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 Castles and Forts

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MesazhTitulli: Castles and Forts   26/9/2010, 15:18

Castles and Forts

Albania has a number of castles and forts from the early antiquity to the Middle Ages. Some of them continue to be inhabited to this day (the most important of these is Berat). The main castles are Rozafa, Lezha, Gjirokastra, Butrinti, Porto - Palermo , Kruja, Petrela, Kanina.
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.

Rozafa Castle
The Rozafa Castle rises on a rocky hill to the west of Shkodra. It is surrounded by the waters of three rivers, Buna, Drini and Kiri. Rozafa is one of the major castles in Albania and the most important tourist attraction in Shkodra. The castle dates back to Illyrian times and Latin historian Titus Livius called it "stronghold of the Labeats" (Illyrian tribe on the shores of Lake Shkodra). Illyrian queen, Teuta, used it as a base in the wars against Rome.

Kalaja e Rozafes ShkoderThe name Rozafa first appeared in the Middle Ages. The name is linked to the legend 'of the kept promise' which is common in one form or another to all Balkan peoples. According to the legend, Rozafa, the wife of the youngest of three brothers, accepted to be buried alive in the walls of the castle. The brothers had been building the castle in the day only to find that the walls had collapsed during the night.

At the entrance to the castle one can see the Rozafa bas-relief. According to popular imagination, the lime water that leaks at the main entrance is the milk running from Rozafa's breast which was left outside the wall so that she could feed her newborn baby. The castle assumed the shape it has today from the time of the Balsha family rule in the 14th century. Most of the remaining walls of the castle belong to the Venetian period. However one can also find traces of the Ottoman times (16th and 17th centuries) and the Bushatlli period (18th and 19th centuries). The walls of the Rozafa castle are 880 meters long and encircle an area of nine hectares.

After a strong resistance, Rozafa fell under Ottoman occupation in 1479. Other objects of interest inside the castle are the water tanks from the 15th century and the 13th century chapel, which after the Ottoman occupation was turned into a mosque. Within the walls of the castle is also the Rozafa museum that explains the various periods in the life of the castle.

Petrela Castle
The Petrela Castle is located off the Tirana-Elbasan national road, 18 km from the capital. It is one of the tourist locations close to Tirana that attracts a great number of visitors. The Castle is perched on a rocky hill, above the village with the same name. 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 Skanderbeg’s fight against the Ottomans, the Petrela Castle used to be under the command of Mamica Kastrioti, Skanderbeg's sister. Today there is a restaurant inside the castle. The castle offers spectacular views of the Erzen valley, the hills, olive groves, and surrounding mountains.

Preza Castle
The Preza Castle overlooks the village with the same name and is located on a hilltop. 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.

Lezha Castle
The Lezha Castle is located on top of a 186 meter high hill, to the east of town. The castle originates from Illyrian times. In 1440 it was reconstructed by the Venetians, and in 1522, after the Ottoman conquest, it was also rebuilt by the latter. The castle bears 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 Lezha castle is a cultural monument. The castle offers a beautiful view of the Lezha fields and the Adriatic Sea.

Rodoni Castle
Kepi i RodonitThe Rodoni Castle is located on Cape Rodon. Prince Karl Topia wanted to transform this place into a shipyard, while the Albanian national hero, Skanderbeg, built a castle there in order to have easy access to the sea. The construction of the castle started after the first siege of Kruja, in 1450. It is thought to have been finished around 1452. The walls of the Rodoni Castle were 400 metres long and there were towers in each of the four corners. In 1500 the castle was taken over by the Venetians. As a result of the corrosive action of the sea waves, some of the walls are now under the waters of the Adriatic. Today the visitors can see the outer walls on the right side and the tower at the place they intersect. Close to the castle are the ruins of Saint Peter's Church, now considered a holy place.

Bashtova Castle
The Bashtova Castleis situated close to the Bashtova village, about 3-4 km to the north of the Shkumbini River estuary. The castle was built in the 15th century and was used by the Venetians. In the past the Bashtova region was known as a river harbour on the Shkumbini River and as a centre for the export of grains. The castle has a rectangular shape, 60 x 90 meters. The western part of the castle was rebuilt in the 18th century. Its walls are 9 meters high.


Elbasan 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 metre 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.

Kanina Castle
Kanina VloreThis castle was built in the village with the same name which is about 6 km from Vlora. 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. the castle was transformed into a fortress town. In the 5th century A.D. the castle was reconstructed by Justinian I. The settlement covers an area of 3,625 hectares.

Ali Pasha’s Castle—Porto Palermo Bay
This is a small castle located on a lovely peninsula in the small tectonic bay of Porto Palermo (known as Panorama Bay in ancient times). The castle has a triangular shape of 150 x 400 meters. The walls go up to 20 meters. Ali Pasha built the castle in honor of his wife Vasiliqi. The peninsula on which the castle is located has ever-green Mediterranean bushes while from its walls one can enjoy a great view of the bay.

Borsh Castle
This castle is also known as the Castle of Sopot by the name of the hill on which it is located. It was built on the fourth century B.C., by Epirote-Illyrian tribes. The castle was heavily damaged during the barbarian invasions of the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., and it was rebuilt in the Middle Ages at which time it took its present name.

Lėkurės Castle
This castle is located on a strategic hill point overlooking the town of Saranda. From here one can control the whole town as well as the islands of Ksamil.

The castle of Lėkurės was built on the sixteenth century. It is supposed that it was built on 1537 by Sultan Suleyman who attacked Corfu and needed to control the harbor of Saranda and the road that connected it with Butrint.

The castle is built on the ruins of Lėkurės village. It has a square shape with two round towers on its north-western and south-eastern corners. To climb up to the castle, visitors need to leave the main road on Qafė Gjashtė and go up the town hill from the other side of the town.

On the ruins of the old castle, tourists can enjoy a meal in the local restaurant which is build in the style and with similar materials to the castle.


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