Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral

Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral
Cetinje Monastery seat of the Metropolitanate
Territory Montenegro
Headquarters Cetinje, Montenegro
- Total

400,000 est.
Denomination Eastern Orthodox
Sui iuris church Serbian Orthodox Church
Established 1219 (as Eparchy of Zeta)
Language Church Slavonic
Current leadership
Bishop Metropolitan Amfilohije

The Metropolitanate of Montenegro is the largest diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro. Founded in 1219 by Saint Sava, it is now one of the most prominent dioceses in the Serbian Orthodox Church. The current Metropolitan bishop is Amfilohije Radović. His current title is "Archbishop of Cetinje and Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral".


Eparchy of Zeta (1219–1346)

The Metropolitanate of Zeta was founded in 1219 by Sava of the Nemanjić dynasty, the first Archbishop of the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church. After having received the status of an autocephalous Eastern-Orthodox Church by the Ecumenical Patriarch and confirmed by the Emperor of Nicaea, Archbishop Sava organized the area under his ecclesiastical jurisdiction into nine bishoprics. One of these was the bishopric of Zeta (the southern half of modern Montenegro). The seat of the Zetan bishops at that time was the Monastery of Holy Archangel Michael in Prevlaka (near Tivat). The first bishop of Zeta was St. Sava's disciple Ilarion (fl. 1219). The bishopric (eparchy) of Zeta was elevated to a metropolitanate by the decisions of the state-church council of Skopje in 1346, presided over by the Serbian Emperor Stefan Dušan.

Metropolitanate of Zeta (1346–1485)

The fall of the Serbian medieval state in 1389 to the Turks after the Battle of Kosovo and the gradual disintegration of its parts in the 15th century, together with the Venetian conquest of the coastal cities of Kotor, Budva and the Paštrovići region in 1420–1423, endangered the Zetan Orthodox Metropolitanate. In 1452 the Venetians destroyed the Orthodox Monastery of St Michael the Archangel in Prevlaka to facilitate their plans for the forceful conversion of the Orthodox Christians from these parts of the coast into the Roman Catholic faith. From 1452 the seat of the Metropolitanate several times (variously to St Mark's Monastery in Budva, to the Monastery of the Virgin Mary in the mountains close to the city of Bar, and St Nicholas's Monastery on Vranjina (Skadar Lake), and then to St Nicholas's Monastery in Obod (Rijeka Crnojevića) ) moved to Cetinje Monastery, built in 1484. When the Zeta plains finally fell to the advancing Turks, the Grand Duke of Zeta Ivan Crnojević, along with part of his people, moved to the Montenegrin mountains, which had once been just a part of the medieval state of Zeta.

The history of Montenegro begins at this point. Ivan Crnojević bought a printing press in Venice a few years before his death in 1490. His son Đurađ became the next Grand Duke, and in 1493 he, with the help of Hieromonk Makarije, produced the first ever book to be printed among the south Slavs. It was the "Oktoih", a Serb-Slavonic translation from the original Greek of a service book that is still used to this day in the daily cycle of services in the Orthodox Church. Montenegro in 1499 finally fell to the Turks, and coinciding with the disappearance of the Crnojević family from the historical scene.

Eparchy of Cetinje in 16th and 17th century

After 1485, the Eparchy of Cetinje (Serbian: Цетињска епархија / Cetinjska eparhija) remained an eparchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church. It had diocesan jurisdiction over Old Zeta, now known as Old Montenegro, seated in Cetinje.[1] It had greatest influence over the territory between Bjelopavlići and Podgorica to the Bojana River. The eparchy also included small parts of Herzegovina, from Grahovo to Čevo. From 1557 to 1766, eparchy was under constant jurisdiction of the Serbian Patriarchate of Peć.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the bishops and the tribal leaders led armed men against the Ottomans, with some degree of success, though the Ottomans nominally ruled the Sanjak of Montenegro, the Montenegrin mountains were never completely conquered. The bishop and tribal leaders often allied themselves with the Republic of Venice.

At the beginning of the 17th century, Montenegrins fought and won two important battles at Ljeskopolje (1603 and 1613), under the leadership and command of metropolitan Rufim II Njeguš.[2] This was the first time that the metropolitan had led and defeated the Ottomans.[2]

Metropolitanate of Cetinje under the Petrović-Njegoš

The destruction of the old Cetinje Monastery perpetrated by the Venetians and the Turks in 1692, together with the emergence of the Petrović-Njegoš family on the historical scene (1697), marked the beginning of a new phase in Montenegrin history. Montenegro, led by Metropolitan Bishop Danilo I Petrović-Njegoš, turned completely towards the Russian Empire, which, through its power and authority, strengthened the institution of etnarchy, under which the Metropolitans were at once both Heads of the Church and rulers of the state. The metropolitans and later princes from Petrović-Njegoš dynasty ruled Montenegro for 220 years, from 1697 to 1918.

The Metropolitans of Montenegro, all members of this family (with the exception of Arsenije Plamenac) were: Danilo I Petrović-Njegoš (1697–1735), Sava II Petrović-Njegoš (1735–1781), Arsenije Plamenac (1781–1784), Petar I Petrović-Njegoš (1784–1830), and Petar II Petrović-Njegoš (1830–1851). After the death of Petar II, the state of Montenegro was no longer ruled by the Metropolitans, since his successor, Prince Danilo Petrović-Njegoš, did not wish to become a Metropolitan.

The Metropolitanate of Cetinje had a special development after the Ottoman abolishment of the Serbian Patriarchate of Peć in 1766.[3] At first, the Montenegrin metropolitans were ordained by the Serbian Metropolitans of Karlovci in Habsburg Monarchy until 1833, after which the Russian Holy Synod ordained them until 1885.[3]

Principality and Kingdom of Montenegro (1852–1918)

After the accession of prince Danilo I to the throne of Montenegro in 1852, offices of ruling prince and metropolitan were separated. First metropolitan to be elected just as a church leader was Nikanor Ivanović in 1858. His successor, since 1863, was metropolitan Ilarion Roganović, who undertook an important reform in 1878. Since Principality of Montenegro was enlarged and recognized as ad independent state, new Eparchy of Zahumlje and Raška was formed in recently liberated and annexed regions of Old Herzegovina. Since 1878, Metropolitanate of Montenegro was composed of two eparchies: Metropolitan Archdiocese of Cetinje and Eparchy of Zahumlje and Raška with its seat in Nikšić. After another successful enlargement of state territory in 1912, third eparchy was added, the Eparchy of Peć.

In the time of the Prince and (from 1910) King of Montenegro Nikola I Petrović (1860-1918) the geopolitical idea of unifying the Serbian nation came to the fore, as well as a perceived spiritual need to unite the Serbian church. The territory of Montenegro was almost doubled in size, and the church spread into three dioceses. In these circumstances, expressing what was felt by some to be the inner need of all inhabitants of Montenegro, the President of its Government, Dr Lazar Tomanovic, said the following in his speech at the historic coronation of King Nikola I Petrović: The Metropolitanate of Montenegro is the only diocese founded by St. Sava which was preserved without interruption to this day, and as such it represents the lawful throne and a descendant of the Patriarchate of Peć.

Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918-1941)

Following the First World War, Montenegro was united at the end of 1918 with Kingdom of Serbia and together they became part of newly formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia under the Karađorđević dynasty. This resolved the long-standing dynastic rivalry between the two royal families, the Petrović family and the Karađorđević family.

The unification of the Serbian church was, however, quite a different matter, and was supported by both sides in the dispute, the Greens (federalists) and the Whites (centralists). The dethroned King Nikola I Petrović never opposed the unification of the church. The decision to unify the Metropolitanate of Montenegro with the other Serbian dioceses was reached on 16 December 1918 by the Bishops Council of the Montenegrin Metropolitanate as the only institution empowered by the church law to do so.[4] The Bishops' Council unanimously accepted the following proposal: "That the independent Serbian Orthodox Holy Church in Montenegro unites with the autocephalous Orthodox Church in The Kingdom of Serbia." (Decision of the Bishops Council No 1169, 16 December 1918, Cetinje). This decision was signed by all diocesan bishops in Montenegro: the Metropolitan of Montenegro, Mitrofan Ban; the Metropolitan of Peć, Dr Gavrilo Dožić; and the Bishop of Nikšić, Kiril Mitrović. All accepted unification of the church in Montenegro. The decision of the Church regarding the unification was accepted and confirmed by HM King Aleksandar I Karadjordjevic in 1920. His declaration of the unification of the Serbian Church came two years after the Church reached the decision to unify.

After the church unification, special honor was granted to this eparchy, whose bishops were officially styled as "Metropolitans of Montenegro and the Littoral". In 1931, Eparchy of Zahumlje and Raška was abolished and its territory added to this eparchy. In 1938. Metropolitan Gavrilo Dožić of Montenegro was elected Serbian Patriarch.

From World War II to present days

During the Second World War, and after the Communists came to power in 1945, the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral suffered persecution at the hands of the new regime. Communists killed 105 priests and thousands of patriotic Serbs. Fifteen other priests were killed by fascists. The Metropolitan of Montenegro, Joanikije (Lipovac), was executed by communists in 1945 for having collaborated with occupying Italian and German forces and with the Serbian Chetniks.[4] The new regime exerted unprecedented pressures on the remaining clergy to abandon their flocks. The property belonging to the Church was forcefully and illegally confiscated, many churches and monasteries being turned into police stations, cattle stables and warehouses.

The Communists in 1972 seriously damaged the "spiritual veil" of Montenegro by destroying the church dedicated to St. Petar I Petrovic (St. Petar of Cetinje), and desecrating the tomb of the world-famous poet Metropolitan Petar II Petrović Njegoš, who built this church on top of the Lovcen mountain. Instead, they replaced the church with a secular mausoleum.[5] This was an indication of the regime's disregard for the last will of Petar II Petrović, the ancient Christian traditions of Montenegro, and the laws that the Communists themselves had established after 1945. In these circumstances the Orthodox Church in Montenegro was marginalized by the Communist government. This period is regarded as a time of open and brutal persecution of the Church.

The present Metropolitan of Montenegro, Dr Amfilohije Radović, became Head of the Orthodox Church in Montenegro in 1990, just as the collapse of the old communist system was resulting in free democratic elections. In these new circumstances the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral soon began to flourish. The number of priests, monks and nuns, as well as the number of the faithful, increased rapidly. Many monasteries and parish churches were rebuilt and brought back to their former glory. For example, from only 10 active monasteries with about 20 monks and nuns in 1991, Montenegro now has 30 active monasteries with more than 160 monks and nuns. The number of parish priests also increased from 20 in 1991 to more than 60 today.

Emergence of the parallel Montenegrin Orthodox Church

The revival of religious life in Montenegro after the fall of communist regime (1988-1990) coincided with breakup of Yugoslavia, that was marked by social and political conflicts. In 1993, a group of Montenegrin nationalists decided to form a separate religious organization, called the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, headed by self-proclaimed metropolitan Antonije Abramović. In terms of ecclesiastical order, those actions were seen as uncanonical by the official metropolitan Amfilohije Radović and other hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Creation of MOC immediately became a contentious political issue, linked with the pro-independence movement in the country. During the following years, tensions between Eastern Orthodox majority led by metropolitan Amfilohije and minority led by hierarchs of the MOC were gradually increasing. Various disputes arose, mainly over the questions of historical and canonical legitimacy and effective control over some church objects and properties. When Montenegro gained its political independence in 2006, relations between the canonical Metropolitanate of Montenegro and uncanonical MOC became even more complex.[6]


The metropolitanate has the following monasteries:[7]

See also


  1. Fine 1994, p. 534.
  2. 1 2 (D. Zivkovic, Istorija Crnogorskog Naroda, Cetinje, 1989)
  3. 1 2 Andrija Veselinović; Radoš Ljušić (2008). Srpske dinastije. Službene glasink. ISBN 978-86-7549-921-3. Цетињска митрополија имала је специфичан развој после укида- ња Пећке патријаршије (1766). Црногорске митрополите хиротониса- ли су карловачки митрополити до 1833, а од тада Руски свети синод (до 1885), чиме је ...
  4. Profile Archived 2011-07-25 at the Wayback Machine.,, 8 June 2005; accessed 4 July 2015.(in Serbian)
  5. Wachtel, Andrew B. (2004). "How to Use a Classic: Petar Petrović-Njegoš in the Twentieth Century". In Lampe, John R.; Mazower, Mark. Ideologies and National Identities: The Case of Twentieth-Century Southeastern Europe. Budapest: Central European University Press. pp.143–44
  6. "Statement of The Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Coastlands - Serbian Orthodox Church [Official web site]". Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  7. "Pravoslavna Mitropolija Crnogorsko-primorska - Ustrojstvo". Retrieved 19 April 2018.


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