The site

In 1979, the "Natural and Cultural Historic Region of Kotor" was inscribed on the World Heritage List. The heritage site is characterised by an unusually rich and multi-layered history and by numerous architectural monuments from different eras, as well as by a remarkably intensive and multifaceted combination of cultural-historical and natural components.

The Bay of Kotor is surrounded by fortified settlements on the coast on the one hand and settlements on the mountain slopes, which were protected by their natural location, on the other hand.

Donji Stoliv, originally only a series of stone houses, is located at the foot of the slope of the Vrmac peninsula, which separates the Bay of Kotor from the Bay of Tivat. The name Stoliv today usually refers to Donji Stoliv because it is inhabited. In addition, Donji Stoliv is recognised by locally famous events, such as the Days of Camellias and the Days of Chestnuts which are held in this place. Most of the former inhabitants of Gornji Stoliv have moved during the last decades to Donji Stoliv.

Gornji Stoliv has been settled since at least the Middle Ages and for a long time was one of the most important places in the region, radiating far beyond the Bay of Kotor. Most of the families were seafaring clans who sailed the Adriatic Sea and beyond, especially in Venetian times, but also afterwards, up to the time of Austro-Hungarian rule, and helped the village to achieve supra-regional renown and considerable prosperity. Testimonies to this are several historic buildings such as the imposing, frescoed village church of St. Elias, two chapels, many formerly stately residential buildings and numerous facilities of community village life. However, Gornji Stoliv was also formative for the region in other respects; for example, it was the first rural community in the region to establish a school.

At times, Gornji Stoliv had almost one thousand inhabitants; at the beginning of the 1960s, the population was still over five hundred people before the gradual exodus began.

The main reason for this exodus was that Gornji Stoliv was – and still is – only accessible by a footpath of almost one and a half kilometres, that the village has only recently had electricity, and that the sophisticated cistern-based water supply system, which had ensured the village's drinking water supply for centuries in the absence of natural springs, was finally no longer functional due to ever-decreasing use and lack of maintenance. These circumstances, which had begun in the 1960s due to migration to cities that offered better income opportunities, was intensified as a consequence to a major earthquake in 1979 and has experienced a further dynamic in the past twenty-five years due to the increased demands on the standard of living and the increase of national and later also international tourism.

Today, only three people live in the village more or less permanently, but even two of these three still own a house each in another village. Even though Gornji Stoliv serves no longer as a living community, it is still taken care by former inhabitants, most of them members of the "Kamelija Stoliv” local association. The site remains as a silent witness to the effects of changing times, but it is also a beautiful treasure of historical significance to the local community as a time capsule preserving the history of these communities in a ruinous slumber.

However, the uniqueness of the Gornji Stoliv site has recently been threatened not only by progressive decay, but also by several inappropriate interventions. But in first line, the state of conservation of this so far isolated site is currently being disturbed by the encroachment of tourism, which led to plans to construct a road to access the village.

In 2022, a first part of the road had been already constructed without any legal base or formal permission, thus endangering not only the very special setting and the extraordinary heritage state of Gornji Stoliv, but also crossing an area which is on the way to be declared in the next months as Natural Park.


The project

The project will be the continuation of the works initiated during the European Heritage Volunteers Projects in Gornji Stoliv in 2022 and 2023 and will focus on conservation and maintenance works at the historic stone pathway to Gornji Stoliv and the accompanying dry-stone walls.

The path from Donji Stoliv to Gornji Stoliv is about 1,500 metres long, of which 1,200 metres link the two villages and 300 metres are located within the village of Gornji Stoliv. The steep stone pathway that meanders through the centuries-old chestnut forest and olive groves represents an inseparable element of this cultural landscape recognised as World Heritage site. The historical pathway was constructed thanks to the financial contribution of the local nobleman and sailor Gašpar Ivanović over 150 years ago and was until recently the only way to reach Gornji Stoliv from the seaside.

Around 150 metres of the path are accompanied by traditional dry-stone walls. In the past, the path was continuously maintained, as residents repaired broken or missing stones on their daily walk to and from the valley. The path is completely free of recent interventions or alterations and its current condition is still quite good, but there are countless minor and major damages. 

During the 2022 project, the most endangered parts of the accompanying dry-stone walls had been repaired.

During the 2023 project, the participants continued to repair the dry-stone walls and started to repair the pathway itself utilising materials from the surrounding area that are original to the pathway.

During the 2024 project, the participants will continue to perform conservation, repair and maintenance works on the historical stone pathway. The practical works will introduce the participants to the art, knowledge, and technique of dry-stone walling. The unstable parts of the pathway will be repaired while the broken parts will be fixed, and meticulous maintenance will be carried out to ensure the path's integrity. Moreover, steep and curvy sections of the pathway, those structurally supporting stone walls are partially dislodged, will be repaired. If not fixed on time, this stone wall that is slowly being pushed out of the line, will continue critically endangering the stability of the pathway and could eventually lead to the collapse of this section.

Besides the pathway, the participants will engage in the repairment of the stone terrasse, and staircases at the vernacular ensemble in Gornji Stoliv, which are the focus of interventions undertaken through European Heritage Volunteers Projects since 2023. Furthermore, additional dry-stone elements will be included in this hands-on experience, providing a diverse learning opportunity that encompasses various traditional dry stone features characteristic of Gornji Stoliv and wider region.

The works will be led by a master paviour.

The educational programme will offer an introduction to the site and an overview of works performed so far during European Heritage Volunteers Projects. The participants will have an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the challenges facing Gornji Stoliv as well as with other locations within the World Heritage site area, with a particular focus on the harmful effects of mass tourism and uncontrolled urbanisation. 


The project will take place from April 20th to April 27th, 2024, and is organised by European Heritage Volunteers in cooperation with Kamelija Stoliv Association.  

European Heritage Volunteers