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 sixth and the last article, THE CASTLE OF SCUTARI.
To understand the importance of Scutari, to re-discover its history, to feel all its charm, you have to go up to the Castle. What we now see is, somewhere unrecognizable, the medieval Serbian castle; in its great mass the castle is Venetian, rebuilt on a design by Andrea and Francesco Venier and Melchiorre da Imola in the 1458; the Turks did some restoration and additions. You climb up steeply through the bazaar, which is partly the ancient Venetian paving.
To our left the chain of the lowest hills joins a saddle with that of the castle; the closest one is called Kara Hasan or Nero Hasan Pascià who came to the assault from this one less steep side.
At the turning of the saddle, we have the picturesque view of the Zadrima and, under our feet, the elegant block of the "Mosque of Lead" with its many domes.
To our left the chain of the lowest hills joins a saddle with that of the castle; the closest one is called Kara Hasan or Nero Hasan Pascià who came to the assault from this one less steep side. At the turning of the saddle, we have the picturesque view of the Zadrima and, under our feet, the elegant block of the "Mosque of Lead" with its many domes. The first circle of defenses consists of a rampart and a trench just visible now from afar, but deeply excavated; it was the tomb of thousands of Turks in the siege of 1474, who were driven to whip and slashed by the sultan himself. The second is the so-called barbican, an intricate complex of embankments, covered corridors, bomb-proof barracks and galleries, to defend access; bears the name of Vito Jonima (of the family of those Jonima we already know) because on the ground of his houses it was built; it is made up of two large doors, the first independent, the second below and intimately connected to the keep.
The former, crowned already by the lion of St. Mark, now preserves only its tail; inside, from the bomb-proof vaults, the limestone-rich water drips into the boulders of a candid stalactite layer; the popular legend dresses them with the poetic memory of the princess who, having been set aside as a propitiatory victim for the construction, would have obtained that she was left with a breast to breastfeed her baby; and scutarine women came for a long time to look for the galactophore drug. Between the first and second door we can contemplate closely the keep, the most elegant of the Venetian remains, and then penetrate into the interior.
Turning to look. This first wall appears as a powerful curtain interrupted to the right of the door by a tooth or platform and further on by a round tower, immortalized in the siege of the 1474 by the heroic resistance of the Venetian captain Carlino. At our far left there must have been a lookout, but now it is demolished due to the 1906 earthquake.
The first space in which we find ourselves is divided from the inside by a powerful fortified curtain, required by the experience that in the first Turkish siege must have shown that the single and satin clearing that shows itself in a slope completely open to the hill of Kara Hasan, he gave himself too helpless to artillery fire; therefore it must have been divided in half with this sort of diaphragm.
Beyond it, we note on the right a curiously shaped building. It is nothing more than the ancient cathedral which later became a mosque and finally a deposit of dust. The construction, very modest, roughly oriented to the west as a ritual, is Serbian, or rather Gothic, according to the style imported by one of the Frankish queens who entered the Nemanja house.
But the robust portico of severe Renaissance that flanks it to the northwest is Venetian; the minaret of the corner was implanted on the basis of a member of the ancient factory which was the baptistery or sacristy.
The last and most protected enclosure of the castle usually constituted the castle, which here, commanding a captain, called itself the captaincy.
Inside you can see the massive palace of the count Captain on the left. In the courtyard the epic episode of Antonio Loredan must have occurred during the siege of the 1474, which to the army and to the people exhausted by thirst and tumultuous, tore their clothes, proposed they tore their breasts and drank their blood, but resisted one day again: the next day the Turk left!
At the last end there is a lookout that justifies its military vocabulary, because among the many beautiful landscapes that this hill offers it presents us the most beautiful and most interesting.
From here we can contemplate the vast circle of mountains that surround Scutari. Far to the east the Albanian Alps and Montenegro; to the southeast the Dukagijni Mountains, Monte Sardonico, San Marco di Dagno. La Mirdizia. Closer is the Tarabosh than in the 1912-1913 it is shown in a terrible way how well Coronelli had baptized him with the vague word of "mountains that beat Scutari"; further down the hills of Bushati and Berdiza and Beltoja.
Scutari is all surrounded by the waters almost like an island. Below the lake and its emissary the Bojana; on the other side of the chain of hills comes Kiri from the mountains, which at their foot joins with the Drinassa, branch of the Drino, which comes from Dagno and goes to throw itself into the Bojana: they are the river ways.
On land routes, one comes from Alessio for Bushati, and it is the one that is currently open; in ancient times it came instead to the feet of the Mountains of Mirdizia, it paid the customs to Dagno, and from there it took towards Scutari.
Along the Bojana, on its right comes the road that from the port of the Bocca della Bojana, for the medieval Sovacia helps also a little traffic. Towards the mountain on one side the road to Podgorizza and Montenegro (via di Dioclea), in the middle that of Drivasto for the bridge of Mesi, to the south-east that of dagno which led to Roman Moesia, or Serbia.
We now understand the importance of this node, and we understand the wars that took place there.
From the roads that descend from the mountains, the Turkish multitudes came into the plain, wading on the backs of bronze camels and tools to melt the guns; they lay in the Zadrima and camped there; they occupied the surrounding hills, cutting off communications with Drivasto which was reduced to understanding with Scutari by means of light signals; they placed guard-houses along the Bojana, and in the plain by the lake they built the cannon foundries; still today this is called "tophana", the artillery factory.
Alla Bojana came to the rescue of the Marcilian women and even the Venetian galleys; for the Tarabosh and the boats for the lake was also Ivan Cernovicchio.
And up here they fought under the swarm of arrows (there was enough to heat the ovens for a while) and under the hail of the immense mortar stone balls, which broke everything; fortunately, minus the few main buildings whose remains can still be seen, the town was made up of wooden barracks, little damage if they went bad, and people lived in the basement.
The article by Father Giuseppe Valentini S.
J. has been published in N. 6 - Year II of DRINI - Monthly Bulletin of Albanian Tourism - Tirana, Friday 1 August 1941
The original photographs come from the Archive of Franco Tagliarini
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