Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor is a fortified city of less than 1000 people and a World Heritage Site. It is nestled at the foot of a mountain at the end of the Bay of Kotor, a fjord of the Adriatic. Come explore one of the oldest cities in Europe’s youngest country.

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Our Lady of the Rocks Church near Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

1 Our Lady of the Rocks Church near Kotor, Montenegro

To reach Kotor by ship, you enter the Mediterranean’s deepest natural fjord from the Adriatic Sea and then sail for about 17 miles. Along the way, you pass through Verige Strait. This is the Bay of Kotor’s narrowest channel. According to folklore, the Virgin Mary and Christ Child appeared to sailors here in 1452. The mystical event began the ritual among mariners of throwing a stone into the water after each successful voyage. The location of the apparition is Our Lady of the Rocks. This small Catholic church was built on the Gospa od krpjela islet in 1632 and reconstructed in 1722. The tradition of adding rocks is celebrated annually on July 22 during the Fašinada celebration.

Our Lady of the Rocks, Bay of Kotor, Montenegro
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Cruise Ship Docked at Bay of Kotor in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

2 Cruise Ship Docked at Bay of Kotor in Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor is a small, fortified city tucked into the base of Mount Lovćen along a submerged river valley called Boka Kotorska. Its origin dates back to antiquity. Old Town’s charm reflects when it was a Venetian Republic province from 1420 until 1797. Kotor has become a popular port for cruise ships sailing through the Mediterranean and the Adriatic Sea.

23 Jadranska magistrala Kotor, Montenegro
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Winged Lion of St. Mark in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

3 Winged Lion of St. Mark in Kotor, Montenegro

As you approach the Sea Gate, Kotor’s main arched entry that was built in 1555, look to your right to see this carved panel of the Winged Lion of Mark on the Valier Bastion. It represents Saint Mark the Evangelist and the open book is St. Mark’s Gospel. This image was the symbol for the Republic of Venice when they ruled over Kotor from 1420 until 1797. The San Marco Lion remains an iconic image in Venice, Italy.

Puerta Principal o Puerta del Mar Kotor, Montenegro
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Arms Square in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

4 Arms Square in Kotor, Montenegro

After passing through Kotor’s main gate, you enter Trg od Oružja or Arms Square. On the right is the Ducal Palace. This Renaissance building was originally the residence for the Venetian Provost. It was also a warehouse for munitions which is how the plaza got its name. Today, the lower level is filled with shops, a restaurant and part of the Hotel Cattaro. On the left was the Tower of the City Guard from the 13th until the 20th century.

Trg od Oružja 366, Kotor, Montenegro
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Clock Tower in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

5 Clock Tower in Kotor, Montenegro

A dominate feature of Trg od Oružja, which is Koto’s largest square, is the Clock Tower. It was built in 1602. The current two faces were added in 1810. In front is a pillory once used to tie up prisoners while they were abused and publically ridiculed. From this point roads lead in four directions through Stari Grad or the Old Town. Each path has its own visual rewards so just start wandering.

Trg od Oružja 366, Kotor, Montenegro
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Door With Cherubs Fresco and Knight Relief in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

Door With Cherubs Fresco and Knight Relief in Kotor, Montenegro

Ornate old doors have always fascinated me because of the mystery they conceal on the other side. But the front of this door was whispering another mystery I could not decipherer. I wondered about the eagle crest with the relief of a knight in armor. What was the significance of the two cherubs in the faded fresco? And who would deface such a wonderful entry with graffiti? Such are the unanswered questions of a curious travel photographer.

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St. Tryphon Cathedral in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

6 St. Tryphon Cathedral in Kotor, Montenegro

St. Tryphon Cathedral is one of Kotor’s most recognizable landmarks. This Roman Catholic church was built in 1166 on the site of a previous one from 809. Both were dedicated to Saint Tryphon, a 3rd century martyr and the protector of the city. Despite being partially destroyed during an earthquake in 1667 and again in 1979, the imposing western façade of Katedrala Svetog Tripuna was faithfully restored in 2009. Its Korčula stone glows with a golden hue just before sunset.

Pjaca Sv. Tripuna Kotor, Montenegro
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St. Tryphon Cathedral Side Altar in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

7 St. Tryphon Cathedral Side Altar in Kotor, Montenegro

This lovely silver and gold engraving on the side altar of the St. Tryphon Cathedral is one example of the treasures you will find inside the church. After admiring the frescos and silver altar screen, walk upstairs to enjoy more religious artifacts and relics. It also offers a baluster balcony with great views of the town below.

Pjaca Sv. Tripuna Kotor, Montenegro
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St. Tryphon Cathedral’s Tower Close Up in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

8 St. Tryphon Cathedral’s Tower Close Up in Kotor, Montenegro

On April 6, 1667, a devastating earthquake shook Cattaro, a time when the town was part of the Venetian Albania. Of its 1,200 residents about 25% of them were soldiers. The quake collapsed defensive walls, crumbled several noble palaces and devastated many of its churches. One of those severely damaged was the St. Tryphon Cathedral. It suffered again from an earthquake in 1979. The church’s façade still reflects these events. If you look closely, this tower is richly appointed with arches, Doric columns, a balustrade and a delicate frieze below the cornice. The other tower is plain. It was never finished because of lack of funds.

Pjaca Sv. Tripuna Kotor, Montenegro
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St. Peter of Cetinje Bell in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

9 St. Peter of Cetinje Bell in Kotor, Montenegro

This humble silver bell with a double-crossed crucifix above its yoke is dated 2006. This is extremely new relative to the Medieval and Renaissance period churches in Kotor. It belongs to the Church of Saint Peter of Cetinje which is almost invisible except for a small flight of stairs. Their denomination is Montenegrin Orthodox, a small religious community founded in Montenegro in 1993 and recognized by the government in 1999. They believe they own all the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church in this country such as the neighboring St. Nicholas Church. But to date, their claims have not been substantiated nor have they been canonized.

Pjaca od zatvora Kotor, Montenegro
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Flowerboxes on Balcony Railing in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

10 Flowerboxes on Balcony Railing in Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor is built from stone … stone walls, facades and streets. I don’t recall seeing a single blade of grass in the town. So it was refreshing to see how one resident decorated their ornamental iron railing with flowerboxes. What a perfect spot for this tiny touch of nature! Notice how the afternoon sun perfectly conforms to the balcony.

Hippo Ulica 2 (sjever-jug), Kotor, Montenegro
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St. Francis Monastery Tower in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

11 St. Francis Monastery Tower in Kotor, Montenegro

During the early 13th century, Saint Francis of Assisi established the Order of Friars Minor, better known as Franciscans. Shortly after his death in 1226, the friars began to establish missionaries across Albania. The first one in Kotor started in 1283. Five years later, they built a monastery near the Gurdić or South Gate. It was destroyed in 1667. This empty bell tower stands near the monastery ruins.

Monastery of St. Francis Ulica 2 (sjever-jug), Kotor, Montenegro
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Passageway to Gurdić Gate in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

12 Passageway to Gurdić Gate in Kotor, Montenegro

This narrow and high stone passageway leads through the Gurdić Bastion which was built in 1470. Just beyond that archway is the Vrata od Gurdića or South Gate. It is the oldest of the three city’s portals. It was initially constructed in the 9th century. The current version is from the 13th century. From there you can take a wooden drawbridge over a small pool of water called the Gurdić spring. This will lead you outside of the fortified town and back to the harbor. But there is so much more of Stari Grad to see. So turn around and head back into Old Town.

Stari grad 283, Kotor 85330, Montenegro
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Maritime Museum in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

13 Maritime Museum in Kotor, Montenegro

The Maritime Museum of Montenegro opened at the turn of the 20th century at Boka Navy Square. It occupies a palace that was built by the Grgurina family in 1732. Within the rooms of the carefully restored mansion are tasteful displays of art, uniforms, model ships, weapons and photos. Collectively they tell the story of the country’s partnership with the Boka Kotorska Bay and the Adriatic Sea up to World War II.

Stari grad 422, Kotor, Montenegro
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Narrow Pedestrian Street in Kotor, Montenegro - Encircle Photos

14 Narrow Pedestrian Street in Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor is best described as a labyrinth. If you look at a map of Stari Grad (Old Town), you will not detect a pattern to the maze. So, skip taking an organized approach to sightseeing. Instead, meander through the narrow pedestrian-only streets, enjoy the boutique shops and historical sites and take a break in one of the small squares. And d