Cultural site. The city of Berat, declared a Museum City in 1961 by the Albanian Government, was added to the UNESCO WH List in 2008 as a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town. Situated in Southern Albania, Berat is a fortified historic centre that bears witness of the wealth and diversity of the architectural heritage of the region. Berat is located on the Osum River, between the mountain of Tomorri and the valley of Myzeqe. The site consists of three parts: the Castle of Berat built on a hill on the north bank of the river, the Mangalem quarter located at the foot of the castle hill, the fortress of Gorica and its quarter located on the south bank of the river. The urban centre of Berat bears outstanding testimony to various types of monument and vernacular urban housing belonging to the Classical Ottoman period.
Overview of Berat:
The city of Berat is located in South-Central Albania, 120 km south of Tirana. It has a population of around 64.000 people. The old town was inscribed in the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 8th of July 2008 as ‘’a rare example of an architectural character typical of the Ottoman period ‘’. Berat was declared a Museum City in 1961 by the Government of Albania.
The town is one of the oldest in Albania, with a fortress-settlement- the Castle, having existed since at least the 4th century BC with a continuous life until nowadays. It was the settlement of the Illyrian Desaretes tribe, who were the first to built fortifications in the city – the basements of the Castle. Known as Antipatrea, it was captured by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. The Romans called the city Albanorum Oppidum (Albanian Fortress).
During the Byzantine period in the 5th century, the city was known as Pulcheriopolis (from Pulheria ) after the name of the sister of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius who took the town. This name Pulheria, that meant ‘’ beautiful, wealthy, strong city ”, was given to the city not casually; it was becoming a key center with a high cultural growth . In the 7th century began the Bulgarian invasions , which lasted until the year 1018, naming Berat as Belgrad – White City.
With the Byzantine imperially decline, Berat became one of the most important centers of the religious authorities of Epirus. It was the residence of Mikele Angelo Komneno, lord of Epirus clerical center. In the 14th century the town was transformed into the capital of a big principality, under the rule of the Albanian noble family of Muzaka.
In 1417 Berat was under the Turkish occupation. During the Ottoman invasion, Berat remained one of the biggest cities in Albania. Until the beginning of the 20th cent., the city had a solid infrastructure and it was a link toward East to Constantinople, but also toward South to Ioannina in Greece.
The town is known for its cultural heritage, historic architecture and natural beauty and is known as the “Town of a Thousand Windows”, due to the many large windows of the old houses overlooking the town.
It is a remarkable scenic town, with beautiful buildings of high architectural and historical interest.
Berat bears witness to the coexistence of various religious and cultural communities down the centuries.
The old historic part consists of three quarters divided by the Osum River: Castle ( Kala ), Gorica and Mangalem. The town also has the Medieval Center which consists of old religious monuments.
The Castle is one the most marvelous sight of the city. It has remained faithful its plans which date back to the 4th century BC. From time to time ,it has performed some changes during the 6th, 8th, 15th and 19th centuries.
It is not only one of the biggest inhabited Castles , but also a stone archive, that offers a variety of styles and contributes of different époques: Roman-Byzantine, Albanian and Ottoman .
The buildings inside the Castle were built during the 13th century and because of their characteristic architecture are preserved as cultural monuments. The Castle has many Byzantine churches, as well as some mosques built under the Ottoman era which began in 1417. Gorica castle is another castle in the city that belongs to the same period (IV BC), positioned in the opposite hill. Today are found only the ruins of this castle.
The old quarters of Mangalem and Gorica across the river connected with each other by the Gorica bridge, are well preserved areas containing buildings with characteristic architecture with a great number of windows, narrow charming paths and religious objects.
The King Mosque is one of the main mosques of the city. It is part of the Medieval Center complex and has been built by Sultan Bayazit II at the end of the XV century. It is composed by the prayer hall, the porch and the minaret.
The Helveti Teke
It is thought to have been built in the XV century and has been rebuilt by Ahmet Kurt Pasha in 1782. It belongs to the Helveti Sect. It is composed by the prayer hall with a square plan, a small ambience for special religious services and by a gracious portico which precedes the entrance to the prayer hall.
The ceiling of the prayer hall is made of wood and is decorated with paintings valued as the most beautiful of the time. The ceiling has been decorated according to the Baroque style adopted in the Islam art and is covered with 14 carat gold plates.