The ruins of the Sbutega Palace
– Glavati, Prcanj, Montenegro
Historical and architectural analysis
About a hundred meters away from the sea and about fifty meters above sea level, in a depression known as Pecarevo or Glavati, in the settlement of Prcanj in Montenegro, there is a building, now in ruins, which apparently used to be the residence of a noble family. There is little known about this palace, due to the lack of historical archives and any carved symbol, coat of arms or inscription on the facade. However, the building techniques, layout and architectural concept as well as materials and processing techniques demonstrate that it originates from the 14th century. The residence is located not far from the Church of St. Anna in the Glavati - Prcanj area, which is believed to date from the same period. In the fourteenth century this area was ruled by the Nemanjic Dynasty, then by the Kingdom of Hungary, and later by the Bosnian king Tvrtko I. In that time, there were no settlements along the coast, except for fortified cities such as Kotor, and they existed only on higher elevations in the hills as rural settlements that relied on local agriculture. The pirate raids, and then attacks by Turks and tribes from the inland, were frequent enough to influence the character of the residential architecture in the hinterland that was subordinated to the defense against the robbers’ raids.
The palace, i.e. its remains, as photographed in February 2018, consist of four walls of the main body of the palace and one annex from the upper western side, apparently the former stable. The front facade of the wall towards Kotor has been breached in the middle and to the ground, and the only thing that was kept is the niche on the lower right side to the former door. On the opposite side, there is a Roman-Gothic simple arch without profiling, made of unevenly placed stone thresholds, then the niche immediately next to the door and two window panes, the larger of which is very damaged. The Romano-Gothic portal above the entrance door, although damaged, provides the most reliable confirmation of the character of the palace and its dating. The door was made of solid wood and nailed with four pegs each in the stone parapet, whose recesses in the stone are still visible today. On top of that, there was a large beam used to barricade the door that was inserted in the middle of the door and in the recess in the wall to additionally secure the portal from robbers. The small niches next to the door had a very practical use as that was the convenient space where the vendors could deliver the groceries, such as dried meat and fish, without opening the main entrance, so the hosts did not run the risk of being robbed or attacked.
Another small niche on the outside was most likely bricked up in later centuries. The single-pitch roof was inclined towards the sea. It is very rare today in this area as all the roofs are dual pitched. Judging by the roof of the nearby Church of St. Anna, made of stone, and looking at the other very old residential buildings, it can be concluded that the roof of the palace in the original phase was also made of the stone slabs and that was the autochthonous stone.
Based on the analysis from the site conducted in February 2018, two stages of construction of the Sbutega Palace were observed. The first one would include a large and high ground floor and a low attic, with three window panes on the lower sea side, presumably for surveillance and defense against potential robbers. On the ground floor, facing the sea, there were two window panes, the larger one with approximate dimensions of 100/80 cm and a small one with dimensions of 40/40 cm. On the house front, facing Kotor, there was an entrance door with a portal like the one on the opposite side of the palace. The doors were placed symmetrically, because of the belief that if a devil entered the house, it would follow the straight line and leave it without harming the household members. Small deviations from the right angle when building the walls prove the tradition to avoid building the 'squares', as the devil crouches in the 'square'. The ceilings from that period were made of wood and leaned on stone consoles that were spheroidal on the bottom side and had a shape of an acanthus flower. In the attic, there were two windows facing Kotor and the two ones facing Prcanj, one of which was larger. The exit to the courtyard towards the hill was through a narrow door, that is walled up now, but once served as an exit to an outbuilding, most likely a stable.
The second phase of the construction brought radical changes in the interior. Namely, the high ground floor was divided into two floors in order to expand the accommodation capacity due to the increase of the family, at the expense of walling up of three windows and the upper door towards the hill with stone consoles holding the beams. The changes are also visible on the Roman-Gothic portal, as it had to be walled up to the arch in order to lower the ceilings, which is still visible today. In the second phase of the palace development, the ceilings were lowered, leaving about 200 cm of free space to the beams. The processing of stone windows without separate parapet openings on all window panes, and their presence only on openings of larger dimensions suggests a staged, successive development of the palace and frequent renovations. The palace in its base has dimensions of 9.5m by 6m, which is more than the average size of the house in this region and shows the owner`s wealth. The Church of St. Anne, which, judging by the analogies, comes from the same period can be considered to have been a family chapel.
The location of Glavati is of the great importance for the entire area of Prcanj, due to its historical as well as natural and environmental value. Saint Anna's Valley is a region with all the characteristics of a cultural landscape. The stone walls, sloping along the Sbutega estate, with terraces still used for olive growing, then the old medieval path across Prcanj that once connected Prcanj with Kotor, Stoliv and Lepetani are the real sources for learning about the way of life in the past. The presence of several layers of architecture, both Romano-Gothic in the hills and Renaissance-Baroque on the coast, as well as Austro-Hungarian road construction on the coast, and the indigenous way of processing the landscape with canalized streams and terraced gardens, represents an exceptional argument for the valorization of this valley as a cultural landscape of great importance for UNESCO's Natural, Cultural-Historical Region of Kotor. Activating this palace for cultural purposes, and according to the opinion of the residents, valorizing it for the purpose of a summer camp for the students of architecture who will work on the regeneration of the landscape and the maintenance of medieval paths and monuments, and receive a certificate for the authentic construction of Boka Kotorska under the mentorship of restorers, would be of great importance for the entire area of Kotor. Finally, it would also provide an insight into the great potential of sustainable development, as well as the mutual benefits to both, the workshop participants and the property owners, who would be paid a fee, in addition to the service of free maintenance of the property. Thus, the entire area would gain greater recognition and importance and become a model of the approach to the regeneration of the cultural landscape of the entire area of Kotor.
Unfortunately, the construction in this area started with infrastructure works and has already destroyed a whole section of gardens with terraces and a walled stream, and threatens to devalue the entire area, which is a unique enclave of cultural landscape stretching from the sea all the way to the hills. The valley of St. Anna - Glavati is an immensely valuable area that bears witness to the historical development of rural agglomerations along the coast of Boka Kotorska. Because of its valuable authentic landscape, as well as its historical, landscape and natural value, creating an HIA study on the impact on the cultural heritage during current spatial interventions must be a matter of urgency in order to preserve its exceptional universal value, which it possesses as part of the area of Kotor protected by UNESCO.
HOW TO CITE THIS ARTICLE:
Kusevic, B. (2017). The ruins of the Sbutega Palace – Glavati, Prcanj, Historical and architectural analysis ‘‘The Archive of Landscapes”. [date].
David Rumsey Historical Map Collection | The Collection; (1693) Disegno Topografico del Canale di Cattaro, Montenegro; Coronelli, Vincenzo (1650-1718).