The Archive of Landscapes
Cultural heritage project
Prcanj in Kotor municipality in Montenegro is a coastal town which traditionally relied on the maritime trade and such tradition has remained to the present day. Historically, the first mentions of it were in 1222 in the correspondence regarding the construction of St Johan Church. During the medieval age, the town was being developed in the upper level in the hill and it relied primarily on the local agriculture. Later, at the beginning of the 15th century, the town rapidly started to develop in the coastal region.
Prcanj sailors from early 15th century demonstrate the town’s tremendous skillfulness at the sea, witnessed by state Venetian captains. Maritime trade was very active and successful and made a lot of families from Prcanj exceptionally rich (for example, the Beskuca family owns 99 houses in the Bay of Kotor and overseas). Maritime trade flourished during 16th and 18th century; the ships owned by people from Prcanj grew in size and number so that by the end of the 18th century, Prcanj was a home port for 98 overseas ships. Prcanj’s wealthiest sea captains’ families names were: Lukovic, Gjurovic, Sbutega, Lazzari, Mihnic, Florio, Verona, Milin, Petkic, Raffaeili, Beskuca, Marassi. Many of them had their trade houses and family residences in Venice, Trieste, Corfu, Thebes, Corinth, Alexandria, Algiers, etc. Among their most common merchandise were Montenegrin and Greek cheese, Dalmatian vine, oil candles, salted sardines, dry meat, dry figs, Dalmatian and Greek olive oil, and silk. Their most frequent ports of call were - apart from the eastern Mediterranean ones - Ancona, Bari, Brindisi, Venice, and Trieste. The success of maritime trade was so immense for Prcanj that by the end of 17th century it had overpassed, in economic terms, the medieval town of Kotor (Cattaro in Italian), which had often helped them giving money and manual labour in times of crisis. After the catastrophic earthquake of 1667, by which Kotor was almost completely destroyed, Prcanj’s sailors and shipowners volunteerely helped repairing the destroyed town with money and labour, even providing free transport of goods on their ships.
In 1420, after several attempts to form an alliance with the Venetian Republic, Kotor’s Governors finally received a positive response and gained the Venetian protection. As it was due in time of war, Prcanj’s Governors aswered to the city’s assistance request providing a free mobilisation, and sailors always went to the sea battlefield against enemies with other Venetian provinces on Adriatic. Thanks to their extremely high faithfulness in naval battles and in sustaining safe sea-trade, all the Prcanj’s captains gained numerous benefits. For example, in 18th century Prcanj’s sailors and ship-owners got free merchandise, without any charge, available on Venezia and Padova, and tax-free trade. In 1420 the Bay of Kotor was not entirely under Venetian protection; in fact, the only inner area with the towns of Kotor, Dobrota, Mulla, Perzagno, Stolivo, Perasto, and Sterp was. Other areas of Bay of Kotor, such as Castel Nuovo and Risano, become Venetian provinces following the Liberation from the Ottoman rule in 1687.
Already at the end of the 16th century, sailors from Prcanj stood out with their ships (fusta) on sails and oars which overpassed the Venetian State ships, as witnessed by the Venetian governor-general Almorò Tiepolo (1593). In fact, by the end of the 16th century, due to their tremendous skillfulness at the sea, the administration of the Venetian Republic decided to give to Prcanj’s captains the great responsibility to transport State mail (pubblici dispacci) on their ships. The decision, come into force in 1625, has brought many benefits to the population of Prcanj, such as relieving them from military service and physical, manual labour. On the other hand, the importance of a reliable postal service, ranging from Venice to Zadar and Kotor and even to Corfu, was of immense importance for the Republic of Venice.The ships carrying mail were small in size and their crew numbered nine members. The privileges of the city grew thanks to this extraordinary role, and in 1704 Prcanj received the statute of Municipality (Comunità di Perzagno). This decision of the Republic resulted in huge benefits, namely the abolition of customs, which strengthened the economic growth that inncreased the city’s maritime economy.
Prcanj is located at the foot of Vrmac hill and due to the mixture of sea and mountain air it has been renowned as a health resort for a long time. The settlement is well-known for its unique fresh air suitable for people with lung diseases and allergies, which was recognized at the congress of Yugoslavian pulmonologists in 1920s. The sanatorium for non-specific pulmonary diseases was situated in the area of Lekovina, which has special microclimatic benefits, until the 1979 earthquake.Today Prcanj is well-known as a health resort, and it attracts many visitors seeking for health improvement, sports training and family holiday in the peaceful scenery along the coast. It has a population of around 1,100.
HOW TO CITE THIS ARTICLE:
Kusevic, B. (2017). Town of Prcanj, Montenegro. ‘‘The Archive of Landscapes”. [date].
David Rumsey Historical Map Collection | The Collection; (1693) Disegno Topografico del Canale di Cattaro, Montenegro; Coronelli, Vincenzo (1650-1718).