The Castle of Lezha, built on a hill from which you can see beautiful sights of the Drin River, the city of Lezha and the Adriatic Sea, is one of the most interesting cultural and historical monuments of the country. The history of the castle remains inseparable from the city which it observes from its heights. There, traces of Illyrian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman architecture merge to testify to the ancient civilization of this area. So much has happened here that locals often recount the history of Lezha nostalgically, fearful that tomorrow yet another part of its rich history may be forgotten. It is the castle’s persistence that helps preserve it.
The secrets of Lissus, as Lezha was called in Antiquity, rise over the ruins of the ancient Acropolis, an area that was gradually transformed into a proper city. In the architecture of the stone fortress, multiple civilizations left their respective traces, beginning with the Illyrians during the 3rd century B.C. Then, the Byzantines, in the distant year of 592, made their repairs after the fires caused by Slavic incursions. It was a few decades later that the Venetians (1440-1451) gave the Castle the shape it still holds to this day. The construction of Lissus’ walls, in the 4th century B.C. is attributed to Dionysius, the tyrant of Syracuse.
The last restoration dates back to 1521, at the time of the Sultan Suleiman Selim Bayezid Han, after the castle was burned by Lezha’s own citizens as a counterattack against the Ottomans. When
Suleiman understood the kind of harm that could be caused by the Venetians and the Albanian rebels, he ordered the rebuilding of new castle walls over the Venetian ones. The city of Lezha, sitting under the dominating castle, awaits visitors, brought there from their curiosity about its history, the legends of Albanian rebels, the echoes of their union under the rule of Skanderbeg, the famous Albanian national hero, the famous local cuisine and nationally-renowned craftsmanship of the locals. Yet, the castle retains a magnetic pull and mystery that leaves an impression on all those who tread on its stone grounds. This powerful appeal is described in Ana Komnenna’s words on the ancient city of Lezhë: “A castle in the air, the right eye of Durrës,” confirming the city’s immense beauty along with its dominating and strategic position on the land and in Albania’s history.