“This is a beautiful heavenly valley” said an English princess thrilled with the view, while approaching Cetinje at the beginning of the 20th century.
It is likely that this occurred at Orlov Krš, which provides the most beautiful view of the old Montenegrin capital. There are no walls, as in many other ancient royal towns, since nature surrounded Cetinje with stone hills that serve as mighty guardians.
The town was founded in back in 1482, when Ivan Crnojević, the last ruler of the powerful mediaeval state of Zeta, erected a palace below Orlov Krš, and after that founded the monastery as the centre of the Zeta Metropolitanate. He did this convinced that the state would be better protected from invaders in these inaccessible surroundings.
Zetski dom Theatre
Construction of the "Zetski dom" Royal Theatre started in 1884 under the direction of the architect Joseph Slade, to be completed only in 1892.
The famous building of the "Zetski dom" Cetinje Theatre was originally intended to accommodate the archives, museum, reading room and library, as well as the theatre. The first theatre show "The Balkan Empress" by Prince Nikola I Petrović was performed in 1888 in the still unfinished building.
The original interior was luxurious and modern, based on European chamber theatres with rich decoration with stucco friezes and painted ceilings. More recently the stage was expanded, the interior was reconstructed and stage is equipped with modern props that enable undisturbed performance of all types of theatre shows.
King Nikola's Palace
The National Museum of Cetinje was founded in 1950. This museum has a historical character and has preserved the ambience of what used to be the palace.
The most valuable collections in the museum are the collections of guns (mainly trophies), flags, coins, medals, photographs, documents and the palace library. The room called Odžaklija is the place where the tribal heads gathered and where the most important decisions relating to the Montenegrin state were made.
Ethnographic Museum in Cetinje
The Ethnographic Museum of Montenegro was founded in 1951 in Cetinje. It is located in the same square as King Nikola's Palace and the Biljarda.
The museum was originally located in the Biljarda. In 1979, after the devastating earthquake in Montenegro, material from the Ethnographic Museum was relocated from the Bilijarda to the Vladin Dom building. Since 1987 the Ethnographic Museum has been housed in the former Serbian embassy building in Cetinje and organisation of museum exhibits is under way. The Ethnographic Museum has 4,125 exhibits that represent different production manners, ways of life, textile crafts, folk costumes, musical instruments and other elements of the material and spiritual culture of the population of Montenegro.
Museum of History
Museum of History of Montenegro was founded in 1989 and is located in the Vladin dom building in Cetinje.
The socio-economic, political, military and cultural past of Montenegro is encompassed in a single walking line. The central exhibition and museum layout is based on six departments that display material from different periods of Montenegrin history: Pre-slavic Period; the Middle Ages; the period from the 16th to the 18th centuries; creation of the Montenegrin State (1796-1878); the modern Montenegrin State (1878-1918); and Montenegro in union with other South Slavic nations. All periods are linked physically, chronologically and visually and make a logical museum ensemble.
The Cetinje Art Museum
The museum is situated in the building of what used to be the Government House, a monumental building designed to represent this very important state institution by its size and appearance.
The Italian architect Corradini designed this building. The museum is housed in large halls. Decorated with luxuriant ornaments, the elegance and style of façades is repeated in the halls.
Several collections of works of art are contained in these halls:
- Paintings by Paja Jovanović, Vlaho Bukovac, Djura Jakšić and other great painters from the territory of the former Yugoslavia.
- A collection of Montenegrin paintings representing chronologically modern art from Bocarić, Milo Milunović, Petar Lubarda, right up to contemporary painters.
- A collection of icons and copies of frescoes. There is a collection that belonged to Milica Sarić-Vukomanović where there are works by Picasso, Chagall and others.
Njegos`s museum - Biljarda
“Biljarda” is a magnificent stone building, established by Petar II Petrovic Njegoš for the purpose of the Senate offices and as Njegoš’s own dwelling. Today it is a museum where the memory of this famous ruler, poet and bishop is preserved. The building is called the “Biljarda” and is named after the billiard table Njegos brought from Italy. Fifty young men carried the billiard table’s parts from Kotor up to Cetinje! On the occasion of the centenary of the death of this great poet, after its reconstruction in 1951, the Billiard House had two museums under its roof: - the Njegoš Museum and the Museum of Ethnography.
A gallery, with the works of distinguished artists dedicated to Njegos, is also in the house. The things that Njegoš used are preserved here, as well as his manuscripts, books, a rich library, money, guns, etc. The gallery has over several hundred works of art that were, out of great respect, once presented by many artists to this magnificent person and a creator of the unmatched work “The Mountain Wreath”. Along the Billiard House yard, on the southern part of it, there is a pavilion where a large relief map of Montenegro is situated. It is unique in Europe for its size and preciseness. Austrian military experts produced it in 1916-17. For military reasons even the smallest place was marked on it, as well as paths and footpaths of that time.
Njegoš’s Mausoleum is situated on the very top of Jezerski Peak of the Lovcen Massif, 1675 m above sea level. Its foundations were built into six-metre deep mountain rock.
A path from Cetinje, about 20 km long, leads to this magnificent monument. In order to reach the mausoleum one still needs to climb up 461 steps. The chapel is the most impressive part of the mausoleum. It is a roofed facility with six sides and one central niche, built with the finest Boka and Brac marble. At a height of 9 metres, the ceiling is covered with fascinating mosaic with over 200,000 gilded tiles. A grandiose sculpture of Njegoš, the work of the famous sculptor Ivan Meštrović is dominant in front the central niche where there also is the sarcophagus bearing his remains. The sarcophagus is reminiscent of traditional Montenegrin graves, with the national coat of arms and the cross engraved in the stone, as the symbol of Njegoš’s state and spiritual roles.
Two years after having built his Court, Ivan Crnojević had finished his famous foundation at Ćipur in 1484 – The Crnojević Monastery in which the Archbishopric was moved from Vranjina Zetska. In the year 1692 the Monastery was destroyed by the Turkish conquerors (the Skadar Pasha Sulejman Busatilja).
There are two written documents about the way the Monastery looked then: Prints from the Cetinjski Oktoih and a plan of the Venetian engineer Barbieria. After reconstruction the monastic complex covered a space of 1400 m2. It was surrounded by ditches full of water and by defensive walls with 62 loopholes. Within the walls were the monastic residences, a smaller church of St. Petar and the large Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God, which was surrounded by a porch with 18 pillars. Soon after Crnojevic Monastery at Cipur had been destroyed, Bishop Danilo – founder of the Petrovic Dynasty, undertook to erect what is today Cetinje Monastery on the site once occupied by the court of Ivan Crnojevic. It was not only the spiritual continuity, but also the essential architectural elements of Crnojevic Monastery that Bishop Danilo transferred to the new holy edifice.
A plaque with the Crnojevici court-of-arms was placed in the apse. After reconstruction, during the 18th century the monastery was destroyed and burned down a couple of times. The monastic complex is in fact a town – a miniature fortress. At the beginning of the 18th century the monastic church was erected, as well as monks’ cells, the refectory and the bell tower. The monastic complex has on several occasions undergone adjustments and additional construction works and it got its present-day compact nucleus appearance from 1925 to 1927. The nucleus of the monastic complex is the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God, a moderately dimensioned single-nave building. In its south choir lies the reliquary chest of St. Petar of Cetinje, after which the Monastery got its name. North of the church is St. Petar’s cell, his hermitage. Southward from the church are the monastic residences, two-storied and with arcaded cornices. Next to them, in the former Metropolitan’s Court often called Njegos Residence, is the monastic treasury, which is in terms of richness one of the most important institutions of its kind in Montenegro. A reconstructed large threshing floor lies in front of the monastery, which inspired Njegos so that numerous scenes from his great philosophical epic poem Gorski vijenac (The Mountain Wreath) take place on or around this site.
The Cetinje Monastery is more than a harmoniously composed architectural achievement.
It was the Montenegrin cultural centre. In it were cherished the spiritual and historical heritage, the first school was opened in the Monastery (1834), as well as the first Montenegrin print shop after the Crnojevici one (1833). The Monastery symbolizes the Montenegrin spirituality, history and the love of freedom and tradition and enlightenment.
The Treasure of the Monastery of Cetinje
The Monastery of Cetinje was built at the beginning of the 12th century on the foundations of the old palace of the Crnojevic dynasty.
In the monastery there are valuable exhibits from the medieval period: Sava Nemanjić’s epitrahil (stole), the crown of Stefan Dečanski, the Balšić dynasty’s church flag and the seal and sceptre that belonged to Ivan Crnojević. There are also collections of valuable icons and medieval manuscripts written on parchment or on paper, as well as many rare books. Among these is the “Oktoih” printed in 1493/94 in the first Cyrillic printing house that belonged to Ivan Crnojević.
Christian Relicts in Cetinje Monastery
The Cetinje Monastery keeps the following relicts:the Right Hand of St. John the Baptist (the hand that baptized Jesus Christ) and particles of the Holy Cross (the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified); also, the icon of Our Lady of Philermos is kept in the Blue Chapel in the building of the Government House.
Three great Christian relics have gone a long way to reach the historic town of Cetinje. From Jerusalem via Constantinople they came to the Knights of the Holy Crusades of St. John the Baptist who seized them in one of their battles. First they were kept in Rhodes, and then from the mid 16th century they were kept in Malta. This is why the Knights of the Order of St. John were later called the Order of Malta. During the Napoleonic Wars, general of the Order of Malta gave the relics to the Russian Czar Paul I Romanov in 1799 to take care of them. Relics were kept in the court of the Romanovs in St. Petersburg until the revolution in 1918 when Maria Fedorovna, mother of Emperor Nicholas II, brought them to Copenhagen. At the end of her life, she gave them to the Russian patriarch Antonio Hrapovicky who brought the relics through Berlin to Belgrade. Then, he gave them to King Aleksandar Karađordjević as a sign of gratitude of the Russian people and the Russian church for receiving a large number of refugees from Russia. The relics were kept in the royal palace in Belgrade until 1941 which is when King Peter II together with Patriarch Gavrilo Dožić handed them to the Ostrog monastery to be taken care of. The relics were transferred from Ostrog in 1952 to the State Treasury. Then, the Right Hand of St. John the Baptist and particles of the Holy Cross were handed to the Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral, Daniel Dajković and were transferred to the Cetinje Monastery and icon of the Holy Mother Philermos was transferred to the National Museum in Cetinje in 1978 where it is kept until the present date.
These relics are among the most famous Christian relics. They are in golden frames, decorated with diamonds, rubies and sapphires.
Mausoleum of Bishop Danilo
On Orlov krš, a small hill above the Cetinje Monastery is the mausoleum of Bishop Danilo, founder of the Petrović-Njegoš dynasty. It was built in 1896. The idea and the draft design were made by Princess Jelena in cooperation with French architect Fruse and the sculptor Moreau Vauthier. Successful architectural design made the monument almost an integral part of Orlov krš. It is a recognisable and a dominant symbol of the town of Cetinje. The mausoleum was built on a plateau, which is arranged as a small park, on the brim of the hill and is highly visible.
On a front wide stone fascia with the inscription, there is a monumental stone sarcophagus with a prominently displayed cross, and three steps leading up to it. On the top of the sarcophagus, in relief, symbols of the Bishop Danilo’s spiritual and state rule are represented. On the sides of the sarcophagus there are stylised ornaments and symbols – a cross, a circle and a flower. On the eastern side, in a circular medallion, a bronze relief of the bishop’s profile is displayed. An asphalt road passing through the south-eastern side of Orlov krš leads to the plateau with the monument.
National Park Lovćen
The lowest point of the National Park Lovćen is the crossroads in Krstac - 965 m above the sea level, while the highest is the peak Štirovnik - 1.749 m above the sea level, which is also the highest peak of the mountain Lovćen. The Park encompasses central and the highest part of Lovćen massif, covering the area of 6.400 hectares
View from Lovćen from all sides leaves an unrepeatable and unforgettable visual impression. Places that offer such distant and unrepeatable views are numerous: Jezerski vrh, Štirovnik, old road Krstac-Ivanova korita, Austrian strategic roads that lead to the mountain tops, Kotor serpentines – specific projecting and construction phenomenon. Exposed to the steep Lovćen slope and the Bay of Boka Kotortska – serpentines are an unrepeatable experience.
Most of the sacral objects and interesting ethnographic material in Lovćen is concentrated in the area of Ivanova korita and village Njeguši, famous for fantastic ham and cheese. Authentic national architecture can be seen in this region: katuns –summer settlements of farmers and old stone houses with roofs made of sawn straw or laminar limestone, village guvna - places where folk meetings were held, were people celebrated and enjoyed themselves. Around ten churches with specific church towers “distaffs» (its form reminds of the distaff) round up Lovćen landscape.