Lady of The Rocks Church in The Bay of Kotor, Montenegro
The itinerary stated a morning trip to Kotor but, heym it was an Explore “exploratory” and glitches were bound to occur since it stated there would be an “optional” boat trip in the afternoon. “Optional” became part of the itinerary, with a visit to Lady of The Rocks Church and Perast on the way back to Denovici. This was a good thing. The Bay of Kotor or Fjord (whatever you want to call it) is considered one of the most beautiful in the world with rugged mountains, azure waters, charming coastal towns and two important islands (islets) stuck in the center; Sveti Djordje (St. George) is a natural island and Gospa od Skrpijela (Lady of The Rocks) is artificial created out of rocks and by sinking ships loaded with rocks.
According to legend, the islet was made over centuries after sea men found an icon of Madonna and Child on the rock in the sea in 1452. Sea men began laying a rock in the Bay each time they returned from a successful voyage. Over time, the rocks became an islet. The tradition of throwing rocks here is still alive. Local residents take to the boats each July 22 and throw rocks into the sea, widening the surface of the island.
It’s an incredible approach to Lady of The Rocks Church that floats in the still waters. We docked and were given a interesting guided tour through the church. The church contained important paintings along with a collection of silver votive tablets given by sailors in thanks for safe voyages. The sanctuary held paintings from the Old Testament around the perimeter of the lowest level, the level above that was lined with silver votives and the level above that held paintings from the New Testament. I took one look and remembered the impressive Gate of Dawn Chapel in Vilnius, Lithuania. The Gate of Dawn Chapel also had walls filled with silver parts donated by grateful supplicants. Legs, arms, heads and a majority of hearts representing “broken hearts” that had been healed.
The main difference in type of votives was the ships in silver. After all, these were sailors, many of them from Perast (our next stop after leaving Lady of The Rocks). Oil paintings of ships also hung along the church walls.
Above the altar was what is said to be the original picture of Madonna and child discovered in the 1400s. On an adjacent wall was a silver outline that once covered the oil allowing only the faces to show through.
Behind Lady of The Rock altar is a hole (a very dark hole) about knee level. If you reach in and touch the rock, your wishes will be granted or if you have no wish, all your sins will be washed away. I don’t know about that but we all still groped around to touch the rock. You’d wouldn’t think one church could be so engrossing but there was still more to learn in the small museum upstairs. Briefly:
– It was, and is, a bridal tradition to bring their flowers to the church and hang over a doorway;
– Roman and Greek pieces of archaeology found in the area;
– Important paintings, old firearms, an Italian chest from the 1500s with three different locks on it. The master of the house, his wife and oldest son were the only people who had keys to the chest that could only be opened in tandem; and last
– A famous votive tapestry embroidered by a woman from Perast. The needlepoint of the Madonna and child took her 25 years to finish. She embroidered incorporating her own hair, used gold and silver threads, and pearls. I think the guide said it was finished in 1826, and had extremely fine 650 stitches in 1 mm, a minute fraction of an inch. No wonder the poor woman eventually went blind.
Back in the boat for one last stop today, Perast, a Venetian town that once had 16 or 17 churches. (Depends who you believe.) If you were a wealthy Venetian in Perast, you built a church. If the ducats didn’t stretch, you’d just build an altar inside a church and one church could have five or six altars inside! According to guide Sinisa, Perast is in the middle of a different kind of boom. The “Rich and Famous” are building and/or buying houses in tiny Perast. Supposedly, Michael Douglas is one.
No dummies us, Steve and I spent our time in Perast searching out a shop selling bread. You don’t want to know how late it was by now or how tired we were from a long, hot day. Small bottles of Montenegro wine bought earlier in Kotor, potato chips, and packs of tuna to slather on the bread would do nicely for dinner.