The Monastery of Cetinje was built at the beginning of the 12th century on the foundations of the old palace of the Crnojevic dynasty.
In the monastery there are valuable exhibits from the medieval period: Sava Nemanjić’s epitrahil (stole), the crown of Stefan Dečanski, the Balšić dynasty’s church flag and the seal and sceptre that belonged to Ivan Crnojević. There are also collections of valuable icons and medieval manuscripts written on parchment or on paper, as well as many rare books. Among these is the “Oktoih” printed in 1493/94 in the first Cyrillic printing house that belonged to Ivan Crnojević.
Two great Christian relics can be found in Cetinje Monastery: the right hand of St. John the Baptist and a part of the
Holy Cross of Christ. According to Christian tradition, John the Baptist was a preacher who baptised Christ in the River Jordan, on whose banks he came to preach and prepare people for the Saviour’s coming. On Herod’s orders, he was imprisoned, his head was cut off and his body was buried in Sevastia. The destiny of this Christian relic was marked by historical events. After 9 centuries it was brought to Jerusalem from Antioch, then to Constantinople, Rhodes and to Malta. Knights of the Maltese Order gave it to the Russian Tsar Pavel I together with a part of the Holy Cross of Christ and the icon of Our Lady of Philerme. It was then put in the tsar’s residence in Gatchina and later brought to the church of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. According to available sources, after the revolution in 1917, the relics were taken out of Russia. Maria Fyodorovna, mother of the last Russian Emperor Nikolai Romanov, kept the relics until her death. After her death, her daughters gave the relics to Russian Metropolitan Antonije (Hrapovicky). The Metropolitan placed the relics in the Orthodox temple in Berlin and then he moved them to Serbia (Sremski Karlovci) and entrusted King Aleksandar Karadjordjević with the relics. The relics were preserved in the Temple of St. Andrija Prvozvani beside the Bijeli dvor in Dedinje (Belgrade). At the beginning of World War II, King Petar II presented them to the Ostrog Monastery. An archimandrite hid them and the relics remained there until 1952. The state authorities found the relics in 1978 and delivered the hand of St. John the Baptist to Cetinje Monastery, while the icon was entrusted to the Cetinje National Museum.