Ardenica Monastery

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October, 2019

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We visited the Albanian Monastery of Ardenica on our way from “Vlora”: to Berat. Having turned off the dual carriageway and onto a bumpy bit of road, it eventually levelled out as it twisted and turned up the hill. The monastery, at 237m above sea level, overlooks a huge plain. It was situated close to the important road, Via Egnatia, which joined eastern and western Europe and several mile-marker stones from the road are said to be preserved in the grounds. Over the centuries, the monastery has been an important historical, cultural and spiritual centre of the Orthodox church. In 1967 when the communists banned religion, the monastery became a military barracks and was later used as a hotel. The Orthodox Church of Albania retook possession in 1992 after the fall of communism.

Although we’d driven most of the way, there was still quite an up-hill hike on a cobbled path. Having paid the entrance fee, we wandered up and through an arch and into the walled grounds of the monastery, the only one in Albania still inhabited by monks. Consequently, quite a lot of the area was cordoned off.

The arches in the portico of the 18th century Church of St Mary had hanging baskets and it was all beautifully maintained. The church was of pale stone from the ancient city of Apollonia, but there was an unusual whitewashed tall tower added in 1924, which didn’t seem in keeping. The inside walls were covered in New Testament frescoes by famous icon painters, and some down one side were in relatively good condition. The main feature was a carved pulpit which was tubular in shape and a gilded iconostasis.
In the narthex, were two graves, suggesting it may have originally being outside.

Wooden stairs led us to a large fresco of the Last Judgement. Although there were the usual no photography signs, we managed a couple of sneaky ones upstairs.

Once finished, we drove a short distance upwards to the Ardenica Restaurant where we had good views of the Karavastaja Lagoon in one direction and in the other, the Tomorr and Dajti Mountains.

Helen Jackson

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