Montenegro's Churches in July

We've fallen into a lazy rhythm here in Montenegro, of soaking in the sun and expelling the heat back into the starry evenings.  This is a place to swim and walk slowly, and to look at things with the uncritical eye of a tourist.  What can we do in such a beautiful place but enjoy ourselves?  It's hard to react to this place with anything but stupor.  It's too hot and pleasant for anything else.
So, making our circuits around and above the shore, moving inland into the mountains and greener land, we've talked about little and noticed mostly colors and smells.  One of the things that stands out has been the meshing of architecture and rock, and the way the colorful light washes over it all.  The Cathedral of St. Tryphon is Kotor town's most picturesque church.  Built in 1166, it was damaged by an earthquake in the seventeenth century - it got its cockeyed look from the rebuilding process.  The towers don't quite match, the facade is handsomely asymmetrical, the setting is remarkable.  It's one of only two Catholic churches in Montenegro.
In the rocks and yellow grass above Kotor, one of Montenegro's most evocative buildings stands sentinel.  Looking out over the bay, built almost flush with the cliffs around it, the Church of Our Lady of Remedy isn't very big, but it's steeple punctuates the view perfectly.  This is the stuff of postcards and guidebook covers, the kind of chapel built less for worship than inspiration.
Around the bay to the northwest, past patches of hollyhock and flowering orange trees, is one of the largest religious buildings in the Adriatic, the not-really-that-big Birth of Our Lady church in Prčanj.  It's a pretty, blue-bordered church in a small cluster of roof tiles and bathing platforms. It's not nearly as large as one might think it would be, though it did take over 120 years to build. This side of the bay is less built up and has many beautiful, old stone houses on the waterfront. The calm waters there are never roused into more than a quiet lapping, the shallow spots are full of families swimming and playing together.
Up close, the church is almost overpowered by the lascivious blossoms of dozens of oleanders. Old couples stood on their porches in the close environs, fanning themselves and watching us carefully.  The tourists that come to Prčanj are almost all looking for a sunbed or a grilled fish - on the steps of the church, a few surprised men sipped beer and waved to us guiltily.  The place has the air of a forgotten, tropical mission, faded by the sun and just a few years from succumbing to the weeds and salt-air.
In a high, craggy valley, where the sunlight seemed collected as though in a bowl, we came to this grass-roofed, abandoned chapel.  Not far from the water, yet still at an extreme remove, the place had the emptiness of a dessert.  In the rocks around, a few horses and mules stood in what shade they could find, too hot to graze, their necks bent under the strain of July.  A crude wire hook held closed a gate across the church's doorway.
Inside we found a wooden ladder and wheelbarrow.  Also, a much-crumbled stone altar and the remnants of once-blue frescoes on the ceiling.  It was shady and cool, a tiny crossed knave. There were a few cigarette buts on the floor, but no beer cans.  The place was more cave than church, a tiny refuge beside the "ladder of cattaro," an ancient trading route now reduced to an outline in the scrub.
Montenegro's capital, Podgorica, is a spread-out place on a high plateau, far inland.  We talked to one woman from there who said that everyone leaves in the summer - it's too hot, too dusty, too dry.  The city streets were fully blanketed by a mid-summer quiet when we passed through.  This man and a robed priest were forking hay nearby the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ. Around them were battered dumpsters and parked cars, a kind of meshing of agriculture and urban blight.  The church, built in 1993, looked more like a municipal building than anything - like a police station set down on the edge of town and given a dome.
Looking like something found at low tide on a barnacled rock, Holy Sunday Church is a tiny speck off the coast near Petrovac.  It was built, some say, by a Greek fisherman who was shipwrecked there and believed that his survival was a miracle.  From beneath a beach umbrella on the shore, the church blends in the with the rock below it.  From the coastal road, it's a little red-roofed speck. Seagulls and sailboats whorled around it, the Adriatic was impossibly blue.
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