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Churches of Ardenica, Libofshe and Shen Cosmasbluedrive

Summary: High above the lowlands of the fertile Myzeqe between Fier and Lushnje runs a forested ridge parallel to the Durres-Vlore highway. Through the pine tree tops one can have a glimpse of the church tower of Ardenica.

A temple dedicated to Artemis had existed on the site of the oldest chapel. The site is about a kilometer away from the Via Egnatia. It is thought that the name of Ardenica stems from Artemis.

According to scholars the chapel to the Holy Trinity existed for centuries before the present large church was built late in the 13th century. The Byzantine Emperor, Andronikos II Palaiologos started building the monastery in 1282 after the victory over the Angevins of the Kingdom of Sicily. The Siege of the Byzantine garrison of Berat by the Angevins happened in 1280–1281. Berat was a strategically important fortress, whose possession would allow the Angevins access to the heartlands of the Byzantine Empire. A Byzantine relief force arrived in spring 1281, and managed to ambush and capture the Angevin commander, Hugo de Sully. Thereupon, the Angevin army panicked and fled, suffering heavy losses in killed and wounded. This defeat ended the threat of a land invasion of the Byzantine Empire from the West.

On April 21, 1451 the marriage of George Kastrioti with Andronika Arianiti was celebrated in the monastery.

From 1780 the Monastery hosted a Greek school for clerics.  In 1817, the school became a high school, which had also a student house.  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 entirely destroyed by a fire in 1932.

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 touristic purposes. The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania retook possession of the monastery in 1992.

From the hilltop of Ardenica, one can see the white village church of Libofshe, surrounded by its cemetery and a forest of high cypress trees.

A second ecclesiastical complex near Libofshe is sign posted as St Mary's Monastery. The zig-zag road from Libofshe leads to the large compound on the banks of the river Seman. At the site are two churches in Romanesque style, St Cosmas and St Mary's. St. Mary has only one wall left standing, with frescoes. St. Cosmas is built around the  grave of St. Cosmas of Aetolia, a Greek saint of the 18th century, who was martyred for spreading the faith under the Turkish rule.  A heavily fortified wall and pumps protect the monastery from the river floods. A guide is on site to explain things – in Ship.

The Drive: For those who need to make an adventure out of everything, here is a suggestion for some very short 4WD excursions from Ardenica.

Take the bus route on the asphalt road from Kolonje to Ardenica; don’t forget to visit the church. From the parking lot, continue straight on and soon turn right at waypoint 2. (You may also continue straight on the dirt road, though we had to return due to very muddy conditions). After 500 meter you reach a fork at waypoint 3 – either way is possible. We choose a clockwise direction and therefore took the left fork. After another 2.6 kilometer you reach the asphalt road. Turn right. After a few hundred meter you reach waypoint 5 and the sign to Shen Marie. It takes almost 3 kilometer to Shen Marie/Shen Cosmas from there. Back on the asphalt road, continue to Libofshe. After visiting the church of Libofshe, drive around on its right (south) side, and find your way back to the top Ardenica. The road is more rutted but much shorter than the that you took down from Ardenica. Alternatively, return from Libofshe via the asphalt road to the highway to Fier.

Maximum altitude: 186 meter
Minimum altitude: 3 meter
Cumulative height: 404  meter
Cumulative length: 18.8  kilometer
Difficulty moderate
Time: 1.5 hour
Date of this record September 2013
Download GPS info: Ardenica

The asphalt road to Libofshe:

Maximum altitude: 178 meter
Minimum altitude: 13 meter
Cumulative height: 182  meter
Cumulative length: 6  kilometer
Difficulty easy
Time: 7 minutes
Date of this record September 2013
Download GPS info: To Libofshe

General location and approach: Near Fier


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