Berat Castle is a fortress overlooking the town of Berat, Albania. Even though considerably damaged, the castle fortress of Berat is a magnificent sight. Visitors and the people who live in the castle enter and exit from the Southern entrance. The entrance on the north side was originally defended by a fortified courtyard and there are three smaller entrances. However, the Northern side of the castle drops off 100 meters into the Osum River so is rarely used. If traveling by foot it is a 214 meter walk up a steep cobble stone road from the town Berat. It is a bit of a challenge, but rewarding. Residents of the castle usually take the afternoon bus.
Berat Castle dates from the 13th century and contains many Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques. The castle was burned down by the Romans in 200 B.C. In the 5th century the walls were strengthened under Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II, and were rebuilt again during the 6th century under the Emperor Justinian I. In the 13th century more strengthening of the fortress was undertaken by the Despot of Epirus, Michael I Komnenos Doukas, cousin of the Byzantine Emperor. Currently the castle is undergoing restoration due, in part, to a UNESCO World Heritage Site acknowledgement.
The castle enclosure encompasses a significant portion of the city. 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 still is to a large degree, so there are about 20 churches and only one mosque. The mosque was built for use by the Turkish garrison, and all that survives is a few ruins and the base of the minaret. Most of the churches were built during the 13th century, but sadly many were damaged through the years.
Inside Berat Castle there are many historical sites and structures… Besides the “Red Mosque”, identified by it’s lone minaret, there are the 20 or so Christian churches in various states of repair. Many churches in Albania were destroyed during the Communist years when Albania was declared an “Atheist State” during Enver Hoxha’s reign. There is a central museum which surrounds one of the largest Orthodox churches with many 16th century paintings by “Master Onufri”, and a decorative alter. Other historic, architectural elements are court yards, a large cistern in the center of the fortress, and numerous stone houses the residents of the castle still occupy.
- The heavily fortified south side entrance.
- The maze of residences inside the fortress walls.
- The Museum.
- Visit the fortress’ corners for views overlooking the downtown of Berat.
- Climb the Red Mosque’s minaret for a 360 degree view of Berat Castle and the city of Berat.
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