Albania is constitutionally a secular country since 1967, and such, “neutral in questions of belief and conscience”. Albania has been declared from the former communist dictatorship as the world’s first and only “Atheist state”
Because of that, believers faced harsh punishments, and many clergymen were killed. Religious observance and practice is generally lax today. Polls have shown that, compared to the populations of other countries, few Albanians consider religion to be a dominant factor in their lives
If you ask about religion, people refer to their family’s historical religious legacy and not to their own choice of faith. Being a secular country today, people are free to choose to believe or not, and to change their faith. As a result Religion is separated from the public sphere and citizens show strong support for secularism
During your stay to Albania you will really feel the religious excellent harmony and coexistence that exists for centuries among Albanians. We hope your visits in these religious sites enrich your experience in Albania
ORTHODOX RELIGION SITES
The most interesting ones:
Ardenice, Saint Mary’S Monastery Church .
The Ardenice Church is one of the largest monasteries with an ancient history. It raises on the hills of Ardenica with a altitude of 237 m above sea level. Due to the values this temple holds, Ardenice is considerd the most touristic and study attraction sites
The foundations of this monastery are placed since in the 1282 with the intiative of emperor Andronik II,a Bizantyne Paleologist. He built it after the victory over Angevins in Berat. It is well-known also for the crowning wedding ceremony of our national hero Gjergj Katrioti. His marriege with Andronika Arianiti took place in Ardenica‘s Monastery Church.
The temple is decorated with magnificient frescoes by painters Kostandin and Athanas Zografi in 1744. It contains two lines of small and big icons realized in 1744 by the well-known painter Kostandin Shpataraku. In one of the sections of its cycle in the Saint Gjon Vladimiri’s icon. It is painted with a royal crown and carrying a specter of the 14th century Albanian prince Karl Topia. He is referred as the King of Albania by the painter. This religious cult site also offers several graffiti written in Greek that date back in 1477.
Apolonia, St Mary’s Church .
One of the most beautiful and most visited religious monuments of the 14th century in our country. The Church is situated in the Apolonia’s Archeological Park surroundings.
Another beautiful Orthodox churches of the country is St Mary’s Church in Labove e Kryqit. The ancient church resembles to the Haghia Sophie church in Istanbul. Because it had a Holy Cross fragment it was believed that the cross have been part of the one where Jesus Christ body was crucified. Unfortunately the cross disappeared after the 1990s.
The island of Zvernec. Monastery St Mary’s
Monastery of Zvernec is situated in a small island. The island itself is covered in a dense Mediterranean vegetation which makes the island very attractive. A wooden bridge links the island with the land. St Mary’s Dormination Monastery is one of the most attacting Orthodox religious sites in our country. It is a typical Byzantine monument of the 5th century known for its unique style.
At the cemetery near the Monastery rests the tomb of Marigo Pozios a well known activist of the Albania’s Independence Awakening. She was the woman who sew the first national flag of Albania, in November 28th 1912, the national indepence day. The monastery had an exceptional library that got burned during the years of the fights against religion. The island of Zvernec itself was adapted into a area for the persecuted during the communist regime. On the other side of the island it is found the St Triadha’s church where monks onceserved there. A honouring pilgrimage is organized at St Mary’s Monastery every 15th of August.
St Mary’s Church in Elbasan.
The most interesting fact for this church is that is situated within the old castle ruins in Elbasan. The cupola’s unique paints are realized in 1859. The church’s iconostasis polychromed in gold, is considered one of the most beautiful in the country. It is realized by approximately 40 paint masters from Dibra who worked for 10 years. Meanwhile in this church rests the tomb of Kostandin Kristoforidhi, considered ‘the father’ of the Albanian language
Marmiroi’s church is positioned in the south of Vlora bay near the medieval centre of Jeriko (today Orikum). The building sketching plan is similar to the cross and with a cupola on top and was built with stones and bricks. Only a few frescoes’ fragments are preserved today. Because was builted in 13th century is considered one of the most ancient churches in Albania.
Churches in Berat
Berat is one of the cities that preserves a set of Christian monuments of the Byzantine and post-Byzantine era. These are among the most visited sites during your sightseeing tour in this city which is also part of UNESCO. On of the most known is Dormination Cathedral. Part of this church is the museum of Onufri. Among the main touristic sites in the city of Berat are the St Spiridon’s Monastery (Gorice), and St Thomas’ Church (Gorice).
In Tirana it is to be mentioned the Eastern Orthodox Church.
CATHOLIC RELIGION SITES
1.The Holy Rosary Church
The church is also known as the Arra e Madhe Church. It was given the name Holy Rosary and blessed in 1892. During the Montenegrin bombings in 1912-1913, the places served as a shelter for the residents of Shkodra. This religious site was closed by the atheist campaign in 1968 until reopened in 1991. During 1998-1999 it served as a home shelter for Kosovars during the Kosovo crisis. In the old church there are buried Father Zef Pellumbi (one of the survivers of the communist prisons known for his writings especially his masterpiece. Rrno per vetem me kallxue, Father Gjolaj, Father Gjecaj, Father Makaj. The Holy Rosary Church facade is used by the National Tourism Agency as a reference symbol in the Albania’s tourism religious map.
St Stephen’s Cathedral Church (Shkoder).
Known as the Great Church considering that it is one of the largest churches in the Balkans. Its construction permission was issued by the sultan in 1851 and the church started the construction seven years after due to the lack of funds. The first placed stone of the church was blessed by bishop Ivan Topic. After 1967 the church was turned into a gym and in 1973 it was held the Congress of the Albanian Women Union. It has been reopen as a church in 1991. Pope John Paul II, in his historical visit in April 25th 1993 held the wafer at St Stephen’s church.
St Anthony of Padua’s(Shna Ndou) Church in Laç.
Shna Ndou is situated 3 km from the town of Laç on a colorful rock and it was built in 1557. It is normally visited twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays where two or three wafers are daily bestowed. The site was demolished in 1967 during the atheism campaign and its reconstruction was performed in 1991 by the Bologna friars assistance. A road was built in 1993 that linked to the town of Laç in 1993 and its front square was inugurated in 1994.
In honour of Anthony of Padua (Shna Ndou) the church organizes the largest participation pilgrimage in the country. The annual main pilgrimage begins on Tuesdays prior to the 13th of June. On June 12 it is performed the midnight wafer where approximately 100000 people participate. The pilgrimage counts around 900000 people on the 13th of June considered the biggest religious event in the country
Friars’ Church (Gjuhadol) Shkoder.
Dedicated to St Fancis of Assis. The project plan of the church was granted by the French architect Anselmi Gorlet. It started bulding in 1878 and was inaugurated after 27 years in 1905. The communists hid and stored weapons inside the church. They politically framed 12 imprisoned and executed many clerics. The remains of the greatest Albanian poet Father At Gjergj Fishta rest inside the church. Its body was exhumed and thrown into the river by the communists and only a few remains of his body are recovered and rest inside the church.
The Rubik Monastery Church.
In a rocky hill above the small town of Rubik, you will find this monastery. Because of the time of building 12-13 century it is onsidered one of the oldest Byzantine style in our country. Its construction was finalized in 1227 and served as a Benedict and Francescan. You will see the Byzantine frescoes and also the Fan river valley is seen from the church.
Is one of the four traditional religions in Albania. the religon is based upon the criterias of tolerance and respects all other monotheist religions. Its founder was Haxhi Bektash Veliu. He born in the city of Nishabur in 1209- 1210. The Turkish parliament unanimously banned tekkes in Turkey in 1925. At that time the World Grandfather Sali Niazi Dede (of Albanian origin from Starje, Kolonje) after consulting with the Albanian representative in Istanbul decided to establish the Holy Bektashi World Residency in Albania. After the III Bektashi congress in Korça 1929, it was established that the World Bektashi Grandfathers’ Residency would be in Albania.
Among the main celebration dates are the Ashura – 10 days of Matem (which recall the Battle of Karbala) every year in the month of Muharram. Nowruz celebration on March 22. It celebrates the birthday of the Great Ali as one of the most distinguished members of Ehli Bejti family. The Bektashi pilgrimages are organized annually and despite their religious practice as part of the religious tourism.
The pilgrimage is organized in Frasher, Permet on September 5th at the famous historic monument tekke of Father Alushi. In August it is organized the pilgrimage of Sari Salltik in the historical town of Kruje. The pilgrimage remembers the first mission for the spread of Bektashi Order in Albania.
Most of these cult sites are noticed their architectonic and historical values and are also built in special natural resources resulting in significant attraction for tourists. Among the most attracting tekkes there are:
2 km southeast of Nepravishte, village near Libohove you will find this site that exists since 1869. The tekke is built on the ruins of the ancient Illyrian castle with a surface of 34 hectars. Its pictoresque position adds valuable beauty to the tekke and it is reconstructed after 1990.
Sari Salltik’s tekke.
Sari Salltik is situated in a dominant position on top of Kruja mountain . Bektashi missionary arrived in Albania and the Balkan founded in the mid XIII century. Hajji Bektash Veliu coeval (Bektashi order cofounder of XIII century) arrived and settled in Kruje at the cave known by people as Sari Salltik. A massive pilgrimage is organized between August-September and religion believers from Kruja, Albania, and the world participate.
From the rock Endless comes out water from the well . The stone stairs on the right lead to the cave. At the cave’s entrance it is built a Bektashi tradition cupola Turbe (tomb). On top of the rock it is built the new two store tekke (2003). In memory of the first missionary Sari Salltik it is placed a bronze portrait statue. The view from the tekke is fantastic and it can be reached by walking from the town of Kruje.
Abas Ali’s Turbe (tomb).
The Turbe is in Çuke of Tomorr 2417 metres above the sea level in Skrapar region. It dates back since XV century but historical data claim that it has been an ancient religious site. In the year 1600 Father Hajji Horasani built Abas Aliu’s tomb in Çuke of Tomorr. Since then until today it is organized an annual pilgrimage ceremony every 20-25 of August. In 2008 it was built a surrounding wall and two characteristic porticos by the Institute of Monuments of Culture providing an exceptional architectonic view. The Site can be visited only in Spring and Autumn, considering its height location and climate conditions .
This site is at the village with the same name not far from the town of Tepelena. It dates back since 1900s but it is believed to have been bulit in XV century during the mythical character of that time Demir Han. The tekke was burnt in 1914 by Greeks and it is at the entrance of the village, rectangular shaped, characteristic bows, built in carved Bektashi symbols and stones and remains ruined until today.
It is found in the village of Starje not far from the town Erseke. And is distinguished for its important role during the Albanian National Renaissance. An important character at that time was Dervish Hasan Zyko Kamaberi who lived during the rule of Ali Pashe Tepelena. Hasan Zyko Kamberi’s turbe (tomb) is declared Monument of Culture (1973). Main interesting tekkes for visitors are: Father Xhemali’s tekke in Elbasan, The Great Tekke of Elbasan, Qesaraka’s tekke, Kuzum Baba’s tekke in Vlore, Halevian’s tekke in Tirane, Barrikada street, opened since XVII century. Ionisht- holy place of the Bektashi order, 5 km from Bilisht.
SUNNI ISLAM RELIGIOUS SITES
Et’hem Bey Mosque in Tirana.
This mosque is the symbol mosque of the capital. Founded in the centre of Tirana its construction was started by Molla Bey in 1790 and finalized in 1823 by his son E’them Bey. It resembles the mosques in Instambul and it is distinguished for its cupola, floor paintings and frescoes of Istanbul. The inner lightening during the praying is provided by five windows on each side.
The Lead Mosque in Shkoder.
One of the most intersting mosques of our country considering it is the only one that combines Arabic and Ottoman style. It is distinguished as such as its cupola is covered in lead. It was built by Bushatllinj in 1773 and it is near Rozafa castle.
Iljaz Bey Mirahori Mosque in Korçe.
It belongs to the year 1484 (the oldest monument in the city) and it situated near the reconstructed city bazaar. It is referred to Iljaz Bay Mirahori, originally from Panariti, Korçe. The mosque’s facade is pointed by the National Tourism Agency as a guide reference in the Albania’s tourism map.
The Muradie Mosque in Vlore.
Muradie is one of the most visited sites by tourists in Vlore. Placed in the city centre near the Flag Square and the Monument of Independence. Builted in 1542 and it is the last remaining work of the well known architect Mimar Sinan, or the Great Sinan of Albanian origin (Tepelene). The mosque is distinguished by its wall, bricks, stone building composition and minaret. It has a cupola and the prayer room is lightened by windows.
Islamic Compound of Xharmahalle and Gjin Aleksi’s Mosque in Rusan (Delvine).
The complex which is considered the oldest Islamic compound in the country is found 1 km east of the town of Delvine. Parts of this compound used to be the madrasah, a special hammam, the ablution fountain and ‘the king’ mosque built in 1682. Today only the remaining walls picture the vast complex it had been. While Gjin Aleksi’s mosque is placed in Rusan village 3 km from Delvina. Its leader has been Gjin Aleksi, a converted muslim. The mosque has been declared monument of culture since 1963.