Ardenica Monastery

The Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Ardenica[1] (Albanian: Manastiri Lindja e Hyjlindëses Mari,;[2][3] or simply Ardenica Monastery (Albanian: Manastiri i Ardenices) is an Eastern Orthodox monastery, located 18 kilometers south of Lushnjë, Albania, along the national road that links Lushnjë to Fier.[4]

Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Ardenica
Manastiri i Ardenices
Ardenica Monastery
Monastery information
OrderOrthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania
Dedicated toByzantine victory on the Angevins in Berat during the siege of Berat (1280–1281)
Founder(s)Andronikos II Palaiologos
LocationFier District, Albania
Coordinates40°49′7″N 19°35′33″E / 40.81861°N 19.59250°E / 40.81861; 19.59250Coordinates: 40°49′7″N 19°35′33″E / 40.81861°N 19.59250°E / 40.81861; 19.59250
Public accessyes

Built by Byzantine Emperor, Andronikos II Palaiologos in 1282 after the victory against the Angevins in the siege of Berat, the monastery is famous as the place where, in 1451, was celebrated the marriage of Skanderbeg, the national hero of Albania, with Andronika Arianiti. In 1780 the Monastery started a theological school to prepare clerics in Greek Orthodoxy. It had an important library with 32,000 volumes that got completely burned by a fire in 1932. The Church of Saint Mary within the monastery contains frescos from brothers Kostandin and Athanas Zografi, notably one of saint John Kukuzelis, born in Durrës, Albania.


Scholars claim that the Byzantine Emperor, Andronikos II Palaiologos started building the monastery in 1282 after the victory against the Angevins in the siege of Berat.[5] The chapel of Saint Trinity was already there, erected centuries before. A pagan temple, dedicated to Artemis had existed on the site before the chapel, and it is thought that the name of Ardenica stems from Artemis.[4][6] The monastery site lies approximately 1 km from the Via Egnatia (a major 2nd century Roman road). On April 21, 1451 in this monastery was celebrated the marriage of George Kastrioti with Andronika Arianiti.[7] The archbishop of Kanina, Felix said the mess in the wedding in the presence of all the Albanian princes, members of the League of Lezhë and the ambassadors of the Kingdom of Naples, Republic of Venice, and Republic of Ragusa. This is mentioned first by A. Lorenzoni in 1940.[5]

One of the most important clerics of the monastery, Nektarios Terpos from Moscopole, wrote in 1731 a short prayer in the form of a fresco. The prayer is in four languages: Latin, Greek, Aromanian and Albanian in Greek alphabet. This fact is important because it is the first text in Albanian written in a Greek-orthodox church. The Albanian text reads (Albanian: Vigjin dhe mame e Perendis uro pren fajt orete). At the end the writing is signed Hieromonk - Nektarios Terpos the monk.[4][dead link]

In 1743 me with the initiative of the Berat's archbishop, Methodius, who was originary of Bubullimë, Lushnjë District, western Albania, then Ottoman Empire, the monastery was renovated: the paintings from this period of the Zografi brothers pertain to this time.[5]

Since 1780, in the Monastery existed a Greek school to prepare clerics.[4] In 1817, the school became a high school, which had also a student house. From this school graduated the Bishop of Berat, Josif.[4] During the Albanian National Awakening period the school became one of the places where the Albanian Language was taught.[4]

An important cleric of the monastery was Father Mark, who was the priest to find the bones of Saint Cosmas of Aetolia, thrown in the Seman by the Turkish chevaliers.[4]

The monastery had an exceptional library of 32,000 volumes that got completely burned by a fire in 1932.[4]

By the late 1960s in this monastery spent the last days of his life the former primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Irene Banushi.[4] In 1967, when the atheist campaign in the People's Republic of Albania was in full swing, the monastery was saved from demolition due to the intervention of a local priest who stated that Skanderbeg was said to have been married there.[8]

The monastery was closed for the public and for clerical duties in 1969 as the communist regime declared Albania an atheist state. The buildings and its surroundings were left in a state of decay for many years until 1988 when a partial reconstruction took place for tourism purposes. The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania retook possession of the monastery in 1992 after the fall of the communist regime in Albania.

Architecture, iconography, and watermarksEdit

18th century icon of Saint George and the Dragon by Çetiri brothers, from Ardenica Monastery, now in the Albanian National Museum in Tirana

The monastery has a Byzantine-orthodox architecture but with many romanesque features, which lies in a surface of 2.500 meters square. It is composed of the Saint Mary Church, the chapel of the Saint Trinity, a mill, and a barn.[5]The Church of Saint Mary in the Monastery of Ardenica has important frescos from Kostandin Zografi and Athanas Zografi. These painters from Korçë worked on the church in 1744. The frescos include an Old Testament and a New Testament, Dogmatica, Lithurgy, Life of Saints, etc.[5]

Between the frescos is included a fresco of John Kukuzelis, the saint born in Durrës. In the narthex is present the Last judgement fresco.[5]

The iconostasis is wooden and polychromed in gold. It was realized in 1744, with the help of the Moscopole masters. The icons are the work of the 18th century painter Kostandin Shpataraku.[9] Some of the icons are Birth of Saint Mary, Christ on the Throne, Saint Mary and Christ, John the Baptist, Meeting of the Archangels, Crucifixion, ecc.. It is to be mentioned that in the icon of St. Jovan Vladimir of Prespa, can be found the painting of, Karl Thopia, the Albanian prince with a skepter and crown. The painter calls him King of Albania.[5]

All the watermarks are in Greek, with the exception of the prayer written in 1731 from Nektarios Terpos in Albanian. The oldest watermark dates from 1477 and can be found in the principal entry of the monastir. A second watermark dates 1743 - 44 and pertains to the painting period from the Zografi brothers. In the monastery can also be found two plates pertaining to the 17th century. One of them, dated 1754, can be found in the western side of the church, the other, dated 1770 is found in the arches of the stove. Dates can be found also on the church's bells.[5]


The hills of Ardenica can be found in southern Myzeqe in a dominant position. From this position, one can see Krujë, Dajti, Tomorr, the Adriatic Sea, the Karavasta lagoon and the Labëria mountains.[4]


  1. ^ Eastern Churches Journal: A Journal of Eastern Christendom. Society of Saint John Chrysostom. 1997. p. 222.
  2. ^ "Manastiri "Lindja e Hyjlindëses Mari", Ardenicë (i restauruar)". Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  3. ^ "The Monastery of Theotokos Mary, Ardenica (restored)". Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Andoni, Ben. "Manastiri i Ardenices: Ku shqiptaret piskasin ne vend te lutjes" (in Albanian). Archived from the original on 4 February 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h GJIKA, Ilirjan. "Manastiri i Ardenices" (in Albanian). Archived from the original on 24 August 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
  6. ^ Albanian ethnography. Science Academy. 1976.
  7. ^ Elsie, Robert (2000). A dictionary of Albanian religion, mythology, and folk culture. New York University Press. p. 14. ISBN 0-8147-2214-8.
  8. ^ Dawson, Linda White and Peter and Andrea (1995). Albania: a guide and illustrated journal (2. ed.). Chalfont St Peter: Bradt. p. 157. ISBN 9781898323105. Skenderbeg is said to have married Donika here, and that is what saved it during the crackdown on religion... "When the students came to destroy the church in 1967, the priest said, "The key is not in my hands but in the hands of the state." He had been hard at work reminding the local teachers and government officials that Skenderbeg married there
  9. ^ Zeqo, Moikom (22 May 2006). "Gjeniu më shqiptar i ikonografisë Kostandin Shpataraku". Koha Jone (in Albanian). Nikolle Leska. pp. 10–11.

External linksEdit