Voskopoja, the village of churches and ancient civilization

Voskopoja, the village of churches and ancient civilization

Voskopojë is an important tourist attraction and a veritable gem in the crown of the Albanian landscape. The village is situated 20 km (12 mi) away from Korçë, and around 1150 m (3773 ft) above sea level. What is now a village used to be a grand town, believed to have been founded around 1338. When it reached its zenith around 1750, it had a population of almost 20,000 inhabitants.

Photo credits: Flickr / Bocian & Tusia

At one point, Voskopojë had 24 churches adorned with many exquisite frescoes but only seven survive today. It was also known for its secondary school, the Academy of Learning, and library, as well as an important center of craftsmen and textile artisans, blacksmith masters, tin workers, stonemasons, stone and wood carvers, and carpet weavers.

Photo credits: Flickr / John Quine

The first mention of the town’s importance appears in medieval chronicles in A.D. 14th century. At that time, the town was known by the Greek name of Moschopolis. By the mid-1850s it was the second most important town in European Turkey after Istanbul. The first ever print shop in the Balkans was also built here in 1720 and books in the Greek script were being printed as early as 1760. At that time there were 22 churches in the town.

Photo credits: Flickr / Bocian & Tusia

Among the best preserved religious buildings include the Monastery of Shën Prodhon (Saint Prodhon), which is partially damaged. There is the Church of Shën Koll (Saint Nicholas), built in 1721, features frescoes and paintings of great iconographic value by David Selenica, Kostantin Jeromonaku and Anastasi.

7538947782_bd656b7b66_zPhoto credits: Flickr / Bocian & Tusia

The Churches of Shën Mëhill (Saint Michael) and Shën Athanasi (Saint Athanasius), have important icons of great value painted by the same artists. The Church of Shën Ilia (Saint Ilia) also commands a magnificent view of the valley. The murals and frescoes inside the surviving churches are some of the finest examples of 18th century ecclesiastical art on the Balkan peninsula.


Shën Mëhill church

Photo credits: Flickr / Only Tradition

Due to its high elevation, Voskopojë receives snow in the winter months and can be quite chilly, so visitors ought to dress warmly as the churches are not heated and can be very drafty.

You may read the original article, first published at BalkansGeoTourism.

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