THE MAIN CASTLES OF ALBANIA
Albania has a number of castles and forts from the early antiquity to the Middle Ages. I would say that the castles and their history are richer than any other Balkan country. Some of the castles are still inhabited up until this day (the most important of these is the castle of Berat and the castle of Tepelene).
The main castles and the most famous castles of Albania are: The Rozafa castle in Shkodra, The Lezha castle in Lezha, The Gjirokastra castle in Gjirokastra, Butrinti castle located close to Saranda, the Porto - Palermo castle in Himara, Kruja castle (otherwise known as Skanderbeg castle) in Kruja, the Petrela castle located in Petrele, close to Tirana and the Kanina castle which is located in Vlora.
We have listed the castles, not by their importance but by their location, we have started from south Albania (Butrint, Saranda, Tepelene, Gjirokastra, Permet), then we have traveled to eastern Albania (Himara, Korca, Podgradec, Elbasan, Peqin), then to Tirana and other areas in the middle of Albania, then to the west of Albania (Vlora, Fier, Berat, Durres) and finally to the north of Albania (Shkodra, Diber, Peshkopia, Mati, Lezha, Kukes and Kruja).
CASTLES IN THE SOUTH OF ALBANIA
Gjirokastër Castle: Looming over the Albanian town of Gjirokaster, the castle that was gradually built by hundreds of years of despots and dictators now houses the aging reminders of their World War resistance to Western occupation.
The castle is open all year round (April to September 09:00 to 19:00, October to March 09:00 to 17:00 ) with an admission price of 200 Lekë (1,5 euro). A small bar is situated within the ramparts where refreshments can be purchased.
The castle, which is undoubtedly one of the most magnificent structures of the city, sits on a rocky bluff with the city stretching out around it. It offers spectacular views of the Drino valley and surrounding mountains.
The castle has undergone various additions and changes over the course of the centuries: The first major fortifications were built under the Despots of Epirus in the 12th and 13th centuries. The castle looks quite different today, than it did upon its initial construction, thanks to the additions and restorations provided for by Albania's many political leaders.
The first of the defenses were put in place by the Despots of Epirus, an off-shoot of the Byzantine government, who established the basic towered structure of the castle. Later on, while the area was under Ottoman rule, the site was extensively renovated and built upon, bringing the site to a sort of reality that it hadn't enjoyed since its creation centuries prior.
In the 1800's, a clock tower and aqueduct were also added. In the 1930's the fantastically named Zog, King of the Albanians converted the fortress into a prison, adding a number of cells and fortifications to hold members of the various resistance forces acting in the country during his reign.
The Artillery Gallery inside the castle of Gjirokastra: If you walk through the main entrance to the castle, this time turn to the left, about 50 meters away from the entrance, you will enter into a long gallery that is lined with pieces of artillery. All of these guns and weapons were either abandoned by, or captured from, the Italian and German occupation forces during the World War II. Within this gallery there is also a small Italian tank that was built by the Fiat Company.
Today, the fort sits on top of a hill that towers over the surrounding town making it a striking monument to the grandeur of the past. The site continued to operate as a prison until 1968, and now the castle complex is operated as a historical site, including an arms museum devoted to the weapons of Albania's independence. Even outside of the museum proper the castles halls are sprinkled with abandoned World War II tanks, and there is even an American fighter plane that was shot down during the war that sits next to one of the towers as a reminder of the struggle against Western influence.
All of the dictators and war aside, the small field atop the castle roof is also now home to a concert pavilion that hosts festival entertainment each year, and is generally a more exuberant and positive place than much of the rest of the castle. You can read more about Gjirokastra castle and other sites worth seeing in Gjirokastra if you visit the official page of Gjirokastra in Albania.
The American Airplane inside the castle of Gjirokastra: The remains of a United States Air Force T33 Shooting Star are exhibited on the ramparts overlooking the city. The airplane was forced to land at Rinas Airport, near Tirana in December 1957 due to technical problems.
Libohovë Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Libohovës) is a castle located in the town of Libohovë, southern Albania just 30 kilometers away from the Greek border of Kakavia.
The castle was built between the years 1796 and 1798.and consists of a substantial fortress with four polygonal corner towers and a curtain wall surrounding a wide courtyard. The sister of Ali Pasha of Tepelenë, Shanica, married one of the most important members of the Libohovë family and the castle was the dowry that Ali Pasha presented to her.
When you want to visit the castle of Libohove, you must shout the old man (Jimmy) that owns the farm that has closed the entrance to the castle. The entrance to the castle is free of charge! The man is quite friendly and will be more than willing to open the entrance to the ruins of the castle and to show you around to make himself look important. You might see some chickens and goats within the area of the castle, but they are harmless 🙂
Kardhiq Castle: Kardhiq Castle is a ruined hill castle located in the small village of Kardhiq, very close to Gjirokastra in south Albania. The castle was built between the late 14th and the early 15th century by the Zenebishi family, it was restored by Ali Pasha in the early 19th century.
The castle is first mentioned in the 1431-2 register of the Sanjak of Albania. The castle has 5 towers, two of which are of polygonal form and similar to other castles of Ali Pasha. The width of the walls, which feature turrets, is c. 1,70 m.
Tepelenë Castle: The Tepelena Castle was built by Ali Pasha, himself at the end of the 18th century in the town of Tepelena.
It was the second most important castle during his reign, after the castle in Ioannina (Northern Greece). The construction of this monument was finished in the year 1819. It has an area of 4 - 5 hectares and was protected by three towers. The height of the walls reached 10 meters. The eastern entrance is called “Porta e Vezirit,”.
Today, the castle still remains in quite a good condition. There is no entrance fee for tourists. The locals have built their houses inside the castle area, so it is like entering into a market. You can see the castle better from the road underneath that lies along the Vjosa river.
Kelcyre Castle: An old House in Kelcyre (a very small town located in between Tepelene and Permet) which belongs to Ali Klissura, who was an Albanian lord (bey), a member of the Albanian parliament in the 1920s. Today, you can ask the neighbors for the key of the old house. However there is not that much left to see.
The castle of Bolenga (Kalaja e Bolëngës): The upper district of the town of Permet is called Bolenga. The remains of the castle of Bolenga, are not more than a few stones, located at the top of the large rock of Permet.
The castle of Lekursi: This castle is located on the southern side of the top of the hill that looks over the bay of Saranda. From the castle, you can see the Greek island of Corfu, the village of Delvina, the ancient site of Butrint, the seashore of Saranda and also the valley of Pavlla.
The castle itself was built in the year 1537 by the amazing Sultan Suleiman, who had already attacked the Greek island of Corfu and wanted to control the harbor of Saranda and the road that related it with the ancient site of Butrint. The ruined castle used to withhold the old village of Lekures. It has been built in a square form with two circular towers on its north-western and south-eastern corners.
To climb as much as the citadel, visitors ought to go away the major road on Qafë Gjashtë and go up the city hill from the opposite side of town. Today, you will find within the castle, a restaurant - coffee bar that offers special celebration nights on weekends, where you can hear Albanian music and watch the traditional Albanian dances by exceptional musicians. The night time view of the bay of Saranda from the castle is picturesque.
The Triangle Venetian castle of Vivari: This castle is located on the southern bank of the Vivari channel, exactly opposite the entrance to the famous ancient site of Butrint.
It has a triangle shape with three corners and with round towers on each corner, the southern tower is the highest and the largest out of the three towers.
The castle is usually locked with a large iron door but if you do get the opportunity to visit the inside of the castle, you will see the old cells which belonged to the former garrison. These cells are located along the northern side of the castle, which has a length of 40 meters.
Each of the other sides of the castle have a length of 50 meters. This castle is said to have been built by Anjuins in the 13th century. Later the castle passed through various stages of reconstruction by the Venetians and by Ali Pasha Tepelena.
The castle of Ali Pasha Tepelena: This castle was built during the years 1807-1808 opposite the famous site of Butrint. In order to visit the castle of Ali Pasha Tepelena, you need to take a small boat which you will find at the small port outside the entrance to Butrint or from the port of Saranda.
The reason why the castle was built, was to prevent the French armies from attacking Butrint from the Greek island of Corfu. This citadel is rectangular and it has four towers on its corners. The citadel has an impressive protective system.
The purpose was to create protection from the sea and this was accomplished by two towers, each tower was 2.80 meters thick and 5 meters tall, with loopholes for cannons. The citadel has two gates; one of them leads to the Vivari canal.
CASTLES IN EAST ALBANIA
Skrapar castle (Also known as Gjenivizi Castle): The Skrapar castle is a medieval castle located on a hill on the southern west side of Corovoda. The actual location of the castle is where the Osum River narrows between calcareous rocks and creates a very favorable position for protection and control of roads that connect through the valley of Osumi eastern areas to Korca. In addition to this branch point is the crossing to Mount Tomoricë and the town of Permet. The hill on which the castle has been built is in the shape of a cone with the top cut off and descends in a steep terrain to the river on the northern side, which keeps the slope on the eastern side, while the other sides reliavi comes mitigated. A wall surrounding the elliptical plan forms a medieval fortification in the height of the hill. The better perimeter wall canned appear in Northern, where fortification forms a second siege (Citadel) and presented with walls that reach up to 3 meters in height and 1.5-2 m wide in some places. In this new part observed the presence of a tower and a wall kontrafortë who had a kind pjerësie from within to become more resistant to the external shocks. Also in the northern part it is a rectangular Stern 5 x 5.7 with plastered with plaster SHAMOT (waterproofing). In other parts of the fortification wall surrounding absent, can be distinguished only slightly its tracks. From the techniques of making the walls and the fortification of historical sources Skrapar belongs to the medieval period as a first phase. Kryegritjes historical chronicles in the year 1335 fore- fathers mention getting Skrapar castle and Tomorricë by insurgents. Also on his trip to southern Albania, Evliya Celebiu mentions its presence in the seventeenth century.
Elbasan Castle: Elbasan castle is a 15th-century fortress located in the city of Elbasan, Albania.The castle was initially composed of 26 equidistant 9 m (30 ft) high towers. Part of Via Egnatia passes through the castle.
The castle and its surrounding walls speak of the military significance of Elbasan in the early Ottoman period. The southern wall, more or less intact, is proof of the dimensions and the strength of fortifications. Some of the materials from Roman and Byzantine periods were reused during the reconstruction of the castle by Sultan Mehmet II, as seen especially in the foundations of the south-western tower.
The castle used to have 26 towers, equidistant from each other, along the whole length of the 9 meter high wall. The fortress includes part of Via Egnatia, which runs through it, and traditional buildings with the characteristic architecture of urban dwellings, as well as other monuments.
Sinan Pasha's Turkish bath is situated within the walls of the castle. It is a well preserved attraction built in the early 19th century.
Peqin Castle: The Peqin Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Peqinit) is a castle located in the small town of Peqin, close to Elbasan in Albania. In the past the city was known by the name of Claudiana, an Illyrian-inhabited territory. The foundations of the castle are thought to date from the Roman period, the time of the construction of the Via Egnatia. Its walls at one point had a height of around 12 meters (39 ft). The castle was later rebuilt and expanded during the Turkish occupation of Albania, at which time it was passed into the control of the Sipahi (lord) of the local fief, who added a palace and a harem. The last resident of the castle was Demir Pasha. The 17th-century historian Evliya Çelebi mentioned the fortress in his writings:
...the walls of this castle reach about 12 meters in height. Within resides the dizdar, along with 70 soldiers. There are five cannons in the castle, and ten small houses roofed with tiles. There is also a small mosque with no minaret. On the left side of the castle, connected to a wall, is a prayer chapel (namazgja)...
The castle was equipped with subterranean tunnels which served as exits several kilometers away from the city in difficult times. Similarly, clay pipes have been found in the walls of the castle, which archaeologists believe is an indication that water was supplied from outside the castle during wartime.
Pogradec Castle: Pogradec Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Pogradecit) is a castle in the small town of Pogradec, in south east Albania. At its highest point, the castle stands 205 meters above the Lake Ohrid. On the hill, above the city stands the castle of Pogradec at 689 meters above sea level. It has been inhabited since the fifth century BC until about the 10th century BC after which the castle's residents descended via the Ohrid Lake, which at that time, the Romans called Lychnidus, which means the Lake of Light. In the second half of the fourth century BC, this Illyric residential area was fortified with bastions. It was a small castle, with small residential houses, and served as a fortress for the surrounding area. Today, there is not that much to be seen of the castle, however the beautiful view of the Ohrid Lake and the country side is something that you should not miss.
CASTLES CLOSE TO TIRANA OF ALBANIA
The fortress of Bashtovë: Bashtovë Fortress (Albanian: Kalaja e Bashtovës) is a fortress in the village of Boshtovë, today an administrative part of Rrogozhinë, west-central Albania. It is geographically situated near the right banks of Shkumbin River, about 6 km upstream from its outflow into the Adriatic Sea. The historian, Gjerak Karaiskaj dated the construction of the fortress to have been completed during the 15th century, by the Republic of Venice. However Alain Ducellier has asserted that the Venetians have built over an existing former structure which dates back to the 6th century, when the area was under the Byzantine Empire, during the Justinian dynasty. In the past, the region of Boshtovë was known as a trade harbor and as the central point for the export of wheat and grains. The fortress has a rectangular shape, 60 x 90 meters. The western part of the fortress was rebuilt in the 18th century. Its walls are 9 meters high.
Dajti Castle: The Dajti Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Dajtit) is a large archaeological site in Albania, its size is 1.12 hectares (2.8 acres), consisting of the ruins of a Roman fortification and several dwellings. The castle belongs to late antiquity, it is said to have been built over Illyrian foundations. Today, it lies at 1,200 meters (3,900 ft) altitude on top of a hill, on the western side of Mount Dajti, 25 kilometers by road from the center of the city of Tirana. The castle was discovered in 1963 by the historian and archaeologist Neritan Ceka. Soon afterwards it was declared a Culture Monument of 1st category on January 15, 1963, by the Rectorate of the State University (today University of Tirana) and was inscribed onto the list of Cultural Monuments of Albania. In the year 2008, a three year restoration project began, aiming to conduct further archaeological searching and surveys and to improve the nearby infrastructure for visitors and tourists. Dajti castle is located within Dajti National Park at an average altitude of 1,200 meters (3,900 ft) above sea level. The ruins of the castle and of the dwellings beside it lie on the top of a hill formation with a saddle like form on the western side of Mount Dajti (highest peak 1,612 meters). The castle overlooks the whole western Albania and offers an impressive panorama, since it has a high relative altitude of 1,100 m (3,600 ft) from Tirana and its plain. The port city of Durrës and the Adriatic sea can be clearly seen. From this strategic position a very wide range of territory from northwest to south could be observed.
Petrelë Castle: The Petrelë Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Petrelës) is a castle in the area of Petrelë in central Albania. The history of the castle dates back to Justinian I. The Castle is located at an altitude of 329 meters above sea level. The castle of Petrelë has a rich history, containing a tower which was built in the 6th century AD. It is one of the popular tourist locations, close to the city of Tirana that attracts a great number of visitors. The prominent wooden structure is a restaurant, open to visitors, located just outside the castle, perched on a rocky hill, above the village Petrele. It has a triangular shape with two observation towers. Although it was first built in ancient times, the present building dates back to the 15th century. The Petrela Castle was part of the signaling and defense system of the Kruja Castle. The castles signaled to each other by means of fires. During the fight of Skanderbeg against the Ottomans, the Petrele Castle used to be under the command of Mamica Kastrioti, who was Skanderbeg's sister. The castle offers spectacular views of the Erzen valley, the hills, olive groves, and surrounding mountains.
Prezë Castle: Prezë Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Prezës) is a castle in the area of Prezë in western Albania. The castle overlooks the village of Preze, as it is located on the top of the hill. It is a small castle, the construction of which started in the 14th century and was completed in the early 15th century and belonged to the Topias, a local feudal family. The castle has been declared a 'monument of culture'. It has four towers, one in each corner. The clock tower was erected around 1800-1850. It is known for its beautiful location, overlooking the Tirana plain. The castle is quite close to the Mother Theresa International Airport. A restaurant and other service facilities are found inside the castle.
Fortress of Justinian: The fortress of Justinian (Albanian: Kalaja e Justinianit) or otherwise known as The Tirana Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Tiranës) is a castle, located in the capital city of Albania, Tirana. The history of the castle dates back to years before 1300 and is a remnant from the Byzantine-era. The fortress is exactly in the place where the main east-west and north-south roads crossed, and formed the heart of Tirana. About all that's left of the fortress above ground is a 6 meter high Ottoman-era wall, covered in vines. The recently uncovered wall foundations were incorporated into the pedestrianized Murat Toptani Street, while a mosaic commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Albania's Independence was unveiled near the Albanian Parliament.
Tujani Castle: Tujani Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Tujanit) is another castle in Albania. The first fortifications of the castle were built in the early Iron age. The castle was rebuilt in the 4th century AD. The castle of Tujan, where life traces are encountered since the first period of iron is a stony fortification in a quadrangle shape. Reconstructed in the 4th century of our era it was the entrance gate of the corridor Dibër-Tiranë-Durrës. Today the castle is in ruins but still is an interesting site to see.
CASTLES IN THE WEST OF ALBANIA
Berat castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Beratit):
The Berat Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Beratit) that is locally known as the Kalaja (The Albanian word for castle) is a fortress overlooking the town of Berat, in Albania. The castle itself dates back mainly from the 13th century. There are many Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques in the area of the castle. The castle has been built upon a rocky hill on the left bank of the river Osum and is accessible only from the south. It's situated at an altitude of 214 meters. After being burned down by the Romans in 200 B.C., the walls were strengthened in the fifth century under Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II, and was rebuilt during the 6th century under the Emperor Justinian I and then again in the 13th century under the Despot of Epirus, Michael I Komnenos Doukas, cousin of the Byzantine Emperor. The castle was under the rule of John Komnenos Asen in the mid-14th century. Currently the castle is in restoration due in part to a UNESCO World Heritage Site acknowledgement. (This is a welcome "gift" for the residents of the castle who have been left under served as the city below has gotten much attention). The main entrance, on the north side, is defended by a fortified courtyard and there are three smaller entrances. The fortress of Berat in its present state, even though considerably damaged, remains a magnificent sight. The surface that it encompasses made it possible to house a considerable portion of the cities inhabitants. The buildings inside the fortress were built during the 13th century and because of their characteristic architecture are preserved as cultural monuments. The population of the fortress was Christian, and it had about 20 churches (most built during the 13th century) and only one mosque, for the use of the Turkish garrison (of which there survives only a few ruins and the base of the minaret). The churches of the fortress were damaged through years and only some have remained. Inside the castle of Berat, many historical elements have been housed. A Mosque, "Red Mosque", which can be identified by it's lonely minaret (a staircase inside provides access to the top), more than 20 Christian churches, and a central museum which surrounds one of the largest Orthodox churches with many 16th century paintings, by "Master Onufri", and a decorative alter inside. (Many churches in Albania were destroyed during the Communist years as an "Atheist State" was declared during Enver Hoxha's reign.) Other architectural elements are court yards, a large cistern in the center, and numerous houses of stone in which the residents of the castle still occupy today; this is an absolute specialty in castle heavy Europe as it's one of the last remaining! Accessing the castle easily can only be done from the Southern side. Many people who continue to live in the castle enter and exit the Southern entrance as the Northern is a drop off to the Osum River, over 100 meters. If entering by foot, a 200 meter walk up the steep cobble stone hill from downtown Berat will be rewarding. Many residents of the castle prefer to take an afternoon bus that departs from the opposite side of the city, straight through town, and up a back route.
There is a guided tour of the castle, that lasts for about an hour, it usually begins in the naos, which is the main section of the castle. The ornate icon stasis (the altar screen) at the far end was carved out of walnut wood and decorated with gold leaf by master craftsmen from the school of Berat. The three main icons of the church were the work of Onufri and were placed inside the church at the time that it was built; the other icons were completed in the 19th century by the artist Joan Katro from Korca and placed in the church. The two manuscripts known as the codices of Berat were discovered in 1968, buried behind the altar - the Purple Codex from the 6th century is one of the oldest manuscripts ever found, and is now kept in the State Archive in Tirana. Read more about the sites that you should not miss while visiting the city of Berat in Albania, here!
Balibardha Castle: Balibardha Castle or Balibardhe (also Balibardha) is a medieval citadel in the town of Berat in Albania. The castle is located at quite a long distance to the main town of Berat, however it is still considered to belong to the municipality of Berat. The closest large settlement to the Balibardha Castle is the small village of Lapardha. At the time of its construction (in the medieval years), the castle of Balibardha was a well protected citadel with several buildings within its walls that were intended to be for military and civilian residents. Until today, however, the castle has not been reconstructed or maintained in a good state, most of the buildings that used to exist within the castle walls have disappeared. For many years, due to poverty in Albania, the castle was used by the locals as a stone quarry, so that they did not have to buy stones to build their own private properties, little of the castle remains. You can use your imagination to recreate the layout of the castle with the help of the remains of the lowest layers of the stones that derive from the outside walls of the castle.
Prishta Castle: The Prishta castle is located upon a hill, towards the north of the village of Prishte, very close to the city of Berat. The castle it is also known as “the circle of the castle” due to its circular shape. Part of the exterior perimeter walls of the castle, have been maintained until today. These walls consist of square tuff large and medium size blocks. The dimensions vary between 1:03 to 1:12 meters in length, in width 0:40 to 12:44 meters and in height 0:25 to 0:26 meters. The castle has three towers positioned on the north and south side. The special fact is that the entrance of the castle is located on the southwestern side of the hill which presents features of a monumental entrance. In the part of the Acropolis of this castle, a large number of ceramic fragments of various shapes have been found.
Mbolan Castle: One of the important road arteries in antiquity was the valley of Osumi. During this valley are a number of Illyrian fortified settlements, as well as Mbolanit castle. Mbolanit Castle perched on a hill between the villages of Sinje and Arpaxhias of the district of Berat. The top of the hill ends with quite a flat surface suitable for housing, the contours of which are surrounded by a wall with a length of 660 m, which includes an area of about 3 hectares. In the center of the tower, in most of its set, it is the Acropolis, which has a rectangular shape with a corner cut to create the possibility of flankimit entry. Starting from two corners of the rectangle, down two walls right up to the main perimeter wall and thus create a third division, which communicates via a gate width of 4.00 m with the rest of the castle. The walls are built with limestone layered, where the length of a stone reaches sometimes up to 1 m and height does not exceed 0.20 m. The width of the perimeter wall of the platform is 1.40 m, while the interior walls of the separator 2.30 m. (4) In the interior of the castle recorded traces of a water inland, circular in shape, as well as some other unspecified facilities which may relate to residential buildings. Other facilities are also saved on the eastern side, outside the wall. On the surface there are numerous traces of ceramic, which are mainly ceramic tiles and screens.
Peshtan Castle: The Peshtan castle is located near the village Peshtan of Berat or otherwise next to the village of Mezhgoran. The settlement of the castle was located directly on top of the hill, covering an area of 2 ha in the side several terraces close to the east, south and west. The northern part of which closely represents the natural protection of the hill while the other sides are relatively qeta. The walls of this castle have been carefully built with rectangular stone blocks. The construction of the period among them is Illyrian based on its material. Archaeologists based construction techniques and surface finds date this castle in the IV century BC. But this period was also known for ceramic pottery and many ceramic fragments that have been found and still exist on the south side of the hill which can be linked to the existence of an ancient pottery kiln.
Krujë Castle: It is believed that Castle of Kruja was built during the fifth and sixth century of our era. The Castle has elliptical form with surface of 2.25 hectares. The Castle was built on the foundations of the remains of an Iliric dwelling of the third century BC. On the walls of the fence are 9 towers, which were used to observe and give signals during periods of war. The name Castle of Kruja was mentioned in a document of the Church on the year 879 AC. At that time the Castle was considered an important religious center. The Castle has shown its value especially during the time of Scanderbeg, when for 25 consecutive years has resisted the continuous attacks of Turkish Empire. Today they would celebrate the feats of incredible leader, who with a small army, managed to keep in check the Ottoman forces who, while they conquered Constantinople and Europe in the Balkans, they could not be right of a small Albanian army. A great and tragic story of Scanderberg is that he was betrayed by the Venetians, deluded by the Spanish kingdom of the Two Sicilies, was the promoter of Albanian resistance that, for some, had in European history the same importance as the strength of the Spartans of Leonidas at Thermopylae.The castle of Kruje, Krujë in Albanian, was the last to fall into the hands of the Ottomans, 10 years after the death of George Castriota Scanderbeg. And there fell, not because they took it by force, but because the besiegers having had surrendered guaranteed to save his life. They all died, because the Ottomans did not stay to the covenants. It was October the 15th , 1478. Kruje today is a city of Albania with a little more than 13,000 inhabitants, perched on the rocks. The castle now houses a museum dedicated to Giorgio Castriota. And although historians were careful, they did point out that it was well worth a visit.
Beside the entrance is another museum, the ethnographic museum of Albania, completed with a reconstructed building of the Ottoman Empire. Along with the old Bazaar, and the narrow streets that climb the castle I can say that it will be worth your day visiting Krujë.
Durrës Castle: The castle is ancient like the town of Durres. During the centuries Durres was ruined and reconstructed several times. The surrounding walls of Durres in their main parts belong to the Emperor Anastas Period (491-518) and are made up of two main parts: Acropolis or The Upper Castle and the Lower Castle.
The Upper Castle served as the residence of the Duke of Durres and later, when the city was ruled by the Albanian feuds (1368-1392), it served as the house for Karl and Gjergj Topia. Acropolis had two gates that linked it with the Lower Castle at the height of 59 m. This castle was built in two periods, taking the shape of a rectangular of 500 meters.
The walls are surrounded with round and square tours and in the middle of the walls are different gates. The reference made to was: “the gate of the knight”- the gate with the broken arch near the amphitheater, where the big bronze monument of the Emperor Adrian is placed. The Castle of Durresi was very strong and powerful.
Malhu with the origin from Philadelphia of Palestine said: “The castle of Durresi is located on a high hill, generally never to be conquered” The Byzantine chronicle writer Anna Komnena at her book “Aleksiada” wrote”: “The wall of the Castle of Durresi is supported and held on the heaps. They surround the city at the height of 11 feet. And four or more knights next to each other can pass on it. The Turkish chronicle writers said that the Castle of Durresi “had the sky as a friend”. Its walls were very high.
At the time of Emperor Anastas, the Castle of Durresi was surrounded with three rows of strong walls. The researchers think that the third row are the remnants of Porto Romano, next to which was also a small construction site for different kinds of ships.
The Castle of Durresi was also famous for “the Big Gate”, “the Sea Gate” that were also known as “museums in the nature”. On their walls were also fixed many monuments, traces of which can be still found even nowadays.
Ishëm Castle: The castle of Ishmi is located at a dominating point of the center of the Commune of Ishmi (close to Durres), from where all the entrances from the sea into the territory can be “checked”. At its foot there is the river of Ishmi, which once ended at a quay at the seashore. The castle was once located in the very populated place for the time. Its inhabitants were not easily ruled and very often caused problems to the Ottoman Empire. The castle of Ishmi was built upon a proposal of a very rich feud of the time. Its purpose was to protect the villagers from the rebellious peasants and to control the quay of Ishmi, to stop the contraband with Venedic. The castle began to be built during summer 1572 and finished in 1574. When it finished, a small army of 410 well-armed soldiers was settled there. The thickness of the walls is not the same; it varies from 1.50 – 1.20 m. The castle is thicker at the southwestern and southeastern part of the wall.
The height of the walls in the most protected parts is not over 5 m. The terrain inside the castle is higher than that outside, so the walls are also built along the sides of the hills. The castle has greatly changed since it was first constructed, particularly during the time it lost its importance.
The easiness to reach the castle, it’s wonderful landscape, its good conditions, and the history related to it make it an attractive point to be visited by tons of tourists from abroad and in the country.
The Rodoni castle (Keshtjella e Rodonit): Located on the cape of Rodon within the surrounding area of the popular city of Durres. The Rodoni castle was built by the Albanian national hero, Skanderbeg in the years 1451 - 1452 with some additional constructions in the year 1463, when Skanderbeg brought some construction masters from Ragusa. After the death of Skanderbeg, the castle went under the control of Venice, which was in the year 1500 when the city of Durres felt the Ottoman threat and undertook further constructions. The aim of the castle was to guarantee an escape through the sea for Skanderbeg to Italy, in the event that he encountered a fatal attack from the Ottomans. On the 22nd January of the year 1462, while making the negotiations between the Skanderbeg ambassador, the Dalmation Republic and Ragusa, Skanderbeg asked for help from the sea. This was provided in the treaty of the 4th February and stated that in the case of a war, Raguse will place its docks and fleets at the disposal of Skanderbeg in order to fight the Ottomans. Under the leadership of Scanderbeg, this castle lasted until 1467, while, afterwards, according to Barleti, it was destroyed by the Turks. After 33 years, the Venedicts became interested again in this castle and rebuilt it after the year 1500. For the reason that this cultural monument has a very short distance away from other important monuments, its landscape, and the beauties of the area together with its flora and fauna, this zone has become very popular among tourists and visitors. The castle can be reached by every point of the Commune of Ishmi and by sea, as well.
The Rodoni castle was not an authentic castle, it was more of a fortification composed by a protective wall of 100 meters in length that stretched up from one shore of the cape up to the other. The wall had a moat that was filled by the sea water and on the northern east side; it had an entrance through which it was possible to communicate with the people inside. Just next to the gate was arched-shape strongholds that run parallel to the shore. It was circa for 10-12 meters high and the walls were 3-6 meters thick. The stronghold wall had another second wall parallel to the first wall in a distance of 4.80 meters. Both stronghold and the wall had towers to their extremities. It is interesting that even until today, visitors can spot their ruins from the old- time cannon ports. A third tower was located 200 meters inland the cape. The third tower served for communications through fires in an Ariel line with the castle of Kruja. The fortification was built with pumice stones that had been sculptured in quadrangular shapes. They were fastened by plaster and were combined by bricks. After the death of Skanderbeg in the year 1468, the Rodoni Castle went under the control of Venice, but when the Ottomans conquered Durres, Venice abandoned most of the Albanian coastline around the year 1571, Rodoni castle was included in the areas abandoned by Venice. Years later, after falling into the hands of the Ottomans, the castle was not used anymore for military purposes. It required additional protection constructions and was a very easy target for the naval artillery. For this reason, it was abandoned and turned into a forgotten relic.
Margëlliç Castle: Margëlliç Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Margëlliçit) is a castle in the village of Margëlliç near Patos, western Albania. It is a castle that dates from the 7th century AD, and is found on top of a hill. The castle was part of the defense system of the ancient Illyrian city of Byllis, that belonged to the Illyrian Bylliones tribe. The castle has also been the scene of a World War II battle between Nazi Germany and the Albanian resistance.
Kaninë Castle: Kaninë Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Kaninës) is a castle in the village Kaninë near Vlorë, in southwestern Albania. This castle was built in the village with the same name which is about 6 km from Vlorë. The castle rises on the side of the Shushica Mountain, about 380 meters above the sea level. The castle was built on the site of an ancient settlement, one of the oldest in the Vlora region. The castle is believed to have been erected in the 3rd century B.C. In the 4th century B.C. It would have served as a military post for both a united Roman Empire as well as for the Eastern Empire. In the 6th century A.D. the castle was reconstructed by Justinian I. The castle was the center of the Principality of Valona in the 14th century. The settlement covers an area of 3,625 hectares.
Vlorë is one of the oldest cities of Albania. It was founded by Ancient Greeks in the 6th century BC and named Aulōn, one of several colonies on the Illyrian coast, mentioned for the first time by Ptolemy (Geographia, III, xii, 2). Other geographical documents, such as Peutinger's "Tabula" and the "Synecdemus" of Hierocles, also mention it. The city was an important port of the Roman Empire, when it was part of Epirus Nova.
It became an episcopal see in the 5th century. Among the known bishops are Nazarius, in 458, and Soter, in 553 (Daniele Farlati, Illyricum sacrum, VII, 397–401). The diocese at that time belonged to the Patriarchate of Rome.
In the 6th century A.D. the castle was reconstructed by Justinian I as part of his program to beef up the Balkan fortifications of the Empire.
In 733 it was annexed, with all eastern Illyricum, to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and yet it is not mentioned in any Notitiae episcopatuum of that Church. The bishopric had probably been suppressed, for, though the Bulgarians had been in possession of this country for some time, Avlona is not mentioned in the "Notitiae episcopatuum" of the Patriarchate of Achrida.
During the Latin domination, a Latin see was established. Several of the Latin bishops mentioned by Le Quien (Oriens christianus, III, 855-8), and whom Eubel mentions under the See of Valanea in Syria, belong either to Aulon in Greece or to this Aulon in Albania (Vlorë).
Vlorë played a central role in the conflicts between the Norman Kingdom of Sicily and the Byzantine Empire during the 11th and 12th centuries.
The castle was the center of the Principality of Valona in the 14th century.
The Principality of Valona, on the coast of modern Albania, had been fought over repeatedly between the Byzantines and various Italian powers in the 13th century. Finally conquered by Byzantium in ca. 1290, it was one of the chief imperial holdings in the Balkans.
Byzantine rule lasted until the 1340s, when the Serbian ruler Stefan Dušan, taking advantage of a Byzantine civil war, took Albania.
"Upon the death of the young Andronikos [III], the worst civil war that the Romans had ever known broke out. It was a war that led to almost total destruction, reducing the great Empire of the Romans to a feeble shadow of its former self." --- Memoirs of John Kantakouzenos, Book III.
Valona fell in late 1345 or early 1346, and Dušan placed his brother-in-law, John Asen, brother of the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Alexander, in charge of Valona as his capital, and with Kanina and Berat as his main fortresses.
The civil war proved a critical turning point in the history of the Byzantine Empire. After the end of the second civil war, Byzantium was an empire in name only.
Porto Palermo Castle: Porto Palermo Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Porto Palermos) is a castle near Himarë in southern Albania. It is situated in the bay of Porto Palermo, a few kilometers south of Himarë along the Albanian Riviera. Huffington Post ranked Porto Palermo first among 15 Undiscovered European Destinations for 2014. The well preserved castle is commonly, but wrongly, asserted, by guide books and the local tourist guides, to have been built in early 19th century by Ali Pasha of Tepelena. This is untrue as it has been built prior to the evolution of the star fort design. Most probably it was built by the Venetians as it could be relieved by sea and it has the same triangular plan with round towers found in the Venetian fort at Butrint. In 1921 the castle was called Venetian. At that time the identity of its builders ought to have been clear, from a plaque above the entrance gate. This plaque is now missing but the weathering of the stones clearly shows that it has not been missing for many decades. Almost certainly this plaque had a carving of the lion of St. Mark. The castle would have been vulnerable to cannon fire from the hill above and this also suggests an early date for its construction when cannon had not developed the range they had later. In 1662 the Venetians feared the Turks would recondition it. In 1803 Ali Pasha offered the castle and port to the Royal Navy. At which time the fort only had 4 or 5 cannon implying that Ali Pasha did not see the fort as important for him.
Borsh Castle: Borsh Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Borshit) also known as Sopotit is a ruined castle, on the north side near the village Borsh in Albania. This castle is also known as the Castle of Sopot by the name of the hill on which it is located. The castle was built on the fourth century BC. Then was heavily damaged during the barbarian invasions of the fifth and sixth centuries AD, and was rebuilt in the Middle Ages, at which time it took its present name. In 1417 the castle was seized by the Ottomans who later restored it in the 18th century. The castle occupies a surface area of 5 hectares and is surrounded by large stone blocks which are three meters wide. In the medieval period it was adopted as a military garrison and the castle was reinforced beginning in the late 18th century by Ali Pasha Tepelena. The Borsh Mosque is the only monument of the castle that is almost fully preserved. In 1769, the commander of the castle, a supporter of Ali Pasha’s, conducted massive works that enabled people to live inside the castle. The inhabitants then erected a mosque near the main gate of the castle.
Castle of Gjon Boçari: The Castle of Gjon Boçari (Albanian: Kalaja e Gjon Boçarit) is a castle of the 16th and 17th century located in Tragjas, Albania. The castle was built by the Boçari family, one of the principal Albanian families of the area Tragjas in Vlorë, of southwestern Albania in the 16th and expanded in the 17th century. Modern members of the family include Gëzim and Ismail Boçari. The fortification features arrow slits for artillery openings in the walls. The northern and eastern corners of the castle feature large towers. The stone walls form a rectangle surrounding the courtyard and have a width of 1,25 metres and a height of 5,5 metres.
Kropisht Castle: Kropisht Castle s situated in the place called Llutroi, built in the Roman period. It is composed of stones, 24 x 2 x 5 cm. The fortress was built in the shape of a square with an area of 250 x 180 meters. For the most part, the widths of the stones were 1.2 meters
Kukum Castle: Kukum Castle is located in Qeparo, near Palermo, in the region of Vlora. It was built in the 2nd century BC.
Castle of Mavrova: Movrove Castle is situated in the Shushice valley and was built in the 4th century BC. The walls are built with a limestone blockade. The castle is also known as "Rrethuni Peak" or "Castle of Çakallovajve" has a dominant position, on a 284 meters high hill, on the right bank of the river Shushica 3 km northwest of Kota in the district of Vlora. This castle together with the castle of Ploca (Amantia) in the east and the Castle of Cerja on the south-east, close entrances and exits through the valley of Shushica controlling one of the main roads which connected the Aulona Bay with hinterland provinces of Epirus and through the Vjosa Valley, with Macedonia.
Attention over the city of Olympe, mentioned only by Stefan Byzantium, is drawn by H. Ceka, who was the first to published the bronze coins belonging to this city. Archaeological excavations conducted in 1974 and 1978 under the direction of B. Dahutaj were focused on the discovery of the city walls, clarifying the historiography of the settlement and limited research in the necropolis.
Protourbane life of the Illyrian settlement of Mavrovo belongs to the VI-V century B.C. Around this time the life begun in Mavrovo including the earliest phase of the circumferential wall. During IV-III century B.C. the fortification system was widen and improved due to the development of the city. There have been found many archaic pottery fragments, terracotta figurines, fragments of painted vessels of Devollian type and a millstone a rare specimen of its kind discovered in our country inside the castle. The largest number of coins discovered in the castle belongs to the League of Epirus, the others belongs to the city of Olympe. Also, there have been found coins of Apollonia and Amantia. The presence of these coins shows clearly the trade relations between the Illyrian city of Mavrovo with Epirus, Amantia, Apollonia and Orik.
The castle hill on which lies the Illyrian city of Mavrovo has a trapezoidal shape. The area within the castle walls reaches about 15 ha.
The Castle was a fortified settlement since its beginnings, while with the development and strengthening of the city, it nearly doubled its area. The highest peak of the hill itself was a enclosure, which formed «Acropolis», while the city wall stood below surrounding the whole hill. Strong walls 1300 m long protected the city from all sides, especially in the western and northern side. Only on the eastern side the city has a natural protection of a very steep rocky terrain.
Skelë Castle: Skelë Castle (Albanian:Kalaja e Skelës) is a castle in Vlorë, Albania. It has a history with Suleiman the Magnificent in 1531.
Plencke Castle (Vokopole Castle)
The Burgajet Castle: The Burgajet castle used to be a large fortified house, located in the location of Burgajet in the District of Mati of Albania. It was the birthplace, and family seat, of the famous Albanian King Zog I. The British famous lecturer Dr. Jason Tomes described to be: a solid rectangular building with two small wings facing into a courtyard. This was the Burgajet Castle, the citadel of the chieftain of Mati . . . and the biggest house for miles and the only one with double glazed windows. The interior was even more distinctive...Fancy furnishings, imported from Austria, had recently become the hallmark of wealth. Salon chairs, draperies, table-lamps, and bric-a-brac... His family were the traditional feudal rulers of the Mat District of Albania and were large landowners. On ascending the throne, King Zog I, took up residence in a palace in Tirana (with a Summer Palace in Durrës). This was a factor leading to Castle Burgajet falling into ruins. Before King Zog I was forced to flee Albania he had an ambitious plan to rebuild the Castle but this never transpired; during his reign, however, a plaque commemorated his birth there. When asked why he did not rebuild Burgajet, King Zog replied "I was too busy rebuilding my country."
Grezhdani Castle: The Grezhdani Castle is located 11 kilometers southeast of the town of Peshkopia, not far from the village of Maqellare. The walls of the castle cover an area of 34 hectares. It is built on a hilly terrain, 525 – 600 meters above sea level. The surrounding wall has a length of 2760 m and its reinforced by 44 towers placed at a distance 40-80m from each other. This castle has three entrances protected by two side towers. The defensive towers are of different shapes like square, rectangular while the gate defensive towers have the “U” shape, which is a characteristic for a time not exceeding the IV century AD. The walls go up to 1.5 m with a width of 3 meters. The walls were build with river stones and lime stones. The south entrance, with the size of 14×9 meters, represents and entry model with two doors. The Grazhdani Castle is the largest ancient monument in Albania, and one of the biggest in Balcan Peninsula for its size about 34 hectares of covering area. The castle dates back to the 4th century CE, during the late Roman period. During the middle Ages, it was supposed to be the Stefigradi Castle, which was under the control of Albanian national hero Skanderbeg. It was strategically located, linking the region of Dibra with Kosova and Macedonia. It was declared a historical monument in 1963 CE and covers an area of 34 hectares.
Bruc Castle: Bruc in the region of Dibër is a city in Albania - some 27 mi (or 43 km) North of Tirana, the country's capital.
Petralba Castle (Kalaja e Gurit të Bardhë (Petralba): Village stone beneath and above the village of White Lake and is a mountain ridge height 778. Barleti for this tower says "This is a city in Matt built on top of a mountain, but as fear, however, in addition to hunger, no power enemy. Stone White Castle with it Skanderbeg in Varos, were the two main cities of John Castriota and not known for their antiquity as the excavations in the ruins around it are not made. This castle is not far from that of Xibri and any thought that after the demolition of the castle can be mounted Xibri Stone White Castle. Both these items, important fortifications were at the foot of the main street Debar-Neck Murrizë Durres town of White Stone present interest in the principality of Kastriot time and came second in importance after Stellushit. People say that this town his family and here John Castriota Skanderbeg was born. Barleti means "fortress of White Stone walked summer autumn wife Skanderbeg. In the late 15th century and early 16th century, it came after the White Stone had 282 home Shkodra, Prizren 557, 128 Kruje, Gjirokastra 302, while the most developed cities like Elbasan, Berat not pass 100 homes.
Shkopet Castle: Skopje is the capital and largest city of Macedonia. During Illyrian Skopje was the capital of Dardania and was known Scupi. Albanians now make up about 28 percent of the population of Skopje.
Qafë Castle(also known as Sulovë Castle)
Labovë e Kryqit Castle
Saraqinisht Castle(also known as Jermë Castle)
Shën Triadhë Castle(Saint Trinity in English), in Valare
Trajan Castle, after Trajan, the Roman Emperor
Drisht Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Drishtit) is a ruined castle above the modern Albanian village of Drisht, medieval Drivastum, in the municipality Postribë, Shkodër District, Albania. The earliest traces of fortifications date to the late Neolithic era. In the 9th century, it was part of the defences of the Zeta principality. Part of castle was built in the 13th century during the Byzantine rule. The current walls and towers date to 1396-1478 during the Venetian era. In the 14th century the castle became independent of Shkodra. In 1442 the castle was taken from Serbian Despot Đurađ Branković by the Venetian forces. It finally fell to the Ottomans during the massivesiege of Shkodra in 1478. There are the remains of 11 houses inside the castle walls.
Rozafa Castle: Rozafa castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Rozafës) is a castle near the city of Shkodër, in northwestern Albania. It rises imposingly on a rocky hill, 130 meters above sea level, surrounded by the Bojana and Drin rivers. Shkodër is the capital of the District of Shkodër, and is one of Albania's oldest and most historic towns, as well as an important cultural and economic centre. Due to its strategic location, the hill has been settled since antiquity. It was an Illyrian stronghold until it was captured by the Romans in 167 BC. The 19th-century German author and explorer Johann Georg von Hahn suggested that the ancient and medieval city of Shkodër was located immediately south of the Rozafa hill, between the hill and the confluence of Bojana and Drin. The fortifications, as they have been preserved to date, are mostly of Venetian origin. The castle has been the site of several famous sieges, including the siege of Shkodra by the Ottomans in 1478 and the siege of Shkodra by the Montenegrins in 1912. The castle and its surroundings form an Archaeological Park of Albania. There is a legend, recorded in the Serbian epic poem The Building of Skadar, about the three Mrnjavčević brothers who set about building the castle.
Rozafa, who was predestined to be walled, was worried about her infant son, so she accepted being walled on condition that they must leave her right breast exposed so as to feed her newborn son, her right hand to caress him and her right foot to rock his cradle:
When you wall me
Leave my right eye exposed
Leave my right hand exposed
Leave my right foot exposed
for the sake of my newborn son
so that when he starts crying
Let me see him with one eye
Let me caress him with one hand
Let me feed him with one breast
Let me rock his cradle with one foot
May the castle breast be walled
May the castle rise strong
May my son be happy
Vau i Dejës Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Vaut të Dejës) is a castle in Vau i Dejës, northern Albania. The ruined St. Mark's Church inside the castle is a Cultural Monument of Albania.
Drisht Castle: The Drisht Castle is situated 6 km from Ura e Mesit (The Mes Bridge) on the Kiri river. The present village is situated below the archaeological excavations of ancient Drivatium. The village was constructed during the Roman period, as a settlement on the road from Shkodra to Kosova and in the late antiquity it was one of a chain of fortresses defending Shkodra. In the 9th century it became an important fortification of the Zeta principality and was part of the Bar Diocese. The Drisht castle was constructed in the 13th century as a Byzantine fortress. The town flourished in the 14th century, a time when it also gained independence from Shkodra. In 1442 Drisht was occupied by Venetian forces only to be then taken by Skanderbeg and finally occupied by the Turks in 1478. The castle is situated on a hill 800 meters above the sea level. Within the walls of the castle there are 11 houses forming a neighborhood.
Lezhë Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Lezhës)
Lezhë Castle is a remarkable historical monument located upon a hill looking over the city of Lezhë, in the northern part of Albania. The highest point of the castle is 186 meters high. The castle originates from Illyrian times. In the year 1440 it was reconstructed by the Venetians, and then, in the year 1522, after the Ottoman conquest, it was also rebuilt by the Ottomans. The castle bears many traces of Illyrian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. Interesting places to visit are the ruins of the Ottoman buildings inside the castle, the mosque, the tower of the south-eastern wall with a Roman arch, and the Illyrian tower on the southern wall. The castle in Lezhe is a cultural monument. The hill on which the castle is offers a beautiful view of the Lezha country side and the Adriatic Sea. The view is even better, if you choose a clear day, the area in which the castle is located is almost always windy. There is a lot of work to be done to the castle and to the ruins inside, but you can still get the atmosphere of the olden years. Inside the castle, traces of at least two churches of the early Christian foundation have been discovered, but their research continues. Along the eastern side of the hill, there is a very interesting cast of ceramic fragments that have been preserved, among rocks and shrubs, a dump with examples of pottery from the sixth to the sixteenth century.