Bashtova Castle, in the village of Vilë Bashtovë – Cultural Monument K.I
Bashtova Castle is located on a plain, about 400 m north of the river Shkumbin, 3 km from its discharge into the Adriatic Sea, in the south-west of the village of Vilë-Bashtovë and i belongs to the XV century, built by the Venetians. It has received the status of cultural monument of the first category since 1948.
The period of construction of this fortress by the Venetians is the last decades of the century. XV, beginning after the reconstruction of the Elbasan fortress by the Ottomans, in 1466. One of the main reasons that pushed the Venetians at this time was the possibility of the Ottomans using the Shkumbin estuary and the use of the rich timber that was there for construction of ships, and going to the open sea, endangering the trade and security of the Republic.
After Skanderbeg’s death in 1468, the opportunity to defend these dominions was scarce. Bashtova was also an important port for trading grain and various goods. The architecture and construction technique point to a castle built in haste, taking into account the greatest economy of material used.
This is evidenced by the thin walls, but combined from the inside with pilasters and arches, the towers with open ridges, which are less resistant, as well as the low floors of the towers designated only for fighting. On the other hand, it has been taken into account that a small castle has as much firepower as possible, creating three levels of combat on the walls and five on the towers. Unlike other Venetian fortifications, built during the end of the c. XIV and the beginning of the century.
XV, like the round towers in Durrës, the castle of Butrint, and the fortifications in Shkodër, the aesthetic criterion was not taken into account here. Everything serves only defense and combat. Bashtova Castle is one of the last Venetian fortifications that were built to resist the Ottoman invasion.
It has a rectangular plan, measuring 60 x 90 m. At the four corners and in the middle of each wall there is a tower, except for the western wall which belongs to a second period of construction. The walls have a width of 1 m.
Between the sandstone and conglomerate in irregular shapes, pieces of brick and tile are inserted here and there. In some cases, there are also architectural fragments from the Byzantine period, such as parts of columns, bases and capitals used instead of ordinary stones.
Immediately after the conquest, the Ottomans appreciated the position of this fortress and placed a permanent garrison there. They carried out some complementary works, such as turning some floors of the towers into residential alcoves for the guards and building a mosque above the main entrance tower, works that were carried out before 1521.
Even in the c. XVII, Bashtova continued to be a garrison castle. After this period, the western wall that had collapsed as a result of the flooding of the Shkumbin River was rebuilt. Bashtova continued to play an important role as a trading port even after the Ottoman occupation.
The famous traveler Evlija Çelebiu, during his visit to Albania, wrote about the area in question that the natives were engaged in fishing and trading with turrets (foreigners, Latins, Europeans). From the middle of the century XVIII, Bashtova was a pier under the power of Mehmet Pasha Bushatlli, the ruler of the pashalak of Shkodra.
Later, the son, Kara Mahmut Pasha also fought for the removal of the Venetians from the grain trade in Bashtovo and Vlora, leaving it in the hands of the Ulcinacs. Venetian trade was limited by the price and quantity of grain that was set by the Albanians.
In order to give a bigger boost to trade and to increase income, while maintaining the privileges of local merchants, Kara Mahmuti declared Bashtova as a free port in the ports of Myzeqe, in addition to Durrës and Kavaja, in 1780. This decision shows that trade with foreigners was important for Bashtova as a pier and warehouse for the grain trade.
For several centuries, Bashtova Castle has played a leading role in the area as an important commercial center and port, a customs office where large revenues were generated, as well as a military construction with a defensive and controlling character.
This role continues even today, as the castle has the greatest potential as a tourist attraction, and is currently the most well-known and prominent of the area.
Restorative interventions, development and tourism promotion plans implemented thanks to the funds allocated by the EU4Culture project, coordinated by the UNOPS office in Albania, are providing great help for this purpose.