Categories: Montenegro

Ulcinj Montenegro : Shabbatai Tzvi’s Tomb

So why Ulcinj? This little town is where Shabbatai Tzvi – a dominant figure in the regional religious history – ended his life in prison and where some claim is his final resting place. The whole tour was meant to learn more about the local religions and their interaction with Jewish life or those days. His story was probably the most serious religious crisis. If you’re interested, read more of what I wrote about Shabbatai Zvi when in Berati-Albania.

The old castle up on the hill from Ulcinj includes an old prison where, probably as royalty, Shabbatai Zvi was imprisoned and finally died.

Ulcinj Montenegro : Shabbatai Tzvi’s Tomb

 

I was told those windows on the top room were the windows of his prison cell…

Ulcinj Montenegro : Shabbatai Tzvi’s Tomb

Ulcinj Montenegro : Shabbatai Tzvi’s Tomb

 

In case you want to visit…

Ulcinj Montenegro : Shabbatai Tzvi’s Tomb

 

Wikipedia writes about what happened after Shabbatai – who were believed to be a Messiah – converted to Islam (bold not in original text):

Sabbatai’s conversion was devastating for his followers. […]

At times Sabbatai assumed the role of a pious Muslim and reviled Judaism; at others he associated with Jews as one of their own faith. In March 1668 he announced that he had been filled with the "Holy Spirit" at Passover, and had received a "revelation." He, or one of his followers, published a mystical work claiming Sabbatai was the true Messiah in spite of his conversion. His goal was to bring thousands of Muslims to Judaism.[citation needed] After telling the sultan he was trying to convert Jews to Islam, Sabbatai was permitted to associate with them and preach in their synagogues. He succeeded in bringing over a number of Muslims to his kabbalistic views. Whether through his efforts or their willingness to follow in his latest steps, about 300 families of Sephardic Jews converted to Islam, becoming known as the Dönmeh (also spelled Dönme), convert. Some of the followers adhered to a combination of their former Jewish practices as well as Islam.

Gradually the Turks tired of Sabbatai’s schemes. They ended his salary and banished him to Constantinople. When he was discovered singing psalms with Jews, the grand vizier ordered his banishment to Dulcigno (today called Ulcinj), a small place in Montenegro. There he died in isolation, according to some accounts, on September 17, 1676, the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur.

 

Here is probably a bit of what he was seeing from his prison cell…

Ulcinj Montenegro : Shabbatai Tzvi’s Tomb

Ulcinj Montenegro : Shabbatai Tzvi’s Tomb

 

While it’s clear that Shabbatai died in Ulcinj, it’s not entirely clear where he’s buried. A local tourguide took us to one of the proclaimed graves of Shabbatai which is in the middle of nowhere at an ordinary house…

Ulcinj Montenegro : Shabbatai Tzvi’s Tomb

 

The tourguide gave the background. See the following video :

 

Luckily, we also met the person who owns the house and the nearby bakery (the person on the left)…

Ulcinj Montenegro : Shabbatai Tzvi’s Tomb

 

He told us a bit more about Shabbatai, the Shabbatiim way of life and what made this, of all places, his real grave…

 

There are atleast two other places where it is said he is buried. Being a Messiah, most of his followers might probably say he never really died. Doesn’t matter, the folk stories following his legend are interesting regardless of the actual facts.

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