( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The end of a purely Dalmatian pilgrimage will be Cattaro. He who goes further along the coast will pass into lands that have a history, past and present, which is wholly distinct from that of the coast which he has hitherto traced from Zarawe might say from Capo d'Istria—onward. We have not reached the end of the old Venetian dominion—for that we must carry our voyage to Crete and Cyprus. But we have reached the end of the nearly continuous Venetian dominion—the end of the coast which, save at two small points, was either Venetian or Ragusan—the end of that territory of the two maritime commonwealths which they kept down to their fall in modern times, and in which they have been succeeded by the modern Dalmatian kingdom.
The city stands at the end of an inlet of the sea fifteen or twenty miles long, and it has mountains around it so high that it is only in fair summer weather that the sun can be seen; in winter Cattaro never enjoys his presence. There certainly is no place where it is harder to believe that the smooth waters of the narrow, lake-like inlet, with mountains on each side which it seems as if one could put out one's hand and touch, are really part of the same sea which dashes against the rocks of Ragusa. They end in a meadow-like coast which makes one think of Bourget or Trasimenus rather than of Hadria. The Dalmatian voyage is well ended by the sail along the Bocche, the loveliest piece of inland sea which can be conceived, and whose shores are as rich in curious bits of political history as they are in scenes of surpassing natural beauty.
The general history of the district consists in the usual tossing to and fro between the various powers which have at different times been strong in the neighborhood. Cattaro was in the reign of Basil the Macedonian besieged and taken by Saracens, who presently went on unsuccessfully to besiege Ragusa. And, as under Byzantine rule it was taken by Saracens, so under Venetian rule it was more than once besieged by Turks. In the intermediate stages we get the usual alternations of independence and of subjection to all the neighboring powers in turn, till in 1419 Cattaro finally became Venetian. At the fall of the republic it be-came part of the Austrian share of the spoil. When the spoilers quarreled, it fell to France. When England, Russia, and Montenegro were allics, the city joined the land of which it naturally forms the head, and Cattaro became the Montenegrin haven and capital. When France was no longer dangerous, and the powers of Europe came together to parcel out other men's goods, Austria calmly asked for Cattaro back again, and easily got it.
In the city of Cattaro the Orthodox Church is still in a minority, but it is a minority not far short of a majority. Outside its walls, the Orthodox outnumber the Catholics. In short, when we reach Cattaro, we have very little temptation to fancy ourselves in Italy or in any part of Western Christendom. We not only know, but feel, that we are on the Byzantine side of the Hadriatic; that we have, in fact, made our way into Eastern Europe.
And East and West, Slav and Italian, New Rome and Old, might well struggle for the possession of the land and of the water through which we pass from Ragusa .to our final goal at Cattaro. The strait leads us into a gulf ; another narrow strait leads us into an inner gulf; and on an inlet again branching out of that inner gulf lies the furthest of Dalmatian cities. The lower city, Cattaro itself, seems to lie so quietly, so peacefully, as if in a world of its own from which nothing beyond the shores of its own Bocche could enter, that we are tempted to forget, not only that the spot has been the scene of so many revolutions through so many ages, but that it is even now a border city, a city on the marchland of contending powers, creeds, and races.
The city of Cattaro itself is small, standing on a narrow ledge between the gulf and the base of the mountain. It carries the features of the Dalmatian cities to what any one who has not seen Trau will call their extreme point. But, tho the streets of Cattaro are narrow, yet they are civilized and airy-looking compared with those of Trau, and the little paved squares, as so often along this coast, suggest the memory of the ruling city.
The memory of Venice is again called up by the graceful little scraps of its characteristic architecture which catch the eye ever and anon among the houses of Cattaro. The landing-place, the marina, the space between the coast and the Venetian wall, where we pass for the last time under the winged lion over the gate, has put on the air of a boulevard. But the forms and costume of Bocchesi and Montenegrins, the men of the gulf, with their arms in their girdles, no less than the men of the black mountain, banish all thought that we are anywhere but where we really are, at one of the border points of Christian and civilized Europe. If in the sons of the mountains we see the men who have in all ages held out against the invading Turk, we see in their brethren of the coast the men who, but a few years back, brought Imperial, Royal, and Apostolic Majesty to its knees.
At Cattaro the Orthodox Church is on its own ground, standing side by side on equal terms with its Latin rival, pointing to lands where the Filioque is unknown and where the Bishop of the Old Rome has even been deemed an intruder. The building itself is a small Byzantine church, less Byzantine in fact in outline than the small churches of the Byzantine type at Zara, Spalato, and Trau. The single dome rises, not from the intersection of a Greek cross, but from the middle of a single body, and, resting as it does on pointed arches, it suggests the thought of Perigueux and Angouleme. But this arrangement, which is shared by a neighboring Latin church, is well known throughout the East.
The Latin duomo, which has been minutely described by Mr. Neale, is of quite another type, and is by no means Dalmatian in its general look. A modern west front with two western towers does not go for much; but it reminds us that a design of the same kind was begun at Trau in better times. The inside is quite unlike anything of later Italian work.
The traveler whose objects are of a more general kind turns away from this border church of Christendom as the last stage of a pilgrimage unsurpassed either for natural beauty or for historic interest. And, as he looks up at the mountain which rises almost close above the east end of the duomo of Cattaro, and thinks of the land and the men to which the path over that mountain leads, he feels that, on this frontier at least, the spirit still lives which led English warriors to the side of Manuel Komnenos, and which steeled the heart of the last Constantine to die in the breach for the Roman name and the faith of Christendom.