Head to the picturesque coastal village of Perast, Montenegro, on 22nd July, and you’ll witness history in action. This is the date when the citizens celebrate Fašinada – a tradition marked here each year on this date since 1452.
Fašinada is an ancient custom that sees a string of boats from Perast sail in procession to the tiny island of Gospa od Škrpjela, or ‘Our Lady of the Rocks’, which sits in the waters of the Bay of Kotor. Garlanded with flowers and laden down with rocks, the vessels make their way towards the island’s picturesque, blue-domed church.
When they arrive, the passengers toss rocks into the waters just off the shore of the island. They then process into the church to hear a mass of thanksgiving, before everyone returns to the mainland for more music, dancing and celebration.
What is the meaning behind this unusual and unique ritual?
The legend goes that, once upon a time, sailors from Perast found a picture of the Virgin Mary and the Christ-child here in 1452. There after, the townsfolk vowed that every time a ship returned safely from a voyage, a new rock would be dropped on the site. Over time, their efforts created this tiny island, and a beautiful church was erected in honour of Our Lady.
Fašinada is also marked by a regatta. As Perast was once home to some of the Mediterranean’s greatest seafarers and ships, it’s a fitting commemoration.
A hundred or more sailing boats compete for the cup – and the chance to have their names inscribed on a plaque at the Lighthouse of Our Lady of the Rocks. The white-sailed boats race to cross the finishing line, which stretches between the island of Our Lady of the Rocks, and the other tiny island which neighbours it – the island of St George.
In an already breathtaking setting, this is one of the most picturesque events in the Mediterranean: a striking reminder of Perast’s proud history, and a spectacle that’s not to be missed. Perast is less than an hour’s drive around the Bay of Kotor from Luštica Bay, putting it within easy reach.