Our Lady of the Rocks in the Bay of Kotor, just off the picturesque lakeside town of Perast in Montenegro, should be at the top of everyone’s list of things to see in this small Balkan nation. Surrounded by crystalline blue waters against a backdrop of black mountains (hence the country’s name), the islet is home to a small Catholic church, an even smaller museum and a gift shop. Local speedboat owners mill around the shoreline at Perast and are happy to take tourists over to the island for a reasonable fee. A trip to the island is beautiful in its own right but paying the combined fee to enter the church and museum, especially if you are with a guide, can really enhance this magical experience. The church is also home to stunning baroque architecture and paintings.
The foundations of Our Lady of the Rocks are quite literally built on legend; two fishermen are said to have found an icon of the Virgin Mary on a protruding rock a little way out from St George, the natural island located near to Our Lady of the Rocks. One of the fishermen had an injury that was miraculously healed after taking the icon home. He vowed to erect a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in that exact spot and so he, and others after him, threw rocks into the bay and sunk shipwrecks in the area so as to create the artificial islet on which the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks sits today. The founding of the island has carried over into the present day in a tradition known in the local language as fasinada, in which locals throw rocks into the bay with the intention of expanding the island.
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