Petrelë Castle

 Petrelë Castle


Description of Petrelë Castle

Location: Petrela
Built: 5th century AD Byzantine Emperor Justinianim I


Petrelë Castle is located on top of the mountain overlooking Erzen valley in Tirana County. It was constructed as guard post in the fifth century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. By that time, almost the entire Western Roman Empire was captured and divided among various tribes of barbarians. However, the Eastern or Byzantine Empire, while maintaining independence, did not give up hope to restore the former greatness of the Roman Empire. Petrelë Castle belonged to a series of castles built by Byzantines to protect their possessions from attacks from the West and at the same time prepare for the invasion of the Apennine Peninsula. This fortress also served as an advanced signaling center for warning the Kruje Castle of a potential invasion. Today the fortress is open to tourists. There is a restaurant within its medieval walls.


History and location
The castle of Petrela, from the discoveries made, is a medieval castle built during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, in the VI century AD. This was one of the forts erected by him in the defense system of the Empire.

It is a castle built on a terrain with quite steep slopes, even on the southern and southeastern side steep, which have made the castle very protected. It was erected at the moment when the Villa Castle (the ancient castle which is located opposite the Petrela Castle) lost its importance.

The castle is built on a rocky hill located southeast of the city of Tirana. This hill is a continuation of the Krraba highlands, and is separated from the plain of Tirana by a series of ripples as well as by numerous gorges suitable for crossing. It is here that in the earliest periods have passed roads that have had military but also economic importance.

It had a very favorable geographical position, as from Petrela could be seen Kruja as well as the system of defensive fortifications around Durrës, part of which was Petrela himself. It had a very suitable terrain for the development of the agricultural economy. As a result, during antiquity, the city of Villa was born and developed. In the Middle Ages, as a result of the many changes that took place, the Villa was reduced as a center and moved to a safer place, where today the castle of Petrela was built.

Petrela has a dual fortification system. It consists of the castle itself and a perimeter wall located outside it. This wall starts to the east of the castle and continues towards the west. At the beginning of it is the road that leads to the castle, which crowns the upper part of the rock. The eastern and southern side of the rock falls sharply, while its northern side has a slope of 30-350. It was here that it was easier to penetrate the castle, and its fortification was concentrated. On this side are built two powerful towers that are connected to each other by a strong curtain. The only entrance to the castle consists of a narrow and short corridor.

Near the gate are the ruins of an observation tower, while near the eastern tower are identified traces of two rooms that may have served as housing. Three water stars are also part of the fortification system of the castle.

Inside the wall of the ancient period mentioned above, there is a nymph of the same period. Only the catchment area has been preserved from it. For its construction, well-baked bricks were used, as well as waterproofing mortar that was used for plastering as well as for the complete construction of the stere.

Phase 1 belongs to tower 1, which consists of 3 floors. 2 floors have served for combat, while the first floor has served as a stere for water. According to the authors it should have an overall height of 18-20 m. The walls of the tower are built according to the well-known technique "opus testaceum", while the turrets, vaults and walls in most of them are built of brick. Traces of plaster observed on the second floor of the tower indicate that this floor has been plastered.

The stera, located on the first floor of the tower, has a diameter of 2.90 m and is covered with a spherical dome. From the inside it is insulated with waterproofing mortar with brick powder. Its water supply was provided by a system of ceramic pipes, which passed from the terrace of the tower to the side of the wall, which then led the water to the stere. The second floor of the tower has an internal diameter of 4.15 m and a wall thickness of up to 2.70 m. The second floor of the tower, as well as the stera, was covered with domes. The second floor of the tower consisted of three turrets, which were oriented to the southwest and southeast, where the attack was simpler. The turrets were covered with arches, and had a space that went up to 40cm. Seeing that the stair ramps were missing, the authors think that the ascent and descent to the tower was done through escalators, and the communication between the interior was done through light stairs.

So, in this first phase we are dealing with a powerful tower, equipped and with sufficient water reserves, capable of resisting even long sieges.


Phase 2 of the fortification belongs to the wall that the authors have identified as the wall "K L A B C D G". This wall was built on the north side of the castle, and partly from the east and west, as here the protection was provided by the terrain that is quite steep. This wall has a length of 37 m, width 1.05 m which in some cases goes up to 1.30, and is maintained at a height of 5 m. For the construction of the wall, stones were used that were placed in a messy way, and connected between them with good quality mortar. To make this wall as stable as possible, wood was also used. Within the area of ​​this wall, a stere with a regular quadrangular plan is preserved. Brick powder mortar was used for its waterproofing.

Phase 3 belongs to the eastern tower, the inner part of the front wall, and according to the authors, probably the same phase belongs to the entrance. For the construction of the walls of this phase, raw limestone was used, which has a more or less regular placement. The stones are bonded between them with good quality mortar, while pieces of bricks and tiles are often used on the wall. Tower number 3 has a wall thickness of 2.70 m and a total height of 12.80 m. The floors of the tower are separated from each other by wooden floors placed over the beam. Its 2nd floor is covered by a spherical dome. The second floor also has 2 turrets, which are similar to the turrets of the western tower. While to enter the above-mentioned wall, it was passed to an entrance that had the shape of the letter L. The entrance was covered with a vault made of precious stones.

While the 4th phase of the castle belongs to the outer perimeter wall. The outer wall is built of small stones connected between them with mortar of quite good quality. Inside it numerous fragments of tiles have been used for leveling the wall. Although the outer wall has a good natural protection, it is equipped with 3 turrets. This wall has a width of 1.30 m. It is stored at a height of up to 4 m, as well as a length of 80 m.

Phase 5 belongs to the cladding of the eastern tower, the outer wall, as well as the reconstructions that have been made to the western tower. For the constructions that were made during this phase, small unworked stones were used, as well as fragments of irregularly laid tiles. On the wall surfaces are clearly visible traces of beams that have been used as belts, but also traces of scaffolding.

During its 6th and final phase, chests were built south and east of the castle. The wall of this phase rests on phase 5. The constructions of this phase have a rather irregular masonry, and small stones were used for its construction.

Based on the construction technique of "opus testaceum" of tower 1, the authors think that it belongs to late Roman antiquity. So the tower number 1 that belongs to the first phase must have been built between the IV-VI centuries, a date that is also supported by the found pottery. While the wall of phase 2 (identified as the wall ‘‘ K L A B C D G ’’) reinforced and with timber must have been built during the early Middle Ages. This wall may have served as a shelter for the inhabitants of Petrela during the early Middle Ages. The constructions of phase 3 must have been done by the second half of the century. XII, where in sources it appears to us as a castle, after the end of the wars between the Normans and the Byzantines. This dating coincides with the construction technique as well as the material found. In the 15th century the castle of Petrela had turned into a small castle but also quite powerful. Barleti lets us know such a thing. He described the fortress of Petrela as impregnable, and even Skanderbeg sent an extremely powerful army to take it. It is Barleti who gives us information about the time of construction of the castle. According to him, the castle was built by the first of the large Topia family. Later this castle will be repaired by the Ottomans in the century. XVI. The information about this is given to us by an anonymous author, who considers Petrela strong compared to Ndroq weak. The constructions that have been made during the last phase must belong to the century. XVII-XIX.

The role of the castle
The role of Petrela as a fortified center will increase during the early Middle Ages, after the abandonment of the ancient city of Persqop. In the early Middle Ages the inhabited center would be moved to Petrela as it offered greater security.

It could also be used to control the road that passed through the neck of Krraba and then joined the Egnatia road. Petrela was also an integral part of the fortification system around Durrës, during late antiquity and the Middle Ages.