Berat is one of the oldest cities in Albania. Its genesis begins in the Castle, built in the IV century A.C. The archeological ruins date in the IV cent. A.C. Two stone hammers found in the remains, belonging to bronze époque, verify that in 2600- 2800 A.C, Berat was an inhabited center. Foreign authors such as Polibius and Titus Livus identified Berat as Antipatrea .
Referring to archeological remains found in the Castle and according to diverse authors , is supported the idea of the continuous city life from antic times to nowadays.
The proto urban period ( end of VII- V cent) is reflected in ceramics , imported in Korinth –Greece and Southern Italy.
At the end of the III d century A.C. , in some old manuscripts is encountered the antique name of Berat . The ancient name of the city is being an object of discussion of many authors, who often reply with each-other , but the majority converge that Antipatrea is the name of the old Berat .
The remains in ceramics and several archaeological elements ( IV- VI cent.) illustrate for the continuous life in this city. Metallic objects with iron are more rare compared with ceramics.
Reconstructions in the fortification system , the archeological remains, work tools , and Byzantine money , prove for a prosperity of the economic and cultural city life at that time.
During the Roman invasion , the city became more important , while in the same time other centers around became more weak. In year 533 is mentioned Pulheriopolis ( Berat) as a diocese center and also as an important religious point. This is proved by the Purple Codex of the VI century , one of the two exceptional objects in the whole world.
In the XIII cent. Berat had more quarters out of the Castle , this fact approves that the city expanded out of the Castle earlier.
In 1273 the catastrophic earthquake in Durres was the reason that many of its citizens settled in Berat ; Berat was chosen in priority by those populations ,because of its strong economy.
The medieval age is well-known for a variety and high techniques of constructions .By this time, the name “ Pulheriopolis “ is disappeared and during the Bulgarian invasion Berat is known as Belgrad (1018) ,. Berat had around 2.000 inhabitants at that time .
The city urban plan , especially its historic center , is studied by different authors . The medieval walls stand over those antics , with a perimeter of 1400 meters, and with 24 towers . The oldest are those of the IX- XI cent. and are built with mixed techniques ( walls with stones and bricks ) . The other buildings belong to Epirus Despotism , in XIII cent.
A water deposit dates in the XIII –XIV cent. as well as the feudal chamber in the castle.
The medieval urban development of Berat , continued in settling out of the Castle, in Varosh (a quarter out of the Castle walls) , that made possible water furniture of the Castle during the wars isolations .The wall construction techniques and their parameters , are treated comparing with other fortresses and their specifics. The towers height was becoming higher in the XIII century . This is evident in Mihal Komneni towers .
Also the fortification yard in the Castle is presented as a protected element. The Castle urbanization and the settlings in its suburbs , are described in historic documents in 1280 ( suburbia castri Bellogradi).
From the entirety of the medieval social constructions , cult objects , are the only one well- known through a variety of studies.
In the architecture of medieval cult buildings, are distinguished two main periods : the one from VII- XII cent. and the period of XIII-XV cent. Inside these two periods there’s a classification :
1. Churches with cross form plan
3. Churches with cupolas
Basilicas , were the most widespread of the Byzantine buildings , continued to be built during the XI- XII cent. Through that time churches with cupolas hadn’t been built in Albania, they had appeared in Costandinopol in the IX cent , and only in X-XI cent, began to be developed in Albania.
Saint Nicola Church in Perondi village- Berat , is the oldest one in Albania. It’s originally been a monastery of Saint Nicola in Pentarhondia, and the oldest sign of it is in 1399 : a list of objects taken from it ,as a gift for Teodor III of Muzakaj , the despot of Berat .
Other churches built in a cross form , have inside a cross from plan . They were first built in Costandinopol at the end of the IX cent. , gradually they were spread in other provinces .
Saint Maria Vlaherna church is the oldest one still existing in Berat city. Observing outside it, can be distinguished the oldest parts from the new ones, built with a specific technique. This makes possible the reading of the pre-existing form, inner cross plan, with cupola. This church has being recovered in the XVI cent. and in 1578 , painted by our painter Nicola, son of Onufri. We learn that from the script over its door. The below part of the wall is built with bricks put horizontally , characteristic of the wall constructions of the XIII-XIV cent. in Berat . This church might have being built in the XIII cent. where constructions were in their peak in Berat . Saint Trinity church , built closed to the second surroundings walls in the Castle, next to the despot and soldiers compartments, seems to have served only to them (XIII- XIV cent. )
Saint Michael church , built in a very sharp rocky area , in the south of the Castle, has the same architecture and construction techniques, but it evolutes using clausonage technique.
Religious tolerance and respect are typically for Berat .
In 1431 Berat had 450 houses in the fortified city and 216 in Varosh quarter , its citizens didn’t have the favors of the Castle inhabitants , who were released of taxes because of the fortress protection responsibility .
The creation of Berat Pashallek ( old Turkish administrative unit ) is achieved by Ismail Pasha Velabishti , inherited later by ambitious feudal Ahmet Kurt Pasha who rebuilt the Castle, and took a special attention to its buildings and fortifications.
The city fortification down from the Castle can be nowadays seen in the remains of old Varosh.
In religion buildings architecture are distinguished churches, mosques, tekes, medrese( Islamic schools ) and many Islam objects. Social buildings , water supply system, water reservoirs , etc are facts of a strong building power in that period .
City architecture , urban development, special character of the constructions, are a real treasure coming nowadays to us , with some transformations in time.
City development, houses and environments, traditional rooms , roads systems, sewerage and greeneries are part of this progress.
Legal protection of the cultural heritage is assured with normative acts . At the end of the XIX cent. in the Turkish administrate was ensured the protection of the cultural assets. The first normative act was the inner regulatory dating in 1.05. 1889 “ For the regulatory plan of the royal museum “ . According to the laws of this regulatory plan, “the royal museum aims to find and protect all old buildings and monuments, to expose them in the museum and to publish them… “ .
With the independence proclamation , the first law for the cultural assets was in 1922 .
At the end of the First World War , France and Italy were the first who made the agreements for archeological tours in Albania.
After the Second World War , all the agreements regarding concessions were cancelled and in 1955 was approved the law for the “ protection of the cultural monuments” . The Albanian government declared Berat “ a museum city “ in 1961 , together with Gjirokastra, old Bazaar in Kruja and old town in Durres.
Later, museum cities had their inner regulatory laws.
Cultural monuments are specified in types:
Historic monuments ( places and buildings related with important historic events) , houses, ancient settlements, fortified constructions ( towers ) , engineering structures, cult objects, etc.
In 1971 was announced a regulatory “ for the administration of Berat city “ . The city is split in two parts, historic center and free zone. Historic center is divided into museum zone and protected zone.
Museum zones are the most precious parts of the museum cities, and are protected as monumental complexes and urban-architectonic structures . It’s prohibited to build new constructions in these areas. In protected zones, in special cases, it’s allowed to have new administrative and social-cultural buildings, but they must be in harmony with the whole area. In free zones is allowed to have adaptations in buildings, but under some conditions :
1- To be in unison with the general characteristics of the museum city
2- To respect the characteristics of the constructions in the museum city
Today we have prepared the new regulatory plan of the historic center , improving it regarding the heritage assets. Also it’s ready the zoning of the historic center .
Wood objects , are very spread in Berat , especially in religious buildings and house environments , that show for an organized developed style , and making Berat well- known for wood works.
Berat region has 117 monuments of the first category and 460 of the second one , including churches, mosques, buildings, bridges, castles, etc.
The first institution ,responsible for the cultural monuments restoration was the University of Tirana, while currently is Cultural Monuments Institute with its branches in the cities. The restoration criterias are based in international restoration cards and restoration regulatory plan.
Specialized groups prepare the graphic documents and all the monuments photos , and make the proposal to the government. Restorations are strictly done due to the specific procedures, based on the documentation detailed study , historic description , construction techniques, materials etc. After all these preparations , is designed the restoration project , that is discussed in the restoration scientific council leaded by the Minister of Culture. Restorations are gradually objects of scientific consults .
The main criteria of the restorations is the protection of the based material , often recuperating it , the material is changed only when the elements are seriously damaged and can’t assure the monument endurance , and this is done with the same material or in rare cases with a similar one. Thus , restorations are done by traditional materials used by earlier constructors . In the second category the treatment is the same for the outside parts of the monuments, or any valued element , while in the inner parts, the treatment can use even contemporary elements, in order to improve the living conditions.
From the observations in different monuments is noticed that for the foundations are used big stones placed in strong basement , while in rocky places , are used ordinary shape stones. Walls are built with the same technique , every 60 cm is used wood to link the wall and to protect it by earthquakes .
The earthquake of the year 1851 destroyed many buildings and a lot of them needed to be recovered , it made necessary new reconstructions in the walls, roofs, etc. At that time wood was massively used creating a new physiognomy of the buildings volumes , with a bigger surface and decorative views with many windows.
Restorations in art elements are done by specialized sectors in restorations laboratories In cult objects, every restoration in walls or cupolas goes along with frescos recovery .The interventions in these cases are combined between architecture and art sectors.
In special cases is needed the removal of the damage picture surface and the replacement after the support consolidation.
Generally the frescos are damaged because of the humidity inside the wood.
Berat has a variety architectonic and urban assets -a real unique treasure that deserves to be part of the world cultural heritage list.