Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro

Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro
Flag Coat of arms
Location of Montenegro in Europe, 19th century
Capital Cetinje
Languages Slavo-Serbian (written)
Religion Eastern Orthodox Christianity
Government Ecclesiastical principality (1696–1767, 1773–1852)
   1696–1735 Danilo I (first)
  1851–1852 Danilo II (last)
Legislature Assembly of Montenegro and the Hills
   Establishment 1696
   Secularisation to principality¹ 13 March 1852
   1851 5,475 km² (2,114 sq mi)
Currency Montenegrin perun (proposed)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Montenegro Vilayet
Principality of Montenegro
Today part of  Montenegro

Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro was аn ecclesiastical principality that existed from 1696 until 1852. It emerged from the Serbian Orthodox bishops of Cetinje, later metropolitans, who renounced Ottoman overlordship and transformed the parish of Cetinje to a Russian de facto protectorate, ruling as Metropolitans (vladika, also rendered "Prince-Bishop"). The history starts with Danilo Šćepčević, a bishop of Cetinje who united several clans of Montenegro into fighting the Ottoman Empire that had occupied most of southeastern Europe. Danilo was the first of the House of Petrović-Njegoš to occupy the office as Metropolitan of Cetinje until 1851, when Montenegro became a secular state (principality) under Danilo I Petrović-Njegoš. Also, it became a brief monarchy when it was temporary abolished 1767–1773, when impostor Little Stephen, posed as Russian Emperor and crowned himself Lord of Montenegro.


The state was virtually the Metropolitanate of Zeta under the supervision of the Petrović-Njegoš family. The name mostly used in historiography is "Metropolitanate of Cetinje" or "Cetinje Metropolitanate" (Цетињска митрополија).[1] The highest office-holder of the polity was the Metropolitan (vladika, also rendered "prince-bishop"[2]). Metropolitan Danilo I (1696–1735) called himself "Danil, Metropolitan of Cetinje, Njegoš, Duke of the Serb land" („Данил, владика цетињски, Његош, војеводич српској земљи...").[3][4] When Bjelopavlići and the rest of the Hills was joined into the state during the rule of Peter I, it was officially called "Black Mountain (Montenegro) and the Hills" (Црна Гора и Брда).[5]

Travers Twiss used the English term "Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro", for the first time, in 1861.[6]


Zeta became an Ottoman polity in 1498, when Ivan Crnojević became an Ottoman vassal. In 1514, it was established as a sanjak, by order of Sultan Bayezid II. The first sanjak-bey was Ivan's son Skenderbeg Crnojević, who had converted into Islam, and held office 1514–28. By 1534, the last of the Crnojević family retired to Venice.[7] The Serbian Orthodox bishops of Cetinje remained the spiritual leaders, while tribal chieftains ruled in their various regions.

The Ottomans established an administrational-territorial area, the Montenegro Vilayet, in the context of autonomy.[8] This autonomy was not an organization of power, until the coming of the Petrović-Njegoš and their "state apparatus"; the early struggles against the Ottomans organized by the tribes were connected by the Metropolitan of Cetinje, who acted more as a master than a chaplain, though not as effective as in the later stages.[8]

The first vladika, elected by the tribal assembly, Metropolitan Danilo I Petrović-Njegoš, passed his office to his nephew-founding a tradition that lasted until 1852.[9]



Danilo I of Montenegro

During the reign of Danilo two important changes occurred in the wider European context of Montenegro: the expansion of the Ottoman state was gradually reversed, and Montenegro found in the Russian Empire a powerful new patron to replace the declining Venice. The replacement of Venice by Russia was especially significant, since it brought financial aid (after Danilo visited Peter the Great in 1715), modest territorial gain, and, in 1789, formal recognition by the Ottoman Porte of Montenegro's independence as a state under Petar I Petrović Njegoš.

Sava and Vasilije

Further information: Sava Petrović and Petar I Petrović Njegoš

Metropolitan Danilo was succeeded by Metropolitan Sava and Metropolitan Vasilije. Sava was predominantly occupied with clerical duties and did not enjoy as much charisma among tribal heads as his predecessor did. However, he managed to keep good relations with Russia, and to get considerable help from Peter the Great's successor empress Elizabeth. During his trip to Russia his deputy Vasilije Petrović gained considerable respect among the tribes by giving support to those who at that time were attacked by the Ottomans. He was as much hated by the Venetians as he was by the Ottomans. Vasilije was also active in trying to solicit Russian support for Montenegro. For that purpose he traveled to Russia three times, where he also died in 1766. He also wrote one of the earliest historical books on Montenegro, History of Montenegro.

Šćepan Mali

Further information: Šćepan Mali

In 1766, a person known as Šćepan Mali ("Stephen the Little") appeared in Montenegro, rumoured to be Russian Emperor Peter III, who in fact had been assassinated in 1762. Having affection for Russia, the Montenegrins accepted him as their Emperor (1768). Metropolitan Sava had told the people that Šćepan was an ordinary crook, but the people believed him instead. Following this event Šćepan put Sava under house arrest in the Stanjevići monastery. Šćepan was very cruel and thus both respected and feared. After realizing how much respect he commanded, and that only he could keep Montenegrins together, Russian diplomat Dolgoruki abandoned his efforts to discredit Šćepan, even giving him financial support. In 1771 Šćepan founded the permanent court composed of the most respected clan chiefs, and stubbornly insisted on respect of the court's decision.

The importance of Šćepan's personality in uniting Montenegrins was realized soon after his assassination conducted by order of Kara Mahmud Bushati, the pasha of Scutari. Montenegrin tribes once again engaged into blood feuding among themselves. Bushati tried to seize the opportunity and attacked Kuči with 30,000 troops. For the first time since Metropolitan Danilo, the Kuči were helped by Piperi and Bjelopavlići, and defeated the Ottomans twice in two years.[10]

Petar I

After Šćepan's death, gubernadur (title created by Metropolitan Danilo to appease Venetians) Jovan Radonjić, with Venetian and Austrian help, tried to impose himself as the new ruler. However, after the death of Sava (1781), the Montenegrin chiefs chose archimandrite Petar Petrović, who was a nephew of Metropolitan Vasilije, as successor.

Petar I assumed the leadership of Montenegro at a very young age and during most difficult times. He ruled almost half a century, from 1782 to 1830. Petar I was a wise bishop and a great military commander who won many crucial victories against the Ottomans, including at Martinići and Krusi in 1796. With these victories, Petar I liberated and consolidated control over the Highlands (Brda) that had been the focus of constant warfare, and also strengthened bonds with the Bay of Kotor, and consequently the aim to expand into the southern Adriatic coast.

In 1806, as French Emperor Napoleon advanced toward the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, aided by several Russian battalions and a fleet of Dmitry Senyavin, went to war against the invading French forces. Undefeated in Europe, Napoleon's army was however forced to withdraw after defeats at Cavtat and at Herceg-Novi. In 1807, the Russian–French treaty ceded the Bay to France. The peace lasted less than seven years; in 1813, the Montenegrin army, with ammunition support from Russia and Britain, liberated the Bay from the French. An assembly held in Dobrota resolved to unite the Bay of Kotor with Montenegro. But at the Congress of Vienna, with Russian consent, the Bay was instead granted to Austria. In 1820, to the north of Montenegro, the Morača tribe won a major battle against an Ottoman force from Bosnia.

During his long rule, Petar strengthened the state by uniting the often quarreling tribes, consolidating his control over Montenegrin lands, and introducing the first laws in Montenegro. He had unquestioned moral authority strengthened by his military successes. His rule prepared Montenegro for the subsequent introduction of modern institutions of the state: taxes, schools and larger commercial enterprises. When he died, he was by popular sentiment proclaimed a saint.

Petar II

Following the death of Petar I, his 17-year-old nephew, Rade Petrović became Metropolitan Petar II. By historian and literary consensus, Petar II, commonly called "Njegoš", was the most impressive of the Prince-Bishops, having laid the foundation of the modern Montenegrin state and the subsequent Kingdom of Montenegro. He was the most acclaimed Montenegrin poet.

A long rivalry had existed between the Montenegrin metropolitans from the Petrović family and the Radonjić family, a leading clan which had long vied for power against the Petrović's authority. This rivalry culminated in Petar II's era, though he came out victorious from this challenge and strengthened his grip on power by expelling many members of the Radonjić family from Montenegro.

In domestic affairs, Petar II was a reformer. He introduced the first taxes in 1833 against stiff opposition from many Montenegrins whose strong sense of individual and tribal freedom was fundamentally in conflict with the notion of mandatory payments to the central authority. He created a formal central government consisting of three bodies, the Senate, the Guardia and the Perjaniks. The Senate consisted of 12 representatives from the most influential Montenegrin families and performed executive and judicial as well as legislative functions of government. The 32-member Guardia traveled through the country as agents of the Senate, adjudicating disputes and otherwise administering law and order. The Perjaniks were a police force, reporting both to the Senate and directly to the Metropolitan.

Before his death in 1851, Petar II named his nephew Danilo as his successor. He assigned him a tutor and sent him to Vienna, from where he continued his education in Russia. According to some historians Petar II most likely prepared Danilo to be a secular leader. However, when Petar II died, the Senate, under influence of Djordjije Petrović (the wealthiest Montenegrin at the time), proclaimed Petar II's elder brother Pero as Prince and not Metropolitan. Nevertheless, in a brief struggle for power, Pero, who commanded the support of the Senate, lost to the much younger Danilo who had more support among the people. In 1852, Danilo proclaimed a secular Principality of Montenegro with himself as Prince and formally abolished ecclesiastical rule.[11]


In Danilo I's Code, dated to 1855, he explicitly states that he is the "knjaz (duke, prince) and gospodar (lord) of the Free Black Mountain (Montenegro) and the Hills".[12]


aristocratic titles

List of rulers

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See also


  1. Milija Stanišić (2005). Dubinski slojevi trinaestojulskog ustanka u Crnoj Gori. Istorijski institut Crne Gore. p. 114. Као што смо претходно казали, стицајем историјских и друштвених околности Цетињска митрополија је постала не само духовни него и политички центар Црне Горе, Брда и негдашњег Зетског приморја. Заједно са главарским ...
  2. Srdja Pavlovic (2008). Balkan Anschluss: The Annexation of Montenegro and the Creation of the Common South Slavic State. Purdue University Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-55753-465-1.
  3. Matica srpska, Lingvistička sekcija (1974). Zbornik za filologiju i lingvistiku, Volume 17, Issues 1-2. Novi Sad: Matica srpska. p. 84. Данил, митрополит Скендерије u Приморја (1715. г.),28 Данил, владика цетински Његош, војеводич српској земљи (1732. г.).
  4. Velibor V. Džomić (2006). Pravoslavlje u Crnoj Gori. Svetigora. То се види не само по његовом познатом потпису „Данил Владика Цетињски Његош, војеводич Српској земљи" (Запис 1732. г.) него и из цјелокупког његовог дјелања као митрополита и господара. Занимљиво је у том контексту да ...
  5. Etnografski institut (Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti) (1952). Posebna izdanja, Volumes 4-8. Naučno delo. p. 101. Када, за владе Петра I, црногорсксу држави приступе Б^елопавлиЬи, па после и остала Брда, онда je, званично, „Црна Гора и Брда"
  6. Travers Twiss (1861). The law of nations considered as independent political Communities. University Press. pp. 95–.
  7. J. Jovanovic,1948, Stvaranje Crnogorske Drzave i Razvoj Crnogorske Nacionalnosti, 1948, Cetinje, p. 54-55.
  8. 1 2 Stvaranje. 38. Stvaranja. October 1983.
  9. Srdja Pavlovic (2008). Balkan Anschluss: The Annexation of Montenegro and the Creation of the Common South Slavic State. Purdue University Press. pp. 33–. ISBN 978-1-55753-465-1.
  10. Jovanovic, Jagos (1947). Stvaranje Crnogorske drzave i razvoj Crnogorske nacionalnosti. Cetinje: Obod.
  11. Jovanovic 1947, p. 233
  12. Stvaranje, 7–12. Obod. 1984. p. 1422. Црне Горе и Брда историјска стварност коЈа се не може занема- рити, што се види из назива Законика Данила I, донесеног 1855. године који гласи: „ЗАКОНИК ДАНИЛА I КЊАЗА И ГОСПОДАРА СЛОБОДНЕ ЦРНЕ ГОРЕ И БРДА".


Further reading

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