Maritime history

When talking about Perast, the first idea is that the famous naval past of the coastal town which for centuries resisted the enemies and prospered in maritime, economic and cultural sense.

Perast achieved its greatest strength in the 17th and the 18th century. Archival material and numerous articles about Perast and its inhabitants testify to the famous and rich past, famous seafarers, who were known as skilled connoisseurs of the theoretic and practical part of maritime trade as well as of shipbuilding skill.

The openness towards the sea, knowledge and skill of its inhabitants is a necessity which promoted Perast and marked it on the maritime map of the world.

The position of Perast naturally conditioned the occupation of its inhabitants, so that in 13th century shipbuilders are mentioned, as well as coopers, limeburners, brickmakers and stonecutters.

The oldest preserved archival document on shipbuilding dates back to the year 1336. Visitors can see a copy of this document on the ground-floor of the palace where naval collection is housed. This document prohibits the inhabitants of Perast to build ships of “skaba” or “gondola” type. They could build or repair smaller ships – sailing ships of “londra” type.

The number of sailing ships on board which they sailed was increasing from year to another, and their navigation skills, maritime trade and numerous successes in naval battles could be but noticed.

The sailing ships built by the inhabitants of Perast, who also sailed on them, are the reflection of their shipbuilding skill. Various models of sailing ships were being built at several shipyards. With the assistance of navigation aids and good ship equipment they sailed and reached distant places, participating in numerous naval battles.

At the beginning of the 16th century, Perast had 60 ships from 100 to 800 metzen (“stars” - 1 star equals about 60 kg). In 1502, Perast got the permission to build the ships of 2 000 metzen, and captain Krile Zmajević gets the permission to build a 3000 metzen ship in 1576.

In the 17th century Perast had the commanders on board 23 Venetian “navas” and 2 corvettes. The glory of Boka maritime activities (shipping industry) starts just after the liberation of Herceg Novi from the Ottomans (at the end of the 17th century). Naturally, Perast was not only building but also losing ships – thus in the period from the 17th to the first half of the 18th century they lost about 100 ships.

During 1797 Perast has 72 patented ocean going ships from 2 000 up to 8 000 “stars”, equipped with 12-20 cannons.

Besides the defence of the territory of the Venetian Republic which they were a part of at the time, the inhabitants of Perast enjoyed the honour of being “gonfalonieri”, guardians of the Venetian war banner on board a command vessel. Due to their skills and devotion they would obtain significant privileges from the Venetian Senate, thus in the 17th and the 18th c. Perast was known as seafarers’ nest, centre of maritime industry and trade. This period is known as the golden era of Perast. This time of full flourishing of the maritime trade contributed to the economic and cultural prosperity of Perast.

In the oldest time, maritime trade had been linked to the export of wood since forests had been in abundance. Another export product had been reddish-purple construction stone. They traded in grain, transport oil from Corfu to Venice, and wool and raisins from the Island of Zante. At the beginning of the 17th century, Perast ships bring sugar, resin, cheese and black pine resin to Venice, and they trade in wine, herring and partly in white candles called “lojanica”. Because of large scale maritime trade they aspired to be exempted from customs duties. Kotor Rector’s Office certificate that the goods are owned by Perast enabled them to get exemptions. Perast becomes a strategically important place for the defence of Venetian territory from the enemies, especially from the Ottomans who occupied a part of Boka Kotorska Bay (Risan and Herceg Novi), as well as from Ulcinj pirates.

The privileges issued by the Senate were being extended and expanded from one year to another, and they were receiving them in order to be loyal to the Venetian authorities. The development of maritime trade and prosperity of seafarers from Perast and Boka grew thanks to the so called loan on the third (the contracting parties committed themselves in writing to one third of the profit).

The members of Visković, Balović, Martinović, Bujović, Zmajević, Bronza, Brajković, Mazarović, Širović and Smekja families are deserving of the glory and significance of their town in the mentioned centuries, deserving thus a special place in the display of the Museum and in this Guide.

As skilled seamen, connoisseurs of theoretic and practical part of navigation skill, they were widely known. This fact is confirmed by the naval manual “Pratichae schrivaneschae” by Julije Balović, written for ship scribes with important samples of maritime-merchant letters and various legal solutions regarding maritime affairs, navigation textbook “Il navigante istruto, osia la Teoria e la Pratica del Pilotaggio” dealing with the 18th c. navigation practice, as well as “Manuale Nautico di Meteorologia” by Frano Visković.

Photograph: Frano Visković, Meteorologia, 1876, Trst.

The greatest confirmation of this was manifested in 1698 when Marko Martinović teaches maritime skills to Russian princes - boyars – ever since, that date is taken for the beginning of maritime education in this area (until then there had been occasional private forms of maritime education that gave great pedagogues and very much esteemed seafarers).

The naval collection presents the development of maritime industry through the models of sailing ships, navigation instruments (sextants, octants, compass), cartography (portolans and navigational charts), ship equipment and various items (scope, ship and signal cannons, lanterns, ship clocks, boat winch, seamen’s trunks, samovar). Besides the abovementioned, the collection also includes the equipment for boats and fishing.

Photograph:        Sailing ship of “carrack” type from the 19th c.

               (type of sailing ship which appeared in the 16th c.)

Model sailing ships in the Museum of the Town of Perast are carrack, galley, small “nava” from the 20th c., old brigantine which appears in the first half of the 19th c., model sailing ship “Adriana” of the captain Bratičević from the 20th c., model training ship “Vila Velebita” on board which many captains from Boka Kotorska Bay used to be cadets during the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, as well as a semi-model of the steamshipPerast” with the 20th century pilotage chart.


                      Model sailing ship of brigantine type from the 20th century

     (old type of the sailing ship of brigantine type appeared in the first half of the 19th century)                                                                                                                                               

  “Storm” compass from the 19th century, constructed by Frano Visković, is part of the permanent display. In a special casing there is a magnetic compass with gimbal suspension in order to prevent the impact of ship rolling onto the accuracy of the magnetic needle. Captain Frano Visković patented, together with the “storm” compass, two more navigation devices: cyclonograph-device for drawing cyclonic movements and dromoscope-device automatically calculate the deviation of a compass.


“Storm” compass from the 19th century, invention by Frano Visković

Among the cannons there are the following ones: two signal ship cannons “taras” from the 15th century and two ship cannons from the ship “San Giorgio” from the 17th century. 

Photographs: Ship signal cannon from the 15th century

Photograph: ship cannon from the ship “San Giorgio” from the 17th century

In 1676, the venetians present the inhabitants of Perast with “falconet” cannon. It served for training and it is also known as training cannon. The visitors have the opportunity to see the cannon in the permanent display of the Museum of the Town of Perast.

The Naval Collection of the Museum of the Town of Perast also includes two anchors (end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th c.), one of which is and admiral anchor taken out of the sea opposite Perast. The admiral anchor consists of the shank, crown, arms, palms, bills, stock with balls and key on chain, weighing about 1 000 kg.

Octant from the 18th c. and two sextants (from the 18th and the 20th c.), which within a set of navigation instruments, served for determining the position at sea.

navigacija1     navigacija2

Navigation instruments: 18th century sextant and 17th century compass

Compass from the 18th c. served for determining cardinal directions.

Barometer from the 19th c. is an instrument for measuring air pressure. 

Scopes derive from the 19th c.

Ship samovar is from the 19th c.

Lantern (19th century) from the ship “Castore”, under the command of Captain Nikola Balović, which sunk opposite Perast.

Ship clocks are from the 19th c.

Navigation charts were of great help to seafarers and marine traders for easier orientation at sea. On display, there are the charts of the Mediterranean Sea, Adriatic coast, coast of France, Portugal and Spain, Atlantic Ocean chart and 18th century chart of the English Channel.

The fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797 and the era of steamships (19th and 20th c.) changed the image and life of the inhabitants of Perast forever. After the arrival of Napoleon at the end of the 18th century, trade together with maritime industry experienced a significant drop.

             Photograph: Semi-model of the steamship “Perast” from the 20th century

               Owners – steam-shipping shareholding company “Progres” - Sušak.

                                Builders: SHORT BROTHERS LIMITED.

                                         Sunderland, in 1911

Museum exhibits testify nowadays to the great fame and significance of the prominent families from the Town of Perast.

The legacy inherited by the Museum has remained to testify to maritime Perast, its history, tradition, customs and way of life for many years to come, and every item is a living document and a source through which we can read the pages from our glorious past.

Ethnologist and curator

Danijela Djukic

Museum friends

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Perast Museum

Muzej grada Perasta utemeljilo je Opštinsko vije?e Perasta 28. 02. 1937. od muzejske zbirke, sakupljene ve?inom donacijom Peraštana, nasljednika poznatih Peraških porodica, tokom druge polovine XIX i po?etkom XX vijeka.

Contact information

Obala Marka Martinovica
85336 Perast
Crna Gora

telefon: +382 32 373 519
telefon direktor: +382 32 373 519

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