The History Behind the Authentic Walls of Krujë Castle

The Castle is associated with the most memorable period of Albanian National Hero Skanderbeg
Krujë Castle in Albania – (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)
Krujë Castle in Albania – (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)
National Museum Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu (Krujë, Albania) – (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)
Krujë Castle in Albania – (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)
Ruins of Fethiye Mosque - Krujë, Albania – (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)
National Museum Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu (Krujë, Albania) – (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)
National Museum Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu (Krujë, Albania) – (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)
National Museum Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu (Krujë, Albania) – (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)

Albania, which spent nearly half of the twentieth century isolated from the rest of the world, remains a mysterious land, only recently making its way onto European travel itineraries as an offbeat and budget-friendly destination. While the Land of the Eagles is known for its turbulent communist past (with 750,000 concrete bunkers scattered around to prove it), it also has a rich and diverse historical and cultural heritage.

Krujë, a small Albanian town, has a lot to offer. The Krujë Castle and the relatively new Skanderbeg National Museum housed within it are two of the town's main attractions.

Krujë Castle in Albania – (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)

The Castle is associated with the most memorable period in the life of Albanian National Hero Skanderbeg. To date, several excavations have been carried out with the goal of exposing the interior of the Krujë Castle and the clock tower.

This introduction is at the Krujë Skanderbeg Museum:

“The national museum "GJ. K. Scanderbeg" was inaugurated on 1 November 1982, and built in Krujë castle on the left side of its entrance. The architects of the museum are Pranvera Hoxha and Pirro Vaso.

The museum is built in Krujë because it was the center of the Albanian peoples in the XV century during the war against the Ottomans and its name became known in all of Europe. Three sieges (1450, 1466, 1467) failed and the Ottoman conquered the castle only in the year 1478.

The building characterizes a memorial. In the external architectural area are distinguished two main parts, the outstretching horizontal part with the main big rooms and the part with vertical ascent, regarded as the north Albanian towers. The internal spaces are designed a way that their environments are interweaved by creating an uninterrupted space, as is even the history presented in this museum. History, architecture and art are linked as one. There are used historic architectural elements like heavy pillars and stone arches. Art compositions, stone and wood engravings, wrought iron as well as maps, graphics, glass paintings have value as historic auxiliary material.”

Krujë Castle in Albania – (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)

Krujë Castle, located in the northern central Albanian city of Krujë, is one of Albania's most popular historical sites. The Skanderbeg Museum and the Ethnographic Museum are among the museums on the grounds of Krujë Castle.

For the last fifteen centuries, Krujë Castle has stood on a rocky cliff high above the town. It has been a witness to this town's turbulent history as the capital of Arbria (Albania's ancient name). Krujë Castle was built in the fifth or sixth century, perched above the town of the same name.

During the 15th century, as the powerful Ottoman Empire gradually took over much of Europe, one modest ancient fortress in Albania remained out of its range. Ottoman armies that conquered large regions such as Constantinople and the Balkans were unable to breach the castle's defenses.

It was the headquarters of Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu, the "Dragon of Albania," an Albanian nobleman, royal, and military leader, during the Ottoman threat. The Ottoman Turks named him Iskender bey.

National Museum Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu (Krujë, Albania) – (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)

The fortress fell to Sultan Mehmed II ten years after Skanderbeg's death. Among the ruins within the fortress walls is the ancient Clock Tower, which bears the same bell that previously announced Skanderbeg's death. This clock, made by artisans from Krujë's Old Bazaar, used to keep track of the city's time: the opening and closing hours of the workshops, as well as the times of prayer.

Near the Clock Tower is the National Museum "Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu," which was built in the early 1980s. This recognizable structure, which crowns the castle defenses, has become a symbol of the city's skyline. The exhibitions inside the museum depict Skanderbeg's history, historical triumphs, and achievements, as well as replicas of Skanderbeg's armaments: the legendary helmet topped with a goat's head and his sword.

National Museum Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu (Krujë, Albania) – (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)

The first building on the site of Krujë Castle was most likely built in the early Middle Ages. It was under Ottoman control by the time of the Albanian Revolt in 1432-1436. Andrea Thopia led an unsuccessful siege of the castle during the revolt, which was motivated by the replacement of local nobility with Ottoman landowners and the implementation of Ottoman governance and taxation.

Within a decade, Krujë Castle became the epicenter of Skanderbeg's rebellion against the Ottomans. Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu, also known as Skanderbeg, was educated as a hostage in the Ottoman court. He was eventually appointed governor of the Sanjak of Dibra, part of which is now in Albania.

Skanderbeg deserted the Ottomans with 300 loyal Albanians during the Battle of Niš (1443), in which Christian crusaders defeated three Ottoman armies in Serbia. He took control of Krujë Castle and launched a 25-year rebellion against Ottoman rule.

Skanderbeg appears to have taken the castle with the help of a forged letter from the Sultan. Krujë Castle withstood three major sieges by Ottoman forces while under Skanderbeg's command. Ottomans failed to seize control in 1450, 1466, and 1467.

Skanderbeg is regarded as a national hero in Albania as a result of his resistance. The Skanderbeg Museum, one of Albania's most popular museums, is housed in the castle. The castle is depicted on the back of the 5000 lekë banknote.

The minaret and lower walls of the Sultan Mehmed Fethiye Mosque of Krujë, which was built before 1481, still stand on the castle grounds. The remains of the Dollma Tekke, a Bektashi place of worship that was demolished during the Communist dictatorship, can also be found at Krujë Castle.

Krujë's old bazaar– (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)

On the path leading up to the palace is a section of a 450-year-old bazaar, where more than 150 merchants traded their wares with castle visitors and citizens. It now sells handicrafts and artefacts from the region. Krujë's old bazaar appears to be a fairy tale setting, with modest wooden boutiques, small cobblestoned paths, and multicolored textiles.


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