Tags: gypsy fairs
The original church on this site dates from the middle of the 6th century (AD 554). Allegedly, its construction of church was ordered by the Emperor Justinian I (AD 527–565), who then got married in it and donated a fragment of the Holy Cross to the community. Justinian was renown for his obsessive program for building new churches. Although the original church might have been built as part of this program, it seems that in this legend the main church building event of the Emperor's reign (the construction of the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople) is re-enacted on the site of a local shrine. The church used to attract pilgrims. Also until 1967 there was an annual procession on the feast of the Dormition that involved carrying the fragment of the Holy Cross and an icon of the Virgin around Labova and neighbouring villages. The other possible explanion of the referrence to Justinian is that, allegedly, he was of Illirian origin. I am not sure whether marriages took place in churches as early as in the 6th century. The Roman marriage was performed in bed with witnesses watching and applauding. In any case Justinian married Theodora in 525, which is 29 years before the date shown above the entrance to the church.
The present stucture dates from either the 10th or the 13th century. One of the guides that I saw in Gjirokastra describes the Labova village as Vlakh.