Elbasan Castle

Elbasan Castle

 

Transportation

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

Interesting information and useful tips

 

Description of Elbasan Castle

Elbasan Castle

Location: Elbasan
Built: 15th century

Elbasan Castle is a Turkish citadel constructed by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century. It controls Ancient Roman road Via Egnatia that was in use centuries after its construction. In addition, the Roman ruins of ancient Roman buildings were used to build a medieval citadel. Elbasan Castle was defended by 26 towers and walls 9 meters high. Today this landmark is open to the public. Here you will find the remains of the Sinan Pasha's Turkish baths built in the 19th century, and of course a small restaurant near the old walls. It is a well-preserved attraction built in the early 19th century.

 

History

History
The i. e. With the Third Roman-Illyrian War of 168, with the Roman subjugation of Illyria in the i. e. In the second half of the 2nd century, the construction of the Via Egnatia, a road connecting the Adriatic coast with Byzantium, began. On this, a mansion, or station called Scampis or Scampa, was established on the site of present-day Elbasan. Based on archaeological excavations, the in the 1st century, the settlement was already administratively belonging to Dyrrhachium. In the 4th century, the Romans built a castrum in Scampis for military purposes, which was suitable for stationing an entire legion. The fortified city has been depicted on maps such as the Itinerarium Burdigalense (Scampis) and the Tabula Peutingeriana (Hiscampis) since the 4th century.

Middle Ages
Scampis, which came under Byzantine rule after the collapse of the Roman Empire, presumably became an episcopal seat in the 5th century. The two-century-old Roman castrum was fortified during the time of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (ruled. 527–565) and was named Scheminites in the list of fortifications in Epirus Nova that he had rebuilt. In his work, the 6th-century geographer Hierocles  mentioned the city as an important city and episcopal seat, but it became depopulated in the 7th century, but not later than the 9th century, due to repeated attacks, mainly related to the Slavs and Bulgarians.

Ottoman occupation
Ruler of the Ottoman Empire in the Western Balkans, II. Mehmed rebuilt the castle on a Byzantine basis in 1466, and the settlement thus acquired was given the name Ilbasan (modern Turkish İlbasan) or Ilibasan, meaning ‘strong v. fortified place; fortification ’. Built into the arch of the southern castle gate, II. A memorial stone glorifying Mehmet also testifies that the architect of the castle was a certain Yusufi, and the works took only a month in the summer of 1466. From the 16th century, the castle and the surrounding settlement became the seat of the Ilbaszan Sandzak, an important commercial and handicraft center with a strong Islamic culture, and one of the most important settlements in Albanian-inhabited areas. In the 1770s, the castle was taken over by the Pasha Mehmed Bushatlliu of the Sandzak Beg in Iskodra, and then in 1811 by Pasha Ali Tepeleni. Ten years after his defeat, in 1832, at the behest of Pasha Mehmed Resid Mehmed, the Sultan's Grand Chief, the fortress of Ilbaszan was dismantled and partially demolished. After that, the castle quarter (Kalaja) became the city quarter of the Greek Orientals of Ilbaszan.

Description
Built on Roman and Byzantine foundations, Elbasan Castle is one of the rare lowland fortresses in Albania, next to Peqini and Bashtova. The castle was archaeologically surveyed by Ylli Cerova in 1987–1988. During the excavation at the south-west corner bastion, a Roman barracks, a 4–5. The foundations of an early Christian church were discovered in the 16th and 19th centuries, as well as 4 to 6 meters of cultural layers, the four settlement periods of which were separated: 3–4. century, 5-6. century, 11–15. century, Ottoman era.

In the 4th century, the wall of the original castrum was erected from stones obtained from the bed of the nearby river by mortar bonding. The rectangular fortification, roughly 300 x 300 meters, was crossed east-west by Via Egnatia, which became the decumanus maximus of the orthogonal town, with the cardo maximus leaving the castrum perpendicular to it through the southern city gate. The three main city gates - west, east and south - were lined on both sides by a semicircular tower, with round bastions at four corners of the castrum and additional towers every 40-50 meters along the wall; their total number was twenty. Inside the wall, vaulted stone stairs led to the towers and the wall, and from the outside a lower protective wall (proteichisma) and a deep, stone-lined moat lined the wall. Two centuries later, the Byzantines reinforced it with the opus mixtum (wd) technique, that is, the former stone wall was raised with rows of bricks. In 1466, the walls of the Ottoman castle were partly built on the foundations of the ancient fortress, but its area was slightly increased: the length of the side walls became 362 × 327 meters. In parallel, the number of towers increased, twenty-eight towers ensured the protection of the castle. In place of the previous ones, the three city gates have survived, of which the southern Bazaar Gate, which provides access to the city's bazaar, became the most important over time. On the floor above the gate was built Ilbasan’s first Muslim house of worship, the Mehmet Sultan Mosque without a minaret, which has now been destroyed.

 

Today, the entire length of the south wall and 9 meters high, along with its two corner bastions, six towers and the Bazaar Gate, have been preserved completely intact, in addition to which the walls of the southeast and west sides are partially standing. Notable architectural monuments in the castle district are the King Mosque (Xhamia e Mbretit) built in 1492, the 17th century Old Baths (Hamami i Vjetër) and the Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary (Kisha e Shën Mërisë) completed in 1868. In the garden of the latter church stands the tomb and bust of Kostandin Kristoforidhi, a native of the city, a 19th-century Bible translator. On the south castle wall, a 30-meter-high clock tower was built in 1898 on the site of an earlier tower built in the 17th century, and on the outside of the wall, a promenade with monuments and statues of famous Elbasanis was built in the early 21st century. Archaeological excavations earlier than the southwestern bastion now house a restaurant with the foundations of a Roman barracks (possibly a dwelling house), pagan tombstones, the headstones of an early Christian basilica, and some Ottoman-era tombstones.

 


Transportation

Get in
About 45 minute ride from Tirana with the bus through the semi-finished new motorway that is still being built as in 2018. The new motorway was opened in 2012 and now you can go from Tirana to Elbasan much faster. Beside the new motorway you can see the beautiful landscapes.

Get around
Walking or taxi. Taxis are located close to the furgons (vans) at the center of the city.

 

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

There are Imperial Hotel and Skampa Hotel in the city. You can sleep at a Couchsurfer's house for free. Albanians are very generous and really good hosts.

 

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

Bugaçe, a traditional Elbasan breakfast roll found nowhere else in Albania. Smothered in butter and with a dash of salt, this roll is delicious but not the those watching their cholesterol.
Bollokume, another Elbasan specialty rarely found elsewhere in Albania. It is essentially a large sugar cookie. While sold in stores all over the city, the best are always the freshly baked warm cookies.
Try the traditional Tavë Elbasani and other yummy specialties.
Trilece at the restaurant across from the clock tower is especially good.
The tallest building in Elbasan, one block from the center and easily identifiable, has a rotating restaurant/bar on the top floor. If for nothing else, go for the view.

Drink
Cokollate e zeze (black chocolate). It's like hot chocolate, but almost as thick as pudding and eaten with a spoon.

 

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

 

Interesting information and useful tips

Buy
Traditional costumes, postcards of the city.