Cetinje – its Historic Core is a town which was formed at a place surrounded by mountain ranges, serving for centuries as natural ramparts, fending off invaders. Other towns which were not built at the same time as Cetinje’s Historic Core, but which are of similar meaning and importance, may be the following: New Town of Edinburgh in Great Britain and Lucca in Italy.
The story that tells us about the foundation of Cetinje, this city with such a rich cultural heritage, goes back in the 15th century, when Ivan Crnojevic, then ruler of Montenegro (which was at the time called Zeta) moved the capital of his country away from the fortified town of Žabljak on the shores of the Skadar lake at the foot of mount Lovćen where Cetinje is today.
His court was built in the field of Cetinje in 1482 and two years later the monastery was built, as well. That is how the new capital was founded. Its name was Cetinje after the river Cetina which ran through it. The new monastery became the domicile of the Zeta metropolitan (the equivalent of archdiocese), so Cetinje turned out to be not only the center of secular life, but also the ecclesiastic center in which Đurađ Crnojević, the son of Ivan Crnojević, founded the first printing house in the Slavic South. The first printed book of the South Slavs named “Octoechos - The First Voice” was printed here in 1494.
Over the course of the next two centuries, Cetinje stagnated in its development - it was very often exposed to the attacks of Venetian and Ottoman armies. It was in this period that the court and the monastery of the Crnojevići dynasty were destroyed and it was only by the end of the 17th century - in 1697, that Cetinje began to flourish again under the rule of the Petrović dynasty with Danilo Petrović as its founder.
Petrović dynasty was the most important ruling dynasty in Montenegro which ruled from 1697 to 1918. There were seven rulers who belonged to this dynasty, and five of them were both secular and ecclesiastic leaders - (“Vladika” – the equivalent of a bishop), at the same time: Danilo Petrovic Njegos, Sava Petrovic Njegos, Vasilije Petrovic Njegos, Petar I Petrovic Njegos and one of the most important rulers in Montenegrin history Petar II Petrovic Njegos. His successor Danilo I Petrovic Njegos divided ecclesiastical and secular authorities and became the first Prince of Montenegro, his son and the last ruler of the dynasty, Prince Nikola became King in 1910.
During the reign of Petar II Petrovic Njegoš, Cetinje, and the whole of Montenegro underwent the political and cultural modernization. In addition to laying the foundation for the modern Montenegrin state, Njegoš contributed to the development of Montenegrin infrastructure including its two elementary schools, the first periodical, two gunpowder factories in Rijeka Crnojevića and the roads. He also gave his contribution to Montenegrin culture as poet and a philosopher, and his most important works are "The Ray of the Microcosm" and "The Mountain Wreath". Njegos was also the first to bring a billiard table to Cetinje and was an avid player. He is buried on top of the Mount Lovćen, which towers above Cetinje.
Cetinje has seen considerable progress during the reign of King Nikola, the last ruler from the Petrović dynasty. Nikola ruled as the Prince for a few decades, from 1860, and in 1910 he assumed the title of the King of Montenegro. As the King, he ruled only for eight years. His accomplishments both in regards to Cetinje and Montenegro are notable on several fronts. Montenegro was recognized as an independent country during his reign at the Congress of Berlin in 1878 and in the succeeding decades it enjoyed considerable prosperity and stability. Nikola wanted Cetinje to keep up with European capitals, so he hired most notable architects of the time to set the basis for the urbanization of Cetinje. In that period many embassies and diplomatic legations of the world's most important countries found their place in Cetinje since King Nikola was a skilled diplomat and had excellent diplomatic connections, in particular with Russia and Italy. Diplomatic affairs of King Nikola were followed by his investments in national culture and arts. King was an art lover - he is recognized as the benefactor of many artists of the time, including the first academic painter of Montenegro, Pero Poček, who was educated in Italy.
Urbanization of Cetinje started in 1878. Before that, Cetinje was just a recently formed settlement that did not have even the basic urban features, much less the characteristics of a European metropolis. Architect Josip Slade from Trogir was the chief architect who was dedicated to making a detailed urbanistic plan of Cetinje. In this period Royal Theatre “Zetski dom” was constructed, and is considered to be the architectonic masterpiece of Josip Slade. In 1896 Cetinje got two important cultural institutions, the National Library and the National Museum, and in 1899 the Government of Austro-Hungary bought a piece of land on which to build the first foreign diplomatic residence in Montenegro. In 1910 when Montenegro became a kingdom, monumental building of the House of the Government was built as well, and since then there was a great urbanistic expansion. The Hospital of Cetinje was built in 1912, and in this period many foreign legations were built, as well. Russian legation is still one of the most monumental buildings in this charming town. It was built in 1903. Construction of Italian legation started in 1905, but it was finished in 1910. French legation is also built in 1910, and there is an anecdote, probably apocryphal, about this interesting building. It is said that this was meant to be French embassy building in Egypt, but because of the mistake of the French Foreign Affairs Ministry, it ended up in Montenegro. Legation of Great Britain was built in 1912 by the British architect Harty. Legations of Serbia, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria and USA also found their place in Cetinje. Today, this representative buildings host some of the most important cultural and educational institutions. Former legation of Serbia is the Ethnographic museum today, while British, Russian and Turkish legations are home to the Montenegrin University of Arts, and the Institute for protection of cultural monuments of Montenegro is located in the building of the former Austro-Hungarian embassy.
Today Cetinje is the Montenegrin capital of culture and arts. The most important national institutions of culture are settled in this town, starting with the Ministry of Culture, followed by the National Museum, a complex cultural institution comprised of Historical Museum, Archeological Museum, Art Museum, King Nikola
s Museum, Biljarda (Residence and the Museum of Petar II Petrović Njegos), Modern GalleryDado Djuric
, as well as the atelierDado`, National Library and Institute for the protection of cultural monuments of Montenegro. Residence of Montenegrin President is also here. The charming spirit of this little town is enriched by students, since the University of Arts is also located here. Special atmosphere and rich cultural heritage put this town on the top of the list of the places to visit while in Montenegro. It is the town that welcomes you warmly, and gives you the perspective of the very heart of modern Montenegro while providing a glimpse at the slower life and the romance of past times.