Cetinje, Historic Royal Capital of Montenegro is a picturesque testimony to the past times, the foundation of Montenegrin identity and spirituality. Visit the buildings of European embassies, museums, monuments, churches, Cetinje monastery and find out more about historical and political circumstances.
Since the year 1946 the official capital of Montenegro has been the city of Podgorica (then known as Titograd) – a modern, dynamic, and fast-developing town situated close to the center of the country, but the cultural and spiritual heart of Montenegro has always been Cetinje.
The name of the city comes from the name of the river Cetina flowing through the valley. Cetinje Royal Capital covers the area of 910 km², which equals 6.6% of the total area of the State of Montenegro.
It is situated in between Boka Kotorska Bay to the West, Budva’s Riviera to the South, Skadar Lake basin and Zeta-Bjelopavlici plain to the East, Niksic plain and Bijele Rudine to the North. It borders seven municipalities (Kotor, Tivat, Budva, Bar, Podgorica, Danilovgrad and Niksic).
Due to the exceptional values with the artistic and cultural-historical qualities of the individual monuments, Cetinje Historic Core belongs to the First category cultural monuments.
Cetinje Historic Core is a town which was being formed at a place surrounded by mountain ranges, serving for centuries as natural ramparts and fending off invaders. From all parts Cetinje field the view is blocked by desolate stretch of limestone hills with steep slopes.
The first written trace of Cetinje dates back to the year 1440, found as such in the judicial-notary volumes of Kotor Historical Archives. At that time, Cetinje plain must have been a summer grazing area used by cattle breeders.
The origin of Cetinje Historic Core dates back to the year 1482, when Crnojevic’s castle was constructed and construction of the monastery of the Crnojevic’s. The remains of Crnojevic Monastery can be found on the so-called Cipur, between the Monastery of Cetinje, Biljarda and King Nikola’s Court.
It was constructed by Ivan Crnojevic in 1484 as the residence of the Zeta Metropolitanate. Today, on one part of its remains there is the Court Church (Dvorska crkva) built by King Nikola.
King Nikola and Queen Milena’s remains were buried here after having been brought from San Remo to Cetinje in 1989.
Due to the intensive urban development during the 19th century, well known European architects and builders of the time, changed the architectural structure of Cetinje.
The city was developed the most during the ruling of king Nikola I Petrovic Negos. From a row of rural structures, typical of the traditional architecture of this area, Cetinje became a settlement characterized by urban style.
After the international recognition of its sovereignty at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, many countries established formal diplomatic relations with Montenegro. Italy, Austro-Hungarian, Turkey, Serbia, Belgium, Bulgaria, England, Russia, France and Germany opened their representative offices… Fascinating buildings of architectural styles from the end of the 19th century started to appear in Cetinje. Classicism dominated mostly, Romanism and secessions less.
Former Italian Embassy is now the building of the Central National Library «Djurdje Crnojevic», in Nova Varos. Like most buildings of diplomatic missions, was surrounded by a beautiful park, and prior to the completion of building space around it was used to play tennis and golf. The first tennis club in Cetinje was founded next to the Italian Embassy in 1906, and the town had several tennis courts at the beginning of the 20th century.
The French Embassy building was designed by the French architect Paul Gaudet. Gaudet cooperated on this project with the construction company «Perret Freres» whose manager was the renowned French architect August Perret. The building was used for the needs of French diplomacy until 1915. During the World War Two it housed the headquarters of the Police Authority, and since 1949 it has been serving the needs of the National Library.
Former Russian embassy without doubt is one of the most representative architectural buildings in Cetinje. Since 1988 it is the Faculty of Fine Arts. The building is surrounded by a beautiful little park, enclosed by a fence of wrought iron.
Belgian embassy is accredited to Cetinje after the Berlin Congress. The rank of prophethood was established by decree of King Albert I of Belgium in 1910, when the vice consul in Cetinje named Vuko Vuletic, in whose house and it was located. Today, this house used by the heirs of the family Vuk Vuletic.
Former Austrian-Hungarian embassy today is the Republic Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments. The park is enclosed with a stone fence and iron fence.Throughout history, the edifice changed its purpose on several occasions. During Austrian Hungarian occupation, it housed administration, and between world wars the command of Division of Zeta, so it is referred to among people as Division as well.
Former Serbian embassy is a simple rectangular building with a floor and attic, Cetinje typical house of that time. Today in this building housed the Ethnographic Museum.
The former British Embassy in Cetinje is still standing and is now the home of the University of Montenegro Music Academy.
The former Turkish embassy today is the Faculty of Drama.
Former Bulgarian embassy is now a restaurant.
Mission of Germany – Official diplomatic relations between the Principality of Montenegro and the Empire of Germany were established in 1906 and lasted until 10 August 1914. After the marriage of prince Danilo with German princess Jute Meklemburg, King Nikola 17 May 1905 arrived in Berlin and visited the German Emperor Wilhelm. After that Germany opens a permanent diplomatic mission in Cetinje. The house is today a residential building.
With the arrival of foreign embassies, Cetinje started to accept habits and lifestyles of great European centres of that time. «The smallest capital» and its charm and beauty were being increasingly talked about. In a way, that period may be also observed as the heyday of Cetinje, after times of hard wars, fight for freedom and preservation of the identity.
Today, buildings of foreign embassies in Cetinje are much more than beautiful constructions. Their purpose is different today, and their historical significance for this town and country is immense.
Unlike the coastal cities, Cetinje isn’t the center of Montenegrian tourism, however that doesn’t make its value less. There are so many things that travelers from around the world can see here! The first Cetinje travel guide was published in 1901 in Paris in French.
First telephones on the Balkans were installed in Cetinje in 1900, while the telephone service for the public transportion between Cetinje and important places in Montenegro was introduced in 1907.
Golf club in Cetinje was founded in July 1906, and it was sponsored by Princess Milica, the wife of Crown Prince Danilo, the eldest son of King Nikola.
Cetinje is the historical and cultural center of Montenegro. Many museums are located here, along with historical monuments, the ministry of culture and the official residence of the Montenegro President.
Three faculties of the Montenegrian University are also situated here – the faculty of fine arts, the faculty of dramatic art and the musical academy along with the oldest school of the city (1834) – the primary school of Peter II Petrovic Negos.
Museums in Cetinje represent a unique opportunity to learn about different periods of the rich Montenegrin culture, as well as all those that represent the most significant achievements of the national cultures during the past centuries.
The settings you visit as well as the opportunity to step into the premises where Montenegrin rulers were born and where they lived, may provide more complete and different view on this country and the influences which have formed it as it is today.
You must not miss the chance to see the Palace of King Nikola, the only Montenegrin King, to see the private rooms of the dynasty Petrovic, an extremely valuable collection of the Ethnographic Museum, the famous blue chapel with the icon Virgin Filermosa.
The inevitable station is Memorial Museum «Biljarda», dedicated to the great Montenegrin spiritual and secular ruler, the writer and philosopher – Petar II Petrovic Njegos.
The palace of Biljarda – a former residence of Peter II Petrovic Negos, built in 1838 – now a collection of compositions written by this famous Montenegrian ruler, poet are held here.
During World War I, the Austro-Hungarian army seated its military command in the southern part of the yard of Biljarda and made a relief of Montenegro for the needs of their army. It was made of plaster, with the scale of 1:10000, and it was characterized by exceptional precision, which was strived for by a group of Austro-Hungarian military experts, some of whom was the Montenegrin sculptor Marko Brezanin, who was a war prisoner at that time.
When it comes to the lovers of the modern art, you can visit Montenegrin Art Gallery «Miodrag Dado Djuric», located in the most modern gallery room in the entire country, and a lot of it, which is hiding behind the doors of numerous museums in Cetinje…
King Nikola’s Palace is an opportunity to peek into the premises where one of the most significant Montenegrin dynasties lived and to take a closer look at the place where the only Montenegrin king stayed.
The Royal family of Montenegro
Nikola, the Prince – King of Montenegro succeeded to the throne as a twenty-year-old. He had nine daughters and three sons with his wife, Princess – Queen Milena. For a while the king intended to build a monastery on the island of Grmozur on Skadar Lake for his daughters, the princesses of Montenegro.
On the other hand their beauty, charm and education brought them to the attention of many courts, so in turn they all became leading ladies and important persons in European royal courts by marriage. This gave King Nikola the title of the European father-in-law.
First Princess Ljubica (also known as Zorka) married Petar Karadjordjevic the First, who later became king of Serbia (the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes).
After her, two princesses went to the Russian court: Milica, who married the Grand Prince of Russia, Peter Nikolayevich Romanov, and Anastasija – Stana, who married the Duke of Leuchtenberg, Djordje Maksimilijanovic Romanovski. After divorce, Anastasia married again to the Grand Duke of Russia Nicholas Nikolayevich Romanov.
Jelena (Elena of Savoy) became the Queen of Italy by marrying King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy, who reigned from 1900 until 1946. She was born on January 8, 1873, in Cetinje, the sixth of twelve children of King Nikola I of Montenegro and Milena Vukotic.
Ana was married to Franz Joseph, the Prince of Battenberg.
Princesses Ksenija and Vjera did not get married, Marija died as a fourteen-year-old pupil in Russia, and Princess Sofija died as a three-month – old baby.
King Nikola’s son, Danilo the Second was married to the Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Augusta Jutta, who was renamed Milica Jutta after converting to Orthodox Christianity.
Petar was married to Violet Wegner (who was named Ljubica Wegner after converting to Orthodox Christianity).
Mirko married a Serbian noblewoman Natalija Konstantinovic.
The Italian Queen, Elena of Montenegro, much loved by the Italian people, will probably be canonized. In this way, most probably, the Petrovic dynasty will have, along with Saint Peter of Cetinje, the Blessed Elena of Savoy. This is a unique example in the European history of saints and ruling dynasties.
A tour in the King Nikola Palace is a unique opportunity to get familiar with the rooms that hosted some of the most significant events of the Montenegrin history.
Authentic artifacts will bring closer the habits and a lifestyle of the Royal Family of Montenegro.
At the residence of the last Montenegrin ruler, king Nikola I Petrovic Njegos a museum was founded in 1926 and its permanent exhibit provides to the visitors an insight into the life of the Montenegrin Royal family.
The tour through the Palace, which counts 19 rooms consists of variety of collections, with special emphasis on the arms and weapons, medals, flags, plaques, emblems, photographs, as well as archaeological, numismatic, artistic, ethnographic and art pieces.
The large royal inventory includes dishes and textiles, clothing and personal items of the royal family members, traditional costumes and others.
Palace’s rich library is dominated by an incunabula from the Crnojevic printing house: Oktoih Osmoglasnik printed in Cetinje in 1493, the first printed book among the South Slavs. Art collection includes paintings, prints, drawings and watercolors, as well as icons and sculptures by famous European and regional artists.
One of the most representative images of Cetinje is the monastery.
Its treasury stores some of the most significant Christian relics such as the life of St. Peter of Cetinje, a hand of John the Baptist and particles of the Holy Cross.
The monastery is located in the place where the Palace of Ivan Crnojevic used to be, at the foot of Orlov Krs (Eagle’s Rocks). It was elected by Bishop Danilo, and the significant part of architectural heritage of Crnojevic Monastery was kept in its construction.
Blue Palace – Today’s residence of the President of Montenegro was built back in 1895 as a residential building of the Montenegrin Crown Price Danilo, who used it until 1916.
Djukanovic Family Home – One of the most beautiful and the most alluring architectural buildings in Cetinje is the Djukanovic house, better known as «The Four Seasons», located in Njegoseva Street.
The name originated from the four sculptures of girls made of white concrete, representing four seasons. The house belonged to the engineer Marko Djukanovic, and some data show that the impressive statues were imported from Italy, at the same time as the sculptures for the Government House.
Crnogorska Banka (Bank of Montenegro) – This building located in Njegoseva Street has changed its purpose several times. It was built in the spirit of eclecticism with the elements of classicism, and the attractive row of pillars particularly stands out in its architectural solution. The Ministry of Culture of Montenegro is located there today, but before that it was the residence of the President of Montenegro for a certain period of time.
Prince Danilo Hospital – The first hospital, which is at the same time the oldest medical institution in Montenegro, was built in 1873.
The funds for the construction were raised by cashing gifts received on the occasion of Crown Prince Danilo baptizing. The newly built hospital was named Danilo I, after the first Montenegrin secular ruler.
Cetinje is a «Town of Books», where the books have been written, printed, read and preserved over centuries. The long history of Montenegrin literacy, first of all Greek and Latin and then Slavic, had necessarily to result in printed books, i.e. in the establishing of the first printing house in 1492, and in the first printed book of the South Slavs, namely the Octoechos, the first voice, printed in 1494.
The continuity and authenticity of cultural heritage, powerful cult of history, architectural, ambient and landscape values, the spirit of the former and actual Royal Capital and rich spiritual heritage, form a unity which makes Cetinje Historic Core the centre of Montenegrin historical and national identity, remembrance and existence.
In addition to the numerous museums and the great collection of the cultural treasures of Montenegro, Cetinje is the only city in Europe that is included in the territory of two national parks – Lovcen and Skadar Lake.
Under the snow, Cetinje will look like the scenery of a good and old movie, but in the spring, the smell of century-old lindens will be your everlasting memory of this city.
Cetinje is perhaps the smallest European capital, but it is the city of the large history and charm, which will certainly attract you.