7 Feb 2021
Written By Mia K.

Travel guide to the Njegoš Mausoleum in Montenegro

The greatest poet of the Montenegrin nation rests forever on the top of a mountain. That mountain is a symbol of the statehood of a small country that has fought for its freedom for centuries.

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In the heart of one of the five Montenegrin National Parks is the Lovćen mountain, the eternal resting place of the bishop Petar II Petrović Njegoš. The top of the stone massif resembles strong human shoulders due to its shape, powerful enough to support a monumental mausoleum built in honor of a philosopher who was beyond his time. Probably beyond eternity. Before heading to a place worthy of an eagle's nest, we present you with a brief Travel Guide to the Njegoš Mausoleum. 
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"Whoever stands on a hill, sees more than the one under the hill."  Njegoš

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PETAR II PETROVIĆ NJEGOŠ, known during his life as Bishop Rade, a Montenegrin poet, and ruler, was born at the beginning of the 19th century. He became a monk at a very young age and took over the administration of Montenegro. At that time, a strong national consciousness and general patriarchal morality reigned in Montenegro, but still, anarchy, tribal conflicts, and blood feuds gained momentum. However, upon coming to the throne, the ruler-artist began to establish schools and courts and develop infrastructure and diplomatic relations. In the meantime, he wrote literary masterpieces, the most famous of which are "The Mountain Wreath" and "The Ray of the Microcosm." His works re-examine the essence of earthly life, thematically always focused on general ethics and eternity, on being, analyzing. Inseparable from his personality, this noble philosopher's thoughts are quoted and interpreted daily in this region and beyond. 

A typical portrait in Montenegrin homes depicts Njegoš in traditional or monastic costume. Indeed, this inimitable figure, despite his untimely death, left a deep mark on the country's history.

"I am the ruler among the barbarians, and the barbarian among the rulers." Njegoš

A magnificent experience of the Lovćen National Park

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You can visit this remarkable monument in two ways. If you have enough time and affinity for nature walks, we suggest a hiking route from Erakovići in Njeguši to the mausoleum. The trail is fully marked and not overly demanding. Of course, we recommend that you opt for this adventure in the morning and during nice weather. During cloudy days, a view of the whole of Montenegro and a large part of the Adriatic Sea will be impossible.

If you are limited in time, you can drive to the very beginning of the stairs leading to the mausoleum. The visit's total price is 7 euros - 2 euros entrance fee for the national park and 5 euros ticket for the mausoleum.

The stairs leading to the top climb through a tunnel, and you will move through the inside of the mountain. After four hundred steps, there is the beginning of an open path that leads to the entrance to Njegoš's mausoleum. This building exudes magnificent simplicity and is a masterpiece of the famous Yugoslav sculptor Ivan Meštrović. In the hall, visitors are greeted by two caryatids, female figures carved in stone, symbolizing the mother and the other the sister. In Montenegrin culture, these two personalities represent the guardians of "brother" and "son," heroes who sacrifice their lives to survive the nation. The central room is dominated by Njegoš's marble sculpture, subtly covered with a golden mosaic vault. Regardless of the period of creation, this work of art seems modern and will probably give such an impression in the future as well. Njegoš's remains are buried in the crypt just a few steps away from the monumental sculpture.

In the back of the mausoleum is the famous "guvno," a prototype of a round stone platform that you can see all over Montenegro. In the past, it was a gathering place for Montenegrins to make crucial decisions or thresh the grain harvest and then winnow it. From this point, the whole of Montenegro is visible as in the palm of your hand. If you do not have your own, you can borrow binoculars from the mausoleum host.

An engineering marvel

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Njegoš's wish to be buried on the top of the mountain was fulfilled in 1925. Initially, it was a modest stone chapel that was disbanded during the rule of the communist authorities, so a monumental mausoleum was built during the '70s. Opinions regarding the correctness of the decision to carry out this project are still divided and subject to continuous political and ideological discussions. 

In any case, the magnificence of the engineering project of making such a facility on top of an inaccessible mountain is undeniable. This unusual construction site, at an altitude of 1660 m, required superhuman strength and perseverance, as well as great ambition. No stone and there was nothing but the stone here, could be removed without dynamite. This risky blasting was based on the works on the construction of the tunnel for the staircase leading to the mausoleum. The whole mass of stone to be drilled is relatively small, so the dynamite explosions had to be strictly controlled, and this entire action was a real drama in the fight between men and rocks.

Any careless intervention and miscalculated mine could tear off a giant rock and take it along with people's lives into the abyss. You may wonder, why then a tunnel? Due to the cliffs, it was the only way to extract Njegoš's monument, caryatids, and stone blocks (each caryatid weighs 12 tons, while Njegoš's sculpture weighs as much as 28 tons!)
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Along the tunnel, rails were placed, and with the help of a powerful engine, in an unusual wagon, each stone and sculpture was delivered to their current position. After the delivery of parts of today's mausoleum, the rails were disbanded, and a staircase was built. With the help of a military helicopter, a giant crane was mounted on the mountain. The pre-prepared concrete is thus delivered to the construction site.

These are enough reasons to visit this place with an unusual story. The Travel Guide to the Njegoš Mausoleum presented you with the necessary information, and it is now your turn to go there and see more than the one under the hill.
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