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The town of Kotor

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General presentationGeneral information
Weapons of the town of Kotor. Click to enlarge the image.Gulf of Kotor. Click to enlarge the image.Kotor is a commercial and harbor city old of the Adriatic Sea, located at the southern end of bay of Kotor to Montenegro.

The town of Kotor, with its important cultural heritage and its single situation, was registered in 1979 with the cultural heritage and world naturalness of UNESCO. It is following the earthquake which has occurred on April 15th, 1979 that UNESCO decided to make enter the city and the site on the list of the monuments and classified sites.

Kotor is also a commune of Montenegro; the villages of Risan, Perast, Dobrota, Orahovac and Dub are part of the municipality of Kotor.

Under the Byzantine empire, Kotor was called after “Dekaderon”, “Dekateron” or “Dekatera”, of the Greek “katareo”, rich in sources of warm water, which evolved in “Kotor”.

In Latin, Kotor was named by the Romans: Acruvium (or Ascrivium or Ascruvium). The Greeks named it Ασκρηβιον, Askrèvion. At the time of the Venetian domination, it bore the Italian name of Càttaro.

In Montenegrin or Serb Cyrillic, Kotor is written Котор.


Situation of Kotor. Click to enlarge the image.The town of Kotor is a seaport Adriatique located in the most moved back part of the gulf of Kotor (Kotorski Zaliv), which is itself at the bottom of bay of the mouths of Kotor (Boka Kotorska) in its southern part.

The city is enclosed between the sea and the last mountainous solid masses limestones of the Alps Dinariques, very abrupt, of Lovćen and Orjen (1 894 m).

The bay of Kotor is one of the parts more below the Adriatic Sea; it is sometimes called the “southernmost fjord of Europe”, but the specialists consider that it acts by way of submerged canyon of a river.

Kotor is to 15 km west of Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, and with 90 km in the south-east of Dubrovnik in Croatia.

Gulf of Kotor. Click to enlarge the image.Kotor. Click to enlarge the image.


The Closed City
To visit the closed city of Kotor.
Fortifications of Kotor
To visit the fortifications of Kotor.
The Port of Kotor
Port of Kotor. Click to enlarge the image.Port of Kotor. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).

History and traditionsHistory, literature, arts, traditions, legends, religions, myths, symbols…

Prehistoric times
The history of the settlement of the Mouths of Kotor starts at one very old time: in the caves of the surrounding mountains various tools and of the pottery were found, indicating a human presence as of the Neolithic era, as also shows it the drawings on the walls of the Lipca cave.
The first inhabitants of the area were Illyriens, attracted, as of the 3rd century before J. - C., by the natural port of Kotor which offers an easy shelter.

Illyriens were followed by the Greeks and the Romans. The Roman Empire started to conquer the area of Kotor at the 3rd century before J. - C.

Kotor was mentioned for the first time into 168 before J. - C. under the name of “Acruvium”. At the 1st century after J. - C., the city is mentioned by Pline the Old one under the name of “Ascrivium”, and, at the 2rd century, by Ptolémée like “Askruyon” (̉Ασκρούϊον).

Under the Empire Romain the city was initially attached to the province of Dalmatie. The Dioclétien emperor attached it, towards the end of the 3rd century, to the lately formed province of Praevalitana.

Byzantine Empire (476 - 1184)
After the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 after J. - C., Kotor belonged to the Byzantine Empire.

As of the Early middle ages, under the reign of Justinien, in reaction to the storm of the Great Migrations and after the expulsion of Goths of the area, the first fortifications of Kotor were built; a fortress was built which overhung city.

In 840, the city was plundered and ransacked by a buckwheat fleet pirate, coming from Sicily and Crete.

Under the Byzantine domination, the city was called after “Dekaderon”. The Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogénète with Xe century, written in its book “De administrando imperio”: “The name of the city, Decatera, means in the language of the Romans “narrowed and surrounded”, because the bay is cut in the grounds like a language on 15 or 20 miles, and the city is with the end”.

One second city probably developed on the heights of Kotor around the fortress since Constantine Porphyrogénète alludes to “Low Kotor”.

Kotor was one of the Dalmatian city-States most influential during this period; it became the center of the Bay which bears its name. The Dalmatian language was spoken there until the 11th century.

In 1002, the Bulgarian ones plundered the city. The following year, Kotor was yielded to Serbia by the Bulgarian tsar Samuil. But, the citizens of the city revolted with the assistance of the Republic close to Raguse, and, after some time the power of the Byzantine Empire was restored there.

Periods Bulgarian and Serb (1185-1371)
In 1185, the large sovereign of Serbia, Stefan Nemanja, founder of the royal dynasty Serb Nemanjic, conquered Kotor. Kotor became vassal of Serbia, but as a free city, succeeding with preserving the integrity of its republican institutions, as well as the right to conclude from the treaties and to declare the war.

Kotor was episcopal see, and, during the 13th century, of the Dominican and Franciscan monasteries were founded to counter Bogomilisme.

In 1241, during the invasion of the Mongols in Europe, one of the armies of the Horde under the direction of Kaidan, a brother of Gengis Khan, besieged Kotor and set fire to it, but the city was rectified quickly.

From 1185 to 1371, Kotor was an important center of trade and craft industry of the medieval Serb kingdom, specialized in the maritime trade. Kotor maintained the contacts with Western Europe; its merchant fleet thrived competing with those of the Républiques close relations of Raguse and Venice. For this period, Kotor knew important economic progresses and cultural.

However, in 1371, the Serb dynasty of Nemanjic disappeared, and with it the Serb domination with Kotor ceased.

The period of independence (1371-1420)
After 1371, and during one half-century, Kotor was a republic independent patrician, but which swore loyalty to foreign monarchs: from 1371 to 1384, with king de Hongrie and of Croatia, Louis 1st the Large one; from 1384 to 1391, with king de Bosnie, Tvrtko Ist.

From 1391 to 1420, Kotor completely independent, was directed by a noble elected official, the Vice-chancellor.

However, after the defeat of the Serb armies to the battle of Kosovo in 1389, and the fall of Serbia under the yoke of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish conquest of Kotor became more and more threatening.

Venetian domination (1420-1797)
In front of the threat of invasion by the Ottoman Empire, the Large Council of Kotor decided, in 1420, to voluntarily put the city under the protection of the Republic of Venice.

Throughout almost all Venetian domination of Kotor, the city was a place of confrontation with the Ottoman Empire: this period can be regarded as most dramatic of the history of the city. The Turks indeed were very constant in their will to take Kotor, whose possession would have enabled them to control the whole of the Mouths of Kotor. However, in spite of repeated attempts, the city was never conquered, contrary to Risan and Herceg Novi.

For example, in 1539, one of the best admirals of the Turkish fleet, Barberousse Hayruddin, made the seat of the city with 70 ships and 30,000 soldiers, but was forced, after four days of seat, to beat a retreat. In 1571, the Turkish fleet under the command of Ali Pasha Muezzin-Zadeh, who will be beaten later in Lépante, besieged Kotor from August 9th to August 16th, but without success.

At the time of the major naval battle with the Ottoman Empire, the battle of Lépante of October 7th, 1571, when the allied fleet of the Christian States put in rout the Turkish fleet, a vessel of Kotor, “Saint-Tryphon”, took part in the battle with its 200 sailors under the command of the captain Jerome Bizanti, noble of Kotor.

Sit of Kotor. Click to enlarge the image.However, the most serious seat was that of 1657: Mehmed Pasha, in charge of 5000 soldiers Turkish, besieged Kotor lasted two months, but did not manage to take the city. Many orthodoxe Christians found refuge with Kotor, and the Venetian administration of the city enabled them to use the church Saint-Luc for their orthodoxe ceremonies.

But the Turks were not the only threat which weighed on the city: she suffered as many natural disasters such as epidemics and earthquakes. For example, years 1422,1427,1457,1467 and 1572 transfer the city in the grip of the plague. Moreover, it was subjected to earthquakes in 1537 and 1563, and was almost entirely destroyed by the earthquake of April 6th, 1667: the seism destroyed two thirds of the buildings, cut down the frontage and the bell-tower of the cathedral Saint-Tryphon and the palace of the Vice-chancellor (Providurova Palata), and killed the governor of Venice, Foscarini Alvise, with all its family.

Kotor was controlled by Provéditeur (Providur), governor named by Venice, during nearly four centuries of Kotor, until 1797. The city was part of the Venetian province of Albania, except for the periods of Othoman domination of Albania between 1538 and 1571 and 1657 and 1699. These four centuries gave to the city an urban structure and a typically Venetian architecture which still marks its appearance. The Venetian domination also left a major print on its habits: Italian was the language used in all the public acts and the lesson, in particular by the powerful noble class and the rising class of the merchants and the marine captains. It is as at that time as the difference of manners and of the traditions of the inhabitants of Bay of Kotor (Bokelji) of with those of the Montenegrins (Crnogorci) became more visible. With a fleet of approximately 300 ships, Kotor was an important maritime power.

Sight of the Mouths of Kotor (16th century).
Mouths of Kotor, engraving of the 16th century. Click to enlarge the image.
The Napoleonean period (1797-1814)
After the treaty of Campo Formio in 1797, Kotor and its area passed under the domination of the Austrian monarchy of Habsbourg.

In 1805, under the treaty of Presbourg, it was allotted to the Kingdom of Italy, vassal First French Empire of Napoleon.

In 1806, the Napoleonean troops advanced in the direction of the Mouths of Kotor. An army Montenegrin led by Petar 1st Njegoš, reinforced by several Russian battalions and the fleet of the Russian vice-admiral Dimitri Seniavine, pushed back them to Dubrovnik. But, a little later the Russian tsar Alexander I asked the Montenegrins to reassign Kotor with the Austrians.

The defeat of the Russian troops to the battle of Friedland, on June 14th, 1807, led to the “Peace of Tilsitt” as of from July 7th to July 9th, 1807, treated by which the tsar of Russia yielded Kotor to Napoleon. On July 25th, the admiral Seniavine accepted, by imperial decree, the order to give Kotor to the French. The evacuation of the terrestrial and naval forces Russian was completed on August 14th, 1807.

After 1810, Kotor was annexed to the First French Empire under the name of Provinces Illyriennes.

For Kotor, the French occupation was highly undesirable, because the city lived mainly foreign trade: the passage of the city under the control of France meant impossibility of trading, in these times of war between France and England, which, “mistress of the seas” organized the blockade of the ports of the Adriatic, and made marine of Kotor potential spoils of the English navy.

In September 1813, the army Montenegrin of Petar Njegoš, supported by Russia and England, released Bay of Kotor of the French occupant. The union of Montenegro and the area of Kotor was proclaimed.

The town of Kotor itself was taken by the English at the time of a daring attack on bay directed by the Commodore John Harper, ordering sloop of 18 guns, the “Saracen”. Because of the lack of wind, the inhabitants of the coast hauled the ship with cords. The crew of the “Saracen” had then to transport the 18 guns above the Midsummer’s Day fortress which dominates Kotor. They were reinforced by the captain William Hoste with her ship of 38 guns, the “Bacchante”. The French garrison did not have another choice to only go, which it did on January 5th, 1814.

However, in 1814, the tsar Alexander I asked the Montenegrins to restore with the Austrians the area of Kotor. On May 1st, 1814, the Montenegrins gave up this access to the sea so not easily acquired.

To the Congress of Vienna, in 1815, the Bay of Kotor was officially allotted to Austria, and the independence of Montenegro was not recognized.

Austrian domination (1814-1918)
Within the framework of the Empire Austro-Hungarian, Kotor, still called of its Italian name “Cattaro”, was part of the kingdom of Dalmatie.

Austria undertook a major rebuilding of the military port of bay of Kotor, with the aim of protection the imperial marine of a possible Russian attack.

During the 105 years of the Austrian domination, of 1814 to 1918, Kotor and its surroundings knew many revolts of the local population. An attempt to impose the obligatory conscription in 1869 brought two revolts on behalf of the orthodoxe inhabitants of the mountains Krivošije, a plate of mountain on the western peak of the Orjen mount. The revolt was repressed by the Austrian task force based with Kotor, but the government of Austria-Hungary was forced to give up - temporarily - the project of universal conscription. The project of conscription was again presented in 1881, leading to a new revolt of the orthodoxe population.

The 19th century was the century of the rise of nationalisms, and the empire Austro-Hungarian had to face a rise of the Slavic national identity. Many Serb institutions were create in Kotor. In 1874, was created in Kotor the first diocese of the Serb Greek Orthodox Church, and, in 1909, was inaugurated the orthodoxe church Saint Nicolas’s Day.

Drawing of Kotor in 1840. Click to enlarge the image.
The First World War (1914-1918)
During the First World War, Kotor was one of the three principal bases of the navy Austro-Hungarian and the home port of the 5th Austrian fleet, made up of battleships and light cruisers. The Bay of Kotor was the theater of several battles baited between Montenegro and Austria-Hungary.

From February 1st to February 3rd, 1918, place in Bay of Kotor a rising of the crews of 40 ships of the navy Austro-Hungarian took - approximately 6,000 sailors Croatian, Slovenien, Czech and Hungarian. The troops of monarchy Austro-Hungarian crushed the rebellion: approximately 800 sailors were stopped and the leaders of the insurrection summarily carried out.

The period of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918-1941)
In 1918, after the defeat of Austria-Hungary at the time of the First World War, the town of Kotor, with the whole of Montenegro, was integrated into the Kingdom of Serb, Croatian and Slovenien, which became, starting from 1929, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The city, hitherto named Cattaro, took officially the name of Kotor.

Until 1922, the Mouths of Kotor were an independent district with its capital with Kotor, and in 1922 were part of the Zeta area, then Zeta Banovina after 1929. The area of Herceg-Novi made, it, left Croatia until 1945.

The Second World War (1941-1944)
Commemorative plate. Click to enlarge the image.After the capitulation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the dismemberment of the Yugoslav State in 1941, the town of Kotor and its region (in Italian, Provincia di Cattaro) were annexed by fascistic Italy, as well as other cities of the Adriatic coast of Montenegro. All these regions were part of the “Governorship of Dalmatie” (in Italian, Governatorato di Dalmazia).

After September 8th, 1943, Kotor was occupied by the Germans and was integrated into a kind of mini-state serbo-Montenegrin.

The city was taken on November 21st, 1944. This date, 21.XI.1944, are engraved in the stone above the principal door of the old city.

The period of Yugoslavia socialo-Communist (1945-1990)
After 1945, Kotor was part of the socialist Republic of Montenegro, joined together in Yugoslavia, now communist, of Tito.

The Mouths of Kotor constituted one of the principal Yugoslav military naval bases. The arsenals are however for the majority with the stop, but of the tunnels dug in the rock near the entry of the mouths, on southern bank, can always be observed. They were shelters of protections for the military ships.

On April 15th, 1979, a powerful earthquake occurred on the coast of Montenegro; there were approximately hundred victims. Half of the old city was destroyed and the cathedral Saint-Tryphon was damaged.

Independent Montenegro
In the years 1990, Kotor was part of third Yugoslavia, Serbia-and-Montenegro. After the bursting of this third Yugoslavia Kotor followed the destiny of Montenegro, and, since May 2006, formed integral part of the Republic of Montenegro.

With the dissolution of the army after the declaration of independence of Montenegro in 2006, all military equipment was abandoned.

Many legends was hawked on the foundation Kotor. One of them tells that fairy Greek Alkima, which lived then on the cliff which dominates the city, had advised with the newcomers not to build the city at the top of the mountain, as some had decided. Here what she tells them: “You must make coast your house, because there is no life without water. In the mountain there is neither port for a vessel nor cattle shed for a horse”.

InformationPractical information

General information
Although Montenegro is not part of Euroland, nor even of the European Union, much of tradesmen the euros accept.

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Map of the closed city of Kotor
The closed city of Kotor
Fortifications of Kotor
The village of Risan
The village of Perast
Mouths of Kotor
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The town of Kotor
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The town of Budva
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The southernmost part of Montenegro
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