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It is a rare occurrence for the Jesuits to offer up their “sacred place” to poets. In fact, this happens only in the Church of Kukli which, jointly with the house of Dom Ndre Mjeda, comprises the center where poets regularly gather to sing their verses. Ndre Mjeda, one of the most prominent poets of Albanian lyricism, lived for 30 years in the village of Kukël, located near the city of Shkodra. There, he led the church next to his home. The two buildings remain connected to each other, situated at the foot of a picturesque hill. The complex of the church and the house, built by the poet’s very hands in a neoclassical style, survived communism, becoming one of the most unique centers as well as one the most important guides of historical and cultural tourism in Albania.
Built in 1906, Mjeda’s home was transformed into a house-museum where the poet’s personal items, photographic material, research texts, books and many other objects are displayed. The life of this center has gone through many twists and turns. In ‘91, it was closed, while in ’93, Mother Teresa’s missionaries “connected” the church to the house, giving the shape they still have today. Presently, the church and the house belong to the Jesuits, who have reconstructed the house as the poet left it. The two-story home has been transformed into an exhibition where one of the most important items is the poet’s over-100-year-old work table, precisely where he penned some of the most beautiful Albanian poems.
Ndre Mjeda, one of the most important poets in the movement of Albanian poetry from romanticism to realism, left Albania in 1880. After studying at the most elite European centers in Italy, France, Spain, Poland, and Dalmatia, he returned to his native country at a time when it was under Ottoman rule. Once returned, he lived and served for 30 years in Kukël. The poverty and love that permeated village life inspired the poet to write his masterpiece, “The Dream of Life.” Its haunting verses still wander in this blessed place, where life’s suffering and beauty are inextricably linked, where the poet just had to return:
Like the wind, the sparrows come
beyond seas to their old nests;
as the nightingales where the spring
calls them forth in shrouded forests.
Note: The visit should be reserved at least a couple of hours before going to the Center. The number to call is: (+355) 692095003, where you’ll talk to Dom Nikë Ukgjini, who is in charge of “Ndre Mjeda” Center.