Though throughout centuries one of the most important spiritual centres of Montenegro, Cetinje rightfully gained the status of Christian pilgrimage. This status was provided by three highly praised relics: piece of the cross on which Christ was crucified, right hand of Saint John the Baptist which baptised Issus Christ and the Icon of Lady of Philermos. Relics, which were kept for centuries in Tsarigrad, after the Turkish conquest mid XV century, where given as a gift from Turkish authorities to the knights of order of Saint John who managed the Greek island Rhodes. After the knights moved to Malta, all the way until Bonaparte, the knights took care of holy relics, but later on when they to abandon their seat, Russian emperor Pavle took them in, so they gave him the relics in gratitude. At the beginning of XIX the Russian emperor had court workshops make golden chests for these costly relics and a box for the icon and they were all embroidered with finest jewels.
After the fall of Russian monarchy, the relics were handed for safekeeping to the Yugoslav King Aleksandar Karađorđević. At the beginning of World War II, the Karađorđević dynasty, forced to emigrate, gave them to Montenegrin monastery Ostrog where they were kept until 1952 when they were taken by state authorities of communist Yugoslavia. Today, beside two relics at the monastery of Cetinje, the third one – the Icon of Our Lady of Philermos is in the museum setting at the National Museum of Montenegro in Cetinje.
The Wallachia Church is considered to be the oldest temple and at the same time the oldest construction in Cetinje. It was built around 1450 by shepherds from Wallachia who, according to a legend, built it as mud coated cottage.
The Wallachia church was built at a large necropolis – a Christian cemetery with tombs, old tombstones, which used to count around 150. The temple was expanded and restored more than once. Around XVI or XVII century, a stone structure was made which was one third in size in comparison to the existing one and it seems it was fresco painted. Present architectural forms – nicely built one-nave structure with distaff bell tower originate from the period of its last restoration conducted in 1864. Two old tombs in front of the church, under which, according to a legend, famous Montenegrin hero Bajo Pivljanin and his wife were buried, and their characteristics imply they originate from XIV century. The fence of the port of the church made of 1544 gun barrels seized from the Turks in 1885 and 176-78 wars testifies to what extent the Montenegrins revered this holy temple built in the honour of birth of Our Lady. In the interior of the church there is iconostasis painted in 1878 by Macedonian iconostasis painter Vasilije Đinovski, and among others, he portrayed Petar I Petrović Njegoš outstandingly. Some distinguished people from Montenegrin history were buried at the cemetery around the Wallachia church: Jovan Pavlović – the first minister of education, metropolitan bishops Ilarion Roganović and Visarion Ljubiša, wise man Sula Radov etc.
His endowment, ruler Ivan completed in 1484. Newly established monastery consisted of patron church, of Our Lady, a small church-chapel dedicated to St. Petar, economic and residential buildings and in its vicinity a stone mill was built for the monastic brotherhood.
Releasing a founding charter, the Montenegrin ruler gave many properties to the new seat of the Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Coast and made sure that it was decorated artistically. Temple of the Birth of Our Lady was built in the form of a one-nave building with a dome, grand main portal and a porch with a double colonnade with Renaissance capitals.
At the monastery a scriptorium formed which will soon become the most important scribal centre of Montenegro. At the end of life Ivan Crnojević undertook the most famous act of Crnojević dynasty – foundation of the first printing press in the southern Balkans. This idea was realized by his successor Đurađ who delivers printing press from Venice in 1490. In the period from 1494 until 1496, monk Macarius with eight associates printed Oktoih, the first voice – the first Cyrillic book of the South Slavs, and another 4 books that became the model for all Cyrillic print houses.
Monastery of Cetinje
In the period 1701-1704 metropolitan bishop Danilo, the first ruler from dynasty Petrović Njegoš built a new monastery at the location where the Crnojević palace was demolished and it became the political and spiritual seat of Montenegro.
Newly built monastery continued the tradition of the old monastery at Ćipur – a part of capital, tiles with coat of arms of Crnojević dynasty and founder inscription were fitted into its architecture. In the hard times to come, filled with constant battles with Ottoman warriors, the monastery of Cetinje was demolished and set on fire in 1712, 1714, 1785, but metropolitan bishop of Cetinje and the loyal people continued to restore and expand it. Its current appearance for the most part originates from 1786.
In the small church with beautiful iconostasis – the works of Greek craftsmen form XIX century, there are graves of Prince Danilo and Grand duke Božo Petrović. Special relics are kept at the church: holy relics of Metropolitan Bishop Saint Petar I Cetinjski, a statesman, spiritual man, poet and peacemaker and founder of the state of Montenegro , as well as world famous Christian relics: particle of the holy Cross and the hand of Saint John the Baptist, displayed in costly gold chests, embroidered with jewels.
Created during hundreds of years, the treasury of the monetary of Cetinje represents one of the richest and most significant sacral museum collections in the Balkans. This precious historic-artistic fund, which can be chronologically followed from XIII to XX century, is composed of old manuscripts and printed book, iconostases, church embroidery, old goldsmith craft, woodcut etc.
Until it was demolished by the Turks in 1692, the Monastery of Cetinje was the main religious seat of Montenegro – here dwelled Montenegrin metropolitan bishops, political decisions were made, spiritual life was developed and spread from here. Today, at the spot of the old monastery there is nicely built church with the dome which was built by Montenegrin Prince Nikola as a kind of a memorial court, a claim supported by the founding inscription above the western door where the previous edifice of ruler Ivan Crnojević is mentioned. Interior of the court temple is dominated by luxurious gilded iconostas, the work of Petersburg iconostas painters from the end of XIX century. In 1989 the remains of King Nikola and Queen Milena were moved from San Remo and buried in marble tombs in the church. In front of the iconostas tombstone is set for the remains of ruler Ivan Crnojević.
Thus, the church at Ćipur provided resting place to the founder of Cetinje duke Ivan Crnojević and king Nikola I during whose reign the town achieved highest degree of development.