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Perast, Montenegro


Perast, Montenegro 
Perast, fascinating town in the Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska) rich maritime history, countless baroque stone palaces and two jewel-like islets in front. As Lord Byron said, “When the pearls of nature were sown, handfuls of them were cast on this soil.”


Perast baroque town museum set at the foot of Kasona (873m), lofty mountains in the long bay of Kotor defiant the sea and the hills with its outmost beauty. The town itself resembles an artistic and carefully planed mosaic put together by dozens of grand stone palaces, churches, houses, squares, stairs, plateaus, fort on the hill and two islands in the sea – who could ask for more! But there is since all this is pervaded with history and tradition. Not once did tourists stand in a state of shock looking from their boat at Perast asking why are those women waving white tablecloths and sheets from their windows, as if they were surrendering? Today they are playing the traditional greeting for the sailing ships coming home with their fathers, sons, brothers, lovers and neighbors.   
“Again is in front of me Boka (Bay of Kotor), shining under the August sun, and there like eyes in the sea, are the two Perast islands!” 


With its back leaning on the barren hills of the mainland, Perast primary focused its sons to the sea to be sailors, officers and captains, ship-owners, Maecenas and warriors through history. 
Archeological findings in the cave Spila above Perast indicate that this was the earliest inhabited area in the Golf. Its name originates from the Prusts, Illyrian tribe. 
Perast was until 1580 when it was awarded by the Venetian Republic status of an autonomous municipality, under monopoly proscribed by Kotor. Already known as brave and skilled seafarers throughout Europe, Marko Martinović professor and founder the first Nautical School educated in 1698, 17 Russian marine cadets for the Russian fleet Peter the Grate. At about the same time Matija Zmajević, admiral of the Russian Baltic fleet defeated the Sweden fleet in 1721. Not to mention the famous bishop Andrija Zmajević and talented baroque painter Tripo Kokolja, all lived in the prosperous years of the 17th and 18th centuries in Perast.


However, Perast already in the 12th century had an operating shipyard (1336). By the end of the 18th century, prosperous years of township and maritime history, Perast had over eighty merchant and war ships. During this time more than a 100 sailing ships had the name Our Lady of the Rock (Gospa od Škrpjela), in honor to the protector of seafarers. The artificial island Our Lady of the Rock (Gospa od Škrpjela) is the most important catholic sanctuary in the Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska). The island grew around a small crag rising above the sea where, as the legend holds on June 22, 1452 the icon Mother of God was found. Generation have deposited stones and scuttled old ships to form the island that has today grown to 3000m². This tradition continues even today, every 22nd June “Fašinada” local festive of procession of boats loaded with rocks circle the island and drop them into the sea continuously enlarging the island. Not only is this a unique tradition it is one of the most beautiful Maritime Museums in the world! The walls of the church are covered with more than 2.500 silver votive plaques donated by sailors representing their gratitude to Virgin Mary for keeping them alive on the sea. 


The other island St George (Sv. Djordje), shadowed by cypress trees was for years under the Kotor jurisdiction. It hosts the Benedictine abbey and old Perast cemetery. During the French occupation (1813), a small garrison was placed on the island. One of the officers fell in love with a local girl from Perast. Unfortunately, during cannon fight instead of hitting the fort of St Cross (Sv. Križ/Krst) on the hill above it fit the house below killing her inside. The crushed officer took the monastic vows, spending the rest of his life on this island and was in the end buried beside his loved one. 
Perast has only one main street by the sea, the other inside the town is stairs climbing up the hill. The center of the town is marked by the parish Church St Nicholas (Sv. Nikola) 17th century, and its 55-meter high belfry. The price of building this belfry was fascinating fifty thousand (50.000) gold cons – ducats! Today the palaces of Perast are silent witnesses of its formal greatness, splendor and wealth. There are 19 palaces in Perast. Bujović palace from 1694 today hosts the town Museum, Zmajević palace also referred to as the Bishopric because it served as the residence for two bishops Andrija and Vicko Zmajević is also the biggest and most impressive. Continuing with famous Perast families: Visković, Smekija next to the family church St Mark (Sv. Marko) from the 16th century, Mazarović, Balović, Bronza... Between the palaces are churches in the first place the so-called Bishopric church built by Andrija Zmajević in 1678. Next is the chapel Our Lady of the Rosary (Gospa od Rozarija) also built by A. Zmajević Archbishop of Bar with a slender octagonal belfry, unique in beauty and style on the Adriatic coast.  Church St Anne (Sv. Ana) is above the town near the fort St Cross. Church St Anton (Sv. Antun) is located in the upper part of Perast and next to it is the only orthodox church Rodjenje Svete Bogorodice from the 18th century. 
The majority of all built in Perast is from the 17th and 18th century in the baroque style. Yet there is a simplicity to the baroque elements, avoiding the flowery ornaments by which baroque is known for they achieved a measure of tranquility. 
All those who like to climb and hike Perast has for them another dimension of attractions. Above the last Perast houses there is an Austrian path leading to the Austrian fort about 2 hours walk. That fort was once the borderline between the Bay of Kotor and Montenegro. 

com_city/perast/h/ist_5623_perast_riva_0001Perast, Montenegro


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