Kotor’s Rich and Varied Architectural History
Kotor is believed to have been founded by the Romans in Montenegro, along the Adriatic Coast. It became a significant artistic and commercial center in the Middle Ages where schools of iconography and masonry flourished. Kotor has changed hands several times and its turbulent history has only served to add more charm and charisma to this naturally beautiful location. From the Romans, Hungarians, Venetians to the French and Austrians, Kotor has been under the rule of various empires.
The architecture of Kotor has had several influences due to the various rules it has been under, but, the Venetian influence is perhaps one of the strongest among all of them. Apart from its turbulent political history, Kotor has also braved the consequences of natural disasters such as earthquakes. Several of the Romanesque buildings, churches, Perast’s buildings, Dobrata’s palaces and so on have suffered due to earthquakes and have even been partially destroyed. However, to Kotor’s credit, the town has always revived itself from the fall and managed to flourish and grow after making a conscious and driven effort towards reconstruction and restoration.
As you approach the town of Kotor, you cannot but marvel at the formidable walls that have been skillfully erected and integrated with the naturally steep slopes of the hills to protect this town. You are bound to be impressed by this town, from the very first moment you set eyes on it as it is located in one of the most beautiful bays of the world. Not only is this trip going to be a feast for your senses, but also, it holds the promise of giving you a lot of food for thought. You can gather information on the culture of the Boka Kotorska Bay. You can learn about the traditions and customs of this walled town that is steeped in fascinating history and tales of adventure.
The Gates of Kotor
The main gate through which one can enter Kotor is called the Sea Gate. This gate dates back to the 16th century. It is the west gate of the town. It was one meter high when it was built but due to the earthquakes, it sank two times, once in 1667 and once, in 1979. This gate has several stone blocks and pillars around it. On the left side of the gate is the town’s patron saint, St. Triphon holding a model of the town, and St. Bernardo of Siena who is the protector of all the sailors and people who come in contact with the sea. On the right, you will see a relief of Christ and the Holy Mother of God.
There are two more gates namely the Northern Gate and the Southern Gate. To the far left of the Clock Tower, is located the Citadel Bastion. This Clock Tower was built in 1602. Another important landmark is the ornate pyramid that was built in front of the tower that once served as a pillory. The passage along the walls of the fortification will lead to the next gate, the southern gate that was built in the 12th century. The Southern Gate is bigger than the Northern Gate and it is interesting to note that this was not just one simple gate but a mechanism of three belt gateways which were constructed during different periods of time. This gate is also called the Gurdica Gate. The Northern Gate was built in 1539 to celebrate Kotor’s victory over Hajrudin Barbarosa, a well-known Turkish admiral.
Walking the Streets of Kotor
From the Main Arms Square, you will see four streets that lead into the maze of Kotor town. If you turn to the left side of the Main Arms Square and proceed, you will find yourself in the core of Old Kotor. You will be able to see the orthodox Square of St. Luke. There is a 12th century church that has been dedicated to this saint. Quite close to this church is the St. Nikolas Church. This is much larger and newer than the St. Luke’s Church. In fact, this church is one of the largest churches in this part of the town.
If you proceed further from the square, you will discover another church, the St. Mary of the River Church. Behind this church is located, a 14th century pharmacy, perhaps the oldest one in the Balkans. You will also find the steps leading to the fortification walls, in the same place.
Should you choose to turn left from the Main Arms Square, you can go along a short street that is situated between the Bizanti and the Beskuća Palaces, both of which were erected in the 17th century. You will eventually reach the Flour Square. Pima Palace is located on the right of Flour Square. Proceed to the corner around which you will reach the Cathedral Square. This is the all important square where the Patron Saint of Kotor, St. Tryphon resides in the cathedral dedicated to him. This was constructed in 1166. This is one of the most notable religious monuments you most certainly must visit in Kotor. Despite being severely affected by several earthquakes, this church has stood the test of time and it has been rebuilt with renewed faith and energy. Turn left and see the Baroque Palace, Grgurina, which is your Maritime Museum.
The above mentioned are only a few routes apart from the several short cuts and passages that only the locals are familiar with. It would be best to get a local guide to help you explore Kotor as they will be familiar with every single nook and corner of the town.
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