Berat

Berat is located in the south-central part of Albania. The city is composed by three distinctive neighborhoods which compose the old town and which was included on the UNESCO World Heritage list in July 2008. Its unique Ottoman architectural styles have given it the nickname, “the town of one thousand windows.” It is one of the oldest towns in Albania, with the earliest traces of settlement dating from 2600-1800 B.C. The people living in Berat today are descendants of the Illyrians. In antiquity, Berat was known as Antipatreia, a fortified center which succeeded in resisting the Roman legions for some times. The town is mentioned by historians Polybius and Livy, and is referenced on a list of fortifications belonging to Emperor Justinian. During the Byzantine period, in A.D. 533, Berat was called Pulcheriopolis, named after the 5th century Byzantine Empress Pulcheria. In the middle ages, the town was under Bulgarian occupation (860-1018), and grew in importance. The name Berat is first mentioned in 1018. From the Crusader period onward (13th century), Berat had various occupants, including the Angevins, the Serbs, becoming part of the Muzakaj Princedom. In the 13th century, much of its fortification system was rebuilt, assuming its present-day general form.

During the 13th and 14th centuries three important churches were built: St. Mary Vllaherna, Holy Trinity, and St. Michael. At this time the town also had a remarkable cistern system. At the start of the 15th century Berat was occupied by the Ottomans. The town remained part of the Ottoman Empire for a long period, a period characterized by peace and prosperity. Its quarters took on their present-day form: Kala (the castle), Mangalem, and Gorica on the opposite bank. Its inhabitants built many mosques, several of which have outstanding architectural qualities, including the Leaden Mosque and Teqeja Helvetive mosque. This period was notable for its remarkable religious tolerance, with the conservation of the town’s Orthodox Christian heritage within a sizable Muslim population. Christian arts such as illumination and iconography developed (School of Onufri, 16th century) and the Orthodox Cathedral was restored (18th century). After the uprising against the Turks in 1834, the Castle of Berat was damaged, and lost its defensive function. Nevertheless, it has retained much of the historic elements of the period.

Visiting the Kala involves a steep walk up a cobbled path, but those who make it to the top will be rewarded with a fine view of the surrounding area. Wandering around the footpaths of the old town is another must-see, with narrow streets filled with unique décor and friendly locals.