Rome July 1958
HISTORICAL ALBANIAN NOTES
MIRDITA AND ITS PRINCE
TO HIS HOLINESS JOHN XXIII
Written by Albanian writer Nikoll Kimeza
For the people oppressed by communism it brought in them a harsh breach pertaining to all human directives, be it moral, material and cultural. It gave man a new direction, it removed him from everything that was true, real and happy and has directed him toward the false, toward the incredible imagined conjecture of happiness or better yet, nothing. It gave him that which destroys his character and affords him reason, freedom, and to be his own master and a member of society. No longer the story that was, no longer the school that was, no more religion and God, who are all past superstitions, sacred and profane and disappointing; the only Marxist system has found the key which opens a door to happy perspectives of the life that man had lost. Based on these illusions the Communists in Albania and elsewhere have based their idea, have destroyed or dispersed all books, libraries, archives and all documents prior to the advent of these modern vandalisms.
From this vandalism was born the compulsion to salvage the unsalvageable. For this purpose, to not eternally lose the reputation, value, longevity and the works of my people and their dynasty, as well as to reveal who were the protectors and benefactors of these works and of all the Albanian people, I began to make notes of historical periods concerning these issues, convinced that they can also be very useful to scholars and researchers in the future.
Northern Albania remained largely a Catholic majority until the 16th century, and later, thus always on Catholic footing like the pivot around which all the popes revolved, as well as all the Western States. Whenever they had the opportunity to make arrangements with the Albanians, it was always with the Catholic constituents that they held negotiations. And so, in all eras, the thoughtful merit of Popes shine brightly in the history of Albania, no one could devise a better and more appropriate subject to dedicate these memories to if not the Supreme Catholic Blessed John XXIII, blissfully reigning, a shining symbol who himself adequately mirrors all his Roman Papal predecessors who were benign and giving benefactors of the Albanian people, always and even today, under the troubled inhumane pressure of the beastly communism.
To look today at the Episcopal Residences and Parishes; at the Pontifical College; the Jesuit houses; the Convents of the Franciscans and the Sisters who were expelled; the Church Parishes turned into conference halls where there is no cross or images, when you see all these sacred places used as government offices or worse, sacrilegious dwellings, is a revolting and frightful sight.
Those who previously knew these institutions and sees them after the destruction regrets at having seen this last image where there is so much inhumane ruin created by the Communists, who with fake pride proclaim progress, freedom and equality, while the world is totally nauseated and deafened by the untouched echo of their cruelty and their misdeeds which suffocate all their false cheers. These are not made up and insensitive facts, but everything seen and witnessed by myself.
THE POPES AND ALBANIA
There is knowledge of more than ten Chief Pontiffs who at various times took interest in the Albanian people and benefitted them with special and beneficial works. Who on many occasions found themselves dealing with limited problems, difficult choices, or faced by overwhelming pressures, as happened at the end of the 15th century, and in the beginning of the 16th, during the Ottoman invasion and the havoc caused by it which will erase it for centuries. Even after the invasion, when it may not have been possible to prevent the stream of anguish, the careful considerations of the Popes were still received, they calmed and created a sense of security for those remaining faithful; because it left in them the feeling that regardless of everything there were still merciful and illustrious individuals in the world intent on drying their tears and heal their wounds.
One example was sufficient to show them the thoughtfulness that the Popes had in regards to the Albanian people. During the five shining wars of Skanderbeg, five Chief Pontiffs, Eugenio VI and all intermediates, until Paul II included, without any interruption, corresponded to frequent requests from the national hero Kastriota. These illustrious figures, without any interest, corresponded with all means in their power, material and moral, and so much so was their concern that in 1464 Pontiff Pio II led the allied forces, gathered by himself, to personally give the much deserved crown to Kastriota, King of Albania, and to entrust him with supreme command in the offensive planned by the Pope and the allies against the barbaric and rampant arrogance of the Ottomans.
Already for a long time the Byzantine Empire was rendered a fruitless tree and did not produce any more worthy Christian fruits, therefore for it the time had come, according to God’s judgment, to prove Christ in the parable of the evangelical fig tree: "It has to be crushed, it has to be punished" and in the Roman phrase: "Delenda Cartago" , “Charthage must be destroyed, the Eastern Empire”; therefore all human precautions were ineffective and in vain trying to sidestep the decreed judgment. And in fact Pope Pio II, with the allies in the defense of Skanderbeg, arrived at Ancona, where the Pontiff suddenly took ill and died. Following his death the crusade against the Sultan went awry and Skanderbeg remained alone to struggle against the Turks.
The hesitant allies with all their great preparations, horrified only by the echo of the Ottoman , abandoned the struggle, disbanded and withdrew. Skanderbeg remained in combat as always, with his people and with the natural death of this hero on 17 January 1467, eclipsed a long era of heroism which rose in the silence for centuries; the upheaval of the diverted East dragged and shook the heroic Albanian people.
Only the Popes recognized the true value of the victorious wars of Skanderbeg, who with his people for twenty-four years fought the largest and most barbarian power of the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire. From the intuitive knowledge that the Chief Pontiffs had of the Albanian hero he was deemed worthy of being beckoned with the noble expression: "Gideon of Christianity.” The Albanian people who’s heroism was proved over long periods of time, was more cruelly crushed by the barbarians than any other Balkan population. And unfortunately, in recent times, even a ruthless Europe was as atrocious and cruel by splitting this people among the Slavs and Greeks, who continuously marketed them as slaves, selling them in Turkey in order to retain the Albanian lands given to them by Europe as their severance payment for the Balkan war, for which the Albanian people was never a debtor.
This people so vilified by the barbarian tyranny of the invader, had begun in recent times to live a free life, very peaceful and progressive, when suddenly new woes befell on them again, no less violent or cruel of those in prior centuries, indeed more vicious and evil in nature. And so, as in eras gone by, this people turned expectantly to the Holy Apostolic See, center of mercy and peace, always supportive and ready to console their cries and heal their wounds of human suffering, sure of their fate if the opportune moment would present itself.
I, however, in this extended paper limit myself to exhibiting only some notes of a fraction of current Catholics in Albania, progenies of the still living and worthy heirs of her glorious heroes of the 15th century. From the diminished barbarian Ottomans, never conquered, always persecuted and never succumbing, and from this offering to Your Holiness is a brief comparison, since it’s only existence is full of relevant merits, worthy of being recognized and acknowledged, and I am sure that such a sight will be well received with the full knowledge of some notes expressed in it.
This fraction for five centuries, wrecked at the will of its unstable fate and value, defended itself heroically and emerged victorious over the adverse fate, always keeping the banner of the ancient and genuine Albanian nationalism elevated, as well as the sacred banner of the ancestral Catholic Christian faith. However, as close as she was to the West and the center of Catholicism, she was almost completely unknown and equally unkempt and maltreated.
To guess the value of these assertions, we need a brief historical reference of the element and meaning of the two terms: Mirdita and her Prince, and the clarification of these terms will establish my assertion.
THE MIDDLE EAST AND ALBANIA
Among the multitude of peoples of the East, as well as the nearby Balkan peninsula, following the fall of Constantinople and the Ottoman expansion after the sudden death of Skanderbeg, which are the facts that split up in large part the unit of the Catholic Church; Northern Albania; Ohrid and Durazzo, where a large northern majority remained Catholic until the end of the 17th century. It should be noted, in rightful praise of the Catholic Albania of the North, both when it was at the height of its integrity and when it was hindered and reduced, that it remained always faithful and unchanging to the decision of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325. The Council established the Illyrian Superior, today Northern Albania, to the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of the West that was and is the Roman Pontiff, and always kept from that time, the pure and always unalterable Latin Rite throughout the Liturgy, as in the Holy Roman Apostolic Seat, while the people around them vacillated then as now, even though conscious that they are in error.
The great defeat that Turkey received at the time of Prince Eugene of Savoy in the two wars of 1638 and 1697, had disastrous repercussions in Albania, where Catholics were still numerous and their aims were still pointed towards the West.
Turkey, in order to avoid new complications within its empire, made a fierce raid against Catholics of Northern Albania, and in this many areas succumbed to the Muslim religion, such as Matia, Dibra, Luma, Hasi, Krasniqia, etc., but they did not raid Mirdita as much, knowing their inflexibility, having come to various agreements with them some seventy years prior, as we will later explain.
In such a way Albanian Catholicism was reduced to a very extreme minority opposite such a preponderant majority, that it deviated from truth and bowed to error and consciousness of itself, the absconder of the North still precedes in false manner. Although much smaller in number, the Albanian Catholics will always be proud of not being removed from the truth, despite having had the same fate of the first who surrendered.
MIRDITA, DUKAGJINI, KANUNI
We come to the direct element of our theme, whose first phrase is Mirdita, which, at the limit between the West, the Adriatic Sea and the tide of Balkan peoples that deviated from unity, or totally distanced themselves from the true faith, which in the vast desert oasis remained constant and unmoving until the present, was always Catholic in her faith of Christ and in the Union with her Vicar. This fraction of Albania, the Albanologists date it back to one of the Illyrian tribes, which in spite of various variable centuries, preserved her name instinctively, her particular character, her fierce and distinct homogenity and in isolated times prior to the present, her primitive name was Mardi, and from 9th century forward is known with the name: Mirditi and Mirdita.
These people have typical characteristics, not common to other tribes; they are intelligent, brave, serious, cautious, hospitable and for the heterogeneous is decentric, that is to say that it does not allow foreigners to live within; from this derives the fact that it preserved and sustained the blood, language and purely national customs and did not allow them to merge with any other race which was not Albanian.
Mirdita as a component is the residual of the numerous people that composed the Principality of Dukagini. This number is expressed by the document that we will cite, which relates that in 1590 Mirdita could place twelve thousand fighters in the encampments. This meant that said Principality, when it was on the move, called all her people who later were diminished by the wars of hundred plus years and by their secretive return to early abodes of Kosovo, from where, because of persecution, they had retreated.
If no other topic existed, this alone would suffice to prove that the Ducagjini lineage originated from this people and the same exists in the Gjomarkaj family, who according to the rugged and fickle events, changed surname and remaining always the same afterwards.
You cannot at all admit that a people so long-lived and so homogenous did not have in its center a leader of its own likeness. To think otherwise would be an anachronism of the history and against common sense practical of all Albanian tribes. Meanwhile, a fact remains true and that is to say that, against all the alternatives and symbols of the centuries, Mirdita held its center, which flocked to her Queen, always protecting and defending in war and peace the noble Prince, once Ducagjini, later Gjon-Marku. This fact confirms what has already been said, knowing well the nobility of Mirdita, the longevity and exploits of her Prince. This will be made more clear further on.
The Principality of Ducagjini emerged towards the end of the 12th century in Albanian history. The Principality was bordered to the North with Serbia and ended at the Adriatic Sea with residences in the town of Prizren and Pristhtina. It was the most extensive of the principalities of that time and lasted until the 16th century. It was constantly plaguered by the Serbs and Bulgarians, but they could never bring it down.
There are various personalities of this legacy called Lek Dukagjini, but which of these formed the civil, criminal, administrative and military codes, which in Albania is called "Kanuni is Lekes" and "Kanuni I Leke Dukagjinit”, history has yet not been able to determine.
The laws of this code are very widespread and strictly maintained in northern Albania in preference to any other law. This is very comprehensive, providing for all human acts, for everyone determining concisevely the establishment of the rights of the Church to possess and use common property, determines the rights and privileges of the clergy according to the different degrees of each category. It is a compendium of Ius Romanum, or rather the synthesis of Corpus Juris of the Emperor Justinian I, Illyricum of Ocrida, one of many Emperors that the Illyric gave to Rome along with four Popes.
This code existed only in the oral tradition and it was the Rev. Father Stefano Gjecov (1874-1929) a Franciscan who collected from the Mirditi people all the paragraphs and articles and printed them. The Gjomarkaj family was called by the people "Reza and Kanus" (Base or Core of the Code).
From the attribution "Reza e Kans" that the people always attribute to the progenies of Gjon-Marku, one can suggest that they result as the legitimate off-springs and the natural heirs of Ducagjini, original author of the Kanun, being historically proven that this Kanun existed long before Gjon-Marku, as indicated by the same name "Kanun i Dukagjinit Leke". The progenies of Lek Dukagjini with his valiant Mirdita, fought for 24 years alongside the Gideon of Christianity, George Kastriota, and with him formed the immortal era of the Albanian people of the 15th century.
Of eleven royal families existing at the time of Skanderbeg, the only dynasty of the Dukagjini distinctively exists in the Gjomarkaj family, direct genealogical line descended from the famous Paul Dukagjini, contemporary of Skanderbeg. Hence the lineage of Dukagjini arrived to surpass two distant eras in its life: the glorious 15th century and the 20th century, the era of the infamous communism, which brought endless trouble and misfortune to mankind, including the heroic people of Mirdite and her Prince Gjomarkaj.
Following the entire occupation of Albania by the Turks in the year 1495, the surname Dukagjini, became too unpopular to the invaders and to not raise new grounds for violence was taken out of use and shortly after, among the Mirditi, a Prince with the surname Gjon-Marku was created, hence Gjomarkaj. What other lineage became Prince among the Mirditi so soon, that didn’t already exist but only changed the name Dukagjini to Gjon-Marku? One should pay attention to what the document of 1550 says, or according to others of 1590. The second date is more probable and coincides with the third generation of Paul Dukagjini. The document is very long, describes many places of Albania, but "ex-professed" talks of the expansion and of numerous people of Mirdita which could encamp 10,000 fighters and confirms that Mirdita had as its leader Prince Gjon-Marku. The document is written in Latin.
Gjon Marku also had other brothers that formed the close relationships that exists even today with Markolaj, but Gjon-Marku being the firstborn inherited the right to be the founder of the family and to have the title of the family, as they still use in Albania. It is true that some branch of Dukagjini became muslim, like Muhammad Dukagjini, which Turkish history reports as a reknown poet; but it is also true that another branch of this lineage lived and died Catholic in Zeimeni and having no male off-springs, with holograph testament, left his house and large estates that he had in Bragamtia, to the Church of St. Nicholas of Zeimeni. He died in 1648 and appointed Geg Kol Lek Dukagjini. I am writing this as I have seen and read this Testament.
Hasi, homeland of Peter Bokiani, who was Archbishop of Scopia and died in Prishtina the year 1689, is a large district and due to the witness of said Bokiani, was part of the Dukagjini Principality. Even today in the locality of Va Spas, to the right of the Drin River, are the ruins of one of the castles of Dukagjini, called by the people "Kalaj of Lek Dukagjinit", the castle of Lek Dukagjini. In this district there is a range of mountains whose slopes go down to the town of Prizren, it is called Bishtrik. In the summer the surrounding villages would send to these mountain their cattle for grazing and paid the family Dukagjini a small fee each; when the Dukajinii Principality was dismantled they paid the family Gjon-Marku. This tradition continued up to the year 1700, when they became Muslims and stopped paying. This verbal tradition still exists today and it was openly confessed to me to confirm that Gjon-Marku descended from the lineage of Dukagjini. I am firm on this issue and have not overly blown it because of the religious antagonism that, in spite of centuries of darkness, buried endless adverse facts. The theme in this dialogue did not manage to demolish but rather perpetuated the Dukagjini Dynasty, the lineage of Gjon-Marku or Gjomarkaj.
THE BENEDICTINE CONVENTS
In the territories of Mirdite, before the Ottoman occupation, there were 5 convents founded by Benedictines, still existing in the memories of these people, name and veneration of Saint Benedict and the inscriptions which were found in the rubble are in the Latin language.
The first convent, of foundation and of magnitude, was located on a hill at 1300 meters above sea level, today called "Mali I Shejte" (The Holy Mountain) and was joined in front by a vast plateau of 600 hectares.
The second convent, at 5 km. from the first, was on a little Hill, in a central place where the Mirditesi with their Prince conducted business meetings: it was always called Convent. S. Paolo ("Kuvedi i Sh'Palit").
The third was in Nderfana, 3 km. from the second and of minimal importance and little fame.
The fourth in Robigo (Rrubik) at 5 km. from the third, located above a cliff of the river Fani, named after S. Salvatore. In the apse of the little old church there are paintings and a date of 1252 in Latin characters. There the Franciscans have a Church and a Convent.
The fifth convent, about 3 km. from the fourth is located above a sprawling mountain at 650 m. tall, it is called Bokiani. It has a magnificent view of the sea and the plain between Alessio and Krujë. It had large possessions in the plain below and in the surrounding extended mountains. This convent was maintained by the Franciscans and was destroyed a second time in the year 1820, and later abandoned and left in disrepair.
These convents were destroyed in the beginning of the rushing invasion. From the destruction of the first convent an artistic Silver Cross was saved, it was a meter long, and had the following inscription: "1447 of 7 August this cross was made by under Paul Dukagjin in the time of Father Sigeli Piro Ducha, Adamovici feci". This cross perished in a random fire which destroyed the Church of Oroshi in 1896, and but for a miracle the relic donated by Urbano VIII remained unscathed.
A very artistic silver cross, in shape and size almost identical to the one referenced above was donated by the family Gjomarkaj to Bishop Mons. Nicolo Malci Skurai, Bishop of Alessio, and exists in the parish of Velia, at that time the residence of the Bishop with the same namesake. The cross has the date 1809.
From the remains relinquished after the fire, Mons. Primo Dochi, first Abatiae Nullius, created a box shaped like an arc which he named : "Arka e Shejtit (Holy Ark).” An artificial device in filigree operated by two experts from Scutari, with the grooves so well marbled, mottled in silver and gold which complexity so excited visitors who were in full admiration. The materials and labor cost was seven thousand gold francs as reported by the Abbot. The Communists stripped this relic of all that was gold and silver.
The two priests who had within their parochial borders the first and second convent, held the title Abaziale until the time of the First Albanian Council, held in Merchinie the year 1703. Then Pope Clement XI removed the title Abaziale from the parish priest of St. Paul, leaving it to the only parish priest of Oroshi who had in its borders the first convent of Sant'Alessandro and so it remained, until Pope Leo XIII in the year 1889 raised Mirdita to Dioces Abatie Nullius.
All of Mirdita, from the Turkish invasion until 1889, was incorporated under the jurisdiction of the Bishops of Alessio; before then some of the regions were with Prizren.
EVENTS OF TURKEY WITH MIRDITA
The people of Mirdita gathered around Prince Gjon Marku, its political and religious chief, who for quite a long time gave the Ottoman invader ample opportunity, who, mindful of the loss suffered in the battle of Lepanto in 1571 induced more legends and to prevent major disastrous consequences in the year 1633 created an IRADE (Decree of Amnesty) for Mirdita. It ordered the provincial Government of Shkodra to convey the Irade to Prince Gjon-Marku: “According to this decree, it prohibited all persecution and pursuit contrary to the peace of its people, who in the future are free to settle where they are, and acknowledged Gjon-Marku as the chief and direct judge of its people according to their national laws of the Kanun", and other more minor concessions.
From this period the surname Gjon Marku, whereas Gjomarkaj, was made known and remained unalterable forever between the Mirditesi people and so there exists until today this authoritative family. The Act of Sultan IV brought to the Mirditi people an era of peace and rest, a restructuring of families, and a solidarity from the fractions of the tribe which had been dispersed from long persecutions of barbarian invaders.
These lenient measures adopted by Sultan Amura with the Mirditi gave considerable encouragement to all the tribes of Northern Albania, and especially to those who were nearby the Mirditi, which were far from the persecution that engulfed the beginning of the 18th century, above referred to, and even these tribes who remained Catholic gradually gained favorable concessions similar to those of Mirdita.
The authority granted by the Sultan to Gjon Marku on the people of Mirdita, and the jurisdiction of judging the causes of this people according to the national laws of the Kanun, did nothing but confirm and ratify two elements already existing but not recognized and valid until then by Turkey.
Austria, with the treaties concluded with the Turks at Karlowitz in 1692, Passarowitz in 1718 and in Belgrade in 1739, had ensured the protection of the rights of Albanian Catholics. These rights were also accepted by the Pope with the Treaty of 1855. In 1878, at the Congress of Berlin, representatives of France (who traditionally protected Mirdita in the previous century) and Austria asked and gained the insertion for Turkish insurance in the memorandum which would preserve the autonomy that the Mirditi enjoyed.
HIMIRA E MIRDITA
Admirable and imperishable are in Albanian history the tenacious perseverance and the long struggles held by Himariotti to defend their Catholic faith at the end of the sixteenth century, as is clear from correspondence that they held with Supreme Popes Gregory XIII, Clement VIII and Urban VIII, but in the end faded in the Greek split.
They lacked a stronghold, lacked a leader to precede them and direct them in the maneuvers of the struggles, while the Mirditi had their Prince Gjomarkaj; yet as people they have value, bravery and quality like the Mirditi.
EXCLUSIVITY AND DIFFUSION OF MIRDITA
The Mirditi never mixed with the Slavs and Turks and never allowed Slavic or Turkish families to ever settle in their territory or any other heterogeneous elements to coexist with them. In this way they always inherited blood, language, and moral fiber, uncorrupt and entirely Albanian National customs.
The territories of present-day Mirdita, like that of present-day Dukagjini, were strategic positions chosen over many centuries where fortification was made impenetrable due to circumstance involving barbarian raids, which in Albania were too frequent. Their dwellings were in different areas of Kosovo, and still recall the places where they lived before the Turkish invasion: the first in the District of Prishtina (Fush and Lipianit – plain of Ulpiana) and "Guri i Shpue" (Pierced Rock), and 2nd in Peja: district Rrafshi i Dukagjinit "" (Plain of Dukagjini). Also during the Turkish domination they wanted to settle in their zones and several have been reinstated; and therein lies the reason for the increase in Catholicism of Mirdita in Kosovo, territory now occupied by Yugoslavia.
The Mirditi have always hindered the establishment of Muslims in their territory composed of only three flags: Oroshi, Spaci and Kushneni. But the Gjomarkajs dreamed of forming a block of tribes and flag purely Christian. In the first quarter of the previous century they would amass the flag of Dibrri, from the Visir of Shkodër, as before they had amassed the ones from Fandi, now of Prizreni.
The Gjomarkajs were so able to create the five flags of Federation of Mirdita. But Gjomarkaj couldn't remain indifferent to other Catholic populations suffering under Muslim domination. And so they intervened against the Bed of Matia, in the beginning of the last century. In the battle "Te Guret me Krene" (Rocks of the Chiefs) they won against the Matia pulling away for the last time the three flags of Kethella: Kethella, Rranxa and Selita and aggregated them to the five flags of Mirdita. "Malsija e Lezhes" (Mountain D'Alessio) composed of four flags are constantly flanked to Mirdita, despite the efforts of the Turkish Government to keep them connected with the city of Alessio where the Muslims dominate. And so the Gjomarkaj family, through centuries of Turkish domination, managed to form the largest Catholic block in Albania, assembling in 12 flags a population of more than 40,000 inhabitants. But the Gjomarkaj family's influence stretched beyond that is on the seven flags of Puka and on 7 flags of Dukagjini. In 1878, we see only the 26 United flags under the command of Preng Bib Doda, head of the Albanian army, against Montenegro. The Gjomarkajs have always tried to draw to itself Kurbini, predominantly Christian, alienating her from Malsija and Krues, predominantly Muslim.
Of all this widespread element of Mirdita of Northern Albania, the mire is always at its center of origin, where the extinct progeny of Ducagjini excels again in the Princely Gjomarkaj Dynasty.
HISTORICAL FACTS OF THE GJOMARKAJ FAMILY IN OUR ERA
The conduct, actions and the historical facts carried out by this people with her Prince in long cycles of generations from 1550-1590 dates from when the name Gjon-Marku is made known, are many and different, and many recorded in Turkish and Albanian; I noticed a short few in this information, some of which were carried out in our times, and will now briefly mention.
In 1878 in the town of Prizren, where the name of the National Union Albanse "the League of Prizren" took place, a congress was held to form a common project to liberate the nation from the Ottoman hold. The unanimous consent of Congress elected Preng Bib Doda Gjomarkaj a young 24 year old, as head representative to lead the people and the military in the purpose of the meeting, since he knew very well the merits of the Gjomarkaj Family.
Another General Congress gathered in the town of Scopia in 1912, to deliberate on the autonomy of Albania, and among all the proposals submitted, the Congress chose the eight page memorandum drafted and presentd by Marka Gjon Gjomarkaj, and unchanged it was signed and sent to the great European powers.
The decisions of the League of Prizren were immediately intercepted by Turkey, calling to Constantinople in 1883 Preng Bib Doda Gjomarkaj and Hodo Begu of Shkodër. The former was deported to Anatolia, where he remained exiled for thirty years and the second was drowned in the sea before reaching Constantinople. Oroshi, capital of Mirdita, was burnt down.
The Congress of Scopia became ineffective and voided by Russia, which saw the future near collapse of Turkey in the Balkans and Albania at the doors of its independence. To extend its influence towards the Adriatic it urged and incited the Balkan States to attack Turkey, which was already falling, and won in 1913.
The victors of the war divided the spoils which consisted of land and Albanian people, where they came out of one form of slavery under one barbarian and fell into another form of slavery under different barbarians, worse than the first.
In 1479 the Turks took Shkodër and in it endless destruction ruined the Church of the Virgin Mary of Good Counsel that was situated between the fortress and the city of the time, where years before the image had disappeared and with two Scutarinis miraculously arrived in Genazzano on April 26, 1467: 98 days after the death of the Albanian Hero Giorgio Kastriota Skanderbeg.
Three facades of the wall of the Church were demolished by the barbarians, and the front of the altar where the space of the detached image was had remained almost intact, with the dry walls exposed as well as the niche, always remained unharmed, so that the rains, the freezes and weather of four centuries were unable to remove even one brick. Such admirable conservation of objects purely material proved to only signify that the power of the protecting Madonna still exists in Albania. In these sacred walls, in over four centuries, the Turks never permitted the Mass to be celebrated by the people.
In the course of many centuries Muslims from Shkoder attempted many times to take material from the ruins of the Church to build houses and shops, but the Virgin defended the stones, inflicting the violators of the sacred walls with miraculous punishment. There are cited examples in the book documented in 1947.
On April 26, 1889 Marka Gjon Gjomarkaj with 500 well armed Mirditesi, together with the first Abbot Bishop Primo Doci, went to the sacred walls with fearless daring to celebrate the Holy mass of the Madonna del Buon after four centuries, and continuing the event for the people onward, always on April 26. After a few years a new church was built on the ancient foundation.
The perpetual duration of the unmovable impression of the Madonna was the seal that was always kept alive in the memory of the people, it was a treasure that exemplified tradition.
These persuasive arguments were the motivation of the reconstruction of the new Church on the ancient foundations and in the same style, and the Archbishop of Shkodra Mons. Giacomo Serrecci, with the help of the Catholic people completed it, but the reconstruction destroyed the quadrilateral space from where the image was removed.
The collection and comparison of Vatican documents, of Genazzano and of Albania, came to form the historical certainty that the effigy of the Madonna del Buon Consiglio fled from Shkodra and was deposed in Genazzano. Hence the disappearance of the wall that existed in the ancient Church does not cause any detriment to the historical reality which is today clearly ascertained.
Therefore, for many centuries you can rely on two facts: the tradition among the people and the niche in the wall which now proves and will in the future only one real and everlasting fact; the image of the Madonna del Buon Consiglio, which can now be seen and admired in Genazzano, was painted after the reconstruction of the old church which was built on the old foundations and in the same appearance.
On April 25, 1890, with the same boldness and preparations, Marka Gjon Gjomarkaj, open the way for the clergy and the people in the Church of San Marco Vau-Deis, prohibited by the Turks in 1478. As a result of these actions and tests of courage Marka Gjon Gjomarkaj was exiled to Mosul in 1897.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Everything written here is sufficient to indicate the influence, protection and defense contributed to the Catholic Faith, and equally to all of the Albanian cause by the religious political centre of Gjomarkaj, who, surrounded on all sides, a small islet in a vast sea, by an opponent incessantly alert and cruel, who for many centuries preceded and directed its valiant people, never succumbed to the overpowering Asian.
This Center and its people have been targeted and made the subject of special cruelty by modern vandals, the Soviet-Albanian communists.
1957 marks the the 490th anniversary of two bitter and sorrowful events for the Albanian people; the death of Giorgio Kastriota Skanderbeg, which occurred on January 17, 1467, and flight from Shkodra of the Madonna del Buon Consiglio, on April 26 of the same year. Loss of two bright stars which announced the sunset of the Epic and the arrival of slavery to the heroic Albanian people.
Given also her slow fading away to which the selfishness of Europe has propelled her, the story will never cease from narrating the ancient and noble deeds performed in the course of 40 centuries by these people.
Those who have the good sense and judgment, free from illusions and nebulous fantasies, remain in full understanding that the ruin and the demise brought to many peoples in the form of material and moral authority of Catholicism from Paganism of our days, has unfortunately contributed serious and troublesome problems for the Holy Apostolic See.
Among these is also that of neighboring Albania which in size and inferior identity will surely be very liable to compensation for getting back to normal.
However, at the forefront of the Albanian people and clergy, led and energized by the many benevolent examples of Holy Pontiffs in past times, full of self-confidence, are still awaiting your Holiness, Highest Hierarch of the Apostolic See, the kind consideration of a resurgence for a new life. They are waiting for this Paternal consideration, especially the Mirditi which constitute the Abatia Nullius, which I submit as the pivot around which all this information revolved, perhaps somewhat verbose, but which demanded the recognition of a people and its Prince long-lived across six centuries between endless variations of dark events, with two elements always: homogenous and solid, antiquity and catholicism, certainly unique in Balkan history.
The notes expressed in this dossier are taken from different stories and traditions, and if by chance some expert finds errors in them or will recount them more clearly and thoroughly, I would be very grateful and will always regard them as a sincere friend, because I seek the truth and to remove the veil that covered the long centuries and the sinister events that affected these people once Illyrian and then Albanian.
Don Nikole Kimeza
Rome, July 1958
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