Medieval castles in Albania

Krujë Castle

The Krujë castle was the center of Skanderbeg"s rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. During the Albanian Revolt of 1432-1436 the city was unsuccessfully besieged by Andrea Thopia and Ottoman rule was restored. After Skanderbeg"s rebellion in 1443 the castle withstood three massive sieges from the Turks respectively in 1450, 1466 and 1467 with garrisons usually no larger than 2,000-3,000 men under Skanderbeg&qu ...
Founded: 6th century AD | Location: Krujë, Albania

Gjirokaster Fortress

Gjirokastër Castle dominates the town and overlooks the strategically important route along the river valley. It is open to visitors and contains a military museum featuring captured artillery and memorabilia of the Communist resistance against German occupation, as well as a captured United States Air Force plane to commemorate the Communist regime"s struggle against the 'imperialist' western powers. The ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Gjirokaster, Albania

Rozafa Castle

Due to its strategic location, the castle hill in Rofaza 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 Buna and Drin. The fortifications, as they ha ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Shkodër, Albania

Berat Castle

Berat Castle dates mainly from the 13th century and contains many Byzantine churches in the area and Ottoman mosques. It is built on a rocky hill on the left bank of the river Osum and is accessible only from the south. After being burned down by the Romans in 200 B.C., the walls were strengthened in the 5th century under Roman Emperor Theodosius II to protect from Barbarian incursions into the Balkans. They were su ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Berat, Albania

Tirana Castle Ruins

Fortress of Justinian or simply known as Tirana Castle dates is a remnant from the Byzantine-era. The preserved ruins show that the castle was probably founded in antiquity, maybe in the Early Byzantinum (400-600 AD). The fortress is the place where the main east-west and north-south roads crossed, and formed the heart of Tirana. The current fortification has three known towers and it is undergoing a process of restoratio ...
Founded: 400-600 AD | Location: Tirana, Albania

Durrës Fortitied Old Town

The fortified old city of Durrës was built by the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I (r. 491–518), who came from Durrës. At the time, Anastasius made the city one of the most fortified cities on the Adriatic. The ancient walls were devastated in an earthquake in 1273, and had to be extensively repaired. Currently the medieval walls stand at nearly 4.6 meters in height and the three entrances of some of the fortification ...
Founded: 6th century AD | Location: Durrës, Albania

Elbasan Castle Walls

Elbasan castle is a 15th-century fortress, initially composed of 26 equidistant 9-metre high towers. The site seems to have been abandoned until the Ottoman army built a military camp there, followed by urban reconstruction under Sultan Mehmet II in 1466. Mehmet constructed a massive four-sided castle with a deep moat and three gates. He named it Elbasan, meaning "conquered country" in Turkish. He had built the ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Elbasan, Albania

Petrelë Castle

The castle of Petrelë has a rich history, containing a tower which was built in the 6th century AD. It is one of the tourist locations close to Tirana that attracts a great number of visitors. The Castle, the prominent wooden structure is a restaurant, 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, ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Petrelë, Albania

Rodoni Castle

Rodoni Castle is located on the Cape of Rodon. After the victorious First Siege of Krujë the League of Lezhë decided to increase the fortifications for use against the Ottoman Empire. Skanderbeg chose the cape of Rodon as the location of the castle and construction began in 1450. The walls of the castle that was completed in approximately 1452 had a length of 400 metres. When the Siege of Krujë started in 1466 Skanderb ...
Founded: 1450 | Location: Shetaj, Albania

Kaninë Castle

Kaninë castle was built in the village with the same name which is about 6 kilometres from Vlorë. The castle rises on the side of the Shushica Mountain, about 380 metres above 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 BCE. In the 4th century BCE. the castle was transformed into a fortress tow ...
Founded: 6th century AD | Location: Vlorë, Albania

Prezë Castle

The Prezë 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 Thopias, a local feudal family. During 1443-1468 it was one of the core strongholds of the Albanian resistance against the Ottomans led by Skanderbeg. The castle has been declared a "m ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Vorë, Albania

Drisht Castle

Drisht Castle is a ruined castle above the modern Albanian village of Drisht, medieval Drivastum. 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 becam ...
Founded: 1396-1478 | Location: Postribë, Albania

Peqin Castle

In the Roman times the city of Peqin was known by the name of Clodiana, 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 metres. The castle was later rebuilt and expanded during the Turkish occupation of Albania, at which time it was passed into the control of the Sipah ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Peqin, Albania

Bashtovë Fortress

The Fortress of Bashtovë is a medieval quadrangular fortress located on a fertile flat ground east of the mouth of the Shkumbin River.  Previously in the Middle Ages, the region of Boshtovë was known as a trade harbor and otherwise centre for the export of grains. The origin of the fortress has been for some time a matter of dispute among historians. The initial fortress was constructed during the time when the region ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Vilë-Boshtovë, Albania

Kardhiq Castle

Kardhiq Castle is a ruined hill fortress first mentioned in the 1431–32 register of the Sanjak of Albania. The castle has five 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 about 1.7 metres.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Kardhiq, Albania

Borsh Castle

Borsh Castle (also known as Sopot Castle) dates from Antiquity, and its fortifications follow the trace of an acropolis, with four subsequent phases of reconstruction, ranging from the early Byzantine period to the late Middle Ages. The site is first mentioned in the early 13th century, when archbishop Demetrios Chomatenos wrote of the 'archonship of Sopotos', part of the region of Vagenetia. In 1258, the Despot of E ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Borsh, Albania

Lezhë Castle

Lezhë Castle dominates the city of Lezhë, northern Albania. 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 s ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Lezhë, Albania

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.