Sitting amid the grand Venetian palaces and churches of Kotor were the lowly shops where the real day-to-day business of the fortified city took place.
Medieval architects, not to be intimidated by the refinement of their noble neighbors, developed shop fronts with a simple elegance that was both practical and beautiful, blending seamlessly into their environs.
The typical three-story merchant building had a shop on the ground floor with accommodation above. But it was the unique shop door that was genius. The combination door and window, in a single frame spanned by a semicircular stone arch, made it unique.
The shopkeeper was able to close the door, then open the window to sell goods over the counter. The doors also proved to be the perfect place to socialize.
Along the coastal towns of the Adriatic the doors were known as vrata na koljeno or “door on the knee.”
These creative “knee doors” have definitely stood the test of time, retaining their charm and usefulness, while serving as a conversation hub in present day.
Although most of the knee doors we saw had an arched opening, there was the occasional “square peg” that showed up … and some had just disappeared!
We’re always on the lookout for unique architectural details, and we hit the motherlode in Kotor. We realized that we had also seen the knee doors when we visited Dubrovnik.
What about you. Have you encountered any vrata na koljeno in your travels?
Terri & James
Somehow, I’ve simply missed them. And I love interesting doors. I shall be on the lookout in the future! –Curt
Curt, for some reason the knee doors in Kotor really stood out. But when we were in Dubrovnik we totally missed them, too. We didn’t realize they were there until we just looked back at our photos! Let us know if you find any more. ~Terri
Will do, Terri. 🙂
Thanks Peggy. Have you run into this kind of doors in your travels throughout Asia and Europe? ~Terri
Those are just wonderful! Thank you for coming across them and taking photos.
So glad that you enjoyed them, Yvonne. I love the photos of doors you took in Brindisi. Have you ever seen any like these in your travels? ~Terri
No, they were unique!
I can never resist a good door picture! It looks as though you enjoyed Kotor! Shame that it gets unfairly compared to Dubrovnik!
I really loved Kotor, Andrew. And I agree about the comparisons to Dubrovnik. To me, Kotor felt more intimate with a great sense of mystery – two things I enjoy in a new city. ~Terri
Love these kind of details! Beautiful.
Many thanks, Fiona. It’s such a clever design – for both then and now. It’s like a spin on the “Dutch Door” … but more. 🙂 Have you seen these knee doors in your travels? ~Terri
What a lovely door theme! So much fun to scroll through and see all of the architectural creativity. Thanks for sharing! Wishing you continued safe and inspiring travels!
Why thank you, Liz. I really had to laugh when I stumbled across the one that had been totally infilled with stones, leaving the outline intact. Now THAT was some creative remodeling! 🙂 Many thanks, too, for the travel wishes. It looks like you’re really enjoying the Autumn there in Sweden. Have you stumbled across any unique doors lately? ~Terri
I can tell this is a love affair with Kotor. 🙂 Have a happy week, you two!
Thanks Jo. Kotor really is a little gem that I thoroughly enjoyed. Hope you have a fabulous week, too. 🙂 ~Terri
What a beautiful way to do business! The best of both worlds. Doors can really “make or break” the looks of a building. Great post.
Thank you, Laura. It does seem like a very cool way to do business. And most of the present-day shops allow customers to also come inside where they have these beautiful brick vaulted ceilings. And I agree with you about the door making or breaking a building – my architect friend describes it as the “lipstick” on a smile. 🙂 ~Terri
The translation of the name of these unique doors made me look at them differently – I can now see the knees in the knee doors…great photos.
Oh, you are so clever, Carol! When I finally found out what the doors were called, I thought it was because the window ledge came up to someone’s (very tall) knee. But your explanation makes so much more sense. Thanks for your great insight! 🙂 ~Terri
How unique! I have never seen these before!!
They are certainly unique, Martha. We didn’t realize that we’d seen them before until we were looking back through our Dubrovnik photos and there they were. We had totally missed them in all of our strolls around town. Duh! 🙂 ~Terri
How interesting. I have never come across this type of door in my travels.
We hadn’t either, Lynn. On first glance I thought they were arched French doors, but then I realized half of one side was missing. Then I started looking closer. We kept calling them “3/4 doors.” 🙂 ~Terri
What a unique style of door! This is a first for me.
We thought they were a first for us too, Leslie, but when we looked back at our Dubrovnik photos we spied them again! We’d been totally oblivious – or gobsmacked by all the other gorgeous sights! 🙂 ~Terri
It’s interesting how all of the doors are divided into a door and a half size window. Thanks!
Marilyn, at first we wondered if they could have been stable doors long ago, with a half window for livestock to look out. But further research indicated they were shops all along. ~Terri
Those are awesome doors. I dont remember seeing them when I was there and I dont remember seeing shapes like that anywhere else. Very interesting.
This is a wonderful design: total access, partial access, or no access – all with one device. Not bad. And I suspect that the full door helped keep roaming livestock out of the shop. ~James
Animals out and kids in probably! Great point.
Have not seen the knee doors. Love the theme and all the variations! Good Job.
I thought of a comparison that you might appreciate. They remind me of the stable doors used in the “Mr. Ed Show.” 🙂 ~James
You are right, these doors are unique. Many refinements have come along architecturally since medieval times, but they are not all necessarily improvements. They certainly blend in seamlessly with their settings. – Mike
Honestly Mike, I think these doors are brilliant and I can’t see any way to improve on the design. They’re functional, attractive, structurally strong, and most of all, multipurpose. Not bad for a four hundred-year-old design. ~James
I wonder if I’ve seen any in those two places?! If I have, I did not notice enough to photograph them especially … how nice for me to be able to benefit from your keen eyes!
Don’t feel so bad Lexie, as we said to Curt, we missed them in Dubrovnik. And only after we saw them in Kotor did we go back to our photos and say: “Yep, there they were, right in front of us.” I guess we were too busy gawking at everything else. ~James
At first I wondered what the ‘half wall’ in front of the door was for. Ha. It’s the building wall with a window over it. Lovely doors. Attractive and well maintained. >-) ❤
These doors are unique Tess, and they’re so functional that I’m surprised that we haven’t seen them elsewhere. They make a great storefront for a small shop. ~James
Indeed. They are unique. 🙂
So unusual and eye-catching. Kotor just made Lonely Planet’s stop-destination list. You made it there just in time!
I didn’t know that Susan – thanks for the info. So glad we made it there just ahead of the curve. 🙂 We wanted to go there a few years ago when we visited Dubrovnik, but couldn’t work it out. We were determined this time. ~Terri
Those knee doors are very unique! What a great idea. I am curious to know more about the shop called The Cats of Kotor. Can you buy a cat there?
Darlene, Kotor is famous for its cat population – they’re everywhere – and this is an artisan gift shop that caters to cat lovers with all types of nice feline goodies. I didn’t see any live cats for sale (although I bet the owner could help in that department). 🙂 It even has its own entry on Tripadvisor. ~Terri
How cool is that. I can think of a few of my cat lover friends who would love this place!
I don’t think have ever seen doors like these but then again , since I was in Dubrovnik, I must not have been looking for them. All right it’s on the list for future quests. I shall call you immediately from a far flung corner of the globe when a knee door has been located. 🙂
Sue, we didn’t notice them in Dubrovnik, either. Not until we looked back at our photos (this week) did we realize we’d stared directly at them! Boy did we feel silly. Glad to know you’ll have me on speed dial whenever you stumble across them. 🙂 How is you Mom’s move going? ~Terri
That makes me feel much better! I will have to look at our Dubrovnik photos.
Mom is all settled and today I drove back to Calgary. Mom is so happy to start this new chapter. It warms my heart. Thanks so much for asking Terri.
Love these doors, and I frequently think of collecting pics of doors around the world. But, of course, I would have to start that trek all over again. Oh, darn! (Wish we could!) Thanks for sharing these pics.
So glad that you enjoyed the doors, Rusha. If I had photos of all the things I wish I’d photographed, I’d have to get a new hard drive for my computer! But I do like your idea of starting the trek all over again. 🙂 Just imagine! ~Terri
We might not be young enough to begin again!
Love the rounded shape of the door and the doorframe. So unique and beautiful! 🙂
Hi Carl, I think it was the arched doorframe that caught my attention, too. Then when I saw the half window on the knee wall I was hooked. So glad that you stopped by. 🙂 Thanks. All the best, Terri
I love those upside-down J-shaped doors. I’d cut a square out of the wall next to the front door of our apartment if my wife would let me.
Wonderful description, Bun! It’s always great to look at things from a different perspective. Maybe you could use these photos to help you convince your wife to let you cut the new window. 🙂 ~Terri
I think if anything can convince her, those photos might. 🙂
Nice little piece!
Can’t wait to throw together an album of doors from Morocco… or Albania… or Turkey… or Iran!
We’ve always loved doors and windows Chris. In many places they’re like the lipstick on the face of the building, which shows a bit of colorful uniqueness. We saw some dandy Art Nouveau doors in Helsinki. ~James
Alison, thanks for the link to our post on the Medieval doors of Kotor. In addition to being architecturally interesting, they’re infinitely functional – a great combination. We also saw the same kind of doors in Dubrovnik. ~James