Located 237 meters above sea level and only a 20-minute drive from Fier are the Ardenica hills, famous for the Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos and many breathtaking landscapes. A pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis had existed where the Monastery sits now, which explains the origin of the name Ardenica.
Covering an area of 2,500 square meters, the Monastery was built in 282, commissioned by the emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos of Byzantium. Perhaps the most interesting historical event recorded in Ardenica is Skanderbeg’s wedding to his lifelong wife Donika, hosted on April of 1451 at the Chapel of St. Trinity Church, the monastery’s very first church, built in the 10th century.
St. Mary’s Church (Kisha e Shën Mërisë), on the other hand, is the most impressive building on site. Built with stones coming from the antique city of Apollonia, this church welcomes anyone through the open porch and its columns and arches. The bell of this church is 24 meters high! The church interior is adorned with beautiful frescoes, depicting scenes from the New Testament, from the painters Kostandin and Athanas Zografi (originating from Korça), while the wood-carved iconostasis by Kostandin Shpataraku and the many icons displayed there add even more beauty and splendor to the church.
During the 17th-18th century the monastery became famous for its rich library with thousands of volumes. As one of the largest libraries in the Balkans, this place hosted many priests from all the world who came to Ardenica for their research.Over time, the monastery included a school and dormitory for Greek Liturgy and became an important center for learning the Albanian language.
Beyond all its historical and cultural values, the Monastery is well worth visiting for the scenery that surrounds its strategic position. Form here, you get a view over the Adriatic Sea, the Lagoon of Karavasta, Mount Tomorr and the Dajti Mountain.
How to get there: Take the Lushnjë – Fier National Road.