Albania lacks an original art of its own, for reasons that also refer to its geographical conformation and its historical vicissitudes. Very mountainous region, it is sparsely inhabited and therefore devoid of large agglomerations of people who could require notable constructions, embellished by the manifestations of art. Furthermore, the continuous succession of foreign dominions, which lasted until a few years ago, prevented the emergence and flourishing of a properly Albanian art. Indeed, the monumental vestiges are remains of architecture erected exclusively by foreigners, and they are not even artistic manifestations produced by the natives in imitation of those of the rulers. The Albanian people have been and are so deeply conservative of their cultural heritage that,
Only the Roman Empire succeeded in making its own civilization penetrate to some extent into Illyria, the progenitors of today’s Albanians. Thus, not a few traces of the Byzantine period remain in Albania, which in general are found especially in the southern areas, that is, in the provinces of Gjirokastra, Valona and Corizza closest to the Greek-Byzantine world. For example, on the Acropolis of Feniki, excavated in 1926 by the Italian Archaeological Mission, a 4th century thesauros. to. C. was transformed into a baptistery. But, above all, the remains discovered in the acropolis of Butrint (ancient Buthrotum) during the excavations carried out in the spring of 1928 by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Albania. Among these is especially noteworthy a ruined baptistery (perhaps from the 8th century AD) of circular shape, of about 19 m. in diameter, with a marble baptismal font in the center and 16 granite columns that supported the roof. The floor is in polychrome mosaic, with two symbolic representations (Baptism and the Eucharist), 64 animals enclosed in medallions, as well as various geometric and floral decorative motifs. Remarkable Byzantine construction of ancient date is also the half-destroyed church of Santi Quaranta, located a few minutes from the Albanian seaport of the same name. More recent, since it dates back to around 1000, is the church of Mesopotamus near Delvino, which, due to its domes and decorations in straight and curved bricks forming geometric designs, is linked to similar churches in mainland Greece. Some Albanian churches of this age have inscriptions placed along the external facades and also executed with bricks in the stone wall.
According to listofusnewspapers, Venice was responsible for the construction of numerous forts and castles, now almost all in ruins. The first ones, which arose perhaps towards the end of 1200, were followed by others, much more powerful, built during the epic struggle that Venice, later aided by the Albanians themselves led by Scanderbeg, supported against the invading Turks of the Balkans. On the doors of some castles, eg. that of Scutari, was the winged lion. Also in Butrint are notable remains of the Venetian castle; near Valona, the ruins of Venetian fortifications could be seen until a few years ago; in Vunò, in the Acroceraunia, there is a very rough local sculpture representing the symbol of the Serenissima. On the other hand, the fortifications of Durazzo and Alessio are only partially Venetian. Towards the end of the 1400s, the political and commercial influence of Venice is followed by Turkish rule in Albania, which throws it into slavery and degradation, causing a period of artistic inertia, which even on the Turkish side has few exceptions in some mosques and towers, especially in Albania central. But even from here every artistic principle is for the most part distant; indeed in some cases today gi ā mi ‛is nothing more than a Byzantine or Venetian church, transformed with the mere addition of a minaret.
On the other hand, Albania is very rich in art applied to small industries, ethnographically interesting. The local goldsmiths meet the very lively passion of the Albanian for weapons, adorning them with precious metals and working them finely. Some sword and pistol grips, made of silver, or large female belts, also of engraved and chiseled silver, are often true works of art. Very characteristic are also all the other ornaments of national costumes, both male and female. Carved wood is also highly sought after, especially in northern Albania, as in Shkodra, and is seen above all in special room claddings. Finally, the fabrics, worked on the loom or by hand after weaving, have a singular variety of designs and vivacity of colors.
With the exception of the translation of some Latin liturgical texts and the seven penitential psalms, made by Don Gjon Buzuku (1555) and kept in the Vatican Library in a single copy, no Albanian texts prior to 1635, the year in which it was published, are known. with the types of Propaganda Fide, the Dictionarium Latino – Epiroticum by Fr. Francesco Blanco, with a dedication in Latin, preface in Albanian, warnings in Latin and a Latin-Albanian dictionary of about 5000 entries, followed by some grammatical rules, sentences and proverbs and a dialogue. To this work, intended especially for Albanian ecclesiastics not very skilled in Latin, they kept behind various translations of catechisms and prayer books for the spread of Catholicism: texts that are important only as the first written documents of the language. Which lacked – and still lacks – the inestimable value of unity; the four dialects (ghego or northern, tuscan or southern, greek-albanian and italo-albanian) are unequally represented. It is easy to understand how among a divided and divided people, always tormented by wars and invasions and tyrannies, closed and largely inaccessible – until a few decades ago – to culture and modern civilization, literature has not been able to flourish except as popular poetry. In the ballads, and in part also in the lyrics, the imitation of Greek folk songs, generally superior in grace and imagination, is evident. A group that exalts the exploits of the great patriot and warrior Giorgio Castriota Scanderbeg has been preserved among the Albanians of Sicily, reproduced and adapted in the Rhapsodies of an Albanian poem (1866) by Girolamo de Rada.
We find only one art poet in the north, Neçin bey, whose elegies, in ghego dialect sprinkled with Turkish-Arab-Persian voices (as a display of the author’s erudition), are difficult to understand; but also, at least judging by the eight essays that Hahn gives, of little poetic value. They celebrate the beauty of a nephew very dear to him, and, once he died, that of another adolescent, according to the widespread custom among the Gheghi of having, before the girlfriend, a bond of affection – almost always pure – with youngsters. Only among the Albanians who immigrated to Italy (1399-1744) and settled in some countries of Calabria and Palermitan (Piana dei Greci) did a flowering occur precisely due to the very different conditions of life and the close contact with our civilization notable literary. With good reason the holy priest Giulio Variboba (born around 1730), who sang The Life of Saint Mary the Virgin in a poem polimeter. Alongside his rustic but fresh and spontaneous poetry, the works of the priest Santori, of the bohemian Serembe, of the socialist Straticò. Nor can we stop on some works around the Albanian origins, such as those of Vl’ncenzo Dorsa, in which patriotic enthusiasm is not accompanied by serious scientific preparation. Among the most recent and well-deserving scholars of the native language and literature, we mention only M. Marchianò and G. Schirò, both diligent editors and translators of popular songs and sacred poems and the second (who held the chair of Albanian, founded in 1900, in the Oriental Institute of Naples) poet himself (Songs of the battle, In the foreign land, Mili and Haidhia). In the last few decades, literature also takes a more lively part in the intellectual awakening of the people through patriotic magazines, translations and brochures, but without the emergence of writers of European fame.