Berat, 2400-year-old museum city
Berat’s life began in the 6th-5th century B.C. as an Illyrian settlement. Later, in the 3rd century B.C., it was turned into a castle city known as Antipatrea. The castle expanded afterwards, particularly during the feudal dominion of the Muzakaj family. Inside the castle, they built churches with valuable frescoes and icons, and also a calligraphy school. Uniquely today, residents still live inside of the castle walls. The three major neighborhoods of the old city are Mangalemi, Gorica, and Kala, where the castle itself is located.
In Mangalemi, below the castle, you can see the famous view of the facades of the houses, with windows that seem to stand above each other. In general, a traditional house has two floors, where the second is prominent and has many cambered windows and wood carvings. With its houses built along the steep hill, the view of Mangalemi is the reason that another name for Berat is the City of the Floating Windows.
Across the Osum River lies the Gorica neighborhood, whose houses face those of Mangalemi. The arched bridge of Gorica, built-in 1780, is a beautiful architectural monument constructed to link Gorica with Mangalemi.
The ensemble of the Byzantine churches in the castle of Berat is extraordinary. At the foot of the castle, there is the Byzantine Church of Shën Mëhilli (Saint Michael), while the 13th century Church of Shën Maria e Vllahernës (Saint Mary Blachernae), the Church of Shën Triadha (The Holy Trinity), the post-Byzantine monumental Cathedral of Shën Maria (Saint Mary) and many other churches are located in the castle.
The Cathedral of Shën Mëria houses a museum of works by the famous iconographers of the 16th century: Onufri, and his son, Nikolla. There are over 100 icons on display and they also include works of other artists such as Joan Çetiri, Onufër Qiprioti, and many anonymous painters. You also can visit the Monastery of Shën Spiridhoni (Saint Spyridon) in Gorica.
In 1417, the Ottomans occupied Berat and this conquest left its mark with the building of monuments to the Islamic faith, such as the Xhamia e Kuqe (Red Mosque) inside the castle, the Xhamia e Plumbit (1555), the Xhamia e Beqarëve (Celibataires Mosque)(1872) in Mangalem quartier but also Xhamia Mbret (King Mosque) (16th century), and the Halveti Tekke or Tariqa in the medieval center . Other sites worth visiting are the Ethnographic Museum, situated inside an 18th century çardak building, and the Edward Lear Gallery of Art, a well-known English painter who painted much of Berat and Albania. In addition Berat is known for its traditional dishes. It is worth tasting specialties such as pula me përshesh and çorba e Tomorrit in the local restaurants. Is suggested also to visit the Saint Mountain of Tomorr.
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