Exploring the Enigmatic Islands of Perast: Gospa od Škrpjela and Sveti Đorđe

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By jeroen

Nestled in the serene waters of the Bay of Kotor, the ancient village of Perast offers a gateway to two of Montenegro’s most intriguing islands: Gospa od Škrpjela and Sveti Đorđe. With only 350 residents, Perast is a quaint, almost hidden gem where everyone might know each other, and the allure of its nearby islands adds to its unique charm.

Gospa od Škrpjela: A Monument of Faith and Tradition

Gospa od Škrpjela, also known as “Our Lady of the Rocks,” is an artificial island with a story as captivating as its views. Legend has it that the island began with a miraculous discovery in 1452 when two sailors found an icon of the Virgin Mary on a rock jutting out of the sea. Moved by this sign, they vowed to build a sanctuary right there on the waters. Over the centuries, the tradition of dropping rocks and old sunken boats loaded with stones around the spot evolved, eventually creating the island as it stands today.

Each year on July 22, the tradition of adding stones, known as “Fasinada,” is celebrated. This vibrant festival sees locals decorating boats and tossing stones into the sea to continue expanding the island, preserving a ritual that binds the community together in honor of the Virgin Mary. The church of Crkva Gospa od Škrpjela, erected on the island in 1630, houses stunning examples of baroque artwork, including paintings and frescoes by notable artists like Tripo Kokolja, and a museum showcasing a rich collection of maritime relics and religious art.. (By the way, only men are allowed to participate in the fašinada. You can see very proud grandfathers with their grandsons and groups of friends in boats on their way to the island.)

Sveti Đorđe: The Island of Silence and Sanctity

Opposite to the bustling Gospa od Škrpjela lies the more subdued island of Sveti Đorđe, or Saint George. Dominated by a centuries-old Benedictine monastery, this island is steeped in tranquility and mystery. Known for its secluded and monastic life since the 12th century, Sveti Đorđe has served as a spiritual and cultural beacon throughout Montenegro’s history.

Although the island itself is not open to the public, it remains a fascinating sight from Perast’s coastline. Visitors often hear the sounds of boat horns, which are played in homage to the island’s enduring legacy as boats pass by—a modern tribute to its historical significance and the monks’ peaceful existence.

Visiting the Islands

Travelers can reach Gospa od Škrpjela easily by boat from Perast, with numerous local operators offering tours for about 5 euros. While Sveti Đorđe can only be admired from a distance, its solemn beauty complements the vibrant history of its neighboring islet, making a trip to these islands a profound journey into Montenegro’s layered heritage.

In Perast, whether you are soaking in the stunning views of the Adriatic, uncovering the rich tapestry of local lore, or experiencing the timeless traditions of its people, you are truly stepping into a living postcard, one that continues to enchant and inspire travelers from around the globe.

So if you are ever in the vicinity of Perast, be sure to take the time to admire this enchanting island and listen to the sound of the horns of passing boats while enjoying the beautiful view of the Adriatic Sea.

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