There are two written documents about the way the Monastery looked then: Prints from the Cetinjski Oktoih and a plan of the Venetian engineer Barbieria. After reconstruction the monastic complex covered a space of 1400 m2. It was surrounded by ditches full of water and by defensive walls with 62 loopholes. Within the walls were the monastic residences, a smaller church of St. Petar and the large Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God, which was surrounded by a porch with 18 pillars. Soon after Crnojevic Monastery at Cipur had been destroyed, Bishop Danilo – founder of the Petrovic Dynasty, undertook to erect what is today Cetinje Monastery on the site once occupied by the court of Ivan Crnojevic. It was not only the spiritual continuity, but also the essential architectural elements of Crnojevic Monastery that Bishop Danilo transferred to the new holy edifice.
A plaque with the Crnojevici court-of-arms was placed in the apse. After reconstruction, during the 18th century the monastery was destroyed and burned down a couple of times. The monastic complex is in fact a town – a miniature fortress. At the beginning of the 18th century the monastic church was erected, as well as monks’ cells, the refectory and the bell tower. The monastic complex has on several occasions undergone adjustments and additional construction works and it got its present-day compact nucleus appearance from 1925 to 1927. The nucleus of the monastic complex is the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God, a moderately dimensioned single-nave building. In its south choir lies the reliquary chest of St. Petar of Cetinje, after which the Monastery got its name. North of the church is St. Petar’s cell, his hermitage. Southward from the church are the monastic residences, two-storied and with arcaded cornices. Next to them, in the former Metropolitan’s Court often called Njegos Residence, is the monastic treasury, which is in terms of richness one of the most important institutions of its kind in Montenegro. A reconstructed large threshing floor lies in front of the monastery, which inspired Njegos so that numerous scenes from his great philosophical epic poem Gorski vijenac (The Mountain Wreath) take place on or around this site.
The Cetinje Monastery is more than a harmoniously composed architectural achievement.
It was the Montenegrin cultural centre. In it were cherished the spiritual and historical heritage, the first school was opened in the Monastery (1834), as well as the first Montenegrin print shop after the Crnojevici one (1833). The Monastery symbolizes the Montenegrin spirituality, history and the love of freedom and tradition and enlightenment.