From Rozafa to Marubi, Shkodra’s History Told by its Inhabitants

From Rozafa to Marubi, Shkodra’s History Told by its Inhabitants

TIRANA, 17 September

Shkodra has always been considered one of the most important cities of Albania, since in ancient times. It is the birthplace of many political figures and artists that have left footprints in the Albanian culture and history. You could have a tour in the Marubi Museum where the first photographic studio of Albania was established, by an Italian immigrant, or explore the ruins of Rozafa Castle, known in the Albanian tradition as the symbol of sacrifice, because of its interesting secret that it holds. Along with other monuments and historic buildings that Shkodra has, make this city the perfect place for the passionate of cultural tourism, and who want to know more about the history of this Albanian city and its habitants.  

Historical Museum of Shkodra

The Historical Museum of Shkodra, started its construction in 1947, (with the initial name ‘Popular Museum’), and finished in 1949. It was placed in the center of the city, in a monumental building of the 19th century, near the ‘Tower Watch’. In 1953, with its further enrichment, it was reorganized and divided into some sectors. During the following years, were built other museums and house-museums in the city, creating a chain of 7 museums. 

historical museum of shkodra
Photo Credit/Sigismund von Dobschütz

The Historical Museum of Shkodra started its construction in 1947 and finished in 1949. With the fall of communism, with the reforms that were undertaken in the beginning of the 1990s, the houses where the museums were built were returned to the previous owners, thus dissolving the chain of museums that were created. Only the central museum remained in function, where were gathered all the objects of all the previous museums. The Historical Museum was transferred to the newly renovated monumental building (a characteristic home that holds the name ‘Oso Koka’), where it is still to this day. The museum contains three sectors: the archaeological, historical and ethnographic sectors. 

Museum of the Castle 

The Museum of the Castle is in one of the premises of Rozafa Castle. In this museum are exposed to the evidence of Shkodra’s settlements in different historic periods. Parts of the museum are arms and different documents, proof of historic battles of the city of Shkodra, against the foreign occupants at different times, or the activities of the Bushati family in the 18th century. 

museum of the castle
Photo Credit/Timea

Museum of Photography ‘Marubi’ 

The art of photography in Albania started in Shkodra, in the 1850s, and is connected to the name of Pietro Marubi (1834-1903), with origin from Piacenza, in Italy, that came as a politic asylum seeker in Shkodra, where he lived until his death. There he established the photographic studio Driteshkronja, with the sign at the front entrance named Marubi, in the center of the city, the first of its kind in Albania.

He worked as a photographer for over 40 years and left important traces with artistic and historic values. In his studio, his pupil, Mati Kodheli had his modest contribution too, and from 1885 Kel Kodheli worked there too (1870-1940). When Pietro Marubi died, Kel Kodheli inherited his studio and worked as an independent photographer, holding in his memory and gratitude the last name of his master, thus ‘Marubi’. 

pietro marubi
Pietro Marubi, the Italian immigrant who opened the Marubi photographic studio. Photo Credit/Marubi Library

Also with the increasing demand from the public, was increased the activity of Marubi studio, following the footsteps of the evolutionary techniques of photography, and standing out for high quality until the realization of the genuine artistic photography. The third generation of the Marubi dynasty, after the death of Kodheli, is represented by his son, Gega, with the same devotion and professionalism. In 1970, to the fund of the photographic studio were added 4 other archives, with special values, from the well-known photographers of Shkodra, such as Shan Pici, Rraboshta, Dede Jakova and Angelin Nenshati, doubling almost the number of photographs in this photographic studio. 

marubi museum
Marubi Museum from outside. Photo Credit/Marina Binoshaj

It is worth mentioning that each one from these photographers had created their profile as an artist and photographer. The fund which holds over 400.000 photos, besides the long arc of time, has a geographical extension beyond the city of Shkodra. There are fixated thousands of individuals from all over Albania, hundreds of historic and national events, daily chronicles of the city, public figures of the country, etc. 

marubi library
Inside of the premises of Marubi Library. Photo Credit/Adam Jones

A considerable number of photographs belong to the accredited consuls in Shkodra, and military and political personalities from foreign countries, especially during the WWI and WWII. The Marubi library saves also with accuracy since 1918, all the original registers where are written the names and dates of the people being photographed in the studio. Around 200.000 of photographs in glass tiles were passed to the Albanian state. 

Gallery of Arts

The Gallery of Arts, in its fund, includes the activity of different artists from Shkodra, and other parts of Albania, who have left strong marks in the heritage of Albanian nation. The gallery preserves and displays over 700 paintings, sculptures, graphics, etc. The artworks have taken an important spot in the cultural lives of the inhabitants of Shkodra. The works of art are saved and inherited generation after generation, from the families of Shkodra. The gallery organizes from time to time exhibitions of different painters, promotes new talented artists, giving to the art of Shkodra the place it deserves.  

gallery of arts
Inside of the premises of the Gallery of Arts. Photo Credit/Gallery of Arts FB

Shkodra Castle a.k.a. Rozafa Castle 

Shkodra’s Castle is in the southern entrance of the city, surrounded by the Buna, Drini and Kiri rivers. The walls of the castle are 880 meters long and surround a surface of 35.000 m2. It is the biggest castle in Albania, and one of the biggest in the Balkan region. The archaeological excavations show that the castle is one of the earliest settlements in Shkodra, dated 4000 years ago. Visitors get to know with many objects and monuments, that belong to the different historical periods. The name of the castle is related to a myth, of a walled woman named Rozafa, a symbol of resistance, self-sacrifice, and heroism of the people of Shkodra. 

rozafa castle
Photo Credit/Wikimedia

The shape that the castle has today, has taken it during the reigning of the Balshaj family, in the 14th century AD. In this castle are found traces from the classical period, middle ages until the 20th century. The medieval walls are built with plaster and are built above the ruins of Illyrian walls and follow the disorderly line of the terrain. Inside of the castle are two high walls, that divide the surface into three courtyards. The main gate is placed on the side where the slope of the hills is smaller, and after that is a long and wide gallery, which on both sides has four spaces that served as protective spaces. 

shkodra castle
Photo Credit/Talha Cakir

After you pass this gallery you find yourself in front of another gate, and you see the first courtyard, where are a series of fortified objects. The second courtyard takes bigger space and is located in the central part of the castle. The third courtyard served as the place where the military garrison was gathered. These courtyards, communicate with each other with small gates. To get out of the castle there were some hidden exits which now don’t function anymore. 

rozafa castle
Photo Credit/Wikimedia

In the fortifications, and other constructed objects are preserved even today the ancient and medieval traces, up to the period of the Bushati family. Besides the fortifying system, we could mention: the Church of Saint Stephen, turned afterward into a mosque, the prison, and the secret exits. From its walls, it could be overlooked the majestic landscape of Shkodra Lake, and also Drin, Buna and Kir rivers.

Buna Bridge

Buna Bridge, along with the Bahcalleku Bridge has been the main connection of the city of Shkodra with the other areas of Albania. Buna Bridge is an Ottoman work built during the years 1499-1500, and it is made of wooden legs. In 1899, this bridge was reconstructed from the Osman governor of that time in Shkodra. On the occasion of its inauguration, there was built a memorial on the edge of the bridge. This stone which is in the shape of a pyramid is saved today in the Historic Museum of Shkodra. 

buna bridge
Photo Credit/ Stesim57, Flickr

Bahcalleku Bridge 

The Bahcalleku Bridge was the construction of Ottoman invaders, but it is not known when exactly it was built. During the period of the Ottoman invasion, the Bahcalleku Bridge was put on auction for a tax that was collected during the bridge’s passage. This tax was placed to afford the expenses of the repairs and reconstructions when it was needed. At night it was impossible to use this bridge, with the exception when it was an emergency. The collation of the bridge was done after the departure of Ottoman reigning in Albania. 

bahacalleku bridge
Photo Credit/

Clock Tower of 19th century 

The Clock Tower is known in history as the Clock of English and belongs to the period of the medieval aristocracy. This is the only building that is saved from the period of the antiquity of Shkodra. The clock tower, along with the house nearby was constructed with the funds provided by the English lord, Paget (thus the name of the tower), which had as the main purpose the spread of protestant faith and the establishment of Anglican Church in Albania, based in Shkoder. 

Photo Credit/Amaro

The activity of the lord didn’t have success and when he saw that he failed with his faith mission, instead of the bell for the tower, he brought a big clock with three fields, to be noticed from afar. In certain hours, it could be heard the rattling sound. The house of the feudal had 15 to 16 rooms. The courtyard of the house was closed with a big gate made of planks, with two lids, carved with ornaments and the emblem of England. This tower today is used as an observation point because from its height it could be overlooked the whole city of Shkodra. 

Source/City Hall of Shkodra

Read also: Museums Worth-Visiting in Gjirokastra

Historical and Cultural Monuments to Visit While in Durres

Sunbathing by the River, Sea or Lake in Shkodra

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