At the end of the Bay of Kotor, the walled city of Kotor is sight to see for Adriatic medieval fortifications with gates, maze-like streets, bastioned walls, and the Great Wall of Kotor circling the hillside protected by a fortress.
The city of Kotor dates back to the time of Christ and there is documentation of a Roman settlement here called Catarum. Kotor was settled by the Illyrians and survived the many powerful regimes over the hundreds of years including: Serbs, Venetians, Russians, French Napoleon Forces, Austrians, Tito’s Yugoslavia and the breakoff from Serbia.
Most of the walled infrastructure and buildings date from the Venetian rule during the 13-17th centuries. Kotor was a strategic port located inside the Bay of Kotor which provided shelter for the fleet and a secured port due to the narrow strait to pass.
In the 17-18th century, the Montenegrins, like Ragusa, were excellent politicians to withstand being at the crossroads of the Eastern Ottoman/Turkish regimes and the Western Venetian/Austrian-Hapsburg regimes. It remained a free city of the Ottoman Empire paying an annual fee.
The most extensive damage to the city occurred throughout 4 earthquakes including the 1667 Dubrovnik earthquake and the the 1979 Montenegro earthquake.
Kotor’s history merges with Montenegro as after the World War I, fighting for the Allied powers, Montenegro was absorbed into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, which later became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929. Montenegro was also later part of various incarnations of Yugoslavia, until it regained its full independence from the federation of Serbia-Montenegro on the June 2006 referendum.
Sites to see in Kotor
Great Wall of Kotor
Over the centuries, layers of fortifications have been added by Kotor’s inhabitants to withstand sieges. Most of the walls today date to Byzantine & Venetian regimes in the 9-15th century. Beyond the walled city, you can barely make out Great Wall of Kotor in the daytime which is a walled arch over the city with the fortress of Saint John at the top. The walls are between 6 to 50 feet thick, up to 65 feet high and run 2.5 miles. At night, the path is lit up like a golden arch over the city.
A path leads from inside the back of the walled town and zipzags up the mountain. You can see the white Church of Our Lady of Health halfway up on the zigzag path. The great wall climbs 1,355 steps with an elevation gain of 700 feet to the fortress of Saint John. The medieval fortress sits on foundations of Illyrian fortifications.
A path also leads up the the old Royal capitol of Cetinje called the Ladder of Kotor and zig zags behind the arched wall.
The main entrance to the town was constructed in 1555 when the town was under Venetian rule (1420–1797). You can see symbols of many regimes on the gate from the Venetian winged lion (now on the right wall) to a star with the date that Tito’s Partisan Army liberated the city in 1944. Underneath that is a quote with the town motto:
“What belongs to others we don’t want, what is ours we will never surrender.”
Religion is also a notable difference coming from Croatia with Montenegrins and Serbs faith largely based on Orthodox Christianity. The Kotor region is 50% Montenegrins, 30% Serbs and 20% Croats and other. Up until the 19th century, the area was made up of Catholic Croats based on Venetian and Austrian influence.
Built in the 12th century, the Catholic St. Tryphon Cathedral has been rebuilt 4 times after earthquakes. St. Tryphon holds the reliquaries of this Catholic and Orthodox saint making him a fitting patron for the city with history in both religions.
The Church of St Luke is a 12th-century Romanesque building with original frescoes. One of the most interesting things about this church is that it has two altars: a Catholic one and an Orthodox one, showing the historic closeness of these two faiths and the religious tolerance of the Kotor area.
Four centuries of Venetian domination have given the city the typical Venetian architecture, that contributed to make Kotor a UNESCO world heritage site
On the south end of town is the Gurdić gate dating to the 13th century. This has a drawbridge that leads into a gauntlet like path into the city.
The streets of Kotor were built like a maze for defensive purposes also. If the gates were breached it would give the citizens more time to get to the back of the city with the stairwells leading up to the fortress above. Kotor is rather small though, so getting lost is half the fun as you explore and find different buildings and plazas. The old town of Kotor has 961 inhabitants and the urban area has 13,000 inhabitants.
- Kotor is a cruise ship town. Try to visit either off hours or off-day to avoid an influx of tourists
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