The Castle of Bashtova
Permanent Delegation of Albania to UNESCO
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Not more that 30 km from Durrës, in western-central Albania, is located the impressive Castle of Bashtova; to the mouth of Shkumbini River, 4 km from the Adriatic shoreline, which has been considered as a very strategic point at the time of its construction. It controled a very large area to the Adriatic coast to the west, and the same area to the field from the east. It was exactly at the Shkumbin river valley where passed the ancient “Via Egnatia” Road, which connected east and west better than anywhere else.
The castle has always attracted the attention of the travelers and scholars who have shared their notes, maps and drawings about it. According to the Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi , the castle was founded by the Venetians and was conquered by the Turks at the time when Fatih Sultan was directed toward the Albanian Skenderi (Shkodra).
Bashtova Village has been a center of grain trade until the late 14th century; the time when the cereal commencing passed from Ragusians hand to the Venetians’. At that time, except the trade of cereals, Venetians were interested to hold in their hands the fortified strategic points along the Adriatic coast.
In the books of registration of the Albania Sandzak lands of Turks in 1431-32 Castle Bshtovë is not mentioned. For the first time, Bashtova apears in a map as a castle (not only as a trading village) on 1521, in the Piri Reiz’s map, as part of a manual which serving to seafarers for practical needs.The castle was built on a greenfield site and is located approximately 400 meters north of Shkumbin river; it has a 60 x 90 m rectangular plan oriented to the north-south direction. The castle has three entrances, from which there still are well preserved archaeological traces they were placed at the northern, western and eastern walls of the castle. At the four corners and at the midpoint along each wall, there are defensive towers, except of the west wall that belongs to a second building phase. The walls are approximately 1 m wide and built in local sandstone.
Nowadays are still preserved two circular towers and one rectangular. The wall midlength’s towers are all rectangular. They have 1,25 to 1,40 m thick and up to 12m high walls.
The construction of the castle is linked precisely with a Venetian building for several reasons; Skanderbeg was more interested in strengthening the forts he already owned as well as to the paths where the Turkish army would pass through, while the turks were more focused in repairing and making use of the existing castles, like they did in Elbasan, Petrel, Preza, etc. Placed in a large flat valley and away from the roads of the turkish arm, this castle could not have been constructed from Skanderbeg either.Building a new castle at the mouth of Shkumbin river was an excessive expenditure for the Venetians when they could easily preserve any existing castle in the area. Anyway the Castle did not stay for any long time under the dominance of the Venetians; according to Çeleby, it was conquered by the Turks, in 1478, where later they did additional work in the castle.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Criterion (iv): This defense work of Venetians is very particular for a few reasons, it not only did control the Adriatic coast of central Albania but also the valley of Shkumbin river. This valley was of a great importance due to the “Via Egnatia” ancient road, which passed exactly there and connected the west with east. This castle has been built to control and maybe to hold back the Ottoman Empire attacks against the medieval western world.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
Placed in a rural area, where no urbanisation preassure until now and nor it will occurre, the castle of Bashtova is preserved just as it has been at the time of declaration as a National Cultural Monument; 1948. Except the defensive tower at western corner, the castle still preserves the full length and almost full height of its towers and surrounding walls.
The Bashtova castle has not been subject to inappropriate restoration interventios or to modern constructions, not even in the vicinity of it. The original construction material and technique, have been intact during some consolidation works performed during the ‘80s.
Comparison with other similar properties
Within the Albanian territory there can be found also different forts used by the Venetians like the Castle of Shkodra, which even though is called a medieval castle, it has been build over the ruins of an Illyrian one, since the 4th century B.C., while the Bashtova Castle has been newly constructed during the Venedic dominance.Both, The Castle of Shkodra and the Castle of Bashtova have been constructed near one river mouth and had the potencial to control the Adriatic coast and the respective river valleys, Bashtova Castle, being in the central region of Albania beared a more strategic position regarding their then mission in holding back the ottoman attacks.