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The Foundation of Cetinje

Cetinje
Cetinje

In the late fifteenth century the Ottomans "launched a mighty wave of attacks against Zeta" and its leader Ivan Crnojević. In 1481 he launched a counter-attack. "Faced at that moment with an Albanian revolt, Bayezid ll agreed to allow Ivan to occupy a small area between the coast and the Zeta River extending as far as Lake Skadar."

In return Ivan was to pay tribute, relinquish any control over foreign relations and surrender his youngest son Staniša as a hostage. Although, under the agreement, Ivan was spared the presence of Ottoman officials in his tiny principality, he was to suffer further indignity when his son, following the prevailing practice, converted to Islam, taking the name of his father's former companion-in-arms against the Turk, Skanderbeg.

The centre of Ivan's greatly reduced patrimony was now the small settlement of Obod above a river draining into Lake Skadar, not far from the Crnojević's earlier citadel of Žabljak. As Ottoman raids became ever more frequent Ivan resolved on a further move to the still more remote site of the future royal city of Cetinje at the foot of Mount Lovćen. Here in 1482 he brought his monks and began work on the court and monastery that were to form the austere 'capital' of his remaining lands. Although his territory was small, Ivan's vision must have been expansive since he commissioned masons from Dubrovnik to build the church in what, sources reveal, was the early renaissance style. In 1485, with the church completed, the Metropolitan of Zeta was brought to Cetinje to establish the bishopric. Neither the monastery nor the church was to survive after suffering Turkish attacks on many occasions, but the bishopric itself was to prove the single most durable institution - indeed the central core - of the future Montenegro.

[pp: 96-97]

Realm of the Black Mountain: A History of Montenegro. 2007. [C.Hurst & Co]

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