Located in central Albania, Berat bears witness to the coexistence of various religious and cultural communities down the centuries. It features a castle, locally known as the Kala, most of which was built in the 13th century, although its origins date back to the 4th century BC. The citadel area numbers many Byzantine churches, mainly from the 13th century, as well as several mosques built under the Ottoman era which began in 1417.

Early history

The earliest recorded inhabitants of the city (6th century BC) were the Illyrian tribe of the Dassaretae. The founding date is unknown, although if Cassander is the founder it has been suggested that Antipatreia was founded after he took control of the region around 314 BC. In 200 BC it was captured by the Roman legatus Lucius Apustius, who razed the walls and massacred the male population of the city.

Middle Ages

The town became part of the unstable frontier of the Byzantine Empire following the fall of the western Roman Empire and, along with much of the rest of the Balkan peninsula, it suffered from repeated invasions by Slavs. During the Roman and early Byzantine period, the city was known as Pulcheriopolis.

The First Bulgarian Empire under Presian I captured the town in the 9th century. The town became one of the most important towns in the Bulgarian region Kutmichevitsa. The Bulgarian governor Elemag surrendered the city to the emperor Basil II in 1018, and the city remained in Byzantine hands until the Second Bulgarian Empire retook the city in 1203 during the rule of Kaloyan.

During the 13th century, it fell to Michael I Ducas, the ruler of the Despotate of Epirus. Later Berat was conquered by Albanian, Sicilian, Byzantine and Serbian rulers. In 1385 Berat was captured by the Ottomans, before the Battle of Savra.

Modern history

During the early period of Ottoman rule, Berat fell into severe decline. However, it began to recover by the 17th century and became a major craft centre specializing in wood carving. During the 19th century, Berat played an important part in the Albanian national revival. Berat became a major base of support for the League of Prizren, the late 19th century Albanian nationalist alliance.

Architecture

The coexistence of religious and cultural communities over several centuries, beginning in the 4th century BC into the 18th century is apparent in Berat. The town also bears testimony to the architectural excellence of traditional Balkan housing construction, which date to the late 18th and the 19th centuries. Some of the landmarks of that historical period could be seen in the Berat Castle, churches of the Byzantine era such as the Church of St. Mary of Blaherna (13th century), the Bachelors' Mosque, the National Ethnographic Museum, the Sultan's Mosque (built between 1481 and 1512), Leaden Mosque (built in 1555) and the Gorica Bridge.

Berat was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

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