Nestled within the enchanting town of Kotor, St. Tryphon’s Cathedral stands as a significant and awe-inspiring monument in Montenegro. In this article, we delve into the cathedral’s rich history, architectural splendor, notable highlights, and compelling reasons why it ranks high as a must-see destination.
Who was St Tryphon?
Saint Tryphon was a notable figure in the Christian faith, particularly celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. Born around 225 AD in the village of Kampsade (now in modern-day Turkey), Tryphon was known for his work as a goose herder, but his life took a religious turn when he was recognized for his extraordinary healing abilities, especially concerning animals.
Legend has it that Tryphon could cast out evil spirits, a power he discovered when he miraculously healed a sick horse. This attracted the attention of Emperor Gordian III, who sought Tryphon’s help for his daughter, Gordiana, believed to be possessed by a demon. Tryphon successfully exorcised the evil spirit, which further elevated his standing. Despite his faith leading to his martyrdom during the persecutions of Emperor Decius around 250 AD, Saint Tryphon’s legacy endures. His life is celebrated on February 1st in the East and on November 10th in the West, and he is considered the patron saint of gardeners and winegrowers, reflecting the earthy, agricultural roots of his early life.
History of St. Tryphon’s Cathedral
St Tryphon was beheaded in Turkey during the Decian persecution in 250 A.D. Many centuries later, his relics were being transported from Constantinople to Dubrovnik for sale, but the ship was caught in a storm and was unable to complete the journey. This was interpreted as a divine sign that St Tryphon’s relics were meant to remain in Kotor, and so it came to pass that he became Kotor’s patron saint instead of Dubrovnik’s.
The arrival of St Tryphon’s relics in Kotor necessitated the construction of a new church to house them. Designed by Andrea Saracenis and his wife Maria, the church took the shape of a Greek cross with a dome and was consecrated in 809.
St. Tryphon Cathedral has a rich and fascinating history, dating back to the 12th century when it was built on the site of the old church. Over the centuries, the cathedral has undergone many changes and renovations, with one of the most significant being the addition of baroque bell towers in 1667 after the entire frontage was destroyed. The left tower remains unfinished to this day.
The architecture of St. Tryphon’s Cathedral
The cathedral’s architecture is a masterpiece of the Romanesque style, with slender Corinthian columns alternating with pillars of pink stone. The interior boasts a series of vaulted roofs that are supported by these columns and pillars. The arches in the cathedral once contained Byzantine-style frescoes, but only fragments of these remain. The overall effect of the hued interior is a gentle and peaceful atmosphere.
Notable Features of St. Tryphon’s Cathedral One of the most striking features of the cathedral is the gilded-silver bas-relief altar screen, which is considered Kotor’s most valuable treasure. The altar screen dates back to the 18th century and is a testament to the craftsmanship of the period. Another striking feature is the Golden Altarpiece, positioned on the wall of the apse, which depicts Christ, the Virgin, St. John the Baptist, St. Tryphon, and sixteen other saints. This masterpiece was created by Kotor’s goldsmiths during the first half of the 15th century.
On the upper floor, visitors have the opportunity to explore the Sacral Art Museum, which boasts an intriguing assortment of paintings, vestments, and a wooden crucifix that traces its origins back to 1288. Of particular interest is the chilling and evocative crucifix, an artifact that leaves a haunting impression on those who encounter it. Moreover, concealed within the reliquary chapel’s grill, visitors will discover an assortment of saintly relics, including body parts attributed to St. Tryphon himself. Given St. Tryphon’s revered status in both the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, his role as the patron saint of Kotor seems fitting and significant.
Visiting St. Tryphon’s Cathedral
St. Tryphon’s Cathedral is open to visitors every day of the week, with a small admission fee. Visitors should dress appropriately, with shoulders and knees covered. While visiting, it’s important to take in the beauty of the architecture, from the slender columns to the vaulted roofs. Visitors should also make sure not to miss the gilded-silver altar screen, the Sacral Art Museum, and the reliquary chapel. Photography is allowed inside the cathedral.
St. Tryphon’s Cathedral is a must-visit attraction in Montenegro for anyone interested in history, architecture, and religious art. The cathedral’s rich history, stunning architecture, and fascinating artifacts make it an unforgettable experience. Don’t miss the chance to visit this unique and special landmark in the heart of Kotor.