The Former Naval Base of Cattaro: Monarchical Fortifications in Montenegro

The project relating to the monarchical fortification buildings in Montenegro is based on an initiative of the Ministry of Culture of Montenegro, that inspired a scientific engagement with these objects around the former Austrian naval base of Cattaro. The starting point for the first field campaign in autumn 2018 was a detailed examination of the fortifications of Goražda and Kosmač. These are characterised by their immediate vicinity to the heavily touristed destinations of Kotor and Budva, which is why these forts possess great potential to make history come alive at authentic architectural pieces of evidence and to convey this to a broad public.

Kosmač Fortification


The fortification of Kosmač lies in a prominent position 800 m above the coastal town of Budva. This fortification, of great historical importance as the southernmost preserved fort of Austria-Hungary, was erected in 1858 and is 26 years older than the fortification of Goražda. After the recognition of the independence of Montenegro in 1841, the securing of the borders was initiated, which is also manifested by the construction of the fort of Kosmač. At the outbreak of the First World War, the Austrian troops withdrew from the area around the bay of Kotor and, following orders, detonated the fortification.

The state of preservation of the fortification site must be rated as precarious. The exceptionally high degree of damage to the building substance can be ascribed to a great extent to the already mentioned controlled detonation, which severely compromised the statics of the building, whereby the fortification of Kosmač is in acute danger of collapsing.

In the publicly accessible building structure, individual blocks, yet also entire sections of wall or vaulting could come loose and collapse. This situation makes a temporary suspension of access to the building imperative for the security of the public. Here, a survey of the statics of the building is planned for 2019; the weakened building structure should be investigated and a variety of scenarios for a static improvement of the entire fortification or of individual building elements should be evaluated.

Goražda Fortification


In the fortification of Goražda, as at Kosmač, natural stone is the dominant construction material, and the structure takes the form of a number of courses of layered stone. In contrast to Kosmač, at Goražda in addition to the natural stone vaults there are also areas which are spanned and strengthened by steel girders, and ceilings and floors of tamped concrete. A crucial difference exists also in the fact that the fortification of Goražda was in use not only until the fall of the monarchy in 1918, but was also used for military purposes during the Second World War as well as in the post-war period until the 1980s; this usage can be attested by means of a variety of repair works as well as by conversions and additions to the structure.

In Goražda the architectural studies and documentation with regard to restoration measures, which have already begun, should be continued and supplemented by means of an extensive room book, which records the inventory and the necessary measures room by room. The laser scan documentation of the site must be supplemented in the outer areas, after the cleaning of the surrounding moat.

In addition, the conservation measures include the bringing to light and the documentation of a number of representative graffiti by soldiers from the First and Second World Wars. These graffiti constitute an intrinsic element of the defensive installations and their history and for this reason they are absolutely worthy of preservation. Furthermore, the sampling of mortar and stone probes is planned, and their analysis will enable important statements regarding the construction process and the acquisition of materials (quarries, binding agents, etc.).

Finally, it should be noted that the good structural state of preservation of the fortification of Goražda, as well as its location only 3 km away from the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage city of Kotor with its great number of visitors, offers an exceptional opportunity to develop a sustainable concept for the usage of this unique building, going beyond a simple memorial site. For example, a scientific study centre with specific rooms for archives, research and conferences in combination with a museum for the general theme of fortification buildings of the monarchy in Montenegro, and also focusing specifically on the fort of Goražda in the First and Second World Wars and in the post-war period, could be developed.

Long-Term Planning


The long-term goal of the OeAI is the development of a scientific project in cooperation and in coordination with the official authorities and local institutions in Montenegro. The project should incorporate the following aspects: military-science issues; primarily the documentation and implementation of the construction process of the fortification buildings, as well as their maintenance; communication with the broader public; and the issue of how the forts were routinely supplied in times of peace and war. Furthermore, information should be collected regarding the rotating manning of the forts from the crown lands at that time, as well as the interaction of the troops with the civil population in the directly surrounding areas.

Themes that are relevant for architectural history and conservation sciences, such as investigations of material sciences, will be targeted for all of the fortifications. Additional fortification sites should equally be included in the evaluation of samples. The formation of the forts as military functional buildings under Austrian rule allows the supposition that good documentation exists for the construction process and the materials employed. The construction of the sites occurred in an architecturally highly interesting transitional period from more or less simple lime mortar to early industrially produced hydraulic binding materials. It can therefore be assumed that a great correlation exists with functional buildings of the same construction period in Austria.

Finally, attention should be paid to the withdrawal of the troops after the collapse of the monarchy, as well as to the subsequent phases of usage. The results of this planned project should flow directly into the development of an extensive concept for the monument preservation of the entire historical ensemble of fortifications around the bay of Kotor.