Situated on mildly rising slopes on the north end Risan’s bay lays a town with the longest history of all the settlements in the Gulf of Kotor-Risan. Behind it, amidst the bushy Mediterranean vegetation well-known for its many herbs , one seeds the old road twisting steadily into the mountains.
It was by this very road that its first known inhabitants, the Illyrian tribe of Rhizonites , descended to the shore and founded the town.First mentioned in the 4 century BC, it grew steadily in importance and it is quite possible that it become the capital of Illyrian king Argon and his wife Teuta.
The legend holds that queen Teuta, after she was defeated by the Romans in 229 BC, retreated here and decided to commit suicide rather than fall into the hands of her adversaries. In fact, Teuta succumbed to the Romans and was left to rule a small district as a Roman vassal and thus Risan continued to be a seat of several more kings, one which minted his money here. Absorbed into the Roman Empire, the town obtained the status of colonia and was named Iulium Rhisinium.
In those days it was several times larger then today and held such importance that the whole Gulf of Kotor was actually named Sinus Rhizonicus, a name by which it was known well into Middle Ages. In early Christian times Risan became the seat of bishop. With the coming of the days when strong walls were the only valid protection, most of its populace escaped to the newly founded Kotor.
Risan’s fate was sealed in 865 AD when it was sacked and burnt down in a raid by Saracen corsairs. In the Middle Ages in stagnated and it remains unclear if its name designated a town or perhaps just a group of villages. The Turks captured it in 1482 and held it until 1687 when the Venetians got hold of it. Although in the 18th century the inhabitants took to seamanship and gave several famous captains, they kept close ties with the Herzegovinian hinterland by means of the only decent road leading inland from Gulf of Kotor, still to be seen winding uphill beyond the town.
The “Herzegovinian market” brought in trade but also helped keep the old traditions alive, making the locals differ from the other inhabitants of Boka in terms of dress and unity of ideas. This became especially evident during the Krivošije and Herzegovina uprisings which they steadfastly supported. The same bravery was shown during the occupation in WWII when they led the uprising in this region.
Risan of our days is a township keeping with its own pace and is seemingly not particularly interested in tourism apart from the Hotel “Teuta” with its Carine gravel beach and a small yachting quay. Unlike the situation in most other places in Boka, Risan’s central Gabela Street leads from the shore to the hills. The street is lined with quaint stone houses and paved with multi-coloured rocks set in simple patterns.
To the right of the street is a park with two orthodox churches. The smaller one is older and dates from 1601, but sits on the ruins of medieval church. The large one, dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, was built in 1796 in a retrained baroque style. Its dominant feature is the tall bell tower with a clock and fine rose window.
The most important works of art inside the church are its 16th and 19th of century, icons, many of them painted by the local Dimitrijević- Rafailović family that gave eleven artists in five generations.
Two centuries of their continuous work saw very few changes in their conservative style. Just a few steps to the right of the park is Risan’s best known site, the remains of a Roman country villa with marvelous mosaics all from 3rd century AD.The freshly built visitors’ center treasures well preserved mosaics with a range of floral and geometrical patterns; certainly the most memorable among them is one depicting Hypnos, the deity of sleep and oblivion, which embellished the bedroom of the villa.
A road leading upwards from this point follows the old route to the hinterland. Today is primarily used as a shortest way to Nikšić. Similar to the “Ledder of Kotor”, this road turns quickly into a series of serpentine with stunning views over the Gulf.
While driving along it pay attention as it is narrow and very bumpy. The road reaches the new one halfway up the slope but don’t be deceived since these good conditions don’t last all the way to Nikšić. After approximately 1,5 km at a sharp curve take a left turn onto a minor road. This is the area of the Krivošije clan, best known for its brave uprising and the village of Crkvice which has the highest precipitation in the whole of Europe, averaging yearly 5317 mm and with the highest rainfall of 8065 mm recorded in year 1937.
Unfortunately, nearly all of the villagers left for the seaside after the 1979 earthquake and this whole region is virtually uninhabited today. That means that Crkvice (or any other place here) is impossible to recognize. The whole region is sunk in wilderness and its interesting only for adventures hikers and speleologists.
About a kilometer away from Risan in the direction of Herceg Novi the highway passes above crag in the in the rocks, the Sopot well. Uninteresting in sunny weather, the well should be visited after the rain when it turns into a wild looking waterfall, spilling a huge amounts of water into the sea from the height of some 30 m.
Krivošije (literally “Bent Necks”) are a clan living in the unssaiable mountain hinterland of Boka Kotorska. Though their territory lies close to the sea their ways were more similar to those of the neighboring Montenegrins and they lived with a little or no connection to their normal masters in towns by the sea. In 1869 Austria-Hungary decided to break the old agreement between the clans of Boka Kotorska and the Venetian Republic by which the clans were exempt from serving the army. Krivošije ( and other maritime clans such Grbljani, Paštrovići etc.), who saw this as a breach of tradition and an intrusion on their freedom, unanimously refused to obey and rose to arms.
The first smaller army units sent against them did not even manage to reach the clan’s settlements. The Empire took to wider preparations and amassed an army several directions but were attacked in the harsh terrain which offered excellent possibilities for ambush, blocking of narrow roads and hit-and-run tactics. After several days of hard fighting the troops had to retread. After another offensive was beaten off the commanding general was dismissed but the next one and his attack from all sides witnessed a similar fate. After four months of fighting with very little results the Empire was forced to give upon a tactic of slow intrusion, buildings forts which were not meant to just protect the border but also to keep an eye on the clans. To connect the forts to the seaside and among themselves, the Austrians built many roads in very difficult terrain, some of which remain unchanged to this day. When in 1881 the original agreement was broken again the new uprising was dealt within a few weeks and many of the rebels fled to Montenegro.
ENVIRONS: PREHISTORIC DRAWINGS AT LIPCI ROCK
Distance from Kotor to Risan is 13 km.
Local bus "Blue Line" departures to Risan every hour.
Bus ticket costs 1,5 euro.
Entrance fee for Roman Mosaics is 2 euros.
Price for food and drinks are the same ( or little less) then in Kotor.
Risan is quiet town even in the top season.
Distance from Risan to Lipci is 3 km.
There is no entrance fee for prehistoric drows.
There is free parking close to the drows.
Welcome to Risan and Lipci!
Montenegro Hostel Team