Old Bar – Stari Bar Montenegro

The Old Bar – Antibaris Fortress is the outstanding historic and archaeological site of Montenegro and the town of Bar, situated on a 4-hectare hilltop just four kilometers from the sea, at the foot of Rumija Mountain. Known also as Stari Bar or simply Old Bar, the fortress is now an open-air museum and the largest and the most important Medieval archaeological site in the Balkans which is not yet archaeologically researched. Over an area of 4,5 hectares, remains of some 600 public and sacral buildings bear witness to the cultural and architectural significance of all periods of the Mediterranean history of the present day Bar. There are the remnants of an old Roman town known as Antivarium. The outstanding cultural importance of Stari Bar comes from the mixture of different historical styles visible on individual buildings, such as Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance periods, while in the period of the Ottoman Empire, eastern features were added to the Medieval town.

Stari Bar – Old Bar occupies a rocky slope on the bottom of Rumija mountain, while protected by nearly vertical, inaccessible cliffs on the east and the south sides. Old Bar is known to have been founded by the ancient Ants, and occupied by Illyrian tribes because of its defensive position, although the settlement and town was first mentioned in the records dating back to the 8th century AD. After that, the growth of Mediterranean civilizations and Byzantine left very visible traces on the architecture of the town. This old “fortress town” was first mentioned in written documents from the 9th Century when Mihajlo Vojislavljevic, the first King of Montenegro was crowned in Bar in 1077. Stari Bar was the seat of the ancient Doclea, and from 1089 here was the Archbishopric, since settlement of Bar as well as the other maritime towns and regions became in 1183 part of and ruled by the Serbian Medieval dynasty of Nemanides. In the middle of the 12th century in Doclea occurred first traces of aspirations of the church independence from Dubrovnik, that became reality in the state of Vukan Nemanjic in 1199, when the Bar Archbishopric was founded at the church council in Bar. At the of the first half of the 13th century the collision raised between the Dubrovnik and the Bar church on jurisdiction of the Doclea towns – the affair considered under the Papal curia. The pinnacle of the Bar settlement was during the reign of the Nemanjic Dynasty, from 1181 til 1360. During this period the town experienced privileges of the Serbian rulers, town autonomy, status, coat of arm and its own bronze minted coins. After decline of the Nemanjic State, town of Bar changed rulers – Balsic Family, Venetians, Serbian despot Stefan Lazarevic and again Venetians. During the final period of the Venetian rule (1441–1571) power of Bar significantly declined, due to often Turkish attacks. In the 15th century Bar came into the Venetian hands, to be overtaken by the Turks in 1571, who remained here as rulers for the next 300 years. Bar is famous for being the location where the “Chronicles of the Doclean Priest”, the first literary work in South-Slavic soils, was written in the 12th Century. The majority of the buildings of Old Bar date back to the Middle Age and the Renaissance period. Other buildings belong to the period of Turkish occupation. All the buildings are located inside the city walls and most of them are ruined. Residential architecture feature late Gothic, Renaissance, and oriental elements. The architecture is characterized by a powerful fortified system built in the late 15th century and during the 16th century, consisting of towers and linked defensive walls. There are the remains of 17 churches out of which some are conserved and restored. In the immediate vicinity of the Old Bar town there are many medieval churches, bridges, and oil and flour mills and an aqueduct from the late 16th and early 17th century.  Near the Old Bar Fortress is one of the region’s curiosities, an olive tree reputed to be more than 2,000 years old.

The Stari Bar – Old Bar is fully abandoned after disastrous earthquake in 1979, while the new settlement of the present day Bar emerged few km away. The entire area of Bar surrounded by water, comfortably rests between the Adriatic Sea and the Skadar Lake with the magic Rumija Mountain which rises high up between them. Here there ar rich farming areas with many springs running down from the mountains to the sea, with fields abundant in Mediterranean flora and agriculture, whilst on the other side which is steeper and sunnier slopes down towards the Skadar Lake and is perfect for cattle breeding, vineyards, hunting and fishing, and, naturally excellent conditions for tourism. The seashore is at its most jagged where the land and water meet with the most beautiful beaches located where rivers and streams run into the sea. These pebble beaches are given names like Golden Beach Pearl Beach, Red Beach, Wave of olives…. In hinterland and surrounding those beaches are small towns with houses and rich and varied tourist capacities, surrounded with lush and fragrant Mediterranean vegetation – hotels, villas, apartments, private rooms to rent, and restaurants.

Rumija Mountain /1594 meters/ rises above Bar can be reached from the west by trails from Stari Bar, as well as from the east from Gornja Briska. The famous old olive tree is located on the main road Bar – Ulcinj, as soon as one leaves the town of Bar, there is the sign post “Stara maslina” – the old olive tree. There are many legends connected with the Old Olive tree in Bar, with one saying that it was the place where families in conflict used to gather and get reconciled, so it is the symbol of harmony and peace. More than 100,000 olive trees in municipality of Bar are more than 1,000 years old. Mediterranean spreads as far as the olive tree grows. Visitors are welcomed by the best attractions of this maritime town when they observe the range of the magic Rumija Mountain with peaks of Lisinj, Sutorman and Vrsuta. Only few kilometers from the sea shore visitors can take a walk of some 100 km while enjoying in mountainous air with scent of herbs. Town of Bar is unique in the Montenegrin coast of the Adriatic for its 5 canyons and various options for adventures on slopes of the Rumija Mountain, as well as sport tourism on the Skadar Lake. Above the Stari Bar there is a spring of the Rikavac River whose canyon is some 2000 meters long. After several small waterfalls and pools, the last part of the Rikavac River canyon provides challenges and stronger water flow… 

Remains of the Medieval town of Haj-Nehaj, established in the 15th century are located some 10 km away from Bar, on the inaccessible hill, at the elevation of 225 meters. The fort of Haj Nehay was built by Venetians, and it was first mentioned in 1542, and Ottomans enhanced it and added some parts in the 16th century. Within the city walls of Haj Nehaj there is the Church of Saint Demetrius from the 8th century, with 2 altars – Orthodox and Catholic, which is older than the fortification itself, surrounded with large walls with numerous loopholes and defensive towers.

The first Serbian saint Jovan Vladimir is protector of the town of Bar, and on his day in this Montenegrin town a great celebration and respect is paid to this saint. On this feast, dedicated to the Saint Jovan Vladimir, a festive procession with church flags and icons walk through the town, celebrating the saint. Since 2001 the bronze sculpture of King Jovan Vladimir, 4 meters high, work of academic sculptor Nenad Šoškić decorates the main square of town of Bar. In summer months, especially in July and August, numerous events and festivals are held in Bar. The most important cultural festival of Bar is the „Barski ljetopis”, and other festivals are „Susreti pod starom maslinom”, „Dani Mrkojevića”, „Plivački maraton”, as well as number of performances, concerts and exhibitions…

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