THE ETERNAL HOUR OF SKANDERBEG
-text and photos Andrei Dorian Gheorghe
design Florin Alexandru Stancu-
Albania is a small and beautiful country,
which belongs to the descendants of the Illyrians,
who, in ancient times,
inhabited a much larger area in the Western Balkans.
In history, they had to bravely resist against many conquests and invasions:
Romans, Byzantines, Bulgarians, Venetians, Serbians,
Ottomans (for over 4 centuries), Fascist Italians, Nazi Germans…
However, a few Albanian statal entities existed in between
the 12th century and the 15th century:
Principality of Arberia, Kingdom of Albania,
Princedom of Albania, and League of Lezhe.
In 1912 Albania became an independent state,
but after World War II it was led by a communist regime until 1991,
when this country became a democratic republic.
It is interesting that the Albanians are nicknamed “sons of eagles”
and the Albanian flag keeps the model of the Eastern Roman Empire:
a double-headed eagle!
Between Albania and Romania there are strong historical connections,
many Christian Albanians emigrating to the Romanian countries
after the Ottoman conquest of their country,
some of them giving important contributions to their new homeland.
was a brave captain in the army of Mihai Voievod Viteazul (1593-1601),
helping him to unify the three Romanian countries
and to obtain more victories to the Ottoman troops.
-Vasile Lupu (1595-1661)
was a “voievod” and “domnitor” of Albanian-Aromanian origin
who left an impressive cultural opera in the Romanian state of Moldova.
-Ghica or Gjika (also of Albanian-Aromanian origin)
was one of the most illustrious families in the Romanian countries,
giving more rulers and personalities.
Grigore Ghica III was a martyr “voievod”,
who was assassinated in the 18th century because he did not accept
to assign the north-west of Moldova to the Habsburg Empire.
And one of the greatest personalities was Elena Ghica (1828-1888),
known as Dora d’Istria:
she was a writer (who published books and articles
on history, tourism, folklore, social politics),
painter, speaker of 8 languages, feminist militant,
and even one of the first women who scaled the Mont Blanc Peak.
Being also an international advocate for the Albanian cause,
she was nicknamed “the moral queen of Albania”
and was posthumously decorated by the Albanian state as a
“Glory of the Nation”.
In its turn,
the Vlach-Aromanian community in Albania had an important cultural role,
making in Moscopolis (Korge District)
an exceptional humanist centre of Hellenic inspiration in the 18th century.
Thus, in this city the Aromanians (morally led by the priest Daniel Moscopolites)
made an academy and published the first dictionary of Balkan languages
(Greek, Albanian, Vlach/Aromanian, Bulgarian),
transforming Moscopolis also into a centre of spiritual resistance
(nicknamed “New Athens”)
against the Ottoman Empire,.
But the existence of such a strong Christian Orthodox place
in the Ottoman Empire disturbed the Muslim rulers,
who ordered the destroy of Moscopolis in the 1780s…
Romania was also a good host for Albanian patriots, such as:
who lived in the Romanian city of Braila
and printed the first Albanian abecedary in the 1840s,
which was followed soon by a historical manifesto for national cultural emancipation.
-Alexander Stavre Drenova (Asdreni),
who lived in Bucharest and wrote the lyrics for the Albanian anthem,
using the music of the Romanian composer Ciprian Porumbescu.
Not in the least,
even the root of the word Bucharest (originally Bucuresti)
has a common Thraco-Dacian-Illyrian origin,
meaning “beautiful” in Albanian (“bukur”)
and “joy(ous/ful)” in Romanian (“bucur(os/ie)”).
I would end this mini-chapter
remembering a few cosmic verses
(from The Sun, 1909 - my translation)
by a famous poet, Victor Eftimiu (1889-1972),
who came from Albania to Romania in Ottoman times
and remained forever in Bucharest:
“Suddenly the splendor of the beams begin to spread
And the black smoke seems like a noble rainbow:
Eternal King Sun superbly climbs the sky vault
And blesses all around with a gesture of
Albania had three major and longevous leaders,
the first and the most important of them being
George Kastrioti Skanderbeg (1405-1468).
After he was a hostage in the Ottoman Empire
and forced to adopt the Muslim religion,
he returned to his native Albania, where he re-became Orthodox Christian
and led the Albanian resistance against the Ottoman Empire for 25 years,
making from Kruje his non-capturable Capital,
obtaining an amazing series of victories against the Ottoman armies
(and even against the Catholic Venetians),
and becoming “Athleta Christie” (a title given by the Pope of Rome),
his deeds making him the Albanian national hero.
Over 4 centuries later,
the same poet Asdreni dedicated to him a book of poetry,
entitled “Sun Rays”,
and today his statue dominates the central square in Tirana,
the current Capital of Albania.
After Skanderbeg and his son (who continued the resistance for a few years),
Albania became an Ottoman possession,
and much of its population was Islamized.
The Ottomans rulers wanted to erase the memory
of Skanderbeg and his Capital, Kruje,
and developed another town, Tirana,
adorning it with a superb mosque made in 1789-1823,
(including a high minaret and a clock tower).
But the last part of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century
were marked by the Albanians’ complex (military and diplomatic) fight
in which another hero (this time a Muslim one),
was considered the founder of modern Albania.
After the conquest of independence,
Albania had, in the interbellic times, the second major and longevous leader,
who was prime-minister, president and king,
swore faith to his country both on the Koran and the Bible
(giving an excellent signal for religious tolerance),
and considered himself a New Skanderbeg.
But after World War II,
in special times for East Europe,
the third major and longevous leader of Albania,
Enver Hoxha (along with his team),
installed the communist totalitarianism
and, in the 1960s,
he proclaimed this country as the first atheist state in the world.
The fall of communism came in Albania in 1991
after long and large popular protests,
and the new symbol of religious freedom became…
just the Et’hem Bey Mosque,
assaulted in those times by believers,
in spite of the communist interdictions.
It seems that today 2/3 of Albanians are Muslim and 1/3 of them are Christian
(from which 2/3 are Orthodox),
the proportion being closer in Tirana.
Turning back to history,
we find that around the 1800s more Vlachs (Aromanians),
who had been expelled from Moscopolis,
came to Tirana to re-form here the nucleus of Christian community in Albania.
And after 200 years a superb Christian Orthodox cathedral
(also with a tower clock, with the sun cross as main symbol,
and with sunrays artistically radiating around the entrance)
was lifted on the other side of the Skanderbeg Square.
Certainly, we can admire in the centre of Tirana
many other interesting buildings,
made in the times of King Zogu and Enver Hodxa, earlier or later…
But the moral of this project is as follows:
since each of the two main religious edifices in Tirana
is accompanied by a clock,
this is another argument that,
along with freedom,
astronomy can unify the people
beyond their different religious convictions.
So finally I wrote:
Albania is a Universe
With a renewed power
In which the eternal hero Skanderbeg
Gives the right hour.
© 2015 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)