Berat city favored by its geographic position and the bounty of the surrounding areas, developed a continuous civil life, from its foundation ( cent. IV- III ) until nowadays. Berat was a diocese center under the domination of head bishopric centers of Durres and Ohrid, in the XVII century wins its independence, having direct relations with Istambul Patriarcane. “ The holy Metropolis “ of Berat became an important center of production and protection of the Byzantine painting assets. Nowadays these assets are important treasures of the national culture.
Some architecture elements form the Byzantine period are still existing; the most famous are the Codexs protected in the National Library, Codex Purpureus Beratinus ( Purple codex- cent. VI) and Codex Arueus Anthimi ( golden codex cent. IX), the Ephitaph of Gllavenica ( cent XIII ) and the paleolog period paintings of Holy Trinity Church ( cent. XIV) illustrate for the city importance and its artistic-cultural qualities. These assets, miniatures of codexs, anonym paintings in XIV century churches, had an impact to the post Byzantine painters of the XVI century, who represented specific art schools and a unique development, realizing important art works .
Berat city lied in the suburbs of the Osman imperially, in its far borders, where the power of the center was weak . The distance from the metropolis made possible a certain freedom from the central governance pressure and assured contacts between province artists . Their creations, though traditionally followed the Byzantine iconography programs, however presented a mixture of different models: from Crete, Macedonia, western influences, ethno local models, etc.
Despite a number of anonymous artists , in the XIV century are identified some outstanding masters of the Albanian art history. Onufri is the most significant of the post-Byzantine painters in Albanian areas and further. He was an excellent artist who had religious functions at the same time. His creation’s geography included a big territory in Balcan: Central Albania, North Greece, West Macedonia, and Rumania. He painted frescos in Apostol and Anargyes ( 1547) in Kostur, in Saint Nicolas Church in Shelcan, in Valesh etc. He also had the attributes in Saint Nicola church in Zerce and Prilep and in the Moldavica Monastery in Moldavia ( 1537) .
He had an important part of his works in Berat, represented by some fragmented frescos in Saint Theodore ( 1547) and the icons of the iconostas in “ Evangelism “ church in the Castle and also in the “ The sleeping of Saint Maria “ Cathedral . Onufri’s art is well- known for the protection of the Byzantine tradition and in opposition to any kind of heretic ideas, for the high techniques of painting, elegant designing and attractive colors .
Though the discussions for his origin still go on, we will refer to the argument that the other artist Nicola was formed as an important artist in his father’s studio- Onufri’s . As his father, he inherited the same style and the same models .Despite in Kurjan and Arbanas –Bulgaria , he painted together with another master called Joan. His art was developed in Berat , where he painted in “ Saint Vlaherna “ church , its frescos, iconostas and icons.
Onufri Qiprioti , is the third great master related with painting art in Berat churches. He realized frescos and icons in Saint Nicola church ( 1591) , “ Saint Costandine and Helen “ church , and several others where he wrote his name by himself. It’s found that “ Royal Doors “ iconostas of “ Saint Maria Vlaherna “ church , belongs to his art.
In the saint metropolis of Berat territory , a number of masters have exercised their art in the period between XVI- XIX centuries. We can mention Costandine and Athanas Zografi ( XVIII cent) who realized the frescos of “ Saint Nicola “ -Ardenica and other icons. These paintings had a great influence to Cetiri Family masters, who worked in their private studio. Another master of the XVIII century , Costandine Shpataraku , realized the iconostas and the icons in “ Saint Nicola “ church in Ardenica , he expressed himself as an excellent miniature master.
In the period of time between XVII-XIX cent. appears the Cetiri Family studio. These artists realized the painting of various churches and iconostases in Berat and Myzeqe. They painted in the same studio together , inheriting their art to future generations. Masters of this family have been Gjergji and Joan, Naun and Nikolla . The latest form the family are Gjergji and Prendi. After that period of time the iconography art degenerated into artisan works done by anonyms.