Bijela (meanings “White”), mentioned in Medieval Latin sources as Alba)is a large village lying on the north side of the second bay of Gulf, facing Tivat. It developed in a field, the largest and most fertile between Herceg Novi and Risan, hence its early development: in the 6th century it had a basilica, destroyed probably in the Slav onslaught, and 809 it got a Benedictine monastery, used as a starting point for the conversation of the locals.
Although it was and agricultural area it also took part in seafaring, producing a number of famous captain, some of whose houses survive near the waterfront. Its sandy beach, one of the best you will find in the Gulf of Kotor, is somewhat spoiled by the shipyard next to it. The shipyard continues the tradition reaching from the Middle Ages, and though not as active as before, it still employs a great deal of Bijela’s population Bijela’s most important monuments is the orthodox church of Riza Bogorodice. It is located in a charming dale about one kilometer inland from the highway. The turn is marked with a sign; the road at one point becomes very narrow and drivers should be wary of the vehicles coming from the other direction.
The large stone edifice that we see today was built in 1824 but it incorporates a part of much older church whose white-washed apse in an unusual addition to its look. The church originates from the end of the 12th century and is one of the oldest surviving in the whole Gulf, the fast reflected in its simple pre-Romanesque looks. The interior of the church is dominated by the gilded high iconostasis done by the Nicolaos Aspitis from Corfu and pair of old icons brought by the seafarers from their voyagers to Greece.
On the floor you can see the outlines of where the old church used to stand as well as its original basis through two glass panels. In order to see its apse you will have to ask the priest to let you behind the iconostasis. The apse of old church is located considerably beneath the foundations of the new one and is reached by descending steps. Its frescoes date from around 1200 and are the oldest in the Gulf of Kotor. They represent the Divine Liturgy with saints and angels bowing to the Virgin and Christ. In the small niche the unknown patron of the church’s fresco painting is represented.
On the high hills above the church stand the crooked houses of the abandoned village of Kruševice whose several churches tell about its past importance. The village is best known as the place of origin of Felice Perreti, who later in his life became pope Sixtus V ( 1585-90). Peretti’s father left Kruševice for Italy after a devastating Turkish raid on the village. It is believed that Felice kept memory of his origin in his surname-pera ( pear) in Italian being the same as kruška in Serbian.
North of Bijela you will pass the village of Kamenari standing at the beginning of the Verige straits. This is the narrowest point of the Gulf with its sides closing to merely some one hundred meters. The name “Verige” (“chains”) comes from a legend that the inner bay was closed with chains long ago. Instead of using the chains, during the Venetian era of the straits were guarded by the brave mariners of Perast, the town that faces Verige. The names of the opposing capes, Turkish Cape (Turski rt) and Cape Virgin (Rt Gospa) –come from the 16th and 17th centuries when the north side of the Gulf was under Turkish and the south under Venetian control. There is nice viewpoint at the tip of Turski rt, just off the highway. From Kamenari the ferry transports vehicles to Lepetani on the other side of Gulf.
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