The Verige Strait, which connects Tivat Bay to Kotor Bay, is the place where the land on either side of Kotor Bay is closest. At the end of the Strait, directly in front of the entrance to Kotor and Risan Bay, the coasts are separated by 283 meters of water with a depth of 39 meters. During the Middle Ages, this site was crucial in defending the rich villages of Perast, Prcanj and Kotor from attacks by pirates and other enemies who tried to enter the Bay by ship.
In 1391, Perast was already mentioned as the keeper of the entrance to Risan Bay. In addition to Perast, in 1437 other places in Kotor Bay that belonged to the abbey of St. George – Stop, Đurići and Veće Brdo (Lepetane) – were obliged to protect the entrance of Kotor Bay and paid annually to do so. At the end of the 15th century, the city of Herceg Novi and a good part of the western side of the Bay fell into the hands of the Turks, making it important to defend the remaining Christian villages. A chain was stretched across the narrowest part of the Bay, from one shore to the other. This was pulled up and down from the sea, straining on large wheels and mounted on land, preventing enemy ships from reaching the final part of the Bay. On the eastern tip of the narrowest part of Verige Strait, Perast residents built Our Lady of the Angels – a small stone church with a rectangular apse – entrusting the protection of their lives and homes to the divine guards in whom they saw the greatest hope.
Our Lady of the Angels was mentioned for the first time in documents from 1526, and later in ‘Descriptio Urbis Ascrivensis’ by the famous Kotor poet, Ivan Bona Bolica. Fortification of the complex finally came about after pirate attacks from Bizerte, Tunisia and Katanga. On 22nd June 1624, the 16 galleys stormed Perast and caused great destruction and casualties. In accordance with a proposal by military engineer, Augustin Alberti from Venice, the church of Our Lady of the Angels was was turned into a fortress due to its position on a rocky cliff at the end of Verige. After several phases of construction, strong stone walls with loopholes for guns were built around the church, as well as a house to accommodate military garrison and a water tank. The whole complex had architectural features similar to the Gothic style. During the infamous Turkish attack on Perast on 15th May 1654, the fortress on Verige was burned by the Turks from Herzegovina, but later rebuilt.
Although it was primarily a military facility, Our Lady of the Angels was used for Mass and the occasional wedding, and later became home to to an order of monks. Its location near the lighthouse at the end of Verge Strait also made it a landmark for seafarers and fishermen. Today, Our Lady of the Angels is an official UNESCO-protected cultural site and was renovated between 2014-2015. As one of the Bay’s most striking sights, it is featured on numerous postcards and is also a popular spot for tourists – particularly those from the cruise ships – to take photographs.