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Built atop a hill and surrounded by the ancient ruins of the Archaeological Park of Apollonia, the expansive plains of Myzeqe and the Adriatic Sea, the medieval monastic complex of St. Mary is one of the most memorable and visually breathtaking sites in the country. Here, we leave behind the polytheist world of ancient Apollonia and enter a strikingly different era of Western history, that of Christianity.
This byzantine Christian complex also incorporates many of the ancient materials found in the surrounding ruins. While its construction dates back to the 13th century, this effectual merging of ancient and byzantine architecture renders the monastic complex a timeless source of rich historical, architectural and cultural value. What adds more value to its wealth of historical information is the Archaeological Museum located inside the monastery.
Some of the most visually striking parts of the monastic complex are several icons and murals located within it, along with the mosaics inside the refectory (or monk’s dining hall). In 1927, both the iconostasis and bell tower were reconstructed, the latter giving the entire area a different appearance. A few scattered cypresses serve as the perfect background to the spiritual atmosphere found here.
Located inside the monastery, the museum contains many archaeological treasures found during excavations and expeditions in the area. In addition to the mosaic in the refectory of the museum, the statue-lined portico, recently restored, remains one of the top attractions in the entire complex. The large marble statues surrounded by beautiful panoramas is a sight to remember. Last but not least, six separate halls are dedicated to the exhibition of prehistoric to Roman-era finds including baked clay pottery items, ceramics, vessels decorated with Hellenic mythological images, and a rich numismatic collection.