In the 1941 - 1942 the DISTAPTUR publishing house of Tirana had planned to publish a book by the great albanologist Father Giuseppe Valentini S.
J., who collected his articles published in the Albanian tourism magazine "DRINI". This is the second article, From Tirana to Matja (part 2a).From Mamuras a path up the slopes, if you like, will take you to Shmrifa (S. Maria) at 7 km. From the main road: it was a beautiful little church with three naves, twenty-five long steps wide by ten in the central nave and four in each of the side aisles; it is still half-standing, with vestiges of frescoes in the apse: eight bishops and saints and seven medallions of prophets; next to it on a rock a remnant of a terracotta bell tower. Now it is a desolate pilgrimage destination among the centuries-old cypress trees, the usual infallible indices of an old Christian churchyard; however, Christians and Muslims still come with their offerings for the Madonna of September.
Everything invites us to believe that this was the cathedral of the Diocese of Arbanense: it is true that later we find the residence of that bishop, more to the north in the region of Kurbini, but there is no lack of hints that we believe there is a fortune there; here instead we are in full Arbën, in that interesting region, that is, that in a somewhat mysterious way would have given the name d'Arbënia (later Albania) to the whole country.
We proceed and turning to look to the left among the marshes we see one of the many places that raise us a name of the most historical of Albania: Golemja, a fief of the Golemi, a curious dynastic name whose origin is lost in the historical night of the Middle Ages: until a new Muzaka (and, possibly, a little more reliable than the old) will not be discovered to guide us in the maze of Albanian dynastic origins; we will not know, if the many Golemi that appear abruptly at every turn in the history of this nation, were of the Comneni of noble Byzantine origin or of the Guglielmi (Gulami) of proud Norman lineage.
Looking further and a little further back: a long chain of hills runs and degrades on the horizon towards the sea: the mountainous and wooded skeleton of the Rodoni peninsula (Mali Kerçakës-Mali Muzhllit), which closes to the south in the its extension the Drino bay and the Matja bay. Once upon a time the region, rich in convents and feudal castellucci, belonged to the strong Redoni tribe: there among them, Skanderbeg, had one of its receptacles, no less useful than the high mountains, when it was kept outside of Croia to harass the besiegers ; among them, threatened with treason, he found the most restful security, and built the tower of Qurril; among them, after his death, at the end of the '400 the Venetians found good correspondence and Skanderbeg's son landed on his feet due to the unfortunate attempt to resurgence.
On the right, instead, we have before us the vast tribe of the Kurbini, the only one, perhaps, of all the tribes of Upper Albania known to us from the ancient era, or at least the only one whose name we meet not too altered in the ancient historians. In fact, Livio tells us that the strong square that was near the "Caravantini" was one of those that Gentio, king of Illiria, studied to have at his disposal against the Romans in 168 a.
C .; he sent his brother there (who by a curious coincidence was called Caravanzio), but this one, in fact, found resistance here, so much so that it was impossible for him to rush to the aid of his pressed brother to withdraw from Lissos (Alessio) and threatened with siege in Scutari, so that Gentio, believing himself to have been deprived of aid, lost hope and capitulated.
Now, having observed the final "ini", which is identical in "Caravantini" and "Kurbini" (as also in "Scodrini", which was the tribule of the inhabitants of Scodra, now Scutari), we have the two radical karab (ant ) and "kurb" both unstressed: easily the two unstressed "a" have lost clarity, reducing the latter to an insensitive "and" mute, and the former to "u" as a result of the "r" following an "e »Semimute, a group which - as is well known - can easily be heard in the Albanian mouth as« u », with a last easy transition from« v »to« b », we have« kurb », as we wanted to prove; schematically:
K ë r ë v
The theory is of the deceased scholarly scholar and scutary linguist D. Andrea Mjedja, and he will apologize if perhaps he has ended logically inaccurate in the mouth of a layman of linguistic chemistry: - Let's proceed.
A little further on an unmistakable smell of wet eggs warns us that we are in Zeja and we cross the stream of sulphurous water called precisely the Acqua Marcia or Fetida / Uji i Qelbët) or even Uji i Barrdhë), the Aquae Albulae del Barlezio. In this region an erudite translation of the Albanian Catholic clergy, however well provided with a local toponymic foundation, places an ancient city of Sebaste, of which considerable foundations remain on the summit called Kalaja Gjytet (the Cittadella Castle, even if this is not the Caravantini castle ); the same tradition would have it that here it was bishop and suffered martyrdom San Biagio, the one so invoked against the sore throat, and that also the well-known Forty Martyrs of Sebaste here had the crown.
It is true that the Sebaste of San Biagio and the Santi Quaranta is commonly located in Armenia, but not without finding considerable historical and geographical difficulties; but it is observed that from Armenia to Arbënia (name of this region) the exchange may not have been so difficult, especially since Armenia was much better known: certainly here the topography - cave of S.
Biagio, Monte Argeo overlooking the icy swamp (the one formed by the Fetide Waters under the road), thermal baths (of which it seems to remain vestiges) - v remains a hair to all the requirements of the Acts of the Martyrs, moreover the diffusion of the cult of San Biagio is here very remarkable, as can be seen from the use that is made of this name as a personal name and as a toponym, as well as from the good number of churches that are dedicated to it throughout Upper Albania up to Ragusa that had it patron in immemorial; so too the Forty Saints have good witnesses of ancient worship starting from here (a little further on the street there is the locality Sh'Katraqind, the fifteenth century Saints, for popular hyperbole) up to Saranda (Agioi Saranda, Santi Quaranta, now Porto Edda) with the magnificent basilica dedicated to them. It should be added that in all these surroundings, up to Lac and beyond, numerous mounds were found with abundant Roman furnishings accompanied by coins of Septimius Severus, Diocletian and Massimino Daza.
Now the beautiful medieval village opens up to our eyes, worthy of a Umbrian crib, scattered with dignified little houses similar to white castellucci on the dark coast of the wooded hill. We see that we are in the classical region of the Albanian-Angevin feudalism, the region of those Albanian barons with whom so many negotiations began and so much politics was based on sequins and pieces of scarlet Venice from the last times of Topia onwards. This - it is called Gjolmi or Gjonëmi (the «Sylva Jonimorum» of the Barlezio) - it must have been either the dynastic cradle or at least one of the most secure receptacles of this strong family of Norman street barons, who gave many headaches to the Venetian rectors with their long swing between Venice and its enemies or rivals, until it moved to Scutari, it gave the establishments of the Serenissima the most brave and trustworthy knights and left its name to the barbican in front of the main door of that castle.
On the left we see Fusha and kuqe (the red plain) another of Skanderbeg's good ambushes between swamps and canals, and, at the marina, the portico of Patok, already famous in the Middle Ages, especially as a salt and food store, with the name of Suffada and Suffaday (wrongly Semfadag).
/> Still a little and we are in Lac, one of the real fiefs of Dukagjini (here probably those of the Perlati branch). There is a medieval church surrounded by pretentious traditions: there are those who would like it consecrated in the times of Skanderbeg, there are those who are satisfied that the consecration took place by a group of Albanian bishops who had come from the Council of Trent. It is certain that the convent of the Franciscans was already there from ancient times and was indeed a long novitiate; now it is celebrated shrine of St. Anthony of Padua.
A little further on, about five kilometers from the road on the right, there is Delbinishti (a toponym suspected of being related to Tumenistus, which in Barlezio is the name of the mountain that overlooks it and is now called Mali i Skanderbegut, succeeded , as the residence of the bishops of Arbëni and then of the Archbishops of Durazzo, in S. Veneranda (Shna Prendja) of Kurbini which is still further inland than ten kilometers, already an important abbey.
Having recognized the terrain, let's go back now and reconstruct some of the main episodes of the epic that took place around Kruja.
Right here, between Miloti and Delbinishti where we are now, the Turkish army that accompanied its traitor nephew Hamza Castriota in 1457 in July was attracted by Skanderbeg throughout the Matja valley. On the morning of that day, as a practical person in the town, he had gone so far as to plunder the countryside, up to Suffada (Patok), bringing back, in addition to the salt of that store, a bit of food, the first that he could scrape together throughout the region from Dibra here, well cleaned up beforehand by provident Skanderbeg. Until that moment he had not considered it appropriate to give a sign of life, judging it difficult to grasp a man like Hamza, awake by his nature and raised at his school. Here, however, always observing, secretly but closely, as usual, every fact of the enemy, from the mountain he saw that the extraordinary feast, allowed by the prey of the morning, in that tropical noon of July, among the fat vapors of the plain, produced its effects; here and there lay the bodies of the Turks oppressed by the heat, food and sleep; a few guards woke up and a few captains who, gathered to the council with Hamza and Pascià in the latter's tent, were deciding to go and try Croia.
Then the Castriota, left the bulk of his troop on the slopes of the Mount, with a few men ran to make a coup or a feint on the other side. When a sentinel escapes from the surprised guard, who escaped by running and shouting through the field, he begins to be alarmed; Skanderbeg then commands the general assault; the bulk of the army descends from the mountain, from the north rushes impetuously and shouting like Mojs Golem Dibra soles with the cavalry, from another side Tanusio Topia, Peico Emanuele and Giovanni Stressio with the infantry and the arquebusiers are under; and all well distributed on all sides, well armed with an extraordinary number of trumpets and drums to make believe that an innumerable army from all over Albania and perhaps even from Venice had gathered to take the Turkish army in the middle . Hamza used to shout in vain that he knew the few forces of Skanderbeg and his usual tricks; unnecessarily paid in person. Everything was overwhelmed in the flight and the stage down to the White Waters, which, having killed the remains of the survivors, deserved the name of Red Waters on that day, says Barlezio. Only the Pascià (probably Ishak Evronos, lieutenant of the Grand Vizier Mahmud for the government of Rumili) managed to escape thanks to what, with a curious Ciceronian term, the Barlezio called «pernicitas equi» and we should say, sit venia verbo, «la legs of his horse "or the speed of the steed; Hamza was taken prisoner, and the rest of the Turkish troops gave the Albanians much to do to bury them in these fields.
We come now to the 1450 siege of Croia under Sultan Murat. The Turkish camp was placed in a semicircle under the slopes, in the plain between Micio and Zezë, then called Tirana Minore. Skanderbeg had placed its operation center on the Mount of Croia (Mali i Krus); not mount of Kranja as Fan noli says following a mistake of printing of the Barlezio that then corrects itself. It is remembered that during the first assault on the walls, Skanderbeg descending from the mountain with 5.000 chosen riders invaded the field and lowered it until he had to retreat not without danger for his life. Then leaving only a garrison of 500 knights on the mountain with Tanusio Topia and Mojs Golem Dibra, he transferred his camp to Mëndikli, from which he could harass the enemy more closely than a kilometer: from there at night, as soon as he heard that, according to the agreement, Dibra fell with his followers to alarm the Turkish camp on the one hand, he attacked him, devastated him and massacred the other, and without daring to pursue him, he carried his tents to the wooded slopes of the Rodoni towards 'Ishmi where easily, by sea, it was supplied with food by the Venetians of Durres. From there he made another good blow at night going to surprise the enemy camp on the side of Mëndikli; then retreating, he pulled behind the bulk of the Turkish troop, while Mojs Golem Dibra entered the other side and ravaged everything; dragging the enemy up the steep slopes and giving him a heavy breath, as soon as he had a reinforcement, which he waited for, chased them down with stones and battered arrows, he withdrew to the mountain where he was seen openly the next day to intend with the besieged. Up there they sought him shortly after the sultan's messengers with peace proposals, but they did not find him there; they looked for him at Ishmi, but he was always untraceable, until, accompanied by Albanian prisoners to whom they promised freedom, they managed to find him at Fusha and Kuqe where he had transported the camp.
Castriota listened to them, and, although he responded with fierce refusal, he invited them to a hearty lunch, but immediately the messengers left, he moved his tents to the mountain. From there, having heard of a disease of the Sultan, after two first forays into the Turkish camp, the third night started from the plain of Tirana in a south-north direction to give impetus to the charge of the cavalry for the rasa campaign; but the darkness too deep carried by the clouds that covered the sky, did not allow either the Albanians to advance under the trenches, nor the Turks alarmed by the trampling of the charge to go out on the plain; then Skanderbeg with 100 rookies on horseback advanced to provoke them, and by dint of teasing he managed to pull off a detachment and then break it up and push it back; finally, having caught a glimpse of the morning, the Turks sent a ward on the slopes to cut off his retreat towards the mountain where Mojs Golemi was standing: Skanderbeg, who foresaw he had already ordered the fight on two fronts to then shatter the enemies and push them back; the Turks resisted as much as they could, until, being rescued by them, they had to retreat in disarray, bringing serious damage. Soon the siege was lifted.
When in August of the 1466, the Sultan Muhammad left the siege of Kulia Ballaban Pasha, who had occupied the ever-threatening Mali Krus, Skanderbeg, helped by the Venetians and equipped with a harassed army, prepared an encirclement plan towards the manned mountain from the Ballabano militias; Lede Dukagjini, presumably from Rodoni, and Nicolò Moneta, scutarino, with the Venetians and Dalmatians from Alessio for the Bosco degli Jonima had to attack the enemy at the same time. But here the Castriota receives news of the arrival of another expeditionary corps that was probably coming down the Matja valley, and had settled on the Bulgeri Mountains on the right of that river evidently to cut off communications with Alessio and Scutari he had settled on the Bulgarian Mountains more than to join his brother, as Barlezio thinks, then, moving swiftly by night, he chases the Turkish garrison from the mountain and from there shows the two prisoners to the Pasha: he, desperate, orders a supreme assault on the walls and remains killed; the remains of his army retreat en route to Tirana and from there they manage to escape with difficulty.
We salute this plain and these hills of the Arbën, so rich in history and heroism.
The article by Father Giuseppe Valentini S.
J. has been published in N. 2 - Year II of DRINI - Monthly Bulletin of Albanian Tourism - Tirana, Tuesday 1 April 1941.
The original photographs come from the Archive of Franco Tagliarini
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