Preceded by two jewel-like islands, Perast is focused on the sea. From the interaction between mainland and bay, the inherent contrast of stone and water, the dialogue of island and wave, sometimes in harmony but often in conflict, this sea-faring town has derived its unity, strength and sense of purpose. Despite its size, a sophisticated urban structure has arisen, demonstrated by the proportion, scale, massing and rhythm of the great number of public buildings, especially along the waterfront.
Powerful city walls frame the historical heart of the town, stretching along the edge of the hill St. Ivan to its peak – its highest strategic point. The walls grew successively together with the city. It is not known when their construction started. The oldest parts are those that along the northern gate, to the river Škurda and in the southwestern part by the sea. Their vertical structure was reinforced later, when firearms started to be used, with sloping buttresses on the outside. As of the 15th century Kotor became a border city, and, because of the constant threat of Turkish attacks, walls were expanded and strengthened, and the north door was built (1540), the western door was reconstructed (1555) and southern door next to the spring and bastion Gurdić was reinforced. By the sea and along the river Škurda, several bastions were built with towering Citadel. The walls were built until the 19th century, particularly their upper part. Within them, on the slope of the hill, there is the church of Our Lady of Health, called also Our Lady of Rest, which was used for the rite of the military garrison of the upper fortress.The oldest recorded archaeological building within the city is the early Christian basilica from the 6th century which was found beneath the present church of Maria Collegiate. It was, apparently, an abbey, which indicates that Kotor was already a significant urban settlement and episcopal city. At the beginning of the 9th century, the city got its patron – St. Triphun (in the local language - Tripun), to whom the Memorial Church was dedicated in the year 809.A more intense urban development can be traced only from the 12th century. It is only then that a new big cathedral was built (1166), then numerous Romanesque churches - St. Luka (1195), Maria Collegiate, (1221), St. Ana (early 13th century), St. Paul (1263) and some other unsaved churches. As for the Gothic buildings the palace Drago singles out as well as the ruins of refurbished palaces of Buća and Bizanti, as well as numerous remains of architectural sculptures - portals, trifora (multiple arched windows), bifora (semi-circular headed windows) and other relief ornaments. Apart from the local builders, stonemasons and sculptors, special place belongs to Franciscan Vito from Kotor - builder of the Monastery Dečani. Masters from other coastal cities and even occasional foreigners worked in the city of Kotor as well.As for the craftsmen there were remarkable jewelers, whose products were widely known, and some of them also worked in other countries. Among their art and craft creations - religious, votive and luxury - which are kept in the treasury of the cathedral and other churches, special place belongs to the gilded silver pala in the cathedral.During the 13th and 14th centuries, a group of painters worked in Kotor, known in the history of arts as pictores graeci. Written sources of the archives of Kotor record the names of Nikola and Manojlo at the beginning of the 14th century and Georgije at the end of the 14th century. Some of those “Greek” painters painted the frescoes in the cathedral and Maria Collegiate of which only fragments are preserved. Little did it get to this day from the greatest of all the painters of Kotor - Lovro Marinov Dobričević, who is attributed frescoes in the church of St. Ana and picture on the board in the Cathedral with the Virgin Mary and Christ, on one side, and Ecce Homo, on the other side.The Baroque style is the style of many other churches built in that time (St. Joseph, Our Lady of the Angels, St. Ghost), Palaces (Pima, Grubonja, Grgurina) and city houses, while numerous structures, sacral and profane, were redone in baroque style. The needs for paintings and sculptures were mainly meet through the import from Venice. In the city only a few local artists worked such as Fra Deziderio Kotoranin, or foreign artists such as Francesco Cabianca, the Venetian sculptor, who in the early 18th century made his greatest works in the very city of Kotor.The last major construction projects within the urban core of the city of Kotor were executed in the times of the Austro-Hungarian administration when, in the late 19th and early 20th century, several buildings were built, public and private, in the spirit of secession, which do not fit into the urban core of the ancient town of Kotor in the best possible way.Because of authenticity and general cultural and historical values as the eternal link between the Mediterranean and the Balkan hinterland, Kotor is on the UNESCO’s list as part of the World Natural and Cultural Heritage.
Today many call this island the island of the dead since the people from Perast were buried on the island. It is said that it was also called the “cursed island” since the Roman Pope officially cursed it because of a terrible crime that occurred on the island. Christians were afraid to step on it because they were afraid that the anathema of the Pope would get them. There are so many myths about this island...First archive records of the church and priory of Sv. Đorđe “Sanctus Georgius de Gulfo” dates back to 1166 when Ivan, abbot of Sv. Jurje, attended consecration of the new second Romanesque church of Sv. Tripun in Kotor. However, according to the findings of the ornaments on the church, it is assumed that the Benedictines have lived in the church since the 9th century.The legend says that the island had been white for centuries until the Benedictines came and planted cypresses – the symbols of death and transience of life. Design of the old church was not preserved, apart from individual details, since it was destroyed by the conquerors and earthquakes, particularly the earthquake in 1667. After that earthquake a simple church was built with a unique collection of heraldic marks on the graves of the old families from Perast. The island of Sv. Đorđe was a town cemetery until 1866 when a new one was built in the northern part of Perast. The priory was conquered by the Venetians and the French and the Austrians used it as a military fortress and built the protective walls with loopholes around it. On the island there are Illyrian graves, Roman inscriptions and Roman tegulae (roof-tiles).
The XVIII century baroque Grgurina palace, which is home to the Maritime Museum of Montenegro, is situated in the central part of the Old Town of Kotor, at the address: Trg Bokeljske mornarice 391. The exhibition area of this cultural institution is divided into three floors, namely:- ground floor, with six bronze relief plaques in the entrance hall, showing the most significant events and the most prominent figures from the past of Boka Kotorska (the Bay of Kotor). In the next room, dedicated to disabled persons, the photos of the Maritime Museum's exhibits are displayed on alarge plasma screen, and visitors can use audio guides in six foreign languages.- the first floor consists of five separate exhibition rooms, namely: the central hall featuring historical maritime period from XVI to XVIII century, salons of captain families Florio and Ivelic from XIX century, ethnographic section, and the room with historic arms.- the second floor is also divided into five rooms - the central hall featuring maritime technique collection from XVII and XIX centuries, section on the well-known 12-century-old brotherhood of the Boka Navy, section on the World Wars I and II, maritime school education and Montenegrin maritime, and the room dedicated to steam-shipping and the Jugooceanija company.In the summer time, the Maritime Museum's working hours are from 08:00 to 22:00, and the museum is open year-around for individual visitors and organised groups as well as for high delegations of various countries. The museum regularly organises book promotions, painting exhibitions, concerts, and marks important events. In the summer months, the first floor terrace is also at disposal for organising occasional cocktails.
According to legend, after a shipwreck, fishermen from Perast found the icon of the Virgin Mary with Christ on the sea cliff and vowed to build a church on that spot, dedicated to the icon of the Virgin Mary, the patron of seamen and fishermen. The interior of the church is adorned by a marble altar, built in 1796 by Antonio Capellano, a sculptor from Genoa. It holds the famous icon of Gospa od Škrpjela, painted by the famous painter Lovro Dobrićević in the middle of the 15th century.The walls and ceiling of the church are covered in paintings on canvas by Tripo Kokolja, one of the most famous local baroque painters. The paintings were commissioned by Andrija Zmajević. Sixty-eight paintings, some of which are in large format make Gospa od Škrpjela Church a unique gallery of Southern Adriatic baroque painting. Most prominent compositions are dedicated to the life of the Virgin Mary and are located in the upper parts of the walls and ceiling: the Crowning of Mary, the Death of Mary and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Between Kokolja’s paintings, on the lateral walls, there are votive silver plates with images of Boka ships, which Gospa od Škrpjela, as it is traditionally believed, helped in storms. The church building accommodates a collection of archaeological exhibits, paintings of ships, artisan craftwork and everyday objects.
The cathedral contains valuable examples of furnishings and works of art, in the church itself and in the treasury-reliquiarum. One side of the ciborium from the original church from the 9th century with a pre-Roman wattle (interlacing ornament) and lions is particularly rare. The newer, high ciborium originates from the second half of the 14th century and is probably the work of the apprentice of Fra. Vito Kotoranin. Lateral apsids have gothic sculptures – stone Pieta of Nordic origin and a wooden painted statue of Vinko Fererski. Four marble altars were made in Venice in the 18th century. A relief of the Virgin Mary with Christ and Saints was made by Deziderio Kotoranin in the baroque manner. There is also a masterpiece of Kotor’s medieval gold and silversmiths – silver and gold-plated pieces.From the frescoes that decorated the entire church in the first half of the 14th century, so-called pictores graeci, only smaller fragments have been preserved – the Crucifixion and the Resurrection in the apsid, and around ten figures in the apex of the arches between the naves. As far as easel paintings, particularly important are the Crucifixion by Basan Stariji, double-sided icons with the Virgin Mary and Christ in the Tomb, attributed to Lovro Dobrićević, Sts. Vartolomej, Djordje and Antonin by Girolamo da Santacroce, Paying Homage to the Kings by Mihael Najdlinger and several other works by unknown artists.
The bay is naturally divided into four smaller parts - Herceg Novi bay, Risan bay, Kotor bay and Tivat bay. The small towns, as treasuries of history, art and beauty, are strung like pearls on its coastline. Kotor is the old coastal and cultural centre. For centuries, it has been a crossroads of commercial roads under the strong influence of Venice. It is protected by mountains with a strong defense structure built during the time of Byzantine Empire. Dobrota is a small town in which numerous palaces of former sailors and shipowners are still preserved. Perast is the homeland of many world-known sailors and a town whose destiny has always been related to the sea. By its lifestyle, it resembled Venice with which it had very lively trade and cultural links. There are a lot of remains of the old aristocratic palaces that now bear witness to its ancient splendor and richness. In one of them, the Bujevic’s palace, the Town Museum is located. There is a very interesting historical story saying that the Russian soldiers used to come in Perast to learn sailing skills and that it was known as a cradle of the Russian fleet. There are two islets around Perast town – Gospa od Skrpjela(Lady of Skrpljel) and St Gorge, both unique tourist attractions. Risan is famous for the remnants of the classical culture. The remains of a Roman patrician’s villa with mosaic floors as beautiful as those made in Roman period can be found here. Herceg Novi is a town situated at the end of the bay. Its appearance is an illustration of its turbulent history. The town is a fine combination of romantic, Byzantine and oriental styles interweaved in the Mediterranean appearance of this town. Today, Herceg Novi is the town of flowers with all its windows faced toward the sun and the sea. It is one of the warmest towns on the Adriatic coast. One should visit the City Museum and the Archives, the Modern Arts Gallery, and the Old town with Tower clock.