The idyllic village of Petrovići is located in the Nikšić municipality, south of the rocky hill Stražište, on the gentle slopes of Mount Somina. To the west, the village borders on a steep slope that descends towards Lake Bileća and the former left bank of the Trebišnjica river, which long ago formed the rockshelter Crvena Stijena. The village houses, about fifty of them, are scattered along the fertile fields located between wooded hills.
In addition to the site of Crvena Stijena, which contains cultural strata from the Middle Paleolithic to the Bronze Age, there are numerous traces that testify to past times and the long-term presence of people in this area. Paleolithic flint artifacts have been found in some fields and meadows, while in others, stone axes from the Eneolithic have turned up. Bronze Age finds are also common. Tomb structures or tumuli are common; some have been archaeologically investigated and have yielded objects from the Early Bronze Age. There are also two later prehistoric settlements in the village, which, although not yet explored, were certainly in use during the Bronze Age and later.
During the Roman Empire, this region belonged to the province of Dalmatia. A 3rd century Roman villa with beautiful mosaics was found below the Planik hill (now under the waters of lake Bileća), and an inscription dating to the 1st century AD testifies that on the Trebišnjica, just below Crvena Stijena, there was a bridge and a Roman road known as Via Egnatia that, passing through Petrovići, connected Salona and Dyrrhachium and then continued to the east.
Monuments from the medieval period are also visible. Stecici necropolises (medieval cemeteries with large carved tombstones) are common. Some of them are monumental, some are figuratively decorated, and some have inscriptions. They date from the beginning of the 12th century, and we know that some of them were used and reused as tombstones until the present day.
Contemporary residents say that their ancestors moved to this area in the middle of the 14th century. It is said that the church of St. John the Baptist, near the center of the village, dates to this time period. At one time, it was a Saborna church (of higher status) until the construction of the Kosijerevo monastery.
The monastery was originally located in a gentle valley on the left bank of the Trebišnjica, but was moved to Petrovići, to the location of Stražište, in 1967, when the hydroelectric dam that created Lake Bileća and flooded the bottom of the Trebišnjica valley was built. The monastery church is dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The time of creation of the monastery is not precisely defined, although most researchers place it in the 14th century. An inscription inside the small church of St. Archangel Michael on Stražište dates to 1605; however, it is believed that it was also built in the 14th century. These two churches, along with the chapel of St. Luke, the cemetery, lodgings and other buildings now form the unique whole of the Kosijerevo monastery. The monastery has always been, as it is today, the center of religious life and communal gathering of the inhabitants of the Banjani area.
The tumultuous history of this region has been recorded by various chroniclers as times changed, armies and wars replaced each other, and in peaceful times, work focused on construction and reconstruction. A special event was the construction, from 1935-1938, of the Bileća-Nikšić railway. Thanks to this undertaking, Petrovići received electricity and water as early as 1938. The village experienced economic prosperity in the 1970s. During that period, the elementary school worked in two shifts and had 370 students. There were several cafes, shops, small factories, clinics, etc. near the railway station. A large number of local people had homes and workplaces in Petrovići. Unfortunately, with the shutdown of the railway in 1976, prosperity declined and people, especially the young, left the village. Many built houses in Nikšić or other towns, and only a small number of people remained in the village. Today, the elementary school has a total of 9 students.
Although Petrovići boasts a fairytale landscape, a favorable - almost Mediterranean - climate, a large variety of medicinal plants and flowers within a natural environment, healthy food, and longevity of human life, these reasons are unfortunately not enough to compel young people to stay in this village. In the summer months, however, when the archaeological team arrives, the place comes alive and a new spirit is felt. The cooperation of the team with the locals is extremely good, and many strong friendships have been established that have lasted for decades.
By Mr. Mile Baković, Center for Conservation and Archaeology, Montenegro