Cultural Heritage in Times of World War I: The Case of the Austro-Hungarian Relief Map of Montenegro (1916-1918)

The year of 2018 marks 100 years from the end of one of the most disastrous wars in human history. When the armistice between the Central Powers and the Allied Powers (Entente) was concluded in November 1918, which ended the First World War, millions of soldiers as well as civilians had met their death, landscapes and infrastructure throughout the whole of Europe was devastated, Empires had fallen apart and cultural monuments had been erased to the ground. This project does not focus on the analysis of the armed conflict itself, but will instead shed light on a very special aspect of international and intercultural cooperation in times of war. Today’s Republic of Montenegro (and here the National Museum of Montenegro / Narodni muzej Crne Gore in Cetinje) is preserving a fascinating example of a European cultural monument, which is the result of an Austro-Hungarian and Montenegrin cooperation from 1916 until 1918. In March 1916 the Austro-Hungarian army established its military command in the former Montenegrin capital of Cetinje and here in the palace of the Montenegrin kings called Biljarda. In the same year the Austro-Hungarian General Staff ordered a 3D relief map of entire Montenegro to be made at a scale of 1 : 10,000 in the courtyard of the Biljarda in Cetinje. This relief map with 282 square metres, which was finished in 1917, displays Montenegro itself as well as territories which belong to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Albania and Serbia. The relief map was made of concrete on bedrock in accordance with Austro-Hungarian topographic maps of South-East Europe.

Although this relief map is a remarkable cultural monument of its time, which was even mentioned as a sight in the Austro-Hungarian newspapers of 1917, and also nowadays, its exact history of production remains obscure. The relief map of Montenegro was declared a monument of culture in 1948 and is representing one of the most important local tourist sights in Cetinje and in overall Montenegro today. That is why scholarly research on the relief map is desperately needed. This project (No. ME 07/2019) between the Long-Term Project Tabula Imperii Byzantini (TIB) at the Institute for Medieval Research, Division of Byzantine Research (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna) and the Faculty for Culture and Tourism of the University of Donja Gorica (Podgorica) is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) of the Republic of Austria via the Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research (OeAD) and envisages to research archival data on the Austro-Hungarian cartographers and the Montenegrin artists working on the aforesaid relief map, to collect relevant secondary literature, to capture pictures of the relief map with a drone in order to calculate a high resolution digital terrain model and to prepare a joint scholarly article on the project’s results. All of these aspects will be used for the outreach to academia and the interested public in order to emphasise this vivid example of Cultural Heritage in times of war.

Funded by:

Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research

Project Number: ME 07/2019

Duration: 01.01.2019 - 31.12.2021

PI: Mihailo Popović

  • Veronika Polloczek
  • Bernhard Koschiček-Krombholz
  • Moisés Hernández Cordero
Cooperation and External Employees:
  • Jelena Nikić, BA
  • University of Donja Gorica (Faculty for Culture and Tourism, Podgorica, Montenegro)
  • Austrian Archaeological Institute (ÖAI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Director Priv.-Doz. MMag. Dr. A. Pülz, w.M.)
  • National Museum of Montenegro (Narodni muzej Crne Gore, Cetinje, Montenegro)
Detail of the Relief Map of Montenegro in the Courtyard of the Museum Biljarda (Cetinje)

Detail of the Relief Map of Montenegro in the Courtyard of the Museum Biljarda (Cetinje)

Pavilion of the Relief Map in the Courtyard of the Museum Biljarda (Cetinje)

Pavilion of the Relief Map in the Courtyard of the Museum Biljarda (Cetinje)

The Bay of Budva in Montenegro

The Bay of Budva in Montenegro

Aerial Photo of Montenegro

Aerial Photo of Montenegro


Author Title Location Date Pages
A. Bracanović, M. Breier, M. Hernández Cordero u. a. On the Crossroads between East and West: Geocommunicating Medieval Sacred Landscapes in Today’s Montenegro – First Project Results. Krems in Druck


Presenter Title Conference Location Date
Mihailo Popović „Zwei Reliefkarten des Balkans – ein ‘ungewöhnlicher’ Blick auf Skopje und auf Montenegro im ersten Viertel des 20. Jahrhunderts“ DPP Lecture Wien 2018/12/18
Mihailo Popović Vortrag über historische Geographie des Balkanraums und des Projektes vor Studierenden der Universität Donja Gorica in Podgorica Montenegro 2020/03/05
Moisés Hernández Cordero Mapping Cultural Heritage beyond the Eye: The Case of the Crown of the Serbian King Stefan Dečanski International Medieval Congress Leeds, Großbritannien 2022/07/06