The sleeping beauty of Kotor bay

“Sitting on the coast of the most beautiful bay in Europe, surrounded by peace, serenity and the most graceful mountains lies a little town called Perast. With the two islets, Lady of the rock and St George islet on one side and Perast on the other, this little town is most probably going to leave you speechless.”

Perast (Montenegrin pronounced [pɛ̌rast], Italian: Perasto) is an old town in the Boka Bay in Montenegro. It is situated a few kilometres northwest of Kotor and is noted for its proximity to the islets of St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks. Perast is actually the oldest settlement in Montenegro, and has a very rich and interesting history. It is located at coast of the beautiful Kotor Bay, beneath the main road (Budva – Herceg Novi) and if you don’t pay attention you might even miss it. Perast is a very small town (300-400 population) and if you are looking for adventure and excitement during your vacation this would not be the right place to look for it. Perast is perfectly suited for people who like a more private and quiet atmosphere blessed with amazing views. To put it in a nutshell Perast with all its baroque architecture, and natural beauty of the Kotor bay is very poetic.

What to do in Perast?

As we mentioned earlier Perast is mostly blessed with peace and serenity accompanied by stunning views, great food and awe waking architecture. Perast is not exactly adventure city and the most heart racing activity you will get is from either basketball or soccer on a closed terrain at the walkway. If however you are a fan of site seeing and history then you are in the right place. There are several interesting places you can visit in Perast and hear a lot about its history. Also a few suggestions include: kayaking to the islands of St George or Lady of the rocks, fishing, and visiting monuments in Perast and the museum.

History of Perast

Throughout the centuries, many empires battled for control of Perast. During the 10th century, it was an autonomous city of the Byzantine Empire. From 1186 to 1371, it was a free city of medieval Serbia. Between 1420 and 1797 it was ruled by the Venetian Republic of Venice and under Hungarian control for a short time. From1395 to 1420 it was an independent republic, when it was again under Venetian control. The French occupation of Perast from 1807 to 1814 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. The old city wasn’t built with defensive walls, but instead it has nine defensive towers, of which the most important is the tower of the Holy Cross. These were built by the navy of the Venetian Republic in the 15th and 16th centuries. Perast was at its peak in the 18th century under the Venetian Republic, when 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.

Attractions in Perast

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 17th century church of St. Nicholas, on the northeastern side, 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 (1624-1694), 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 slender octagonal belfry is one of the most beautiful on the Adriatic coast.The belfry is supposed to have been designed by Andrija Zmajevic.

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 gables above, one on top of the other.

St. Anne’s Church

It stands about 300 meters above sea level. The exact year of its construction is not known, 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

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