As we sail into the Bay of Kotor, Al and I are among the first on deck. With cameras in hand, we eagerly await a pair of small chapels that occupy man-made islands in the bay. Two years ago we toured the island-chapel called Our Lady of the Rocks when another cruise ship brought us to Montenegro for a day, and now we are returning on the magnificent Royal Clipper, the world’s largest fully-rigged sailing ship. With newer, better cameras we are anxious to capture perfect memories.
We sail a long while into the bay, a bow-tie shaped estuary that leads to the heart of tiny Montenegro. At the center of the bay, as we turn to the east, we see two tiny churches rising out of the water. On the shoreline appears the old Venetian town of Perast. As we round the prettier church, the one that’s open to sunlight and shows much activity, the captain sounds the horn of our clipper ship, and the priest in the chapel, expecting us, returns the salute by ringing the bells: “Welcome to Montenegro,” they say.
One story is that that the island on which Our Lady of the Rocks is located was made over the centuries by devout mariners who, after finding an icon of the Madonna and child on a rock in the sea on July 22, 1452, swore that they would drop a rock at the site after every successful sea voyage. As time went by, the islet gradually emerged from the sea and the small baroque chapel was ultimately built upon it. Each year on July 22 the people of the town remember that long ago discovery. Another island holding a small monastery is adjacent to the chapel-island. It is as dark and uninviting as Our Lady is light and welcoming.
To be continued…