VIGANJ HISTORY

Viganj as the village was first mentioned in land registry books from Republic of Dubrovnik in 1336th as Vigel and Vighen, although is much older origin. For only the origin of the name Viganj is related more then one legend. According to one, it is related to the name of the neighboring villages Nakovana and Kuciste. The legend says that once upon a time lived three brothers, the sons of blacksmith, one of which is inherited “kuciste” (the house and garden), another inherited viganj (blacksmith’s bellows), and the third succeeded nakovanj (anvil), so where each one settled where given names for each villige. However, this is a legend from new ages, and in this area has never existed blacksmith’s activity.

There is an opinion that the name is not associated with the blacksmiths activity, but beacouse of frequency of wind, especially in the summer, this area is reminiscent of the blacksmith’s bellows, and therefore is named Viganj.

Most likely, however, that the name itself comes out of nobelman called Viganj which is mentioned to live in that time.

The remains of flint and other archaeological artifacts indicate that the Viganj and Nakovana was inhabited in the Neolithic. Probably it was the same group of people who lived in Nakovana and periodically went down to the sea in search of food. During ancient times Nakovana with Iliyrian settlement on a hilltop “Grad” (town) dominated this entire area, controlling the maritime routes. Due to better control of channel  Illyrians from Nakovana  built many fortified guardhouses on the mountain peaks above Viganj, and in the narrowest part of the Pelješac Channel, Cape St. John. Along whit those guardhouses, the number of piles  in Montun (part of Viganj/ montun = pile) area, and tombs from the same period in the area of Dol and Bililo (parts of Viganj), as well as debris of caramics show that  already somewhere in the V.century BC.

Viganj existed as permanent settlement of local Illyrians. Unfortunately all of these remains were destroyed by modern buildings, and we can only imagine and presume the size and significance of this settlement. Probably it was a tradeing settlement where the local Illyrians traded with the Greeks from their colonies in Lumbarda on Korčula, as evidenced by the remains found in Nakovana. The evidence about development of trade in this region is sinked galley with loads in front of  St.John area.

The fate of the Illyrian settlements in Viganj probably followed the fate of the other Illyrians in the area. With the arrival of the Romans in the First century BC Illyrians are either expelled or enslaved, while the rest is romanized. Archaeological remains show that untill arrival of the Romans, life in Nakovana was blooming, but in the next few hundred years  life here was extinguished, a center of life moves on shore.

During the Roman rule, retired war veterans receive credits, in the form of estates in the conquered countries, where they builld their country houses – villa rustica.

Remains of ten villas rusticas can be found in the area from  St. John in Viganj to Trstenica in Orebic. It was a time in which the inhabitants of the Roman Empire enjoyed peace and prosperity and did not fear pirates and other dangers that are came from the sea. Therefore, the villas rusticas were built without defensive walls and near the coast, and probably all were conected with roads. Apparently parts of these roads  can be perceived in the shallows of Viganj coast line. Unfortunately, due to modern construction, almost all of the villas rusticas were destroyed, and the only remaining evidence of Roman presence in Viganj is the sarcophagus lid from I century., and several amphoras.

Until the Dubrovnik authorities came to power in year 1333, Viganj has generally followed the fate of the rest of Pelješac, where was exchanged  ruling of different government entity and nobles. Purchasing Pelješac, Dubrovnik nobility divided among themselves peninsula. Because of the distance from the city, and to protect their property, in year1336 a group of twenty noblemen decided to built a fortress or city in Viganj. This attempt, however, was never realized.

Already in the 14th century, in Viganj is mentioned ten hamlets located away from the sea, at the foot of the hill, because of the danger of pirates.

The largest settelment at that time was Basina (Basiljina), which was first mentioned 1389 as Vassilina by Vasilj, who was a resident of period before rule of Dubrovnik. Other hamlets are formed later and so we have villages Brainica, Dol, Pirovića selo, Njakarino selo, Sokolovo selo, Dujmovica selo, Podac, Jerkovo selo, Šapetino selo, Prince, Gagića selo, Cikatić (Kovacevic) selo and Habića selo. From 17 century, due to the economic blooming houses were constructed on the coast, and a true center Viganj gets in 1671 construction of the Dominican monastery together with church Our Lady of Rosaria and later in 1760 parish church of Sv. Michael.

With maritime development in the world, from the early 17th c. Viganj is experiencing the biggest blooming in the history. One of the reasons for this is a big earthquake 1667, in which Dubrovnik was damaged on the large scale and a large number of their nobelty lost everything. Therefore, initiative of the Dubrovnik government, for the further conduct of maritime affairs was to leave in a greater extent  to the sailors of the civil estate and serfs. Due to the large stake in helping in the reconstruction of Dubrovnik Viganjs shipowner Ivan Krstelj was acquitted of all taxes and awarded with noble title. Serfs by going to the ships contributed to households in many ways. Going to ship the serf  became free citizens with the right to buy part of the ship or land, back at home.

Maritime in the late 17th century was so “popular” that almost all male population were at sea. Apart of the ships with the flag of Dubrovnik, males from Viganj sailed at the Venetian, Austrian, Russian, French, Spanish and English ships. Over time, they becomed wealthier and wealthier, and they start to builld  magnificent captain’s houses.

The highlight of Pelješac maritime glory is in  the mid-19th century, when among others, Viganjs  Kovacevic family established its own maritime company “Brothers Kovacevic”, with its headquarters in Marseilles. In the late 19th c. authorities luck of care and thanks to increasing competitiveness of steamships, all Pelješac maritime companies closed and in 1907, the sale of the last sailing ship, Pelješac after more than 350 years remained without a ship for long voyages. During this period Viganj gave 117 captains.

Maritime disaster on the Pelješac peninsula caused general crisis and a wave of migration. So most of the Viganj  inhabitants emigrated to foreign countries like America, Australia and New Zealand. From that time until the boom of tourism Viganj largely stagnated, a major accidents like the Second World War, the earthquake in 1962, Homeland War, and the fire of 1998 only have contributed to its stagnation.

With the development of tourism, especially of windsurfing, Viganj may perceive the rise of the economy, recently foreign citizens began to purchase the old captains houses, wich shortly after were renovated.

Written by: Mr. Ivan Pamić

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