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Kotor - Copyright © by Alan Grant
Church in Kotor Old Town

This picturesque town lies in a secluded corner of the Bay of Kotor, often described as the only "fjord" in the Mediterranean. Its old city walls rise up high into the steep mountains that the Balkan traveller Edith Durham crossed a hundred years ago, where she found a "chaos of inextricably intertwined limestone rocks." In the 19th century the Montenegrin state was a place where ancient rhythms of life survived, undisturbed by modernity. Indeed, it is said that the first clock did not appear in Montenegro until 1868! Austrio-Hungarian Kotor, on the contrary, had been an important trading port since Venetian times.

The small town of Kotor has seen many big empires rise and fall. Known as Acruvium in Roman times, it was occupied by the Medieval Bulgarian Kingdom, incorporated in the Serbian medieval Kingdom, occupied by the Hungarians, before falling to the Republic of Venice which held it from 1420 to 1797. After passing to the Habsburg Monarchy, it was incorporated into Napoleon's Illyrian Provinces, returned once more to Austro-Hungary, before being included as part of Yugoslavia after the First World War.

Despite this history of occupation, siege and war, Catholicism and Orthodoxy have co-existed peaceably in Kotor ever since the Great Schism of 1054. The Catholic and Orthodox churches in the old town still bear witness of the complex reality of coexistence in this region. While Kotor long had a Catholic majority, since the early 20th century the percentage of Catholics has fallen. Today (Catholic) Croats make up about 17 percent of the population.

Today, the old town dominated by Venetian-baroque and the natural beauty of the bay make it a major tourist destination.

February 2007

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