Perast – the hidden gem of the Kotor Bay, Montenegro
Perast is a little coastal town, nestled in the most beautiful bay in Europe, the Kotor bay. Situated a few kilometers northwest of Kotor, beneath the main road from Budva to Herceg Novi, and if you don’t pay attention, you might even miss it.
As s small town with a population of 300 – 400 residents, it presents a haven for tranquility and relaxation. Adventure and thrill-seeking preferably escape Perast. It is ideally suited for those seeking a more withdrawn and peaceful ambiance, blessed with romantic scenery.
History of Perast
Throughout the centuries, many empires battled for control of Perast. In the 10th century, it was an autonomous city of the Byzantine Empire. Between 1186 and 1371, Perast was a free city of medieval Serbia.
The Venetian Republic ruled Perast from 1420 until 1797, and for a short period, even the Hungarians.
The French occupied Perast from 1807 to 1814, which was followed by Austrian rule until 1918 when Kotor finally became part of Yugoslavia. The city’s sixteen Baroque palaces were mostly built in this period, as were its seventeen Catholic churches and two Orthodox churches. Unlike many towns in Montenegro, Perast did not have enormous walls to protect it. Instead, the Venetian Republic built nine towers between the 16th and 17th century, to protect the city from potential invaders. Perast was at its peak in the 18th century under the Venetian Republic. It had as many as four active shipyards, a fleet of around one hundred ships, and 1,643 residents. At that time, the most beautiful buildings arose in this fortified town.
What to do in Perast?
As we mentioned earlier, Perast is a peaceful haven, accompanied by stunning views, great food, and incredible architecture. Perast truly is a place where you can enjoy the slow pace of life. Wake up in the morning to a breath-taking view. Enjoy a quiet meal, and relish a relaxing evening walk along the bay. However, if your time is limited, we do suggest to explore the treasures of Perast. All of which you will find throughout this poetic little place in its architecture, museum, and its history.
Attractions in Perast
The Perast Museum
The best place to learn the history of Perast is its museum. The collections of the museum items, with about 2000 objects, constitute priceless wealth in presenting the history of Perast. The relics tell their own story – thus conveying a credible image of life in this city from the 15th top the 20th century.
St. Nicholas Church
It is situated on the main square, a single nave structure, with its apse facing southeast. The present church was built in 1616. Although it is said to have replaced an earlier church dating from 1564. Behind the church of St. Nicholas, a new, more ambitious church was begun under the Venetian architect, Giuseppe Beati, but only its apse and sacristies were completed.
Our Lady of the Rosary
Andrija Zmajevic, Archbishop of Bar, built the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary in 1678 as his mausoleum. The church and its belfry bear stylistic features of both Renaissance and baroque. The octagonal belfry is one of the most beautiful on the Adriatic coast.
Church of St. John the Baptist
It is located in the western part of Perast, by the side of the old road. It was first mentioned in documents in 1595 and belonged to the medieval “Confraternity of the Wounds of Jesus Christ”. Its late Renaissance west facade has a fine portal with a small rose window and a two bell gable above, one on top of the other.
St. Anne’s Church
This beautiful, architectural masterpiece, stands about 300 meters above sea level. No one knows the exact time of construction. Although, Drago Martinovic (1697-1781) in his Annals refers to it as “antichissima” (very old), further stating that it was surrounded by houses. It was recorded that in 1693 its altar was destroyed in a fire and that a new one was built.
St. Mark’s Church
Situated in Pencici near the Smekja palace. A small church/mausoleum dedicated to the Virgin, St. Anne, St. Mathew and St. Mark the Evangelist, it was constructed by Matej Stukanovic. Two high pilasters ending in Corinthian capitals flank the front. The roof gable includes a small rose window. On top of the gable, are the sculptures of the Resurrected Christ, St. Peter with keys, and St. Mark with the gospel in his hand. On the back, is a three-light bellcote.
St. Antony’s Church
Located in the upper part of Perast, near the Fortress of St. Cross, the church and nearby monastery were built in 1679 by the Mazarovic family. The Franciscans came to Perast in 1636, by invitation of the inhabitants, to open primary and nautical schools. They also practiced medicine and there was a pharmacy in the monastery. Two elliptical windows flank the portal on the baroque facade of St. Antony and there is a statue of St. Barabara above the door in a niche. Until the 19th century, the church had an organ. The monastery used to own a fine library but it was transferred to the Franciscan library in Kotor.
Orthodox Church of the Nativity of the Virgin
It was built in 1757 and restored in 1864. It is a single nave vaulted church with an apse and semi-arched windows over the altar niches. Influenced by the coastal style, a wooden choir or “baladus” was subsequently constructed. The church was built in the Byzantine style and has a valuable iconostasis.
St George Island
St George island is one of two small islands located in the Boka Bay. The closest settlement to the island is a small fishermen’s town called Perast. The island was used as a cemetery for residents of Perast, and that is why the island was also known by the name the island of the dead. It is said that it was also called the “cursed island” since the Roman Pope officially cursed it because of a terrible crime that occurred on the island. Christians were afraid to step on it because they were afraid that the anathema of the Pope would get them. A legend says that the island had been white for centuries until the Benedictines came and planted cypresses – the symbols of death and transience of life. READ MORE
Lady of the rocks
According to legend, the islet was made over the centuries by the seamen who kept an ancient oath after finding the icon of Madonna and Child on the rock in the sea on the 22. July 1452. Upon returning from each successful voyage, they laid a rock in the Bay. Over time, the islet gradually emerged from the sea. The custom of throwing rocks into the sea is alive even nowadays. Every year on the sunset of July 22, an event called fašinada, when local residents take their boats and throw rocks into the sea, widening the surface of the island, takes place. READ MORE