Perast & Our Lady of the Rock – getaway for romantic souls
15 January 2020
written by Marina Pejaković
You are planning on visiting Montenegro. Maybe you will stay for a couple of days, or you are stopping by for a few hours by a cruise ship. Either way, you want to spend some quality time here, in this beautiful, yet an unfamiliar country. It seems that you are in the right place. This blog will take you to Boka Kotorska bay, to one little coastal town with a rich history and long tradition. The baroque, picturesque town we are visiting is Perast.
Perast is on the coast of Boka Kotorska bay. Guided by the mountains, it is proudly saluting every ship that goes to the port of Kotor. It is just a twenty-minute drive from Kotor. However, the popular way of reaching this lovely town is by speedboat, and the ride lasts about fifteen minutes. Whether you are coming by boat or by car, the excitement is inevitable. While you are approaching Perast, you will enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the sea and the mountains above it. The atmosphere in this area is peaceful, and the place itself is so captivating that, I guarantee, you would like to stay here for as long as you can.
The history of Perast, as well as the history of the entire bay, is thousands of years long. However, Perast gained its popularity during the period from the 15th to the 18th century. This period defined Perast as it is today. Since its position was desirable to anyone who would have wanted to take control over the bay, local people from Perast had to defend their position and certainly, gain something from it.
At this time, two strong forces in this area shared the Kotor bay. Those were the Ottoman Empire on one side and the Venetian Republic on the other. The position of Perast became critical because it was on the border between these two opponents. The settlers of Perast were on the side of the Venetian Republic, and as they were defending Venetian territory, they gained a lot of privileges. One of the most important was the tax-free trading on all Venetian markets, which opened the road of this small coastal town towards Europe.
Imagine what this privilege meant to the local people of Perast, the opportunity to explore new lands, get familiar with the trade among much more prosperous and influential countries, on markets that they could only dream of by this time. It was, indeed, a breakthrough! The world was about to find out about Perast and its proud habitants. Suddenly, the locals were getting richer. It resulted in many investments in the town. Churches and palaces were built with so many details. Perast was starting to look like some of the European cities from that period. So magnificent and impressive!
Not only have they invested in the town, but this was a whole new chapter for the development of Perast. It meant that they worked on education, too. Perast had one of the best maritime schools. Many of the famous people from that time came to Perast to learn the skills. Most of the men from Perast were sailors, so they were far away from home for an extended period, sailing through the seas, discovering new cultures, and bringing back home memories and stories from more developed countries. They used to come back with souvenirs from countries on the other side of the world, bringing their spouses clothes and jewelry that they could not buy in Kotor bay.
Apart from learning about the fascinating history of Perast, you can relax by the sea, while tasting delicious food in some of the local restaurants or only drinking coffee and letting the sea breeze refresh you. It is hard to miss two stunning islands across Perast while resting by the sea. Those islands are St. George and Our Lady of the Rock. While admiring them from the coast, you might decide to visit one of them, and you could do it whenever you like since boats are cruising non-stop to the island and back. However, you can only visit the island Our Lady of the Rock, since St. George island is not open for visitors.
While St. George is a natural island with a Benedictine monastery built on it, the island Our Lady of the Rock has quite a different history. Locals made it. The painting of Our Lady was founded on the rock in the middle of the sea by two brothers while they were fishing. It was quite an extraordinary coincidence, so they took it as a sign and placed the painting in their house. Since one of the brothers was ill, and he was miraculously cured, they believed it was the deed of the Our Lady and they wanted to pay respect to her. The locals of Perast decided to build the island with a church dedicated to Our Lady, on the very rock where the painting was found. It took them two hundred years to build the base for the beautiful church by throwing the rocks and sinking the ships full of stones in the water. Nowadays, this lovely little island is admired by many visitors from all around the world, and the beauty is not only in its looks, but the power of togetherness of the locals who joined their forces into making something remarkable in this area.
The church built with the stone from Korcula with its baroque interior and rich treasury is telling the stories of local life. There are 68 paintings done in oil painting techniques, which are the marvelous work of a famous local painter from Perast, Tripo Kokolja. While admiring the beautifully painted walls and ceiling of the church, you will notice the silver plates. This church possesses more than 1500 votive plates, which makes it one of the most significant collections of this kind, in the world. Those votive plates were given to the Our Lady by religious souls. As I previously mentioned, many of the men from Perast were sailors. It is well-known that the battle with the sea is constant and that people are only fragile. Very often, we are helpless in front of the power of the moving waters. The sailors were aware of that, and yet they had the courage to sail away in order to earn money and take care of their families. Every sailor from Perast had a lot of faith in Our Lady. Whenever they were leaving, they used to pray to the Our Lady to keep them safe. However, at that time, they encountered many troubles while on the open sea. If they were in real danger, faced with death, and they managed to come back home safe, they believed that Our Lady saved them. That way, they wanted to pay some respect to the merciful Our Lady, and they brought silver plates with typical abbreviations – V(otum) F(eci) G(ratiam) A(ccepi), which meant I made a vow, I received the mercy. These beautifully carved silver plates represent gratitude and hope. Therefore, they are more than just creative pieces of art.
The energy on the island is fascinating. The beautiful view of the mountains from the island is a touch of a different perspective. While learning about the history and tradition of this area, you will understand the importance of the Our Lady of the Rock as well as the power of believing and hope for all the sailors on the sea and their return home, safe and sound. Do not get discouraged if you see a lot of people visiting the island, it might seem crowded, but it is definitely worth your time. It is truly one of the most valuable gems of the Kotor Bay, and we cherish it dearly every day. If you want to combine pleasure with a bit of history and tradition, enjoying beautiful views and the closeness of the sea, you should definitely spare a few hours and visit Perast and Our Lady of the Rock. Also, make sure you take a look at our best boat tours and choose the one that interests you the most. I promise you will not regret it. Let the magic of the place take you back through time to another century, another life.
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