The panoramic view of Sveti Stefan is surely one of the most memorable sights along Montenegro’s coast, photographed so many times that it is almost impossible to imagine a promotional brochure or video without its enchanting look. This miniature island is dotted with stone houses and joined with the mainland by narrow sand isthmus which the sea currents have built during the ages. It is an exclusive tourist resort visited by rich and famous with each house serving as a separate luxurious apartment.
The history of Sveti Stefan goes back to 115th century when Paštrovići clan helped the besieged Kotor by attacking the Turks from their rear. Returning from this victory, Paštrovići learned that the Turkish fleet is harboured near Budva. The surprise attack was a success and great booty was obtained from the sunken ships. Expecting the Turkish reprisal, they decided to use the loot to build a fort on this craggy island. On the island each of twelve families had a house while jointly they built a church dedicated to St Stefan which gave the name of their settlement. The attack indeed come and was later repeated many times, but the island fort withstood them all, serving as a refuge for all the clan members during the worst of times. Gradually more houses were built in this stronghold by Paštrovići merchants and by those who turned to attacking the Turkish ships and the small town soon became an unofficial capital of the clan. At the beginning of the 19th century the “smallest town in the Adriatic” grew to 400 inhabitants but shortly afterwards it started to decay due to the demise of the sailing ships. When in 1954 the number of inhabitants fell to just 21 it was decided to resettle them and turn the island into and apartment hotel.
The coast facing the island boasts a fine sandy beach, several small hotels and all the tourist practicalities one might need. The only approach to the former island is by isthmus, built in 1907 in place of the seasonal sand bar. Just by the heavy towns gate is small church dedicated to the Transfiguration from 1693 with the remains of the frescoes from that period. The narrow crooked lanes lead to the highest spot on the island with the remains of the frescoes from that period. The narrow crooked lanes lead to the highest spot on the island which is crowned by two churches, both dedicated to St Steven. That smaller church was founded with the town in the 15th century while the largest dates from 1885. The larger later served as a court church to King Aleksandar of Yugoslavia and was re-dedicated to St Alexander Nevsky, a Russian saint known for his victory against the Teutonic knights, not a great surprise if we consider that Aleksandar was a close relative of the Russian court and held ambitions to the throne emptied by the Bolsheviks. In the church there is an iconostasis by Marko Gregović.
The first cove to the north of Sveti Stefan is the famous Miločer beach. This quaint inlet has the one-time residence of King Aleksandar, a nice 1934 villa in the style of local stone houses. It’s sides are sheltered by thick groves while the wooded park behind the villa was populated with tropical plants during the time it was king’s reserve. One rocky hill further beyond Miločer is the small Kraljičina plaža (“Queens Beach”) named after Aleksandar’s wife Marija who regularly enjoyed its 120m of sand surrounded with cypress trees and olives.
This monastery is set in a peaceful landscape above the main highway not far from Sveti Stefan. The picturesque cypress-lined approach to the monastery complex is an experience in itself. Praskvica got its name after a well whose water supposedly had an aroma somewhat like peaches (praskve). The monastery consists of two churches, the monk’s dwelling and an old school. The large church is dedicated to St Nicholas, protector of travelers and sailors. It is dates from 1847 and stands on the foundations of the one built by Balša III Balšić in 1413. This old church was destroyed in a French attack on Paštrovići in 1812 when the clan rebelled against the banishing of their privileges. Inside there is an excellent 1863 high iconostasis by Nicholaos Aspiotis from Corfu. To the left of the iconostasis is the only remaining part of the old church painted with frescoes dating from the 15th century.
The small church of Holy Trinity lies uphill from the large one on the cemetery. The local tradition holds that was founded in 1050 but the first written evidence of its of monastery’s existence comes from 1307. The small church was even tinier before it got the narthex with the belfry. The interior was painted in 1680 by painter Radul who was assisted by Dimitrije, the founder of the Dimitrijević- Rafailović school of painting which left a permanent mark on icon-painting in Montenegrin coast-land. The ceiling portrays holidays of the Orthodox Church while the walls stand out of the frescoes of the Holly Warriors, Christ between kings David and Solomon and of St Sava with his father Simeon Nemanja. Adjoining the church is the building which once grave home to the first school in the region of Paštrovići clan.
Montenegro Hostel Team