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Krujë (Albanian: Krujë or Kruja, Italian: Croia, Turkish: Akçahisar) is a capital city of the District of Krujë in Albania. Located at 41.52°N 19.80°E, with a population of about 20,000.
Krujë is best known as the hometown of Albania's national hero, Skanderbeg, from where the Ottomans were successfully resisted for nearly 35 years until 1478. The castle of Kruje was defended in 4 sieges conducted by the Ottoman forces.
The city's name comes from the Albanian word for spring, krua.
Krujë is also a tourist attraction in a spectacular mountainside location. Some of the main points of interest include the restored castle and citadel, the Skanderbeg museum located inside the castle, and the old restored bazaar. The citadel includes a restored house from the Ottoman epoch which serves as the Ethnographic Museum.
Kruja one of the biggest cities in Northern Albania is a city of 'History' .You come into Kruja (pronounced: Kru-yah) past age-old olive trees and lime-kilns, with limestone outcrops offering the barest grazing to a few sheep and goats.
Then shrubs and oaks replace the olives, and finally the conifers take over. "Kruj‘" means 'Spring' and of course there is no shortage of fresh water at these cool heights.
The air invigorates you after the hot, humid plain of Tirana, and one can easily imagine why the old Ilyrian settlement of Zg‘rdhesh was abandoned in the forth century.
The ecclesiastical record of the ninth century mentioned Kruja as a bishop's see. The byzantine held the city up to c.1190, when the first Albanian feudal state was declared at Kruja under the archon Progon (1190-8).
Albania survived throughout the rule of Progon's son Gjin (1198-1206) and Dhimitrit (1206-16), but in 1216 it fell under the sway of Epiros, in 1230 under Bulgarians, and in 1240 again under Epiros.
Foreign invaders continue to fight over the dying body of a torn and bleeding Albania until an Ottoman garrison was permanently stationed at Kruj‘ in 1415.
The youngest of Gjon Kastrioti's four sons, Gjergj, was sent with his three brothers as a hostage to the Sultan at Constantinople in 1415.
He impressed his tutors at the military school he attended and they gave him the title 'Skender-beg' for the valour on the field of battle. Then in 1443 he suddenly left the Ottoman army fighting Hunyadi, the Hungarian Hero and returned to Albania.
As the Turks retreated near Nish on 3 November 1443, Gjergj withdrew his nephew Hamza and 300 Albanian horsemen and headed for Dib‘r and then Kruja.
The citadel of Kruja became the scene of one of Europe's most titanic struggles.
In May 1450 the Ottoman Sultan Murad II set out from Constantinople with a hundred thousand men to crush once and for all the Albanian army which had been united since 1444 by Skenderbeg's personal recruiting campaign.
He aimed to storm the citadel of Kruja and to hold the Albanian country side with Kruja as a capital. Skenderbeg's personal magnetism ensured that those Albanians fit to take up arms were armed and ready for combat, a total of 17,500 at the most, who were thus outnumbered by five to one.
Skenderbeg divided his troops into three bands. Fifteenhundred led by Count Uran were provisioned to withstand the siege within the citadel itself.
The two major forces of 8 000 each were split up, the first under Skenderbeg to harry the near of the Ottoman army once it had encamped below Kruja, and the other forming small bands of guerrilleros to ambush, raid, and snipe at the Turkish caravan on its cumbersome trail from Macedonia.
Since Murad II realised that his troops would mutiny if ordered to withstand the hostile winter encamped in a trap below Kruja, after four and a half months he retreated with loses estimated at more than twenty thousand - that is exceeding the strength of the whole Albanian army. Ragusa congratulated Skenderbeg, "Magnificus et Potens" on his stupendous victory.
Ragusa congratulated Skenderbeg, "Magnificus et Potens" on his stupendous victory. Kruja under the direction of Skenderbeg defeated the turkish army lead by the Sultan Mehmet etc.
For a quarter of a century. As the British military strategist Wolfe has said Skenderbeg surpassed 'all the captains, both ancient and modern, in his ability to lead a small defensive army' .
After the death of Skenderbeg from natural causes in 1468, the citadel of Kruja defeated the Turks for more then ten years under the direction of Lek‘ Dugagjin till at 16 june 1478 when it fell definitively to the Sultan Mehmet.
Gjergj Kastrioti (1405–January 17, 1468), better known as Skanderbeg or Skenderbej, was an Albanian leader who resisted the expanding Ottoman Empire for 25 years and is today considered a national hero of Albania.
He was born in Krujë, Albania; his father was an Albanian nobleman, Gjon Kastrioti, lord of Middle Albania, and his mother was Vojsava. The Kastrioti family are originally from the Northern Alps of Albania but later migrated to middle Albania where they became noblemen, lording over Kruja. 
Obliged by the Ottomans to pay tribute to the Empire, and to ensure the fidelity of local rulers, Gjon Kastrioti's sons were taken by the Sultan to his court as hostages. In 1423, Gjergj Kastrioti and his three brothers were taken by the Turks. He attended military school and led many battles for the Ottoman Empire. He was awarded for his military victories with the title Iskander Bey (Albanian transliteration: Skënderbeu, English transliteration: Skanderbeg). In Turkish this title means Lord or Prince Alexander (in honor of Alexander the Great). Skanderbeg soon switched sides and came back to his native land to successfully defended Albania against the Ottoman Empire until his death.
The Castriota Family
The Kastrioti or Castriota family, of Albanian origin, begins with certainty with John Castriota, lord of Mat and Vumenestia, who died in 1443. He resisted Turkish attempts at conquering the Albanian region. At one point, he had to give his four sons as hostage to the Turks. One of them, George Castriota (1403-68), was raised at the Ottoman court and given the name Iskander-Bey (Skanderbeg). He became Christian again, and led Albanian resistance to the Turks to become prince of Albania. He was allied with Venice, which inducted him in its nobility in 1463, but also with the king of Naples, who gave him the lordships of Monte S. Angelo and S. Giovanni Rotundo in the Gargano region of Naples in 1463.
He left a son by Andronica Arianiti Comnena, Giovanni Castriota (ca. 1450-1514), who ceded his rights in Albania to Venice in 1474 and retired in the kingdom of Naples. He exchanged his possessions for the marquisate of Soleto and the county of San Pietro in Galatina (both near Lecce) in 1485. In 1497, he was elevated to the rank of duca di San Pietro. He married Irene Palaiologa, daughter of Lazare despot of Serbia, and left 3 or 4 sons: Costantino, bishop of Isernia (died 1500), Ferrante who succeeded as duke, Giorgio (died 1540, leaving one son without issue), and perhaps Federico. It is said that this line died with Irene, sole surviving child of Ferrante, married in 1539 to Pietrantonio Sanseverino, prince of Bisignano. Among the illegitimate children of Ferrante, two had issue: Achille, born of Dianora, a Greek slave from Corone freed by the duke, whose descendants now live in Naples; and Pardo, son of Porzia de Urrisio, made a patrician of the city of Lecce, whose descendants live in Lecce and Ruffano. A member of that branch was Isabella Castriota Scanderbeg (1704-49), a poet.
The family still exists. The current (or at least recent) head of the family of Castriota-Scanderbeg lives at "Napoli: via G. Cotronei 2", while his uncle lives at "Napoli: villa Scanderbeg, via Napoli 119 bis; La Pietra- Bagnoli (Napoli)". They bear the arms d'oro all'aquila bicipite, coronata sulle due teste di nero, col volo abbassato, alla punta d'azz., movente dal lembo superiore dello scudo, rovesciata e caricata di una stella (6) d'oro (which translates into Or an double-headed eagle, wings abaisse, crowned on both heads sable, on a pile azure a mullet or.)
A brother of George Castriota Scanderbeg was Stanisha (Staniscia), who left a son Branilo. Raised as an Ottoman under the name of Hamsa, he became Christian in 1443, count of Mat, governor of Croia in Albania, was made duke of Ferrandina in the kingdom of Naples and died in 1463. By Maria Zardari he had Giovanni, duke of Ferrandino who left a daughter Maria; and Alfonso, marquis of Altripalda in 1512 (died 1544). Some source give him a son Antonio Branai who married his cousin Maria and became duke of Ferrandina. Antonio had no legitimate issue, but a natural son Alessandro d'Altripalda whose descendants formed a prominent family of the Napolitan aristocracy ad were were given the name Castriota in 1803. Others say that this is a confusion, and that this Castriota family descends from Bernardo Granai, a lieutenant of Scanderbeg.
Recently (according to the Electronic Telegraph of May 8, 1997) Giorgio Castriota Scnaderbeg, a bank employee near Naples, has made a claim to the Albanian throne. Isabella Stasi Castriota Scanderbeg, an Italian TV documentary writer and producer who lives in Rome and Cadaqués;, may belong to the Catriota d'Altripada family.
Success in the Ottoman army
He was distinguished as one of the best officers in several Ottoman campaigns both in Asia Minor and in Europe, and the Sultan appointed him General. He even fought against Greeks, Serbs and Hungarians, and some sources claim that he used to maintain secret links with Ragusa, Venice, Ladislaus V of Hungary and Alfonso I of Naples. Sultan Murad II gave him the title Vali that made him the General Governor of some provinces in central Albania. He was respected everywhere but he missed his country. After his father died, Skanderbeg was looking for a way to return to Albania and lead his countrymen against the Ottoman armies.
Fighting for the freedom of Albania
In 1443, Skanderbeg saw his opportunity during the battle against the Hungarians led by John Hunyadi in Nis (in present-day Serbia). He switched sides along with other Albanians serving in the Ottoman army. He eventually captured Kruje, his father's seat in Middle Albania. Above the castle he rose the Albanian flag, a red flag with a black double-headed eagle, and pronounced the words: "I have not brought you liberty, I found it here, among you." He managed to unite all Albanian princes at the town of Lezhë (see League of Lezhë, 1444) and united them under his command to fight against the Ottomans. He fought a guerilla war against the opposing armies by using the mountainous terrain to his advantage.
During the next 25 years, with forces rarely exceeding 20,000, he fought against the most powerful army of the time. In June 1450 an Ottoman army numbering approximately 150,000 and led by the Sultan Murad II in person, laid siege to Kruja. Leaving a protective garrison of 1,500 men under one of his best lieutenants, Kont Urani, or Vranakonti, Scanderbeg harassed the Ottoman camps around Kruja as well as the caravans coming to supply the Sultan's army. By September the Ottoman camp was in disarray as morale sunk and diseases spread as wild fire. Grudgingly, Sultan Murad finally acknowledged that the castle of Kruja would not have fallen by only strength of arms, so he decided to lift his encampment and make his way to Edirne. Soon thereafter he died and his son Mehmed was crowned Sultan.
For the next five years Albania was allowed some respite as the new Sultan, Mehmed II, set out to conquer the last vestiges of the Byzantine Empire in Europe and Asia Minor. The first test between the Ottoman Sultan and Skanderbeg came in 1455 during the Siege of Berat, where the former defeated the latter by decimating the Albanian army and leaving five-thousand dead in the field of battle, some 40-50% of all Albanian mobile forces. This was the worst military defeat that Skanderbeg had suffered and would ever suffer during his career.
In 1457, an Ottoman army numbering approximately 70,000 men invaded Albania and set out to destroy Albanian resistance once and for all. The army was led by Isa beg Evrenoz, the only commander to have defeated Scanderbeg in battle and Hamza Kastrioti, Scanderbeg’s own nephew. After wreaking much damage to the countryside, destroying crops, plundering and murdering, the Ottoman army set camp at the Ujebardha field (literally WhiteWater), halfway between Lezha and Kruja. There, in September, after having evaded the enemy for months, Skanderbeg attacked and utterly destroyed the Ottomans. His own forces did not exceed fifteen thousand men.
In 1461 Skanderbeg launched a successful campaign against the Angevin noblemen and their allies who sought to destabilize King Ferdinand of Naples. After securing the Neapolitan kingdom, a crucial ally in Skanderbeg’s struggle, he returned home. In 1464 Skanderbeg fought and defeated Ballaban Badera, an Albanian renegade. However, this battle became famous for another reason. Ballaban Pasha did not succeed in defeating Scanderbeg, but was successful in capturing a large number of Albanian army commanders, some of the bravest, including Moisi Arianit Golemi, Scanderbeg’s best cavalry commander; Vladan Giurica, his chief army economist; Muzaka of Angelina, a nephew, and 18 more noblemen and army captains. These men, after they were captured, were dispatched immediately to Istanbul and skinned alive for fifteen days. Scanderbeg’s pleas to have these men back, by either ransoming them or setting free all Ottoman prisoners in Albania, were to no avail.
In 1466 Sultan Mehmed II led the army himself and laid siege to Kruja, who was defended by a 4,400 men strong garrison led by Prince Tanush Thopia. After several months, Mehmed saw that trying to take Kruja was an exercise in futility left and went home. He, however, left a besieging force of forty thousand men under Ballaban Pasha to keep Kruja under siege until it fell. To support this force he built a castle in central Albania and named it El-Basan (which eventually became the modern city of Elbasan). This second siege was successful any more than the first was and soon enough Scanderbeg annihilated it, including its commander Ballaban Pasha, who fell under victim of the new modern firearms.
A few months later, in 1467 Mehmed, frustrated by his inability to subdue little Albania, came again at the head of the largest army of his time. Kruja was besieged a third time, but in a different way. While a contingent kept the city and its forces pinned down, Ottoman armies came pouring from Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece with the aim of keeping the whole country surrounded, thereby strangling Scanderbeg’s supply routes and limiting his movements. While fight went on Scanderbeg fell ill with malaria in the Venetian held city of Lezhe, and died on January 17, 1468, just as the army under the leadership of Leke Dukagjini defeated a Ottoman force in Shkodra.
The Albanian resistance went on after the death of Scanderbeg for an additional ten years led by Leke Dukagjini. In 1478 the fourth siege of Kruja proved successful for the Ottomans, though through no strength of arms. Bent down by hunger and lack of supplies after a year long siege, the defenders surrendered to Mehmed, who had promised them to leave unharmed as long as they handed over the castle. As the Albanians were walking away with their families, the Ottomans preyed on them killing all the men and enslaving the women and children. A year later the Ottomans captured Shkodra, the last free Albanian castle, albeit under Venetian control, but the Albanian resistance continued sometimes organized and sometimes sporadically until 1500.
Portrait of Skanderbeg
Skanderbeg's military successes evoked a good deal of interest and admiration from the Papal States, Venice and Naples, themselves threatened by the growing Ottoman power across the Adriatic Sea. Skanderbeg played his hand with a good deal of political and diplomatic skill in his dealings with the three Italian states. Hoping to strengthen and expand Skanderbeg's state, they provided him with money, supplies and occasionally troops. One of his most powerful and consistent supporters was Alfonso the Magnanimous, the Aragone king of Naples, who decided to take Skanderbeg under his protection as vassal in 1451, shortly after the latter had scored his second victory against Murad II. In addition to financial assistance, the King of Naples undertook to supply the Albanian leader with troops, military equipment as well as with sanctuary for himself and his family if such a need should arise. As an active defender of the Christian cause in the Balkans, Skanderbeg was also closely involved with the politics of four Popes, one of them being Pope Pius II, the Renaissance humanist, writer and diplomat.
Profoundly shaken by the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Pius II tried to organize a new crusade against the Turks; consequently he did his best to come to Skanderbeg's aid, as his predecessors Pope Nicholas V and Pope Calixtus III had done before him. This policy was continued by his successor, Pope Paul II. They gave him the title Athleta Christi.
For a quarter of a century he and his country prevented the Turks from invading the Italian Peninsula.
Gjergj Kastriot's Legacy
After his death from natural causes in 1468 in Lezhë, his soldiers resisted the Turks for the next 12 years. In 1480 Albania was finally conquered by the Ottoman Empire. When the Turks found the grave of Skanderbeg in Saint Nicholas church of Lezhe, they opened it and held his bones like talismans for luck. The same year, they invaded Italy and conquered the city of Otranto.
Skanderbeg's posthumous fame was not confined to his own country. Voltaire thought the Byzantine Empire would have survived had it possessed a leader of his quality. A number of poets and composers have also drawn inspiration from his military career. The French sixteenth-century poet Ronsard wrote a poem about him, as did the nineteenth-century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Antonio Vivaldi composed an opera entitled Scanderbeg.
Skanderbeg today is the National Hero of Albania. Many museums and monuments are raised in his honor around Albania, among them the Skanderbeg Museum next to the castle in Krujë.
Skanderbeg is founder of Castriota Scanderbeg family which is today part of Italian nobility.