As you take on this journey, be prepared to see the most beautiful shades of red and gold you have ever laid eyes on! Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel has its exquisite pastels and soft golds and Andrei Rublev’s Holy Trinity that beautiful ultramarine blue and gold, while the Cathedral of the Assumption of St. Mary and the Onufri Museum, situated in the same complex, combine that traditional gold with a dazzling red that you will never forget.
Built in 1979, this cathedral is situated at the highest altitude of the Berat Castle, though not that easy to find. While the Ottomans were Muslim, they allowed Christians to continue practicing their faith and build churches, though not very visibly. This cathedral is one of them, a typical church of three naves and two rows of tall stone columns. Inside, you will initially find yourself facing the Holy Altar with masterful engravings and paintings of Bible scenes in the incredibly lavish and ornate iconostasis of the Cathedral, the only one to have survived from the former metropolitan complex. The iconostasis, created in 1807, the most astonishing part of the interior of the church, is considered one of the greatest accomplishments of 1th century Albanian woodcarving masters. It stretches along the entire interior of the cathedral and includes 12 royal icons as well as 27 small festive icons. Carved in wood and covered in gold, the royal icons, these objects of reverence and worship, are simply magnificent!
Stepping out of the main altar, you enter the Onufri National Iconographic Museum, built in 1986. The Museum’s name honors the Albanian master painter of 16th century, Onufri, who is responsible for a rich legacy of iconography in the country. The museum contains an immense collection of 173 select objects from Albanian churches and monasteries. This museum is spread throughout the many church spaces. The different rooms showcase the best works by the most renowned artists such as, of course, Onufri, Nikolla, Onufri’s son, Onufër Qiprioti, David Selenica, and many more, including some anonymous painters. These are some of the most beautiful works in the country, ones that truly evidence the results of divine inspiration!
But, as is the case with all great artists, this trip inside the Onufri Museum does not end here! Visitors come out of the Cathedral already in pursuit of that unforgettable “Onufri red”, one whose special formula the master never revealed and one whose influence is dispersed in almost every church within the Castle of Berat!