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Review: Leusa Church

Attraction - Castles & places of worship

Përmeti, 6401, Albania

Amazing frescoes which at last we could photograph

  • By SilverTraveller HMJ

    687 reviews

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  • September 2019
  • Partner

13 people found this review helpful

If anyone tells you that Leusa church is only 1.5km from the centre of Përmeti and that you can hike up to it, DO NOT believe them. It’s true that it is 1.5km, but it is a very steep and stony track and would certainly take me a couple of hours.

Fortunately, our driver with just a car, found a man with a 4WD and we set off for the 15-minute drive. The church is located on a junction of the track with one way continuing up and the other, not wide enough for a vehicle, heading upwards towards houses. I ventured a little way and found the steepness and cobbles treacherous and even a donkey, which is presumably the mode of transport, was picking his footings carefully.

The church was locked, so 4WD man headed onwards and returned 10 minutes later with what was a very large key. We opened the carved wooden gate, walked through the current cemetery where plastic flowers adorned the graves in the typical Albanian way, to find a magnificent set of semi-circular, widening corner steps taking us down.

The church was much larger than we’d anticipated, said to be 23m long. There were frescoes in the external covered portico or exonarthex. Unfortunately, many had been defaced with graffiti and although our Bradt guidebook suggested ‘charming compositions including a pelican’, we couldn’t spot it although we found some animals.

However, inside, we found the hand, scales and chute to hell that we’d seen in St Mary’s Church, Mborja but had not been allowed to photograph and other gruesome scenes of sinners being tortured. Here we were allowed to snap away although the interior was quite dark, and so the torches on our mobiles were useful.

In the narthex, or the inner vestibule for those not confirmed, we found a set of wooden steps which led to a balcony where we could see the ceiling frescoes in more detail. Bearing in mind the church was built at the end of the 18th century, we trod carefully on the creaky wooden steps and floor.

On the drive down, we met a group of tired looking hikers on the way up.

Whilst the frescoes were undoubtedly stunning, I’m not too convinced they would have been worth the hike up and back down.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 3 Comment(s)

  • iwent
    2 months ago
    Point taken HMJ. And I suppose that, to some extent, the graffiti is a part of the history. Would still prefer to see such icons more clearly and without "embellishment".
  • HMJ
    3 months ago
    Thanks for reading my review and looking at the photos so closely iwent. Whilst Luka and Dindi did damage the frescoes, it is nothing compared to the communist actions of either destroying religious buildings or completely whitewashing the frescoes.
  • iwent
    3 months ago
    Thank you for your tale, and photos of those wonderful/horrible frescoes. What a shame Luka and Dindi got there first.