Risan: Most Important Archaeological Site of Montenegro

By , 23 Nov 2019, 21:19 PM Travel
Risan: Most Important Archaeological Site of Montenegro Town of Risan, Photo by Antonela Stjepcevic
November 23, 2019 - Today's Risan is one of the small settlements along the Bay of Kotor, best known for the Hospital for Orthopedics and Neurology, but also a top-rated tourist destination, especially in the context of tourism of particular interests - cultural and active tourism. 
 
Once the administrative center of Boka Bay, Risan was significant in ancient times, thus representing one of the most important archaeological sites of Montenegro. Besides the well-known mosaics from Roman times, a long and rich history of this small town could be recognized almost on every step. Unfortunately, Montenegro is not investing a lot of effort and knowledge to use its cultural heritage as a driver of development, and this town is one of the outstanding examples of the way this country is treating its treasure needed to be saved for the generations to come.
 
"In the past, everything used to be better, more beautiful, and more honorable than today; we keep on supporting that belief with various examples stemming from our own self-deceiving experience," writes Dr. Branko Sbutega from the Boka Navy Belgrade. This organization recently published the transcription of the book "Bay of Kotor," written by the priest Niko Luković in 1951.
 
Don Niko Luković was not only the priest of Prčanj but also a dedicated researcher who gave a lot for the culture of Boka Bay. "The Bay of Kotor" is his best-known book, and the text on Risan, which follows, is just a small part of his presentation of the vibrant and rich history of this calm Bay, always interesting for its position between East and West.
 

Risan, "The Bay of Kotor", Don Niko Luković

 
Risan was an Illyrian settlement and once the most prominent urban center in the Bay of Kotor, which used to be known as the Bay of Risan until the arrival of the Venetians. It has the oldest (Illyrian) mint in our country. The town was known by the Greeks as early as 300 BC. It was a Greek colony, as well.
 
In 228 BC, the Illyrian queen Teuta hid from the Romans in Risan, where, according to legend, she committed suicide by jumping into the sea, unable to defy them. Pliny the Younger refers to Risan as Rhizinium, "the fortified city of the Roman citizens. "In the Roman era, it had around 10,000 inhabitants. According to lore, part of it went diocese, which existed until the 16th century. When the Ottomans conquered Herceg Novi in 1538, Risan surrendered too and remained under their rule until 1687 (except for the brief interception in 1648), when it fell under the Venetian rule and remained so until 1797. "We are kind to good people"- that is what the people here are said to have responded to the Venetian doge once when he reprimanded them for their disobedience. Risan was the center of anti-Austrian resistance during the Krivosije insurgencies. In the Nevesinje Uprising of 1875, Risan was the shelter for the families from Herzegovina and the connection between the sea and the insurgents.
 
In 1875, during the liberation wars, the Ottoman authorities agreed with the Austrian government on obtaining permission to transport food to the besieged Turks in Nikšić via a route passing through Risan.  Austria demanded that the residents of Risan help, there was not a soul in Risan willing to lend a horse or actively participate in the transport of that food, which went putrid in Risan, untouched by anyone.
 
The people of Risan have always highlighted how rebellious they are when it comes to social justice. When a significant national movement against Count Khuen-Hedervary took sway in Croatia in 1903, in which several of our men were killed, the Municipality of Risan was the first in the Provence of Dalmatia to fly a black flag. Risan has had its municipality since the beginning of the 18th century. 
 
The residents of Risan were involved in the national liberation movement during World War II, many of whom fell in the battle. In October and November 1944, fierce battles were fought between the national liberation army brigades and the Germans; our fighters bested the stronger enemies and hampered their retreat. Risan was severely damaged on occasion (...)
The great benefactors Vaso Cukovic and Dimitrije Ljubatovic were also from Risan.
 
Vuk Karadzic praised the locals on the purity of their language, wearing of the folk dress, and their observation of traditional customs. Risan used to have renowned gunsmiths and folk dress markers.
 
In the past, the people of Risan mostly worked in the trade. Vast amounts of cattle, dried meat, wool, hide, and wood was exported from Montenegro via Risan. Risan used to be the main marketplace for Herzegovinians, just like Kotor used to be for Montenegrins.
 
Risan is an important archaeological site with Greek and Roman artifacts. First identified by the French in the early 19th century, the famous Roman mosaics from the early second century were rediscovered by Dušan Vuksan in 1935.
 
risan mosaicsRoman Mosaic of God Hypnos, Copyright: waytomonte
 
The five sections of some Roman palace are decorated with figural and ornamental mosaic depictions. The section showing the reclining god Hypnos is particularly beautiful. These mosaics can match the most exquisite mosaics of the period. The Montenegrin almanac Grlica wrote in 1838: "The village of Carine has preserved its name since the time of her (Queen Teuta's) residence; her castle and court were there; the walls are barely discernible, whereas the mosaic floor similar to those found in Pompei is still visible. "Last year (1950) as the Ministry of Education's Body, the Cultural Heritage Protection Bureau of (...) Montenegro initiated excavation works at the aforementioned site Carine (...). Giant blocks of processed and wonderfully ornate white Greek marble have seen the light of day, as well as marble and granite columns. They seem to have been part of some monumental Roman votive temple. There was a Roman forum too. Another mosaic has been found during these excavations. In all likelihood, it is the very mosaic mentioned by the Grlica almanac. Once systematic research has begun, and a museum of Ancient Greek and Roman antiquities has opened in Risan, the town will become a significant attraction for scholars and travelers.
 
There is a cave with a lake with drinking water in Risan. The spring of the Spila Stream is located inside the cave.
 
The late 18th-century Orthodox Church of Sts Peter and Paul has kept its interior in solid condition. The star on its front is particularly pretty. The Church contains a shroud od artistic value made by Russian nuns and received as a gift from the Russian court. This Church also contains a gospel brought from Moscow in 1754. The original Church was founded in 1601 it was restored in 1796. Another historical landmark is St Michael's Church from 1767.
 
There are two endowments of Vaso Cukovic in Risan: the modern hospital, the largest in the People's Republic of Montenegro, built according to the plan of the architect Milan Zlokovic, and the Educational Centre. The mellifluous bells of the parish church are a gift from him, too.
 
The endowment of the aforementioned Dimitrije Ljubatovic is on Rtac.
 
Lately, Risan has emerged as a popular tourist destination, as well. 
A significant attraction of Risan is the mountain range that surrounds it, creating an exceptionally romantic landscape that can only be seen in the Norwegian fjords.
 
Father Niko Lukovic, "The Bay of Kotor, "translated by Andrea Stojilkov

Photo galleries and videos