Nestled in the heart of the charming town of Cetinje in Montenegro, the Cetinje Monastery is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in history, architecture, or religion. In this article, we’ll explore the history of the Cetinje Monastery, its location, why you should visit, its importance to the local community, how to visit, things to be aware of during your visit, and the treasures that await you inside.
History of Cetinje Monastery
The Cetinje Monastery is one of the oldest and most important monasteries in Montenegro, with a history dating back to the 15th century. Throughout its history, the Cetinje Monastery has played a significant role in the fate of Montenegro, witnessing many events that have shaped the country’s destiny.
The monastery has been repeatedly burned by the Ottomans, only to be rebuilt by Montenegrin rulers. In the 18th century, Metropolitan Danilo Petrović rebuilt the monastery after it was completely destroyed in an attack by Mahmut Pasha Bušatlija, constructing a new monastery on the site of the original location. The monastery was also home to the first printing house in southern Slavs and the first primary school in Montenegro. The Cetinje Monastery has also served as a mausoleum for the Petrović dynasty, and Prince Danilo and his family are buried here.
Location of Cetinje Monastery
The Cetinje Monastery is located in the town of Cetinje, which was once the capital of Montenegro. The town is known for its charming, traditional architecture and cultural significance. The monastery is easily accessible by public transport or on foot.
Reasons to Visit Cetinje Monastery
The Cetinje Monastery is a beautiful example of Orthodox architecture, with its white walls and red roofs standing out in the town’s landscape. The interiors of the monastery are also worth exploring, with beautiful frescoes and paintings that date back to the 18th century. The monastery is a peaceful and serene place that offers visitors a glimpse into the country’s religious and cultural heritage.
The church at the Cetinje Monastery is home to a stunning iconostasis, which is carved entirely from a tree. According to some sources, the icons on the iconostasis were painted by Nicholas Aspioti from the island of Corfu and by the Ginowski brothers from Macedonia. It’s worth noting that while the church features an icon of St. Peter Cetinski in the site of the altar image, the church is not dedicated to him, despite some confusion on this point.
The church is also notable as the final resting place of Montenegrin Prince Daniil I Petrovic-Njegos and his brother, Governor Mirko, known for his victories over the Turks and nicknamed “the sword of Montenegro”. Additionally, the cell of St. Peter of Cetinje is well-preserved at the Cetinski Monastery, which also houses a particle of the relics of St. Theodore Stratelates.
Additionally, the monastery houses several holy relics that are of great significance to the local Orthodox community, including the right hand of St. John the Baptist, which was used to baptize Jesus in the River Jordan, and pieces of the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
The hand of St. John the Baptist has a rich history, having survived wars and revolutions and passing through the possession of many powerful leaders such as Byzantine emperors, Ottoman sultans, the Knights Hospitaller, Russian tsars, and Serbian kings. Due to its significance, it is only occasionally displayed for veneration. However, it is worth noting that the hand is not a particularly pleasant sight, so visitors who miss it should not feel too disappointed.
The monastery treasury requires an additional fee and is typically only open to groups. Inside, a wealth of fascinating objects awaits, though visitors may feel shunted around the rooms by an impatient monk. Among the treasures are jewel-encrusted vestments, ancient handwritten texts, icons, including a lovely Syrian Madonna and Child, and a copy of the 1494 Oktoih (Book of the Eight Voices), the first book printed in Serbian. Additionally, the crown of 14th-century Serbian king Stefan Uroš III Dečanski, who was deposed by his son, murdered, and later became a Serbian saint, is covered in pearls, large precious stones, and priceless Byzantine-style enamels.
Local Importance of Cetinje Monastery
The Cetinje Monastery is a significant religious site in Montenegro, serving as a symbol of the country’s national identity and cultural heritage. The monastery has played an important role in Montenegrin history, serving as a center of culture and education during the Ottoman Empire’s rule.
How to Visit Cetinje Monastery
The Cetinje Monastery is open to visitors every day, with free admission. Visitors to the monastery must dress appropriately, with shoulders and knees covered, and women must wear a headscarf and a skirt. However, if visitors arrive without the correct clothing, the monastery provides free rental options. Women do not need to cover their heads inside the monastery, and lit candles are placed in a special tray in the courtyard. Visitors may need to wait for a group to view the relics, but there is a church shop where visitors can purchase candles, icons, talismans, and souvenirs. Photography is prohibited inside the church.
The Cetinje Monastery is a beautiful and important religious site in Montenegro, offering visitors a glimpse into the country’s rich cultural heritage. With its charming location in the town of Cetinje, impressive Orthodox architecture, and wealth of treasures, the monastery is a peaceful and serene place that should not be missed by anyone visiting Montenegro.