Cetinje is a town that has existed for a little over 500 years. From the moment of its founding to this very day, Cetinje has written countless pages of Montenegrin history and given invaluable cultural contribution, which is why it’s a must-see place in Montenegro. Cetinje was the capital of Montenegro from its founding until the end of World War II, at which point Podgorica took over. Nonetheless, due to its historical and cultural heritage, Cetinje kept the status of Old Royal Capital.
Until the mid-15th century, Cetinje was known as a valley under Mount Lovćen inhabited by Vlachs who primarily engaged in animal husbandry.
The only known building at the time was a little church made of straw and mud, located near today’s town’s entrance. In 1482, the Lord of Zeta Ivan Crnojević was forced to move his throne from the fortified town of Žabljak to Obod, and then to an even more hidden place. Upon his arrival in Cetinje, he builds a castle for himself, and two years later he builds a monastery at Ćipur. The monastery is the first cultural and historical monument in Cetinje as it was the place where Ivan’s son Đurađ organized the printing of Oktoih- the first book among Southern Slavs. The book was printed in Cyrillic alphabet in 1494, five decades after Gutenberg invented the printing press. The castle did not last long, but it is on its remains where the story of the most prominent Montenegrin dynasty Petrović Njegoš begins. These two edifices have always been the symbols of the town and the first places to visit in Cetinje.
The development of Cetinje begins with the rule of the last Montenegrin dynasty Petrović Njegoš. The founder of the dynasty, prince bishop Danilo Petrivić, constructed Cetinje Monastery on the remains of the old Crnojević castle. The monastery as we know it today was further developed under the reign of Petar I Petrović, later known as Saint Peter of Cetinje. His remains, along with two more important relics, a hand of Saint John the Baptist and a particle of the True Cross, is kept in the monastery today.
Cetinje starts to flourish with the ascent of Petar II Petrović Njegoš to the throne. Young, extremely educated, and ambitious, in his short life he succeeded in writing the best literary works at the time. He introduced the first official elementary education, reorganized the government in Montenegro, and made the first step toward the division of spiritual and secular government by building a residence for himself next to the monastery. His residence called Biljarda, the mausoleum on Lovćen, and his birth house in Njeguši are among the most visited places in Cetinje.
During the reign of the seventh and the last ruler of the dynasty, King Nikola, Cetinje would shine with the brightest light. He ruled for 58 years and brought independence to Montenegro in 1878 which was when Cetinje started developing into a strong political, diplomatic and cultural center of the country. After he became king in 1910, Nikola established the first Montenegrin Constitution, constructed the first government building known as the Parliament House, opened 13 embassies, and introduced Perper, the first Montenegrin currency. Most of these facilities today hold places for museums, public institutions, and art faculties. King Nikola died in 1921 and his remains, along with the remains of his wife Milena, and the founder of Cetinje, Ivan Crnojević, are kept in the church on Ćipur which he reconstructed at the beginning of his reign.
Apart from numerous cultural and historical monuments, one cannot ignore the beauty of Cetinje’s nature. National park Lovćen rises above this town in one direction, while in the other you can easily reach Rijeka Crnojevića and National park Lake Skadar. One of the most exciting places to visit in Cetinje, and at the same time a jewel of natural beauty is Lipa cave which has been open for tourist visits since 2015. The cave adds to the already rich offer of Cetinje since it unites both the history and culture of the area and is the perfect option for rainy day excursions and provides refreshment on hot summer days.
Find out more about Lipa cave and major tourist attractions in Montenegro through our blog page, and for more detailed offer of the town of Cetinje you can visit the website of the Tourism organization of Old Royal Capital.
Image source: Local Tourism Organization of Cetinje.