The legend of a castle / 10 January – 3 February / Palace of Europe, Strasbourg

Legends and ballads exist everywhere. Sometimes they are very similar in many countries.

Legends about castles play a big part in the whole heritage of legends. One can hardly find a country without a castle, a fortress, fortified walls or bunkers. All that because of wars that organized the lives of cities and citizens for centuries. Now we look at the walls of castles and try to understand their history.

Legends help us to encounter these histories, and art symbolizes these encounters.

FONDACIONI KALO, an Albanian foundation that promotes art, through this exhibition “The Legend of a Castle”, in the Palace of Europe, in Strasbourg, is using artworks from the collection of GALERIAKALO to explore the existence of relationship between legends and art. The exhibition displays around 30 artworks by artists, including some of the masters, of the city of the castle about which this legend is told and is supported and sponsored by: Ministry of Culture, FAVA, AK INVEST and FONDACIONI KALO


Rozafa Castle is a structure of stone built on a high hill in the northern Albanian city of Shkodra. You can have a panoramic view from there: River Buna quietly running towards Adriatic Sea; Drin River coming from the mountaineering area and fields and high hills and mountains around. The construction of the castle with stones started by the Illyrian tribu Labeat. After the castle was built and people felt safer, the city developed fast and even issued a coin named Scodrinon 230 b.c.. In 181 b.c. Scodrion became capital of Illyria. In 168 it was occupied by Roman Empire and later by Bulgarians. In 1396 it became part of Venice, which reconstructed the castle and renamed the city as Scutari.

The Castle was the last castle to fall in 1479 under the attack of 100 thousand soldiers of Sultan Mehmeti II. The resistance is described by the famous historian Marin Barleti in the book “The siege of Shkodra”, which was published in Europe in 1504. The castle was abandoned in 1865 when Drin river deviated from its normal bed.

As many other castles, Rozafa Castle is surrounded in legend and mysticism. Rozafa Castle though, it is quite extraordinary. According to its legend, three brothers undertook to build the walls of the castle, which would practically be the walls of the city, having as main function the defense of the city from enemies.

The three brothers worked hard, day and night, to build the castle, but what they erected during the day, collapsed at night. And this process of building and collapse continued for a while, until a day an old man who was passing by saw them and understood what was happening. He strongly advised them that the walls would be kept from falling only if a human life was sacrificed, immured in their foundations.

The three brothers took his advice and decided to sacrifice one of their wives: the first one who would coincide serving them lunch the next day. The faith, but also the honesty of the youngest brother, who did not disclose the decision to her, picked Rozafa, the wife of the youngest brother. As the legend tells, she accepted to be immured, but prayed to the brothers to immure her in half. She wanted to have one breast, one eye, one hand and one foot free for feeding, watching, caressing the newborn boy and for rocking the cradle.

Rozafa’ s story and sacrifice has been subject to many poems, books and songs. One of the poems goes like this:

 

I plead

When you wall me

Leave my right eye exposed

Leave my right breast exposed

Leave my right hand exposed

Leave my right foot exposed

for the sake of my newborn son

So, when he starts crying

I can see him with one eye

I can caress him with one hand

I can feed him with one breast

I can rock his cradle with one foot

 

May the castle breast be walled,

May the castle rise strong,

May my son be happy!

Legends about human life sacrifice to the benefit of people exists almost everywhere and reflect efforts of a few men to create civilization. With her body Rozafa kept her son alive, but she gave life to a whole city. As always happens, someone is sacrificed for something bigger to continue. And Shkodra survived on the legendary sacrifice.

History of mankind has proven that by giving a sacred thing, you can win something sacred, too! Life is sacred. Rozafa, may have died as other people, forgotten, but she died, not knowing why, to live forever as a legend.