Set deep in the Zetan Plain, Podgoria is today's administrative capital of Montenegro. But ask any Montenegrin and you will discover a visceral attachment to the mountain fastness of Cetinje that for 500 stormy years held that place.
From the coast and from the plain, two roads climb to converge then drop into the lap of mighty Lovćen, the black mountain whose summit bears the mausoleum of the vladika - Prince-Bishop Petar II Petrović Njegoš, the greatest Montenegrin of them all. The climate in Cetinje is moderate. Continental with cool dry summers and plenty of winter snowfall. The city sits 670 meters above sea-level.
History of Cetinje
Beneath the panorama of the mountain, a doll's house city has with courage and ferocity dispatched all aggressors over the centuries. To say the Crnagorski (Montenegrins) are warriors is an understatement. Yet Cetinje was much more than a fortress. Three times the Ottomans tried to invade but they never succeeded in conquering the town.
The first time was in 1692. Then the Montenegrins destroyed the monastery by themselves. As the Turks broke down the door, the ignited a cache of gunpowder and blew up the building, the Turks, and themselves.
The second time, in 1714, the enemy succeeded in burning down the entire town before resistant tribes forced them into retreat. Again they tried in 1785 and again they failed to overpower the indomitable Montenegrins.
Now, in a city whose population is 20,000, there's a will to move some elements of the national administration back here, including one or two government ministries, to restore something of the city's gallant political past.
At the western end of town, sheltering beneath a rock is Cetinje Monastery. It dates from the 15th-century foundation of the city by the ruler of Zeta, who moved to this high plateau with his followers in retreat from Ottoman invaders.
The Turks pursued and 3 times the stone edifice was destroyed and again rebuilt. In the tiny chapel, you'll find the alleged right hand of St John the Baptist and a shard from the crucifixion cross.
National Museum of Montenegro Cetinje
Since May 2002, an icon with a fascinating history has been on display in the Blue Chapel of the National Museum of Montenegro at Cetinje. The provenance of this icon links with the alleged right hand of St John the Baptist and with that people say to be a fragment of Christ's cross.
They are now in the small church within the Cetinje Monastery. The painter of the icon, called the Madonna of Philermos, is unknown but there has been some speculation that it was St Luke the Evangelist.
Johns Knights Hospitallers
It seems to have been Hellenic, acquired by the Order of St Johns Knights Hospitallers from Jerusalem. There the order came by some Christian relics. In 1187, after the fall of Jerusalem when the knights transferred their headquarters to the island of Rhodes, they carried these treasures with them.
After the Turks conquered Rhodes in 1522 the Knights moved on via the various Mediterranean havens. These included Crete and Malta, where they became known as the Knights of Malta. All the while they retained the holy relics (in common with Montenegro, the tiny island of Malta, also in the sultan's sights, always succeeded in resisting Turkish subjugation).
Until 1798 the Madonna of Philermos was on display in a dedicated chapel in the conventional church of the order. The hand of St John the Baptist was placed in the oratory of the same church. But when in that year Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Malta, the Grand Master of the order, Ferdinand Hampesh, was given permission to carry these relics to Rome. The Knights were to establish a further residence here. Shortly afterward Tsar Pavle I contrived to become the new Grand Master of the knights and Hampesh passed on the relics, which were then placed in a convent at Vorontsov Palace in Russia.
The journey continues
Thereafter the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated the receiving of these sacred objects in St Petersburg every October. Surly a measure of their value. After the 1917 revolution, the mother of the murdered tsar took them for protection. She carried them via Crimea, London, and Denmark. They went to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in exile who deposited them for safekeeping in the Karađorđević royal chapel in Belgrade.
In 1941, after German troops occupied Serbia, they moved to the Ostrog Monastery where King Peter II Karađorđević of Yugoslavia had taken shelter. In 1952 Montenegrin police searching for the gold that King Petar II would have taken to Ostrog. They found the relics instead and passed them to the National Museum at Cetinje.
|Address||Novice Cerovića, Cetinje, Montenegro|
Hoe to get to Cetinje Montenegro
Aside from hiring a car, the only means of access to Cetinje is by bus, most easily from Podgorica, Budva, Tivat, or Herceg Novi. The bus station is in the northeastern part of town and a short walk from the marketplace. There are several busses a day to and from these towns. minibusses supplement these services but their timings are subject to variation.