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 previous European Heritage Volunteers Projects in Gornji Stoliv which took place in autumn 2022 as well as in spring and autumn 2023.

During the project in 2024, the participants will continue to work on a two-floor stone edifice consisting of a captivating belvedere terrace, a cistern, and numerous original details such as staircases, windows, doors, and an original fireplace. The building is part of a former residential ensemble whose auxiliary building had been restored during the previous European Heritage Volunteers Projects. The beams between the ground and the first floor as well as parts of the beams between the first floor and the roof level of the residential building were in a poor state and required immediate intervention.

During the 2023 project, the participants carefully and meticulously cleaned the edifice before they started with conservation interventions. Many discovered items of historical interest and importance have been placed aside for future integration into the structure and into its exhibition space which is envisioned to showcase the tangible and intangible heritage of Gornji Stoliv. This aim will continue to be the driving force for the works planned for the 2024 project.

Moreover, the participants in the 2023 project helped with transporting over five cubic metres of the new wooden beams and planks and other materials and necessary tools from the coast to Gornji Stoliv using the historical stone pathway and, in this way, following the footsteps of all those before them who have built their houses in a traditional way. In result of the 2023 project, the beams between the ground floor and the first floor have been repaired respectively, where not possible, replaced.

During the 2024 project, the participants will continue these works, focusing on the repairs of the beams between the first and the second floor and of the roof structure. In the first step, they will draw out the required precise measurements of wood before making the necessary cuts. Then, they will cut and shape the wood using traditional techniques. Once each beam will be prepared, the edges will be smoothed with chisels before finally being carefully placed inside the edifice. Finally, they will cover the first floor with wooden planks using as much as possible of the original planks and reintegrating them within the structure.

In addition, accompanying works on the walls of the building and its direct surroundings will be carried out such as the placement and repairment of a boundary fence made from blackberry and acacia aimed to prevent cattle from accessing and damaging the stone-slab roof of the auxiliary building which was completed as part of the previous European Heritage Volunteers Projects, and similar tasks.

The conservation interventions will be led by a heritage-conservation architect and a master of carpentry from Germany with the additional qualification of “Restorer in Handicraft”.

As part of the educational programme, guided tours and excursions will be conducted to other locations within the World Heritage site area, where critical developments and threats, particularly regarding unrestrained tourism and the fragility of the authentic rural settlements in the area and the need for safeguarding them from mass tourism and rapid modern developments will be examined in more detail.

The conservation of the ensemble of the residential and the auxiliary building should serve as an example of smooth conservation interventions at the vernacular architecture in Gornji Stoliv applying traditional methods and regional materials and guided by the approach of "Care and Repair".


The project will take place from September 2nd to September 14th, 2024, and is organised by European Heritage Volunteers in cooperation with the Kamelija Stoliv Association.

European Heritage Volunteers