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Lady of the Rocks

The Lady of the Rocks is a mysterious artificial island located in the Boka Bay of the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Montenegro. The island has long been a source of fascination for locals and visitors alike. The exact origins and timeline of this island remain shrouded in mystery, with various myths and legends surrounding its existence. Many stories tell of miraculous occurrences that resulted in the formation of the island, such as two large rocks emerging from the sea or mermaids creating it using sand brought up from beneath. Regardless of their origin, these tales have been passed down through generations and continue to be shared today with tourists and children all around the world.

One of the popular stories associated with the origin of Lady of The Rock revolves around two local seamen brothers named Mortičić. According to the story, while returning from fishing, the brothers spotted an image of Lady, believed to be the Virgin Mary, on a small reef in the middle of the sea that was located just in front of their hometown of Perast.

Intrigued by what they had seen, they took the image with them and returned home. The following day, they were out fishing again and were amazed to see the same image of Lady on the same reef. Believing it to be a sign from above, the brothers decided to build a church on the reef in honor of Lady. This is believed to be the origin of Lady of The Rock. The story is a testament to the deep religious faith of the people of Perast and their reverence for Lady.

lady of the rocks
The island nowdays

Introduction to the Lady of the Rocks

The Lady of the Rocks is an island located in Montenegro, close to Perast. It is one of the most beautiful and picturesque islands in all of Europe. The island was formed by a combination of natural forces and human ingenuity over centuries, with its unique shape being attributed to a naturally occurring phenomenon called ‘karstification’.

Origin of Lady of the Rocks

Our Lady of the Rocks is a popular tourist destination in Montenegro that is believed to have been formed by the erosion of limestone rocks over time due to the constant exposure to seawater. This natural process is responsible for creating the hollows and caves that make up the island’s unique features, which are then filled up with sediment. According to local folklore, the formation of Lady Rock Island was further enhanced by a centuries-old legend involving two fishermen from Perast. The myth suggests that these fishermen threw stones into the sea, which somehow coalesced together to form the island. Despite the myth being unproven, it has added to the allure of Lady of the Rock, and the island remains one of Montenegro’s most popular tourist attractions.

In the tradition of Fashinada, a centuries-old custom, the people of Perast have been piling up stones and sinking dilapidated barges and Turkish ships around a small reef in the Bay of Kotor. Over time, this process has caused the surface of the reef to expand, and it now covers an area of about three thousand square meters. On this expanded surface sits the church of Our Lady of the Rocks, a beautiful and historic building that draws visitors from all over the world. Today, this beloved destination is revered by both locals and tourists who come to witness the island’s breathtaking beauty and learn more about its incredible story.

Sailors of old would often make a promise to Our Lady of the Rocks before embarking on their long and perilous voyages. They would promise to thank her in some way if they returned safely and in good health from their travels around the world. Evidence of their devotion to Our Lady of the Rocks can be found in archival maps of ships bearing her name, which demonstrate that she was well-known not only in Boka Bay but also along the entire coast. Since the 16th century, there have been around 150 such maps.

Initially, the sailors’ promise was to build an island and make a donation. They then constructed a votive church on the island, which they continued to enrich as they made new vows during their travels. When they returned from their long voyages, they brought Our Lady of the Rocks gifts from all over the world, including valuable and exotic items such as Chinese vases, porcelain, gold, and silver, as tokens of their appreciation. This tradition shows the deep devotion that sailors had to Our Lady of the Rocks, and how they expressed their gratitude in unique and meaningful ways.

Golden and silver votives

Lady of the Rocks Monastery

Today, Our Lady of the Rocks is home to a vast treasure trove of priceless artifacts that were given as votive offerings to express gratitude to the Lady for her protection during long journeys or assistance in recovering from illnesses. Each of these votive offerings and silver plates, which were even more valuable than gold during that time, carries a unique narrative about a person’s future.

The Lady of the Rocks Monastery houses a vast array of religious artifacts and art pieces that are sure to captivate visitors. The most renowned attraction within the monastery is the collection of 68 oil paintings by local baroque artist Tripo Kokolja. These magnificent works of art depict scenes from the lives of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.

In addition to the paintings, visitors can also admire the impressive iconostasis, a wall of icons and religious paintings that serves as the visual centerpiece of Orthodox Christian worship. Moreover, there is a famous votive tapestry on display, gifted to the monastery by the Venetian Republic in gratitude for the successful defense of the bay from pirates. The tapestry is considered one of the finest examples of textile art in the region. Lastly, visitors can marvel at a collection of silver votive tablets, which were left by grateful sailors who were saved from shipwrecks by the intercession of the Virgin Mary.

With its rich collection of art and artifacts, the Lady of the Rocks Monastery could easily be considered a museum of Italian artists in Montenegro. It is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in art, history, and spirituality.

One of the most impressive and interesting votive gifts was left to the church by Jacinta Kunić Mijović from Perast. She spent 25 years embroidering a picture of the upper portion of the main altar of the church with gold and silver threads and strands of her hair, featuring an image of the Holy Virgin covered with a silver chain. Her work is an exquisite and elaborate testament to her devotion to Our Lady of the Rocks and is a cherished part of the island’s vast collection of votive offerings. These artifacts are not only priceless in terms of their monetary value but also have immense cultural and historical significance as a tangible representation of the deep spiritual connections between the people of Perast and Our Lady of the Rocks.

Jacintas gift to the church

Ceremonies and Celebrations

Our Lady of the Rocks is a beloved destination for both locals and tourists, who are drawn to its stunning natural beauty and the small church that stands on the island. Throughout the year, pilgrims visit the site on special occasions such as Easter Sunday and other festivals, seeking divine intervention and solace.

For centuries, Montenegrins have regarded this sacred site as an important pilgrimage destination, and it continues to hold spiritual significance to this day. The traditional celebrations that take place at Our Lady of the Rocks are deeply rooted in Montenegrin culture. Every July 22, local families gather here to celebrate St. Elijah’s Day, which has been observed since 1452, when Venetian sailors first visited the site. This celebration honors Saint Elijah, who is said to have lived in isolation on the island and performed many good deeds during his lifetime, such as healing people and providing food during famines.

July 22nd is an important date for the Lady of the Rocks Monastery as it marks the Feast of the Virgin Mary’s assumption into heaven, which is celebrated as the monastery’s patron saint day. On this day, the monastery holds a special mass, known as the “fasinada” ceremony, which involves locals in boats throwing rocks into the sea around the island as a way of continuing the tradition of adding stones to the artificial island. The ceremony is followed by a procession of boats around the island, with passengers throwing more stones into the sea as a tribute to the Virgin Mary. The Feast of the Assumption is a significant event in the Roman Catholic Church and is celebrated by various cultures around the world, but the Lady of the Rocks Monastery’s unique fasinada ceremony makes it a particularly special celebration in the Boka Bay region.

Visitors to the island during the festival can witness beautiful boat races around the bay and participate in festive activities such as eating delicious seafood dishes and joining in folk dances. This event has become a much-loved tradition with significant cultural importance within Montenegro’s history and identity.

Despite storms and difficulties over the centuries, Our Lady of the Rocks has persevered thanks to the dedication of Perast’s residents. The island has come to represent eternity, faith, and gratitude, and its magnificence serves as a symbol of the enduring beauty and resilience of Perast and Boka in front of the Mediterranean.

How do I visit Lady of the Rocks

The Our Lady of the Rocks island and church is usually open to visitors during the day from early morning until late afternoon, with specific opening hours varying depending on the season. During peak tourist season, which typically runs from May to September, the island and church are generally open from 9:00am to 6:00pm or later. During the off-season months, the hours of operation may be shorter, with the island and church typically closing earlier in the afternoon. It’s recommended to check the official website or contact local tour companies for the most up-to-date information on the island’s opening hours.

To visit Our Lady of the Rocks, visitors can take a boat tour from the nearby town of Perast, which is located on the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. Many local tour companies offer daily tours to the island, which typically include a guided tour of the small church and the island’s vast collection of votive offerings. During the tour, visitors can also learn about the island’s history, culture, and significance as a sacred pilgrimage site. The boat tour is a scenic and enjoyable way to reach Our Lady of the Rocks, as it allows visitors to take in the stunning natural beauty of the Bay of Kotor and the surrounding mountains.

The cost of visiting Our Lady of the Rocks can vary depending on the tour company and package chosen. On average, a boat tour from Perast to the island can range from 10 to 20 euros per person, depending on the duration and included services. Some tours may also offer additional activities, such as swimming in the crystal-clear waters surrounding the island or visiting nearby attractions, which can add to the cost. It’s recommended to check with local tour companies for their current prices and offerings.

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