Fortress around the old city of Kotor

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Town-fortress Kotor is situated in the north-west of Montenegro, not far from Croatian Dubrovnik, in the south-west part of Boka Bay, at the foot of the mountain ridge Lovcen. The Bay of Kotor (Boka Bay, Italian Bocche di Cattaro) is one of the most butted into deep of the continent part of the Adriatic Sea. It consists of a few small bays, connected with each other with rather narrow straits, making together one of the best natural harbours of Europe. Because of unique mixture of different cultures, the Old town of Kotor and fortification around it is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Here you can find the traces of various epochs: the Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque.
 
Fortress around of old town Kotor.

Fortress of Kotor is a beautiful example of medieval fortification, which includes:
  • main, massive fortified wall, 16 meters wide, 20 meters in height and length - 4.5 km, which surrounds the Old Town of Kotor and rises to the top of the hill;.
  • stone staircase leading to the bastion of St. Roko (Sv Roko) and the Church of Our Lady of Remedy (Gospa od zdravlja);
  • the highest point of Kotor is the strengthening of Saint Ivan (bastione di San Giovanni - "Illyrian fort") on top of the mountain.

The fortification wall was erected around the Old Town of Kotor from IX to XIX century so that the fortified ring protects the town against attack both from sea and from land. The main part of the walls which surrounded the town, was built in the XIII-XIV centuries in the time of Kotor (Cataro) was an outpost of the Venetian Republic in southern Dalmatia. Considering, that during almost all the time of the Venetian domination, Kotor and Bay of Kotor were a battlefield with the Ottoman Empire (whose tenure was a few hours away from the town walls), this period can be called the most dramatic in the history of the town.

Until now one can get inside the town only through 3 entries:
  • Sea Gate - the main entrance to the center and the old town of Kotor, leading to the Armory Square;
  • River Gate (northern) - entrance from the Shkurda river across a beautiful arch bridge (built in memory of the victory over the Turkish troops);
  • Gurdich Gate (southern) - entrance on the Gurdich river (the only gate in Old Kotor, which are equipped with a drawbridge).
It is not easy to get to Kotor from the River gate and Gurdicha gate, as the two rivers - Shkudra and Gurdich protect the town reliably.

Historians write, that first, who build a fortress in this area in ancient times were Illyrians, from whom "Illyrian fort" remained (now - the fortress of St. Ivan) high on a hill. Those Romans, who came in the III century BC. erected hastily fortified bastions, then almost everyone who ruled here (Byzantines, Arabs, Venetians, Turks and others), rebuilt it or redesigned the construction on their own way. Of course, every period in the history remained the traces inside the fortress. But particularly active trade developed during the Venetians tenure of the towns of Boka Bay, under the flag of St. Mark. And, apparently, this is why the basic appearance of the town, which we see now, was formed precisely because of the influence of Venice.
However, to inspect the entire fortress has been destined neither for citizens nor for tourists over for nearly five hundred years.

Why? Because a large part of the fortress has not been available to the public from 1657. This is a very interesting story, in the truth of which is hard to believe, but it’s very tempting to believe – extremely beautiful it is.
Image of Kotor in 1615, Henry de Beauvau
Image of Kotor in 1615, Henry de Beauvau

During the Kandyan war between the Ottoman Empire and the Venetian Republic, in 1657, Kotor was besieged by Turkish troops, numbering 5,000 soldiers. The Turks were very persistent in striving to capture Kotor, as a control over it allowed you to control the whole Bay of Kotor. Residents of which closed themselves inside the fortress, closing with a key the only door leading outside (made, by the way, of the stone). The trouble was that in a burst of patriotism and as a sign, that none of them was going to give up, the key was thrown into the sea. Naturally, the Turks, despite repeated attempts, failed to take the bastion neither by storm nor by siege, and 2 months later they went away. And the townspeople remained at bay (in the full sense of the word).

Fortunately, there was a source of water in the fortress (now "Well Karampana"), and rations to the fortress were bombarded by a catapult by Venetians returned to the bay. It took several years before an earthquake occurred in the town and destroyed half of the buildings. However, the walls of the fortress were strong and survived, and only a crack formed through which frightened people had to go outside. And once that happened, the crack was closed by the next push. That half of the bastion was not only inaccessible, but also closed to any attempt at penetration. Of course, they were made, but without any success.

In honor of this victory, the citizens built another entrance to Kotor - River (north) gate of the town.

But the Turks were not the only calamity threatening the city, fortress and people. No less they suffered from natural disasters, as well as from epidemics and earthquakes. So, in 1422, 1427, 1457, 1467 and 1572 the plague spread in the town. In addition, Kotor was exposed to earthquakes in 1537 and 1563, and it was almost completely destroyed by the great earthquake on 6 April, 1667, two-thirds of all buildings were destroyed, including the bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Tryphon.

For centuries, Kotor was an arena of fierce battles, and as a trophy passed from one country to another, was occupied by Austria-Hungary, as well as French, Italian and German troops. But, despite all this, it survived, and was released in November 1944 and became a part of revived Yugoslavia. Now the date of release (21.XI.1944) is carved in stone above the main gate of the Old Town of Kotor.

At present, the walls are interesting because everyone can get up and walk around the perimeter of which at the roof level. The passages are in several places (you need to walk along the wall and look for the stairs).
 
The walls and the fortress of St. John (San Giovanni).

St. John Fortress – most pictures of Kotor are made from its walls. This fortress was built during the Venetian and strengthened by Austro-Hungarians. She is so naturally blends with the landscape of the mountains, that in cloudy weather fortress walls are almost invisible.

Today, available for sightseeing part of the fortress can be visited by paying only 3 €. There, at a height of 280 meters, leads a serpentine of 1,400 steps, sometimes unbroken, sometimes entirely destroyed, therefore, deciding to climb the mountain, you need to wear comfortable shoes, make sure to bring your camera and drinking water.

Having gone there people say, that after 15 minutes of the way, a view over the red roofs of the old Kotor opems, and after another 15 minutes, over the sea and the bay, well, the most courageous and persistent, reaching the highest point (the observation deck with the Montenegrin flag), will see the south Kotor fjord of extraordinary beauty in all its glory.

On the way you will also come across with the Chapel of Our Lady of Salvation. Almost 500 years ago (in 1572) it was built by locals in gratitude for the salvation from the plague. We do not know how true this story is, but since then the streets of the old town of Kotor is washed twice a day with soap and water to avoid a repeat of the tragedy. The bell tower of the chapel is an architectural dominant of Kotor.

Fortress of Kotor is an absolute must see object in Montenegro.
 

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