Monday, November 25, 2013


If you've been to Italy, you know how every time you turn a corner, you are in a courtyard presided over by a church. About 100 miles east of Italy, just across the Adriatic Sea, you can have the same experience, but with a bit more diversity of religion.  One of the distinguishing features of the walled city of Kotor is its many churches. Of the six we saw within the walls of the city, we were able to enter only three, although all seem to be in use.

The Romanesque St. Tryphon's Cathedral is the largest building in Kotor, and one of two Catholic cathedrals in the walled city. It was built on the site of an older church and was consecrated in 1166.  It honors St. Tryphon, the patron saint of the city. A massive earthquake in 1667 completely destroyed almost two-thirds of the town and partially destroyed the cathedral's two towers, and money for the restoration was hard to come by, resulting in towers that don't match.
A 7.0 earthquake in 1979 did further significant damage, and the restoration from that quake lasted seventeen years.
The interior is full of priceless artifacts, including frescoes from the 14th century:

There is a wonderful mish-mash of art styles, periods, and materials in cathedral collection:

Up the stairs is a treasury of sorts, another collection of a wide variety of art

I was especially intrigued by the wide variety of depictions of the crucifixion:
Note the cherubs peering sympathetically over weeping Mary's shoulder and the swarthy skin of Christ:
This life-sized Pieta is wooden and stiff. I wish I had recorded the date it was created:

Compare it to this modern depiction of the same scene:
I love the elongation of the figures, the knobbly texture of Christ's skin, the ragged feel of Mary's robe, the complete limp abandon of Christ's emaciated body, and Mary's form almost doubled over in her grief. Tender and powerful.

In contrast, St. Mary's Orthodox church, built in 1221, is pretty bare-bones.
However, it has a wonderful bronze door, a precursor to the Baptistry of San Giovanni doors in Florence.

Another carved crucifix with wonderful details--the chest strangely divided into ribs and abs, the wounds in Christ's side, a knobby knee poking out below the loincloth, the halo disk floating above Christ's head, His sinewy arms, the doleful but peaceful face under a crown of thorns pressed far down the forehead. It's a powerful image I think I could spend a long time gazing at.

On to the much more modern St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church, consecrated in 1909. This is the church most visible from the hike to the Fortress.
The Serbian flag hangs over the main entrance. (No worries about separation of church and state here.)

There is a glowing golden iconostasis at the front of the room

. . . with striking red doors depicting the Annunciation.

Paintings on the second level depict various scenes from the life of Christ.

The Last Supper is on the third level
. . . just under this solemn painting of God the Father,complete with his Trinity-shaped halo.

The Holy Trinity: Christ, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and the Father:
The church has a collection of stunning silver icons:

I was especially intrigued by this icon with the three-handed Madonna and an African Christ Child:

I also loved the many-armed chandelier and the golden church model with Christ sitting in the Holy Chalice in the front door:

St. Luke's Church, built in 1195, sits like a child's playhouse on the glossy tiled pavement. Its black sooty streaks and combination of Roman and Byzantine architecture reveal contrast sharply with the much newer (though still ancient to Americans) structures surrounding it. It began as a Catholic church, but was turned over to the Orthodox church in the 17th century, although the Catholics retained the use of one altar.

We had to return several times before we finally found it unlocked.
Although tiny, this church packs a big wallop. The iconostasis is from the 17th century, and in front of it are both Catholic and Orthodox altars.  I love the picture of John the Baptists head being carried by an angel that is on the far left panel:

 What appears to be a confessional in a side area is even more richly decorated than the main altar area. The room is small, and so it was impossible to step back far enough to get a photo of the full structure, but here is the top:
And here is the booth:
 A wonderful painting of the resurrected Jesus pulling Adam and Eve out of Hell:

The Church of St. Michael, a simple, one-nave church, was built in the late 1300s or early 1400s. When we were there, a concert, for which we sadly did not have tickets, was about to begin.

The winged lion, the symbol for St. Mark, is in relief on the back of the church:

The Franciscan Church of St. Clara was reconstructed multiple times between the 1300s and 1600s.
We dropped in just long enough to see the Venetian Baroque altar carved from multi-colored marble.


  1. The variety of churches in Kotor, and their uniqueness, was part of the charm of the walled city. It doesn't have quite the cross-culturization of Sarajevo, but the intersection between Orthodox and Catholic is fun. The collision of boundaries always creates something fun to look at.

  2. Interesting to see churches that most of the world will never see (nor I). I appreciate all the details!