March 6, 2019 - Gornja Lastva is a small Mediterranean settlement in the hill of Vrmac separating the Kotor and Tivat bays. It is the best preserved so-called upper settlement on Vrmac mountain, succeeding to save the cultural landscape confessing dynamic and rich past of this area.
Gornja Lastva lies at an altitude of 300m above sea level, 3 km away from the Adriatic highway. The settlement is located on the sunlit slope of Vrmac commanding a spectacular view of Tivat bay and even farther, over the peninsula of Lustica, of the open sea. The settlement has existed here ever since the ancient times.
Gornja Lastva, a stone lace, photo by Antonela Stjepcevic
Stone, as a primary building material, and Mediterranean flora, hiding the settlement from view, reflect the recognizable Mediterranean atmosphere. From the early days, stone houses were built and torn down only to be replaced by new, modern ones. Although many of the houses and pertaining stone walls were deserted and destroyed in time, the authenticity of the traditional method of building and overall environment was never disturbed before the last two decades when some of the inadequate interpolations are allowed.
The best preserved and the most prominent houses today date back mostly to the 19th century. The olive mill dates back to the same period, and nothing has changed in it until the present day, olives are being milled in the same way as they used to be a long time ago, the mill being man-powered. Thus, during olive milling days, many inhabitants gather in the mill, socialize, sing songs making this occasion a cultural event of its kind.
St. Mary's parish church dates from the 14th century. Lastva inhabitants adorned their church with numerous valuable objects of art, like Romanesque golden cross, multi-colored marble altar, altarpiece with the picture of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary believed to be the work of Andrea Trevisano, etc.
Older church of St. Vid was built in the 9th century on top of the hill above Gornja Lastva bearing the same name.
During the period of its full life, in the first half of the 20th century, Gornja Lastva had about 500 inhabitants and more than 100 residential units. It was a self-sustainable system; enough food was being produced to satisfy the needs, there were seven olive mills, one water mill for grain threshed on 12 threshing floors, 24 wells, and five capping. On nearby slopes, there were numerous vineyards, olive groves, orchards. Gornja Lastva had its local government until World War II; it had had its school since 1845, parish priest, tamburitza orchestra... People from Gornja Lastva were excellent craftsmen, masons in particular. Many of them navigated on board Bokelian ships.
After World War II, Gornja Lastva, following broader economic and political movements, and people started leaving the village. The population moved closer to the sea, most often to Donja Lastva or to Tivat. The inhabitants of Gornja Lastva also moved to other places of Boka Bay, and usually even farther.
Majority of inhabitants of Gornja Lastva live today mostly at Donja Lastva and Tivat, but they come to Gornja Lastva daily. Gornja Lastva was spared the sale and destruction of units of architectural heritage, which happened elsewhere even to whole villages of exceptional environmental value. Rich cultural and economic past has got the strength which moves even the present day generations of the inhabitants of Gornja Lastva.
House of Stjepcevic Family Hiding Valuable Ethnological Collection, Photo by Antonela Stjepcevic
For the reasons of the preservation of traditional values and way of life, protection and restoration of cultural heritage, the inhabitants of Gornja Lastva got organized in 1975 into the Association of Friends of Gornja Lastva, which in 1991 was renamed to Cultural Heritage Association “Napredak” Gornja Lastva. “Napredak” is a nongovernmental organization founded for the sake of preservation and improvement of cultural identity, preservation of traditional customs and architectural heritage.
Friends of Gornja Lastva Often Organize Eco Actions, Photo by Antonela Stjepcevic
Former Association of friends of Gornja Lastva, today Cultural Heritage Association NAPREDAK Gornja Lastva, was founded with the intention to preserve the original values and particularities of Gornja Lastva by protecting the cultural identity, the environment, and architectural heritage. At the same time, the intention is to restore life in this settlement based upon these values. Aware of the fact that many circumstances and conditions of life have changed, NAPREDAK tries to find new motivation for present and future generations of Gornja Lastva inhabitants to restore life at the village, respecting traditional values. The intention is to find the right measure and ways of a restoration of architectural heritage which will not destroy, through “modernization,” what has so far been only touched by the time and survived in its original beauty. Often just declarative and somewhat politicized ecological slogans are intended here to be transformed into the way of living which feeds on the sources of the past of Gornja Lastva. Striving for complete restoration of the place also means the preservation of its cultural life.
In front of the Cultural Centre Ilija Markovic, Gornja Lastva, Photo by Antonela Stjepcevic
Thanks to this organization, Gornja Lastva was recognized as the dynamic address of cultural deities, especially during the summer months. Napredak is organizing numerous programs dedicated to the natural and cultural heritage of the village and Vrmac, as well as cultural manifestations which present the Vrmac space as an exceptional stage in the open sky.
In addition to the traditional Gornja Lastva Feast, which will be organized this year for the 42nd consecutive time, Napredak has been hosting the manifestation "Landscape Days" for five years, where visitors can enjoy numerous concerts of classical and popular music, exhibitions and literary evenings. The feature of this event is organizing programs at unusual times in unusual locations.
The Concert "Music at Down" in front of the parish church of St. Mary, Copyright: www.gornjalastva.org