The cultural life of Kotor can be traced as far back as from the 12th century. However, uninterrupted records of such activities date from the 14th century based on the first saved written records in Kotor in 1326. There is mention of Maritime school activities in that period although there were no actual written records about the school until the beginning of the 19th century.
Maritime High School in Kotor avails itself of a distinguished tradition. The seafaring and navigation knowledge used to be conveyed in a direct manner, only in the 17th century attempts were made at systematic teaching. Those were so called periodic schools. In Perast it was the friars who taught basic seafaring in their school operating since 1637. Marko Martinović and Matija Zmajević were amongst their students. Later on Martinović himself founded a school in Perast. In 1698 Martinović, based on his own experience, taught 17 Russian dukes and boyars sent to Perast by Peter the Great.
There was a private school in Prčanj, in the monastery of St. Nikola in the second half of 18th and first half of 19th century. There are no reliable records on until when it operated, except for the fact that friars and experienced captains were the teachers. Ivan Vizin, who would later on sail around the world, was one of their students.
“Maritime High School” in Kotor was founded in 1849 and at that time it had 7 students. In 1852 it had two, in 1879 three, and in 1896 five classes. The official teaching language was Italian. Only in 1912 did Serbo-Croatian become the teaching language under the influence of people’s enthusiasm brought on by victories of Serbia and Montenegro. The number of students at that time tripled. The school’s youth frequently showed their political fighting spirit with protests against Austro-Hungary. During First World War the school was closed.
The school was restructured in 1918. At that time there were 4 professional classes and accepted were students who passed their so called small Baccalaureate. In 1921 it was named “Maritime Academy”, in 1932 “Maritime-Merchant Academy”, in 1947 “Maritime technical school” and since 1952 it has been known as the “Maritime School”. In 1969 the school was awarded with the gold star medal for public merit. Then the school was named after the renowned seafarer and teacher of maritime skills Marko Martinović.
The name Maritime School Kotor was reinstated in the restructuring of the educational system in 1974.
Since it was founded the school has changed the facility in which it operated five times. From the Franciscan monastery in Kotor it moved to Dobrota (house of Kapović family), then to Kotor (Pima palace). In 1913 the school operated in the building of today’s School for Maritime Studies, and in 1952 it moved yet again to the facilities of the former company “Zetska plovidba” in Tabačina. After the earthquake in 1979 the school was again in Dobrota. Now in the 21st century the Maritime school has been educating captains and chief engineers since 1979 in the same building. They sail the world on modern vessels with the knowledge they gained at this school by graduating and becoming cadets. This knowledge is their means to be accepted on board any and all ships. Our seafarers remain respected and well received in all seafaring companies worldwide. It brings great joy and pride to the teachers of this school every time alumni send greetings from all over the world to their old school in Dobrota.
The bay of Boka of Kotor is a natural fiord situated on the south of the Adriatic coast. Kotor is in the most inner part of the fiord, at the foot of Pestingrad hill on one side of the bay and at the foot of Vrmac hill on the other side of the bay. The slopes of mountain Lovćen are in the background of the bay of Kotor.
Many a legends are associated with the foundation of Kotor. The history of the town dates back to the middle of 3rd century and the king Argon and queen Teuta, after which it was destroyed and conquered by the Romans who in the following centuries conducted accelerated Romanization of the area. Roman settlements (today Risan) were destroyed during invasions by barbarians who brought down the Roman Empire. However the survived inhabitants found refuge and settled the far end of the bay of Kotor where they founded early medieval Kotor. The origin of the town name is the word DEKATERA (ancient Greek for KATAREO – springs). After the Romans, Kotor was under Byzantine rule until 1185. Instead of Akruvium as it was originally named, under Byzantine rule Kotor was named DEKADERON. In the period from 1185 to 1371 Kotor was one of the coastal towns part of the medieval Serbian state, under rule of the Nemanjić dynasty. The Nemanjić dynasty names the town Kotor making it the main seafaring port through which connections were maintained with the west. At the beginning of 9th century the sacred relics of St. Tryphon the martyr were brought to Kotor from Constantinople and for the first time a church of the type martyrium was built. In the centuries to follow the town developed fast having survived an invasion by the Saracens in the middle of 9th century and an attack by Macedonian tsar Samuilo at end of 10th century. In the 12th century continued the building of the great cathedral similarly to Romanic basilicas, in which the relics of the town protector St. Tryphon were soon put to rest.
By end of 12th century Kotor became part of the Raška state under rule of Nemanjić dynasty and in the two centuries to come experiences the greatest economic and cultural development so far. In 1195 the picturesque church of St. Luka was built, a single nave domed structure, a mixture of Romanic and Byzantine style. In 1221 on the foundations of an old Christian basilica a new church was built, the church of St. Mary of the river with a roof and dome made of stone slates, in which stunningly beautiful frescoes were found. The church of St. Martin (today St. Ana) was also built in this period. The St. Nikola’s church which belonged to the brotherhood of seamen was fresco painted in the 14th century, as well as the church of St. Jacob near the town hall, the foundation of which is marked in the pavement of the main town square.
After the fall of the Serbian empire due to Turkish invasion, in Kotor begins an unsettling time filled with seeking for a powerful protector, first of which the Hungarian king Ludovic, then Bosnian Tvrtko I who founded the town of St. Stjepan in 1382 (today Herceg Novi). Being under constant attacks by the Balšić army, then Crnojević and Sandalj Hranić army, Kotor was forced to side with Venice in 1420. The Venetian rulers gradually took away from Kotor the privileges it had and the Turks conquered the surrounding areas which was reason for strengthening the protection of the town center with the bastion on the hill of St. Ivan.
Throughout history Kotor was struck by devastating earthquakes in 1539, 1564 and 1582. In the 1667 catastrophe two thirds of the town property was destroyed. At that time the studying of seafaring was moved to Perast situated opposite the strait Verige. In recent history unforgettable remains the 15th April 1979 when Kotor suffered another devastating earthquake.
Kotor and Boka bay seafaring tradition is as old as 12 centuries! The oldest seamen fraternity in Kotor – the Navy of Boka guards the tradition of merchant navy. A seamen squadron dressed in traditional typically Boka bay uniforms and carrying antique weapons performs a dance on occasion of every festivity in Kotor. The Boka navy has its Admiralty. On festive occasions this old fraternity performs the traditional dance to especially composed music similar to the one from Malta.
The most famous seaman and captain in the history of Kotor is by all means Ivo Vizin (1806 – 1868) who is known for the greatest seafaring venture in the 19th century for this region. He went on a merchant run with his sailboat and sailing from port to port Vizin sailed all around the world. Andrija Zanon, a famous shipbuilder form Rijeka spent two years building a type brig sailboat. The new “Splendido” under Vizin’s command started the voyage from Antwerp on the 11th of July 1852.
His voyage was filled with numerous difficulties (storms, pirates, mutinies). In February 1859 the famous captain from Prčanj decided to head homewards. “Splendido” arrived in Trieste on 30th July 1859. His voyage around the world lasted 7 years, 6 months and 19 days.
Ivo Vizin was only one of the many well-reputed captains from Boka who sailed literally all seas worldwide. Long before Vizin, in 1823 there is mention of navigation officer Stefan Vukotić. Along with Vizin and Vukotić, Petar Zambelić, Marko Ivanović, Tomo Milinović, Marko Martinović, also made the history of Kotor as famous seamen and captains. Noteworthy are certainly seamen from the Zmajević, Milošević, Visković and Ivelić families.
From 1797 to 1805 Kotor was part of the Austrian empire. In 1806 the Russians came to Kotor and ruled the town for only one year until 1807. Soon after, Kotor was under threat by the French. Since the Russian army was defeated by the French in the battle of Friedland, the Russians gave Kotor to the French by means of a secret treaty, and the French ruled Kotor from 1807 to 1813. The Montenegrin ruler Petar I Petrović came to the aid of Kotor in September 1813. At that time the Montenegrin and the people from Boka fought together against the French monarchy, and for a while there was a sort of union between Boka and the Montenegrin state of that period. However, this union lasted for only nine months since this union was not accepted by the Paris peace conference in 1814. This conference allocated Boka (Kotor with the surrounding area) to Austria (1814 – 1918).
In the second half of the 19th century seafaring in Kotor flourished. In the period from 1852 – 1902 the seafaring industry in Boka was made up of 300 long distance sailboats of more than 100.000 tons capacity. After this period all these ships were lost to being either sold, sunk, or sequestered because of debt etc. In 1902 the last sail boat in Boka “Nemirna” owned by the famous family of captains – the Miloševićs, sank in Biscay.
At the end of the 19th century there were attempts at founding a steamship company in Boka, i.e. “Bokeška plovidba” (1892 – 1917). The company initially had two steamships, the “Kotor” and the “Ercegnovi” and later on two more, the “Tivat” and the “Risan”. However Austria favored mostly the northern ports and Boka was left to its own devices.
During the 100 years of Austrian rule there were numerous rebellions, uprisings of the people of Boka. The most memorable rebellion was the rebellion of the sailors in 1918 onboard ships “Sankt Georg” and “Gea”. 6 000 sailors of the Austro-Hungarian military fleet took command of the ships and hoisted red flags on 40 ships in the Bay of Boka. The sailors overtook the ships and isolated the officers in the cabins. However, due to several lapses in judgment during the mutiny, mostly because communication was still through official authorities, and due to determined resolve by the authorities to stop the rebels by armed suppression, or by sinking all the ships if need be, the rebellion failed after the authorities had stalled with negotiations to gain time. One fraction of the rebels was in favor of sailing away with the ships in order to join the ally forces – Entente, while the other wanted the ships to stay in Boka.
The authorities issued an ultimatum to the rebellious sailors, ordered evacuation of the civilian crew and German submarines were ordered to sink the “Sankt Georg” and “Gea”.
In spring 1941 Kotor already exhausted by numerous occupations, along with all the other parts of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was struck by the greatest of all the wars – World War II. From May 1941 to September 1943 the town was occupied by the Italians, and after the capitulation of Italy it was under German rule for one year. The town was liberated by the partisan forces of the People liberation army on the 20th September 1944 when it became part of Montenegro in the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia, later to be called Federate National Republic of Yugoslavia and Social Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The inhabitants of Kotor along with all the people in Boka have always been instilled with the sense of togetherness regardless of nationality or religious orientation. This characteristics was evident even more so during World War II in their fight against fascism. In these times the people of Kotor showed their unique nature. There are testimonies about an ingenious way of distributing propaganda leaflets; this was done during carnivals in plain sight of authority and the police.
After World War II, Kotor became extremely important for the economic development of Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, another devastating earthquake strikes Kotor on 15th April 1979. The old town was destroyed, cultural heritage was jeopardized and many families become homeless. It took a long time for Kotor to recover from this catastrophe, and those who remember this Sunday morning will always feel fear and anguish thinking about it. The lives lost in this tragedy will never be forgotten.
Kotor Old Town has been on UNESCO world cultural heritage list since 1979.
The turmoil at turn of 20th century affected Kotor as the rest of the world. Factories and companies were shut down, of which the closing of “Jugooceania” affected the people of Kotor the most. Jugooceania was founded in 1955 with 5 ocean going ships. In the seventies its fleet was made up of 20 ships and it brought annual revenue which was more than 50% of the total revenue in the municipality Kotor.
Today Kotor is a town the inhabitants of which try hard to guard what is typical of Kotor, their traditions, but at the same time to integrate into contemporary developments, transitional changes which are common for the beginning of 21st century. The maritime High School is of historical importance to the town of Kotor, and the fact that above mentioned historical facts can be read online speaks of the fact that the people of Kotor strive for their tradition not to be forgotten.