikolay Krasnov. In 1969 the Pope Paul VI demanded that the Njegos bones must be moved from Lovcen, and to replace them with the bones of Lucia the Montenegrin, who ‘converted to the true Christianity’. Then the tiny church on Lovcen was demolished, when the Orthodox cross was moved from the Jezerski vrh, where the ‘masonic scare crow’ was constructed by sculptor Mestrovic. Instead of cross – the Njegos symbol of Orthodoxy, which was part of the coat of arm of Montenegro, today in the seal of the Montenegrin Academy and the University there is the Mestrovic Mausoleum, considered by many as the masonic character.

Mausoleum of Njegos was built between 1970 and 1974 as the master piece of the Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic and a mixture of architectural and artistic work, with two caryatids at the entrance to the chapel – two marble caryatids represent two Montenegrin women symbolically keeping the kript and in front of it Njegos’s figure carved from granite, 28 tons in weight. Njegos Mausoleum is the highest mausoleum in the world. 461 stairs lead from parking lot to the imposing structure of Njegos Mausoleum. Down in the crypt is Njegos’s grave. The eternal resting place, that is, a marble sarcophagus with the remains of the greatest philosopher and poet of Montenegro of the 19th century is built from the fine white marble. From the observation points, the unforgettable view stretches over Bokakotorska Bay and Katunska nahija, which was named  „a rocky sea“ by Bernard Shoe when he had spotted it. If the weather is nice and suitable for recording and photographing, from Lovcen Mountain you can see parts of Italy, Albania as well as parts of some mountains in Serbia.

In 1846 Petar Drugi Petrovic built a church on top of Lovcen peak, and dedicated it to his reputed uncle Petar I the fist, later Saint Peter of Cetinje. Five years later, the bishop and poet made his final will to be buried in the church, predicting being accursed everyone who does not fulfill his wish. Due to very bad weather on this October of 1851 when Njegos died – the most famous poet of the Slavic south,  the burial could have not been performed on the Jezerski vrh peak. This wish of Njegos was complied four years later.

When the WWI started, in August of 1916 the remains of Njegos were secretly transferred to the Cetinje Monastery. The Austria-Hungarian artillery was shooting the are from the Boka Bay, which in some point destroyed the church chapel, which was restored by the Yugoslav king Aleksandar Karadjordjevic – the grandson of King Nikola I Petrovic.  So it was how Njegos found his rest. The chapel of Lovcen –  that became part of the Montenegro coat of arms, was demolished in summer of 1972, when the Montenegrin reign, lead by Veljko Milatovic, and with the support of Yugoslav authorities, decided to change the image of the Jezerski vrh peak and to built a mausoleum. Two years later, the Lovcen Mausoleum was completed and Njegos remains were buried again – against his final wish and in spite of harsh opposition of numerous Yugoslav intellectuals, among them Miroslav Krleza and Mesa Selimovic.

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History of flora and fauna at a very small space plays important role in Lovcen National Park. Due to its position on the borders of the two completely different natural entities, the sea and the mainland,  the Mediterranean and the mountainous areas, Lovcen Mountain is under the influences of both climates. All these different influences stipulated very rich and various floral and animal world. There are 2000 plants in the Lovcen National Park. Their combination at such small space caused creation of unique habitat.

On a comparatively small area of Lovcen National Park, the greatest number of sacral monuments is mostly located on the territory of Njegusi and Ivanova korita villages. The church constructions were made up from one frame with the walls of trimmed stones and the belfry “on the distaff“. Their construction works could be dated from the 15th till the end of the 19th century: Church of St Archangel Michael in the village of Raicevici, Church of St George in the village Raicevici, Church of St Nicholas in Dugi Do, Church of St Sunday in Erakovici, Church of St Sava in Erakovici, Church of St George in Vrba, Church of St Petka in Vrba, Church of St Nicholas in Kopito, Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Raicevici, Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration church – Ivanova korita. Area of Lovcen Mountain is abundant with numerous elements of local construction works. The old houses and rural ”guvna“ are authentic as well as the cottages in ”katuns“ – summer settlements of cattle breeders that all represent the interesting well-preserved ethnographic facilities. The traditional meetings, folk dances and ceremonies are often preformed in those places. Famous song says : “Lovcen is our Holy altar”, determining Lovcen Mountain the true symbol of Montenegro that gives Montenegrin national identity.

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