If you visit Tirana you will find that the main square where a beautiful proud man-on-the-horse-statue stands is called “Sheshi Skënderbej” after Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu or differently known as Skanderbeg.
He is the Albanian National Hero, the highest title that an Albanian can have. He is the symbol of bravery, loyalty, wisdom, and unification of the Albanian nation. Not only the square holds Skanderbeg’s name but also villages, streets, schools, football teams, titles, etc. Let’s not forget that the biggest Albanian banknote, the 5000 leke banknote holds Gjergj Kastrioti’s face.
Continue reading and check your knowledge about your national hero through these 15 interesting facts about him.
1 - Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu kept Arbëria (a land bigger than nowadays Albania) unconquered by the Ottoman army for 25 years. While protecting the freedom of his motherland he fought 30 battles and lost the only one due to treason by his closest people. By protecting Arbëria he became thus the protector of Christianity as well since he stopped the ottomans from going further into the region and taking down the Vatican.
2 - Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu is considered by historians as one of the 4 best generals and strategists of the world after Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte.
3 - Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu destroyed 20 foreign armies and according to Marin Barleti, the first to write about the legends of Skanderbeg, Gjergj himself killed three thousand people in the battles he served.
4 - Gjergj’s brothers were called Stanishin, Reposhin, and Konstantin. His 5 sisters were called Mara, Jella, Anxhelina, Vllajka, and Mamica. Gjergj was the youngest son. He was the son of Gjon and Vojsava.
5 - The family of Gjergj kept remembering and honoring the ancestors. His grandfather was also called Gjergj. His father was called Gjon so Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu called his son Gjon after his father’s name.
6 - On April 23rd, 1451 Gjergj Kastrioti married Donika Arianiti from Kanina, Vlora. The wedding in which Gjergj showed up with 500 knights lasted for many days and was developed in three different places.
7 - Gjergj, along with many other Albanians were taken hostage by the Ottoman Empire when he was a young boy to make him a soldier serving the Ottoman army. The title Skënderbeu (Skanderbeg) was given to him by Sultan Murat II after Gjergj Kastrioti won battles in Asia for the Ottomans. Skanderbeg means Alexander the Great.
In 1443 Gjergj arrested the sultan’s assistant and forced him to sign a paper that would give him access to Kruja. He returned together with 300 Albanian knights, entered the Kruja’s castle, and killed all the Ottoman soldiers. The uprising against the Ottoman Empire continued throughout all Arbëria. All the castles were retrieved back and in a held convention Gjergj was chosen the commander of all forces.
8 - There are seven squares throughout the world that hold the name Skënderbeu (Skanderbeg): Tirana, Chicago, Zurich, Skopje, Pristina, Rome, Paris. There are many statues of him in Tirana, Pristina, Geneva, London, Brussels, Budapest, Rome, Michigan, Spain, Australia, etc. In all of them, the Albanian hero is depicted riding on the horse symbolizing the warrior.
9 - The helmet of Skanderbeg depicts a GOAT and was loaned by the legends of Pirro of Epir and Alexander the Great. Skanderbeg called himself a successor of Pirro. His helmet was made out of white metal and it had a gold plated strap.
10 - The horse of Skanderbeg was white and of a well-chosen breed. After the death of Skanderbeg, he refused to be ridden by somebody else and after a short period died.
11 - Pope Pius II tried two times to come to Albania and coronate Skanderbeg as a king. The second time he died in Ancona, Italy while traveling towards Albania.
12 - Even nowadays the successors of Skanderbeg's family own 60 km square of land and a castle in Napoli. These were given to Skanderbeg by the king of Napoli in the sign of honor and respect for the help Skanderbeg gave towards the protection of Napoli against its enemies.
13 - March 2nd, 1444 - The League of Lezha was the first big unification of Albanians against the enemy. This covenant was made possible by Skanderbeg and it united all the Albanian principalities.
14 - There are 600 hundred books written about Skanderbeg throughout the world. The most known writer of Skanderbeg’s history is that of Marin Barleti.
15 - Many people are inspired by this great man. Dutch painter Rembrandt has painted Skanderbeg’s portrait. The writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow has written a poem. Composers like Antonio Vivaldi, François Rebel, and François Francoeur also composed operas and operettas on Skanderbeg’s honor.