Shpella e Maligradit

Cave of Maligrad - Saint Mary Church


Useful Information

Location: Maligrad Island.
(40.791803, 20.933004)
Open: no restrictions.
Boat Tours: MAR to OCT daily 10, after appointment.
[2022]
Fee: free.
Boat Tours: Adults EUR 20.
[2022]
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: bring torch
Dimension:
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Skënder Anamali (2002): Historia e popullit shqiptar në katër vëllime (in Albanian). I. Botimet Toena. pp. 294–295. OCLC 52411919. pdf
Address: Cave of Maligrad, Maligrad Island, Korçe.
Julian Kodra, Tel: +355675368129. E-mail:
Llazo Stojani, Tel: +355683504717. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1369 built by the Serbian nobleman Kesar Novak (alb. Qesar Novaku).
1948 declared a Culture Monument.

Description

Shpella e Maligradit (Cave of Maligrad) is named after the small island Ishulli Mali Grad (Maligrad Island), where it is located. Mali Grad means literally small town in Macedonian, which is spoken by the locals. It's a small church dedicated to Mary, located inside a huge cave portal on an island wirth a great view to the south. There is a simple jetty at the southern shore of the island and a trail up to the cave church. The island is located in the southern end of Liqenit te Prespes (Lake Prespa), in the Galičica National Park. The lake belongs to three countries, Macedonian to the north and northeast, Greece to the southeast, and Albanian to the west. However, the locals around the lake speak mostly Macedonian, which is similar to Serbian and Croatian and not Greek.

The island looks like a prehistoric table mountains from Venezuely, a huge ship swimming on the lake. The center of the island is a plateau which is about 20 m above the lake. The island is triangular and has a vertical limestone wall on all three sides, with numerous cave openings. The limestone is karstified and has numerous caves, but it seems those huge portals are a result of the waves, as they are higher than the lake probably at a time when the lake had more water. Today the island is surrounded by a 30 m wide rim of debris from the cliffs, which is overgrown with bushes.

The cave church is obviously visited by the locals on special events. The church St Atanas is located on the sea shore 1.5 km to the west and also has a jetty. The location make a visit rather difficult. If you find a day trip which includes the church it is probably the easiest way to get there. Otherwise, you have to find a local fisher with a boat and organize the ride.

The cave church St. Mary's Church or Virgin Mary's Church is an Eastern Orthodox cave church. It was built by the Serbian nobleman Kesar Novak (alb. Qesar Novaku), in 1369. The building is very simple, looks more like a hous or chapel, but it has extraordinary frescoes on the walls inside and outside, Those frescoes are the reason why you should go with a guide, because those inside the locked church are much better preserved. The churches in the area had numerous frescoes, but this one was probably the most remote of all. During numerous campaigns by atheists to destroy religious symbols, it was simply overlooked. The Nature tour guide Julian Kodra offers day trips which include a picnic on the island with local specialties.