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The Memorial of Skanderbeg is the most monumental tomb in Albania. Though it does not contain the remains of the greatest Albanian hero, George Castriot Skanderbeg, this memorial remains a place of high significance for Lezha and the entire country.
Skanderbeg’s connection to Lezha began with the Lezha Covenant, signed on March 1444. With this covenant, Skanderbeg united all the previously separated Albanian principalities against the Ottoman invasion. Though raised in Turkey, Skanderbeg remained loyal to Albania until his death in 1468. His long triumphant reign and 25-year resistance against the Ottoman army is well-known in the history of the world. Indeed, Albania owes much to the hero! For this reason, the country honored Skanderbeg with a majestic monument in the ancient city of Lissus, present-day Lezha.
Echoing the grandiose structures devoted to ancient gods, like the Parthenon or the heroic political figures, like the Lincoln Memorial, Skanderbeg’s Memorial is a grand monument supported by marble pillars. Completed in 1981, during Communism, this monument sits atop ruins of an old cathedral. The memorial covers an area of approximately 225 m2 which includes remains of the 14th century St. Nicholas Cathedral. The Cathedral honors the hero’s 25-year war against the Ottoman invaders hence the 25 words and Skanderbeg’s bronze shield that decorate the cathedral’s walls.
While there are many legends about Skanderbeg’s sword, the most famous tells of the sword’s incredible heaviness. None other than Skanderbeg could wield this massive and powerful weapon! The tomb’s marble plaque keeps a copy of Skanderbeg’s sword and his famous goat-head helmet. The original swords, a helmet, and a prayer book, however, are at The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
Famed sculptor Odhise Paskali and architect Latif Lazim designed the Memorial of Skanderbeg, faithfully reflecting the hero’s significance for the country. Actually, Paskali has celebrated the hero multiple times with his art. He is behind some of the most significant sculptures in major cities of Albania. The most well-known are the Skanderbeg Statue in Tirana and the Unknown Soldier sculpture in Korça.
Occasional excavations have uncovered ancient walls around the Skanderbeg Memorial, turning this area into a monument of high archaeological value. Many archaeologists speak of underground treasures, including pagan constructions, dating back to the 3rd century A.D.