|Order||Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania|
|Dedicated to||Byzantine victory on the Angevins in Berat during the Siege of Berat (1280–1281)|
|Founder(s)||Andronikos II Palaiologos|
|Location||Fier District, Albania|
The Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Ardenica or simply Ardenica Monastery (Albanian: Manastiri Lindja e Hyjlindëses MariGreek: Ιερά Μονή Γεννήσεως Θεοτόκου Αρδευούσης) is an Eastern Orthodox monastery, distant ten kilometers north of Fier, Albania, along the national road that links Fier to Lushnjë.
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 frescoes 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. 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. 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. 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.
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.[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 paitings from this period of the Zografi brothers pertain to this time.
Since 1780, in the Monastery existed a Greek school to prepare clerics. In 1817, the school became a high school, which had also a student house. From this school graduated the Bishop of Berat, Josif. During the Albanian National Awakening period the school became one of the places where also the Albanian Language was taught.
The monastery had an exceptional library of 32,000 volumes that got completely burned by a fire in 1932.
By late 1960s in this monastery spent the last days of his life the former primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Irene Banushi. 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 touristical 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 Watermarks
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.
The Church of Saint Mary in the Monastery of Ardenica has important frescoes from Kostandin Zografi and Athanas Zografi. These painters from Korçë worked on the church in 1744. The frescoes include an Old Testament and a New Testament, Dogmatica, Lithurgy, Life of Saints, etc.
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. 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.
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.
The hills of Ardenica can be found in southern Myzeqe in a dominant position. From this position can be seen Kruja, Mount Dajt, Tomorr, the Adriatic sea, the Karavasta Lagoon and the Labëria mountains. The views from the monastery wall are breathtaking.
- Eastern Churches Journal: A Journal of Eastern Christendom. Society of Saint John Chrysostom. 1997. p. 222.
- "Manastiri "Lindja e Hyjlindëses Mari", Ardenicë (i restauruar)". orthodoxalbania.org. Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania.[dead link]
- "Ιερά Μονή Γεννήσεως της Θεοτόκου, Αρδενίτσα (Αρδέυουσα) (αναστήλωση)". orthodoxalbania.org. Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania. Retrieved 28 June 2011.[dead link]
- "The Monastery of Theotokos Mary, Ardenica (restored)". orthodoxalbania.org. Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2011.[dead link]
- Andoni, Ben. "Manastiri i Ardenices: Ku shqiptaret piskasin ne vend te lutjes" (in Albanian). Retrieved 28 July 2010.[dead link]
- GJIKA, Ilirjan. "Manastiri i Ardenices" (in Albanian). Archived from the original on 24 August 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
- Elsie, Robert (2000). A dictionary of Albanian religion, mythology, and folk culture. New York University Press. p. 14. ISBN 0-8147-2214-8.
- Zeqo, Moikom (22 May 2006). "Gjeniu më shqiptar i ikonografisë Kostandin Shpataraku". Koha Jone (in Albanian) (Nikolle Leska). pp. 10–11.