Podgorica

Podgorica is situated in central Montenegro, in the scarce Montenegrin lowlands between Dinaric Alps and the Skadar Lake. The Montenegrin metropolis of Podgorica is situated on the banks of six rivers – Morača, Ribnica, Zeta, Sitnica, Marež and Cijevna, at the altitude of 45 meters, 56 km north of the Adriatic Sea and at the meeting point of the fertile Zeta Valley and the Bjelopavlići Plain. Podgorica makes a specific natural crossroad, as only 50 km south of the town you reach the beautiful Adriatic coast, and in 70 km to the north one arrives to the first ski center of Montenegro. Podgorica is especially known for extremely hot summers and the Mediterranean climate, as the temperature in Podgorica often reaches over 40 °C in July and August. The highest temperature in Podgorica of 45,8 °C was recorded on 16 August 2007, which makes Podgorica one of the warmest towns in Europe.

The area of present day Podgorica has been suitable for human habitation since ancient times, with the earliest human settlements being founded in prehistory. The oldest remains of material culture on this area date from the late Stone Age. During the Illyrian age, the area of Zeta and Bjelopavlici ravine was inhabited by members of two Illyrian tribes, Labeates and Docleatae, that directly influenced the foundation of local settlements. Labeates inhabited the area from Skadar up to today’s Podgorica. They had erected their own fortress Meteon (now Medun), and developed advanced organization of life, especially military. On the spot of the present day Medun was in the 4th or the 3rd century BC an Illyrian town of Medeon or Meteon which was founded by the Greek colonists who settled those areas. Roman legions conquered Medun around 167 AD when the last Illyrian king Gentius and his family were captivated. When the Roman Empire split into the Eastern and Western empires, the territory of present-day Montenegro belonged to the province of Previlis or Prevalis. Slavic groups in the area were in constant war with Byzantium and tended to establish a new state. The result was establishment of a new settlement that was probably named after the Ribnica River on whose banks it was built. The first mention of Ribnica is during the rule of the Serbian royal family of the Nemanjici. The importance of Ribnica was its position as crossroads in communications with the west. In occupying these areas, the Slavs created a new state and developed their own culture and art, acceptable to the medieval church and feudal class. Medun was mentioned in 1444 as the property of Stjepan Vukčić Kosača. In 1445, Herceg Stjepan ceded the Upper Zeta and the Medun fortress to despot Đurađ Branković. A duke of despot Đurađ defended Medun in 1452 from Stefan I Crnojević who was a duke in the Venetian service. With the temporary Ottoman occupation of the Serbian Despotate s main continental territories in 1441, Despot Đurađ Branković came to Zeta from the Ragusian Republic to organize resistance and liberate the occupied parts, but the attempt did not come to fruition and resulted with the blinding of the despot’s two captured sons in retaliation. With his departure back to Hungary, Stefan aligned with the Bosnian nobleman and the Turkish vassal Stefan Vukčić Kosača of Hum. In 1455, despot Đurađ had to ceded the Medun fortress to the Ottomans in their victorious drive through the Balkans. The principality of Montenegro was finally suppressed by the Ottomans in 1496, when it became an Ottoman province. The heavy fights for Medun were performed during the Montenegrin-Turkish wars – in March and April of 1862, and July and August of 1876. The Turkish garrison surrendered the fort to Montenegrin in October 1877.

Town of Medun – Meteon was erected originally as a fortress, later on as a town, between 4th and 3rd centuries BC. Well preserved walls of the Medun fortress were built of big blocks of trimmed stone, placed in a number of rows. From the cultural-artistic point of view, two lower dig ups in the rock on the road from the lower to the upper town are very interesting. Studies refer to the conclusion that ancient Medun was the place of performance of rituals related to the cult of snake that represented myth ancestor to the Illyrians. Necropolis is sited north from the upper town. Among the ruins of the Medieval stronghold of Medun, there is the church dedicated to the Arch-deacon Stefan, built on the foundations of an earlier church. The famous writer, and charismatic Kuči tribe leader, Montenegrin duke and hero Marko Miljanov Popović lived at the foot of walls of the Medun town and the fortress. He was buried in the Medun acropolis in front of the small church. Marko Miljanov Popovic wrote about cojstvo /bravery/ and junastvo /heroism/ : “Bravery is to defend yourself from another, and heroism is to defend the other from yourself.”

Docleatae tribe inhabited the valley of the Zeta River, and thanks to the fertile plain and favorable geographical and road position, experienced fast economic growth on the territories of present-day southeastern Montenegro, from Kotor on the west to the Bojana River on the east and to the sources of Zeta and Morača rivers on the north. The Slavic tribes ruled the former Roman territories of the southern Dalmatia during the 6th and the 7th centuries, and were called the Ducleans, Travunians and Zachumians after areas they have populated. The biggest settlement of Docleatae tribe was Doclea, the city situated about three kilometers northwest from today’s Podgorica which was first mentioned by Ptolomy in the 2nd century BC. Duklja – Doclea began by mixed pagan and Christian population south of Dubrovnik-Ragusa and spread down to the Scadar Lake. The town was founded by the Emperor Diocletian, thus the name Doclea – Diocletia – Docleatea and was in terms of the urban point of view adapted to the terrain configuration. Doclea – Diocletia came under the Roman rule in the 1st century, when the town was conquered by Roman legions, after long wars with Illyrians. It was already well developed settlement to become the center of the Roman province of Prevalis, by the emperor’s decision. Trade was well developed with Italy, Dalmatia and the east regions of the Roman Empire, and later with Macedonia and Greece. At that time Doclea was a big city, with 8 – 10 thousand inhabitants, in which the core urban issues were resolved. A relatively high population density in an area with a radius of just over ten kilometers was conditioned by geographical position, a favorable climate, positive economic conditions and defensive positions that were of great importance at that time. According to some data Doclea settlement had almost 40 thousand inhabitants at that time. The town of Doclea was most possibly ruined when West Goths had passed along in 401, after which it never gained its status. At the beginning of the 6th century Doclea was destroyed by devastating earthquake to be plundered and devastated by Avars and Slavs in 609. It retained its dominant position in Diocletian’s new province of Praevalitana but under Justinian was administered by the Metropolitan See at Justiana Prima (Caričingrad), and, in the early 7th century, fell to the Avars – Slavs. The Slavic inheritance has been preserved during the several centuries life of the Doclea Slovenes, so that kings of the Doclea consider themselves the Slovenes, so as were considered by the Pope within their mutual communication.

It was mentioned later on for a long time but since the 10th century the new name of Zeta appeared instead of the name Doclea. Dioclea was first recorded by this name in the middle of the 10th century, in the writings of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, where the name of the Roman town of Doclea was linked to the name of Emperor Diocletian. It is also known by this name in Serbian sources from the 13th century, and is later generally known by the name Pomorje (Littoral). The name Zeta can also be found from the 11th century onward. Those are names that, in the broadest sense, match the boundaries of ancient Prevala (Prevalis, Prevalitana). In Latin sources there is no separate country in this region – but always Sclavonia, Servia, Rassa and so forth. Priest Dukljanin was a priest of Dioclitanae ecclesiae, the Church so called after the town. In the popular tradition of the people of Podgorica, Dukljan was Satan himself, the devil. Djordje Jankovic – Serbian Maritime from 7th to 10th century

Duklja was at first a vassal of the Eastern Roman Empire until it became a part of the Serbian Principality of Rascia in the 9th century, under the Vlastimirović Dynasty.  After the Byzantine annexation of Rascia in the late 10th century, Duklja was briefly under Byzantine rule but managed to liberate itself and emerged as the most powerful province, and became the seat of the Serbian realm throughout the 11th century, ruled by the Vojislavljević Dynasty. The Vlastimir dynasty continued to rule their lands in Duklja, which now became the main Principality of the Serbs. Jovan Vladimir emerged as the most powerful ruler of the maritime Zhupas. With his court centered in Bar on the Adriatic coast, he had much of the Serbian Primorje (‘maritime’) under his control including Travunia and Zachumia which was ruled by his uncle Dragimir. His realm may have stretched west- and northwards to include some parts of the Zagorje (inland Serbia and Bosnia) as well. Vladimir’s pre-eminent position over other Slavic nobles in the area explains why Emperor Basil approached him for an anti-Bulgarian alliance. With his hands tied by war in Anatolia, Emperor Basil required allies for his war against Tsar Samuel, who ruled a Bulgarian Empire stretched over Macedonia. In retaliation, Samuel invaded Duklja in 997, and pushed through Dalmatia up to the city of Zadar, incorporating Bosnia and Serbia into his realm. After defeating Vladimir, Samuel reinstated him as a vassal Prince of Duklja and the northern part of the Durres area and married his daughter Kosara with him. Prince Jovan Vladimir a wise and merciful ruler, and a benefactor of the Church was beheaded in Prespa in 1015 by a rival king Vladislav, Samuel’s brother and successor but his relics are venerated to this day. The last prominent member of his family, his uncle Dragimir, was killed by some local citizens in Kotor in 1018. That same year, the Byzantines had defeated the Bulgarians, and in one masterful stroke re-took virtually the entire Balkans. In the time of the largest extension of the Serbian state of Doclea, during the reign of King Bodin [1081-1116], it included the whole area of the present day northern Albania, all areas in Prokletije Mountains north of Drim River, but also the vast area south of this river, including all small zhupas of Shkoder [Balec, Drivast, Sard, Danj, Sapa, Sas, Sveti Srd and Vakh], as well as the mountainous area in the upper course of the Fani River – later Pilot area. In 1060 the Vojislavljević liberate Rascia, and when Constantin Bodin dies in 1101, Rascia once again becomes the seat of the realm, the two principalities exist side-by-side (the period is characterized by constant changing of allegiance) until 1148 when Duklja was reinstated as a crown-land of the Grand Principality of Serbia – Rascia and is since referred to as Zeta and remained so until the fall of the Serbian Empire, when it subsequently becomes semi-independent in 1362 as the Lordship of Zeta, under the House of Balšić. Some 3 km north-west of Podgorica lie the ruins of Doclea which can be seen today.

The personality of King Vladimir is nowadays mostly connected with the famous Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja and the chapter „Hagiography of the Saint King Vladimir of Duklja”, including the Legend on Prince Vladimir and Kosara – Cossara, written among other important sources in Latin by the vernacular language. The Legend describes the love between Vladimir and Kosara, the daughter of the Emperor Samuel, Emperor of Bulgars, as very tragic. Namely, King Vladimir who was truly a holy man, did not want any of his people to die and therefore, he withdrew humbly and after a prayer he approached the Emperor Samuel who sent him into exile to the territory of Ohrid, which is called Prespa, where the emperor had his court. King Vladimir was held in chains and offered supplication day and night, fasting and praying. Samuel’s daughter, Cossara, was animated and inspired by a beatific soul and approached her father and begged that she might go down with her maids and wash the head and feet of the chained captives. Noticing Vladimir among the prisoners, she was struck by his handsome appearance, his humility, gentleness and modesty, and the fact that he was full of wisdom and knowledge of the lord. Kosara – Cossara approached the emperor Samuel, threw herself at his feet and addressed him begging for King Vladimir s release from chains and presenting her with Vladimir as her husband. The emperor Samuel was overjoyed when he heard this, and granted her request because he loved his daughter deeply, and knew that Vladimir was of royal lineage. Immediately he sent for Vladimir, and ordered that he be brought before him bathed and clothed in the manner of a king. Then, gazing fondly upon him, and kissing him in front of the nobles of his kingdom, he gave his daughter to him for his wife. Having celebrated his daughter’s marriage in a regal manner, the emperor made Vladimir a vassal king, and gave him both the land of his patrimonial kingdom, and the whole territory of Dyrrachium. King Vladimir lived with his wife Cossara in all sanctity and chastity, worshiping God and serving him night and day, and he ruled the people entrusted to him in a Godfearing and just manner. Emperor Samuel died 6 October 1014 and his son Radomir acceded to the empire. This brave and courageous man waged numerous wars against the Greeks during the reign of the Greek emperor Basil, and conquered all the lands as far as Constantinople. Radomir was killed by Vladislav, this cousin who ruled in his stead. Once Vladislav had taken over the empire, he sent messengers to King Vladimir to demand his attendance. Queen Cossara went to Vladislav and made him offer a pledge on a wooden cross -instead of the golden cross – that her husband – King Vladimir can return to his land with due honor, gifts and wife. When Vladislav realized that his despicable deed had been exposed, on the 22nd May he sent swordsmen to decapitate King Vladimir while he was praying and making confession and receiving the body and blood of Christ, and taking in his hands the wooden cross :”Pray for me my lords, and let this cross as well as you be my witness on the Day of Judgement that I died blameless”.

King Vladimir was buried in the church amid hymns and paeans. Henceforth the Lord revealed the merits of the blessed martyr Vladimir, since on entering the church and praying at his tomb people with many afflictions were cured, and by night all could see a divine light as if many candles were burning there. His wife wept copious tears for Saint Vladimir, more than can be told for many days. When the emperor saw what miracles the Lord performed there, he repented and so filled with terror that he allowed Cossara to take his body and bury it wherever she wished. So she took his body and transported it to a place known as Krajina, where King Vladimir’s court was, and interred him in the church of Saint Mary. His body lies intact and smells as if it were perfumed with many scents, holding the cross which he received from the emperor in his hand. Each year on his feast day many folk congregate in that church, and by his meritorious intercession many benefices are granted to those who pray with a virtuous heart, right until the present day. Cossara, the wife of Saint Vladimir, impelled by her moral purity lived a pious and holy life, and at her death was entombed in the same church at the feet of her husband.

In the Middle Ages it was known as Ribnica. The name Podgorica was used from 1326. The city was economically strong: trade routes between Dubrovnik and the State of Nemanjici, well developed at that time, were maintained via the road that led to Podgorica through Trebinje and Niksic. As a busy crossroads, Podgorica was a vibrant regional center of trade and communication. The Ottoman capture of Podgorica in 1474 interrupted its economic, cultural and artistic development. Podgorica became a kaza of the Sanjak of Scutari in 1479. The settlement of the today Podgorica was firmly established during the Ottoman rule. The Ottomans built a large fortress in Podgorica, and the existing settlement, with its highly developed merchant connections, became the main Ottoman defensive and attacking bastion in the region. At the beginning of 1474 there were information about intention of the Ottoman sultan to rebuild Podgorica and settle there 5,000 Muslim families (most of Slav or Albanian origin) in order to establish an additional obstacle for cooperation of Principality of Zeta and Venetian Shkoder. The fortified city, with towers, gates and defensive ramparts, enabled the Ottomans to resist all attacks.

The Berlin Congress in 1878 annexed Podgorica to Montenegro, marking the end of four centuries of Ottoman rule. Podgorica was reincorporated in Montenegro and the city started to take a more European shape. World War I marked the end of dynamic development for Podgorica, by then the largest city in the newly proclaimed Kingdom of Montenegro. Podgorica was occupied, as was the rest of the country, by Austria-Hungary from 1916 to 1918. After the liberation by the allies in 1918 Montenegro was merged with Serbia and incorporated in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Between the two world wars, the population of Podgorica was about 13,000. Nazi and Allied bombings during World War II destroyed much of the historical Ottoman and Montenegro-era Podgorica architecture, and city was reborn as a capital of Montenegro in Socialist Yugoslavia (SFRY). From 1946 to 1992, the city was named Titograd, in honor of Josip Broz Tito, the former President of Yugoslavia. The city was rebuilt after the Second World War and expanded in a manner typical of Eastern bloc countries, so it is mostly a modern planned city, and by all means a principal sightseeing destination. The economy began to recover in the early years of the 21st century, when Podgorica began to emerge as a modern, pro-western city. Today Podgorica is the seat of Montenegro Parliament and the Government, but not of the country’s President, who resides in the former royal capital of Cetinje. Podgorica is home to many Montenegrin cultural institutions, museums and events.

The name Podgorica means “under the Gorica” in Serbian language. Gorica, meaning “little hill” is the name of the cypress-covered hill that overlooks the city center.

The large and new Cathedral of the Christ Resurrection in Podgorica is unique sacral structure in terms of its architecture and artistic values. Construction of the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Podgorica was started in 1993 and lasted nearly 20 years. The two pirgs – towers which are 26,7 meters in height dominate the cathedral, with 17 bells housed in the loft. The largest and heaviest bell is 11 tons in weight, which makes it the largest bell in the Balkans. At the foot of the pirgs -towers- of the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ there are chapels /small churches/, dedicated to Saint Simeon /with baptistery/ and to Saint Jovan Vladimir. The monumental Cathedral of Resurrection of Christ in Podgorica became prominent and known throughout Europe and the world for its beauties and is place of pilgrimage of the Orthodox believers. The Cathedral of Resurrection of Christ in Podgorica is also attraction not to miss for leisure tourists from foreign countries who see it as a cultural monument and do not miss to visit it when in Montenegro.

The city of Podgorica is often called City of Bridges, and definitely worth visiting, owing to its interesting mix of old and modern, its café culture and nightlife, and laid back Mediterranean atmosphere. Both Montenegrin coastal cities and its mountain resorts are within one hour drive from the city, so it is an excellent starting point for one day trips to anywhere in Montenegro. Podgorica features numerous big and small hotels and is perfect for shopping. On a 2 hour travel distance you’ll find the well-known ski resorts of Montenegro.

Golden Byzantine Tour

 

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