CHURCH OF THE DORMITION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD
Petit Futé's opinion on CHURCH OF THE DORMITION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD
This Orthodox church(Kisha Fjetja e Shën Marisë) was built in several phases from 1483 and has undergone significant alterations and destruction in the course of its history. The complex structure of the church, with its inscribed cross plan, arcaded gallery and curious brick bell tower, is a testimony to this. Dedicated to the dormition of the Virgin (the equivalent of the Assumption for Catholics), it nevertheless houses some valuable works. Its wooden iconostasis from 1870 is finely carved with many details (symbolic animals, garlands of flowers, etc.). The large wall also contains an icon by the greatest Albanian painter, Onufri (16th century). It is a beautiful and rare representation of the archangels Michael and Gabriel venerating Christ after having left their spears and shields at their feet. The fresco of Christ Pantocrator in the dome is also a work of the great master of the Berat school, but of a much less accomplished level. However, it should be appreciated for what it is: a survivor. All the other frescoes have disappeared. They were lost in a fire in 1812. The new frescoes executed in 1830 were destroyed during the atheist campaign of 1967.
Symbol of emancipation. If its artistic scope seems limited today, this church is a powerful symbol of emancipation. In the 19th century, it was one of the main centers of the Rilindja Kombëtare ("National Renaissance") movement. Here, religious and intellectuals such as Kostandin Kristoforidhi (1827-1895), "father of the Albanian language", lived side by side. A native of Elbasan, he is buried in the small courtyard just behind the church. It is also in this church that the two most appreciated Orthodox bishops of the country preached: Fan Noli (1882-1965), the main opponent to the dictatorship of King Zog, and Visarion Xhuvani (1890-1865), who militated for the creation of the Autocephalous Church of Albania (1922), i.e., independent from the Greek Orthodox Church. Today, it is here that the dissident movement known as the "Autocephalous Church of the Mother of God" (Kishës Autoqefale Shën Mëria) is based, led by the very media-friendly parish priest, Nikolla Marku (born in 1948). In 1995, he led a nationalist movement challenging the legitimacy of Archbishop Anastasios Yannoulatos, a Greek national who has been Archbishop of the Albanian Autocephalous Church since 1990.
Opening time and information on CHURCH OF THE DORMITION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD
Every day 9am-5pm - proper attire required.
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