Perast is a small town that features one street just near the sea. Perast’s houses resemble the well-dressed members of a choir performing on a miniature scene. They stand and sing their ode to the beautiful bay and the islands in front of them, while being cautiously supervised by the leader of the choir – the Church of St. Nicholas. Although small, Perast has 16 churches and the spirit of Venice in it.
Like the whole Boka Bay, Perast was the target of Byzantium, Venice, Austria-Hungary and France, who left their imprint in the architectural and cultural DNA of the town.
One of the islands that makes this place even more colorful and that adds to its charm is Our Lady of the Rocks, whose foundation is carried by the legend. The tale says that two fishermen brothers, returning from fishing, saw a light on a small ridge. As they approached, they saw an icon of the Mother of God and took it to the church. The icon disappeared the same night, and the following day it was found again, unscathed, on the ridge from where it was taken. Then the people of Perast decided to build a church there. Every time a ship sailed out from Perast, each sailor would throw a rock at the ridge to ask the lady for a safe trip. This is how the island was made.
Each July 22nd, Perast celebrates the day of St. Mary Magdalene and the beginning of the construction of the church. That day, the inhabitants of Perast and nearby places navigate their ships around the island and toss stones around it for the safety of the island and the church, treasuring it for future generations.
This church keeps another relic, the unusual tapestry made by a sailor’s wife. Stories say that she had been crafting it for 25 years, while she waited for her loved one to return from sailing. She used colorful pearls, and her own hair. When she started her first stiches, her hair was dark, and 25 years later it was gray. She worked with a needle, under a magnifying glass.
The second is St. George’s Island accommodating a monastery from the 12th century and the cemetery for distinguished Perastians. It is surrounded by stone walls, and hidden from view by the high cypresses, that preserve the peace of this island.
Visiting Perast and the islands will pull you into the world of seafarers, love, human impermanence and longevity of memory.