Berat Castle is a fortress overlooking the town of Berat, Albania. It dates mainly from the 13th century and contains many Byzantine churches in the area and Ottoman mosques. It is built on a rocky hill on the left bank of the river Osum and is accessible only from the south.
After being burned down by the Romans in 200 B.C., the walls were strengthened in the fifth century under Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II, and were rebuilt during the 6th century under the Emperor Justinian I and again in the 13th century under the Despot of Epirus, Michael I Komnenos Doukas, cousin of the Byzantine Emperor.
In the Siege of Berat the forces of the Angevin Kingdom of Sicily faced off against the Byzantine garrison of the city in 1280–1281. Berat was a strategically important fortress, whose possession would allow the Angevins access to the heartlands of the Byzantine Empire.
A Byzantine relief force arrived in spring 1281, and managed to ambush and capture the Angevin commander, Hugo de Sully. Thereupon, the Angevin army panicked and fled, suffering heavy losses in killed and wounded as it was attacked by the Byzantines. This defeat ended the threat of a land invasion of the Byzantine Empire, and along with the Sicilian Vespers marked the end of the Western threat to reconquer Byzantium.
The main entrance, on the north side, is defended by a fortified courtyard and there are three smaller entrances.
The fortress of Berat in its present state, even though considerably damaged, remains a magnificent sight. The surface that it encompasses made it possible to house a considerable portion of the cities inhabitants. The buildings inside the fortress were built during the 13th century and because of their characteristic architecture are preserved as cultural monuments.
The population of the fortress was Christian, and it had about 20 churches most built during the 13th century and only one mosque, for the use of the Turkish garrison (of which there survives only a few ruins and the base of the minaret).
The churches of the fortress were damaged through years and only some have remained.
Berat Castle is depicted on the reverse of the Albanian 10 lekë coin, issued in 1996 and 2000.
|Statue in Berat Castle (UNESCO World Heritage site), Albania