Zvërnec Monastery and Church

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Things to do


Date of travel

October, 2019

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Whilst staying in “Vlora”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/201465-review-sightseeing-in-vlora, southwest Albania, we took a trip to the Zvërnec Monastery and Church which is by tradition, the last resting place of Vlora’s most illustrious sons and daughters. It’s located on the southern tip of the “Narta Lagoon”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/201467-review-narta-lagoon, and although we’d visited this the day before, it would be easy to combine the two.

Having driven through the very small village of Zvërnec, in reality a handful of houses, we continued along a rough track. The car park wasn’t huge, but as it was October and out of season, there were only a couple of other vehicles and an optimistic van owner offering drinks and snacks.

Both the church and monastery are located on an island, reached by a well-constructed 270m long wooden bridge which curved round. Halfway along, was an offshoot which veered off to the right and led to a large viewing deck which may have been used by fishermen. It would have been a lovely place to have some seats so you could sit and appreciate the view. Interestingly an information board showed the original bridge had been straight and we assumed that the revised curved version may have had something to do with protecting against the strong sea currents.

As we approached, a couple were just leaving so our timing was good, and as we left, a family arrived. Apart from a solitary fisherman, who pointed out a large crab in the water, we had the place to ourselves.

On arrival, we found three geese and a long L shaped pale-yellow monastery which had seen better days as lots of the plaster was missing. During Albania’s atheist period, the building was used as an internment camp for political prisoners.

The church was beautiful, but the view slightly obscured by a cypress tree. It had what looked like a new red brick roof and it was completely intact with its portico, circular tower at one end and bells at the other. Inside was the iconostasis with all the icons and candles lit. The room at the back was empty apart from wooden chairs.

Outside, there was a small graveyard to the left of the church and around half a dozen tombstones. Most were very old and crumbling apart from one large grave of Marigo Posio, whose statue we’d seen in the town at the “Park of Hope”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/201465-review-sightseeing-in-vlora, and who died in 1932. She had been involved in the nationalist movement and moved to Vlore to escape attention where she used the guise of teaching embroidery to teach Albanian literacy. Her needlepoint skills did however produce the double headed eagle that became the symbol of independence and the national flag. A painting of her doing the embroidery hangs in the “National Museum of Independence”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/201395-review-national-museum-of-independence.

Stone steps led out of the walled area into the pine forests behind the church. There was also another building smaller than the monastery, but it was unclear what it had been used for. The three geese patrolling the area finally tired of us and eventually flew away. Having lingered a little longer at the nearby fisherman’s area for different photos and views we returned to the car and did the same.

Helen Jackson

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