Report of a Visit to Parts of Turkey, Montenegro, Albania and Serbia (1610)
Marino Bizzi, originally from the Dalmatian island of Rab, was the Archbishop of Bar (Antivari) from 1608 to 1625. He regarded himself as a bulwark in the defence of the interests of the Vatican in a region which was increasingly leaving the fold of the Catholic Church and converting to Islam. Among his duties was the preparation and transmission to Rome of reports on the state of the church in the regions under his authority.
... While I was greeting the steward of the sanjak bey, I met a cavalryman from Selita (1) called Musli Bey who, a few months earlier, had met and made good friends in Albania with my nephew Angelo, who had gone there for business on my behalf. The day after my return to Bar (Antivari), he thus came to meet me and to inform me that he had worked for my relative, the secretary of the grand vizier. He also wished to inquire as to whether he could be of any assistance to me, it being that, as he was so fond of that gentleman, he was ready and willing to express towards me the gratitude he felt for that person. When he learned that I was about to undertake a journey to visit the Christians of Albania, he offered to accompany me wherever I should command and, if I were resolved to depart within the next two or three days, he would wait for me.
I accepted the offer to go to Albania under his escort because my nephew had told me of the warm welcome this man had extended to him and, in particular, because the Christians of Bar had recommended him. I was apprehensive simply because many friends of mine had told me that I would come up against a great many perils and would almost certainly lose my own life and that of my relatives. This was because there was a growing Turkish (2) hatred of and insolence towards the Christians. The former have become extremely suspicious since the conquest and looting of Durrës by the Western fleet last year. I was, however, even more uneasy at the thought of not being able to accomplish such a difficult mission and of having to return soon with little to show for myself. The six hundred pieces of gold which His Holiness, Pope Clement, had granted to my predecessor, Monsignor Orsino, for the visit did not seem sufficient for half of the trip and would force me to turn back. Nonetheless, I had my relatives send me money once again, despite the fact that I felt sorry for them since I had spent over two thousand ducats, and ordered, for any eventuality, that more money be sent to Dubrovnik on my behalf. At the beginning of March, I set off in the name of God, blessing the people of Bar and asking them to pray for my well being and that God give me the strength needed to overcome the difficulties ahead so that I could accomplish His holy mission.
That morning we mounted our horses and had just ridden down from the town gate on the Saint Hillary side when the cavalryman, Musli Bey, began with great merriment to demonstrate the capabilities of his steed. With a single shout, he spurred his horse into a gallop along the rocky road which is on the other side of the brook called Orciuli. It galloped with such speed and agility that it seemed not to touch the ground at all. I, for my part, was afraid that the Turk had been too affected by wine to realize that he might injure the horse and break his own neck to boot on that rocky road. We went after him, fearful all the time that the horses would stumble, although we were riding much more slowly. In the meadows along the roadside, he would make his horse prance about on its hind legs despite the fact that the earth was moist from the rain and it was difficult to advance at all without breaking a leg. Often, when we were riding up out of ditches and brooks, without even being back on the path, it would dash up the hillsides like a roebuck. The other cavalrymen and janissaries who were accompanying us to Selita could not resist prancing about with their horses either. They often galloped in twos side by side, embracing one another all the way. They were so nimble and agile that in all their movements, their turbans did not even shift, let alone fall off, although turbans are just as likely to do so as our hats are.
That evening we arrived at Selita, a village of about twenty-five homes inhabited entirely by Turks. We were put up at the home of the aforementioned Musli Bey, in a ground level building with a big front courtyard, though without roofing, as is the custom of the Turks. They care little for convenience and cleanliness in their homes; in fact they despise it. As such, the room we were lodged in had only a few mats on straw as a floor, upon which we sat cross legged, ate and later slept. For me, they brought in a mattress and put it under the mats. There were enough blankets for everyone. At meal times, they brought in a round red Bulgarian hide without any tablecloth or serviette, over which they spread out a striped linen cloth in Moorish colours. The spoons, which all Turks rich and poor possess, were only made of wood, but were very smooth. They do not use any other utensils. They use their fingers instead. Hanging from the walls of that room were all sorts of Turkish weapons. They also kept horses, which were chained to a feeding trough with one hind leg tied to a peg in the ground so that they would remain quiet.
The cavalryman's elderly father lived there. He was grey with age but still robust. In his youth, he had, for certain worldly reasons, reneged on his Christian faith and, as a result, the whole large family, including three able and indeed courageous sons, had become Turks. The cavalryman did everything he could in his home to keep me satisfied and begged me to stay for a few more days. However, as soon as I heard that the old man had turned Turk and had caused the loss of all the souls of that large family, I could hardly wait to get away from there and to depart for Shas, three miles away, which I did in the company of the said cavalryman.
Shas was once a great and well built city, as its ruins still show. It is said that there were once up to 365 churches here, i.e. one for every day of the year. It has now shrunk to the size of a village, a common occurrence under the Turks, who abandon and destroy everything. It used to have a bishop who was one of the electors of Bar. It is situated on the top of a hill, above a large and pleasant lake full of various kinds of fish, off which the inhabitants live. In the winter, the lake is covered by swarms of ducks, swans, herons and other such birds. It is situated twenty miles from Bar. Across from it, towards the sea, is the town of Ulcinj which, during the last war, fell to the Turks together with Bar. The two cities were formerly possessions of the Republic of Venice. It has eighty houses, almost all of which are inhabited by Latin Christians, plus a few Turks. It has a relatively large and spacious church, that of Saint John the Baptist, and a good number of others which have been discovered. The church is very badly furnished. There is no picture above the altar, nothing but a wooden cross. On the walls below the rostrum are the portaits of several saints. It lacks a baptistry and a shrine, as do most of the other churches in Albania. The reason for this, they say, is that it is dangerous to have a baptistry because the Turks might use the water. The resident parish priest is Dom Lawrence Mezilli whom I had sent there several weeks earlier. The inhabitants speak no other languages but Albanian and Turkish. Since the priest's house was at the foot of the hill near the lakeside, I took up lodgings near the church at the home of a Turk called Hasan, who had bought a Christian woman as his wife. Her father had willingly sold her for twenty-five talers.
This woman came up to me and asked me to give her an Agnus Dei medallion free of charge, since we had brought some with us from Rome. I told her right off that she was living in disgrace before God since she had consented to marry an infidel and that it would be preferable if she not approach him at all. If this were not possible, she should at least endeavour not to commit any sins when he approached her, if she wished to save her soul.
Meanwhile, Dom Thomas Armani arrived, chaplain of the village of Saint George (3) on the river Buna, in order to accompany me thither. I confirmed fifty-three souls, carried out other functions and gave my blessing to the people and with that, we sailed across the lake on several vessels hollowed out of whole tree trunks four paces long and less than half a pace wide. These are used on all the inland waterways in Albania. By linking two of these vessels together, even horses, however unruly they may be, can be transported across the rivers. The village of Saint George has about thirty houses, all inhabited by Latin Christians. These people, like the inhabitants of Shas, pay tribute to a cavalryman, who is more or less an army veteran in the sultan's favour. The sultan confers this income upon the cavalryman, and the cavalryman, in return, is obliged, whenever the sultan should so command, to go to war with a quantity of his soldiers and receive no further remuneration. The cavalryman of this village at the time was Isuf Çaushi, who was to die on his way to Constantinople several months later, when I sent my nephew there.
Since the said village, as has been noted, is situated on the river near Lake Shas, it abounds in fish, especially mullet, which lay their eggs there when the time is right. The aforementioned river is as big as the Tiber, and has many fish because it flows out of Lake Shkodra. The lake itself is also full of all kinds of fish, especially mullet, brace and eels of such an unusual size that they exhaust the fishermen who catch them and the seamen who load them onto their boats for export to Apulia, increasing the wealth of the sultan. At certain times of the year, the fishermen sail around the mouth of the river and fill their boats with huge quantities of fish, especially of mullet and varoli that is, if they are not impeded by the waves from pulling in their nets and filling their vessels with the fish.
As soon as we arrived in Saint George, the cavalryman asked my permission to return that night to Selita so that he might tend to his household affairs as he would be away from home for quite some time. He said he would return the next day. I agreed since both he and Dom Thomas assured me that we were being lodged in a safe place. This turned out to be a mistake because, in his absence, a grave incident occurred.
At dawn, on the morning of March 12th, which is the feast of Saint Gregory, a group of twenty-five armed Turks sent by Suleyman Aga and Sinam Rais, the Voyvode of Ulcinj, arrived and began beating at the door while we were all sleeping peacefully in the priest's one story home. I was in a separate little room and the others were lying near the entrance on blankets spread on the ground, as is the Albanian custom. They were mostly sea pirates based in Ulcinj and, since a few days earlier the people of Budva had set fire to their only vessel, they were now marauding the countryside, killing and robbing travellers in this region. We had some premonition that they had been notified [of our presence] and encouraged by the Scorovi, who were looking forward to much booty.
They broke into the house, causing much din and uproar, as is the custom of the Turks, discovered our hosts and asked them who they were, not even giving them time to get dressed. They threatened to tie us up and take us back to Ulcinj. My nephew, however, half dressed as he was, rose quickly to his feet and showed them the patent of the Sultan, unfolding it before their eyes. This seemed to calm them down. Indeed, all the Turks who had seen the document admit to having been overwhelmed by it. It was written magnificently in Arabic script on a golden background, with the Sultan's seal all in gold, into which other colours had been worked. It was also in a large format, unusual for documents of this kind.
Taking it in his hands, Sinam Rais read all the commands it contained, for the adherence of which the Kadi of Bar, who is also the Kadi of Ulcinj, was responsible. Once he had read it aloud, with everyone listening attentively, it looked as if Sinam had decided to leave us alone, both in view of the document and of the letters from Isuf Bey which were shown to him. But since these scoundrels had travelled all night in the hope of booty and did not want to return empty handed, they decided on a more devious course of action. Suleyman Aga began by saying that, since it was not certain that the documents were not forgeries, he would have no choice but to take us all back to Ulcinj with him and then on to Shkodra, alleging that he knew Isuf Bey and would let him decide what was to be done. They then began to cart all our possessions out into the courtyard and force our people outdoors under guard. I was still in my room listening to all the uproar. I rose and got dressed so that the Turks would not break in and seize me half naked. Having finished dressing, I was watching what was going on through the slits in the door, when the priest's mother, who had broken into tears over the event, rushed in to tell me what had taken place. This caused one of the Turks to force his way through the door to see if there was anyone else inside. As the room was completely dark, he groped his way blindly in search of people. I was lucky for, although he touched my back with one of his hands, he withdrew from the room without saying a word, thinking no doubt that he had touched the old woman. Shortly thereafter, when all the Turks and our people were out in the courtyard, the priest came in and asked what was to be done now that we had shown them the Sultan's patent and they had chosen not to respect it. I told him to go out and see what they really wanted from us. He replied that they were a band of thieves who were ready to kill anyone, irrespective of his prince and representatives, and that they had come in search of something to eat. I ordered him to go out and promise them a few zecchini if they would go their way and leave us alone. But the Turks wanted more. Since there were quite a few of them, they did not want to release me until each of them had received his just reward. As such, not only did they take away all our money, aside from a few coins I had sewn into my vest, but Suleyman Aga, finding a jacket belonging to my nephew, which had cost forty scudi, put it on and set off with the others for Ulcinj, leaving all of us stunned and confused. The last one to leave was Sinam Rais, who protested that he had not agreed to such wicked deeds and that he had not taken so much as an asper from the booty. He begged us to bear witness to this fact, should it be necessary.
As soon as the Turks left, the whole courtyard in which we were standing was flooded with armed villagers who had supposedly come to my rescue. They excused themselves by saying that the incident had taken place so early that no one had realized what was going on, except those already at work. This was all nonsense because in actual fact, they had taken great care not to put up any resistance to the Turks (who came to the village daily) in order not to make enemies of them and not to suffer even more from their insolence. The effect of this was to be seen later.
We then went to mass at the church and subsequently dealt with some marital problems, etc. The church is quite small, but is attractive and in good order. It is called St George's and is surrounded by walls painted with the images of saints. Over the main altar is a beautiful Madonna. The church is also furnished with garments and rather decent chalices, but the altar had not been consecrated, as have hardly any of the altars in Albania. I discovered that the portable altar had huge cracks in it and that the priest, lacking in knowledge, was using it to celebrate mass. As such, I gave orders for another slab of stone to be made ready and for the pavement of the church to be cleared of all the stones covering it, for the Albanians are accustomed to placing stones on graves in order to distinguish them. I then returned home.
Outside the church was the cavalryman whom I had called for. Still on his horse, he was listening to what the villagers were reporting about the big robbery. When he approached, he urged me not to take offence as he would make good all the crimes committed by the robbers. Accordingly, after dinner, he mounted his horse and set off with my nephew Marino for Ulcinj to endeavour to ensure the restitution of the goods stolen, or at least to convince a magistrate of the habits of the Turks and to present his case with the magistrate before the Sanjak Bey of Shkodra. I waited at the village for him to return the next day. About ten o'clock at night, a boat or skiff was seen coming down the river from the direction of Samrisht (4) and Shkodra. In it was Dom Theodore Pasquali, Archdeacon of Bar, who, after the archiepiscopal Church of Saint George in Bar had been transformed into a mosque and all of his income had been stolen by the Turks, had taken to ministering in the villages of Mushan and Dajç. (5) His nephew Dom Francis was in Samrisht. Having received word that I had been robbed and since it was not certain that they would not take away what remained, he had come with the sole purpose of persuading me to leave the place and accompany him to Samrisht eight miles away, where I would be safer. Accordingly, I ordered that all my affairs be loaded onto the boat as quickly as possible especially since, on the other side of the river, a little over half a mile away, a group of Turks could be seen coming across the plain towards Saint George. But our people were not quick enough.
The moment we departed, an arquebus shot landed in the village, fired by the Turks who had already reached the other bank with their Algerian arquebuses. There were seven of them and they immediately began shouting from the bank. At the same time, on the opposite side of the river, over twenty Turkish archers from Ulcinj were approaching the village itself. The first seven were getting into a boat. We thought at first that they were trying to reach the other bank, but once they were on board, they sailed down the river and forced us to land, even though we had travelled, quite without defence, over a mile from the village. Joined by the Turks from the other side who had come after us, too, they unloaded all our affairs and then forced us, travellers and crew, to disembark. The latter, being from Budva and friends of one of the Turks called Safer, were released. Also released was Dom Thomas and the Archdeacon, but they refused to abandon us for fear that the scoundrels might take some sinister decision with respect to us. By staying with us, they hoped to save us from death. As soon as we were on land, the Turks began rummaging through our pockets to see whether we had any money or valuables. I indeed had a few gold coins sewn into the lining of my coat and a few jewels in my left pocket which I carried with me for an emergency. Thank God that the Turks did not find them, because although they put their hands into my right pocket, they did not carry their search through to the end. Seizing all our belongings, the Turks set off for Ulcinj, crossing through a lowland forest and taking all of us with them.
I was convinced that we were lost, even though I was a subject of the Lords of Venice and was travelling in the region with patents from the Sultan and Isuf Bey. Since we had the documents with us, I showed them to the Turks, insisting that we were on our way to Shkodra at the invitation of Isuf Bey, to take him some presents. I indeed begged them to consider that he would not be pleased at the tribulations we were going through. Nor would the Porte in Constantinople be pleased since we were the friends of some powerful figures who would be infuriated by our deaths, which would most certainly be avenged in a terrible manner. At the same time, the Archdeacon and Dom Thomas kept on insisting that I was related to Mahmut, the secretary of the grand vizier, and that I was on my way to meet him in Constantinople. They reacted as if they did not believe us or simply did not care. Indeed, one of their leaders said to me that they intended to take us all to Durrës and sell us. By now it was about 11 P.M. and we were getting close to the edge of the forest. I approached the priests and told them I strongly suspected that once we entered the forest, the barbarians would slit our throats, since it had grown dark. I was all the more terrified because I had overheard the Turks tell the local people to pray for us and not to proceed any farther. Indeed one of the villagers who was accompanying us turned back, and my nephew Angelo managed to understand a bit of what they were saying in Turkish, this being to the effect that they intended to kill us all. I therefore told them to try to calm the Turks down by giving them something to eat. I was more than glad to give them everything we owned simply to save our lives.
At this point, the Archdeacon lost control of himself and could not hold back his tears in view of the danger we were facing of losing our lives. This caused me great distress and I now realized I was lost, since the one person who knew the country and the customs of the barbarians had abandoned all hope. For this reason, as we were advancing, I fell slightly behind with Dom George, my chaplain, in order to talk to him before we entered the forest. Ordering him to hide in the hedges and begging him to pray to God for our souls if he should hear that we had been slain, I then hurried forward, hoping that the Turks would not miss him. He, however, instead of following my instructions, stood still, confused and dumbfounded, right in the middle of the road, looking backwards in a daze and not moving from the spot. When one of the Turks happened to look back and saw him in the middle of the road at quite a distance from us, he began shouting and loaded his arquebus to rush back and kill him. Realizing what he intended to do, I ran up to him immediately and managed, with great difficulty, to calm him down, insisting that the chaplain was not trying to escape, but was simply relieving himself. The chaplain then ran up towards us as quickly as he could and caught up with the others.
In the meanwhile, Dom Thomas had been talking to the barbarians to calm them down, in particular to Safer, to whom the crew of the boat had pleaded on our behalf, and to the other leaders. Although I was unaware of the fact because I had not had time to speak to him, he had come to the following agreement with the Turks. They were to take part of our possessions, leaving us free to return to Saint George. We had already entered the forest when I saw the Turks stop and dump all our things onto the ground. One of their leaders ordered me to sit down on a chest. When I saw him take out his scimitar to chop off my head, I dissimulated my fear and replied that I was so exhausted that I did not care to sit down. I simply begged him to reconsider what I had told him earlier on the road. While everyone else was standing around pallid with fear and trepidation, he turned to me and told me to ensure that all of my things were there because he wanted to take only what Dom Thomas had promised him. We were to be allowed to take whatever was left over and depart for wherever we wanted. But first of all, I was to open up the chest because they wanted the money in it. I replied that I would be quite happy for them to take whatever they wanted, including all the money they could find, but that there was not a penny in the chest since they had already taken all of my money that morning. I added that I could not open the chest because I did not have the keys with me as they were with my nephew, but that, if they wanted, they could break the chest open and I would willingly die if they did find any money in it.
They seemed satisfied with this answer and did not break the chest open. Instead, they seized all my most valuable possessions, left us in the forest and continued their journey to Reç (6), a nearby village, to spend the night. As the sun had already set, we decided to gather all our remaining affairs and set off slowly towards Saint George until we could find someone to help us and take us in, thanking God that we had been saved from the hands of the barbarians with less loss than we had expected.
As soon as we arrived at the village, I had a barque made ready and, without any further delay, we sailed up the river Buna in silence and in the dark of night towards Samrisht, leaving Dom Thomas behind to bring with him the affairs which our boat could not hold. I gave instructions for someone to set off immediately for Ulcinj to inform my nephew and the cavalryman about the second attack we had suffered. The priest did send a messenger, but the information did not arrive because the messenger simply pretended to go, and did not transmit the message at all. Most of the people are dishonest, or are afraid of incurring the wrath of the robbers.
In Samrisht, we found the aforementioned Dom Francis Pasquali who was ministering in Gorica across the river. That night we recovered somewhat from the ordeal we had suffered. The next morning I visited the church across the river, which was well-built and capable of holding five hundred souls. It was beautifully adorned with pictures on all sides. It is named after the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin and is well furnished with chalices and ecclesiastical garments, with a small portable altar but, like most churches in Albania, is without a baptistry and shrine, and is badly paved because of all the gravestones. After announcing that we would be confirming the next morning, we returned home to find my nephew and the cavalryman who had come back from Ulcinj. They had only managed to bring with them the jacket because the cavalryman insisted it was his. Since they were not able to get any money, they brought with them a sealed document, being a record of the theft. This, however, was in Turkish and in Turkish script, and turned out to be a simple passport.
We sent messengers to Shkodra immediately with some presents for Isuf Bey in order to inform him of the act of vandalism carried out against me under his sway and, as such, to urge him to repair the injustice committed by having the stolen goods returned to me. The messengers came back and told me that he had expressed such sorrow at the damage inflicted upon me and had reacted to the affront by stating that the violence had been perpetrated against himself and not against me. I was not to worry because he had summoned the leaders of the band and would ensure that everything be returned to me, even if he had to pay for it out of his own pocket. With them came Sinam Rais whom they thought had been staying with Isuf Bey. This was no more than an alibi, since he had been in the company of the thieves.
A little later we received word that the Sanjak Bey of Shkodra, Cascapan, was to arrive at Selita that night on his way to his residence in Shkodra. We then received another message to the effect that an emissary of the schismatic (7) Patriarch of Peja (Pec) had arrived with a group of Turks at the aforementioned Church of the Annunciation across the river in order, as usual, to extort dues from the priests of the Latin villages, dues which, according to an old tradition approved by the Sultans, belonged to the Archbishop of Bar. These dues consisted of two aspers per household annually, twelve for every marriage, twenty-two for the marriage of a widower and forty-eight for the marriage of a widow, as well as one zecchino annually for every church. These emissaries showed up two or three times a year, sometimes, as men-tioned, with the patriarch himself. With the help of the Turks he had with him, he was also extorting dues from the Latins, even though the latter are subjects of the archbishops of Bar alone.
Sinam Rais who, as mentioned above, was the voyvode of Ulcinj and the kadi of the surrounding villages, sent some of his men to bring the emissary before us in order to find out by what authority he was going about extorting from the Latins dues which did not belong to him, and in order to get back everything he had taken, and therewith reward Sinam Rais. When the emissary was brought forth, he presented several imperial patents, by the authority of which he alleged he had the right to go about demanding dues since the sultan had authorized his patriarch to do so. When Sinam read the document, he turned to the emissary and asked him if he did not have any higher authority. When the emissary replied that the patents he had were quite sufficient, Sinam lost his temper and said, "With this patent only, you have been going about, forcibly extorting money from Latins who have nothing to do with your patriarch because they are subjects of the Archbishop of Bar and not of him!" He then ordered the emissary to be tied up and placed under arrest until the sanjak bey arrived. While the guards were busy carrying out the order and bringing forth ropes to tie him up, I said that, since the matter was in my interests, I would be quite satisfied if the emissary, without being tied up, would be brought before the sanjak bey so that the matter could be solved by justice. He should go before the sanjak bey and show him the patents, explaining his reasons, and I would explain my reasons. Sinam and the cavalryman, Musli Bey, accompanied by my nephew, then took the emissary with them and set off for Selita. The few Turks who were still with the emissary abandoned him because they were afraid the sanjak bey might be angry with them. The emissary gave the guards ten talers, promising that he would appear in Shkodra on the following Sunday to resolve the matter in the presence of Isuf Bey. But he did not show up. Several of my priests, for their part, had gone there to protest that they were being forced to pay such dues two or three times a years, even though they owed nothing to the schismatics, but only to their superior, the Archbishop of Bar. And although Isuf Bey ordered that the emissary be summoned once again, he did not show up, but endeavoured even more fervently, with the help of his Turks, to collect what he had not yet managed to obtain. This forced me not to demand fees of anyone because they had already been obliged to pay them elsewhere. I only took what the people gave me voluntarily. This I could not help but accept because I was in a difficult financial situation in view of the theft and the many excessive gifts I had been forced to give to the Turks.
After carrying out our functions in Samrisht and Gorica and leaving orders that prayers be said for the spiritual well being of the souls there, we carried on to Mushan and Dajç where the aforementioned Archdeacon was serving. The next morning we went to visit a church two miles from the village. Because of the distance involved, the village priest often set up an altar in the shelter of his own house to accommodate the people and celebrated mass there when it was muddy and rainy out. I saw them doing this all over Albania where the churches are at a distance. I could not order even chapels, much less churches to be built in the villages because the Turks would not allow any new buildings of this kind. They would not even allow restoration work without being paid.
The aforementioned church bears the name of Saint Nicholas, is well built and can hold five hundred people, but it is very dark and sombre even though comparatively well-furnished with garments and chalices. As usual, it has an uneven stone flooring on unequal and unordered gravestones. Mass is celebrated on a small portable altar, very clean and nice looking, but on close inspection, it was seen to be fractured crosswise. As such, it was necessary to send people to Gorica to fetch the little altar at the church there so that we could celebrate mass that morning, as a large congregation had gathered. But we received no altar from Gorica as the priest could not find it. Other people were therefore sent to the Abbey of Shirq, five or six miles away, i.e. a little over an hour's travel, and brought a small altar back with them. Mass was then celebrated, prayers were said for the dead, and the graves were visited. The people there were very much consoled.
From that church, which is situated on the top of a hill, one can see the fortress of Shkodra about eight miles in the distance on an invincible mass of rock which domi-nates all the surrounding villages and the lake.
When we returned to the village, we confirmed one hundred fifty or more people. Then, we carried on to the church of Shirq and visited three villages in Trush where Dom James Cressendeli and Dom Athanasius Vassi were serving as chaplains. The poll tax from these villages was collected by three brothers, the aforementioned Isuf Bey, Suleyman Aga and Ibrahim Aga, all important and highly respected persons in this region. It happened that we were to call upon the latter two, since Isuf Bey himself was in Shkodra on business. When we came to speak of the robbery which the thieves from Ulcinj had perpetrated against me, the two replied favourably, saying that they would see to it that everything was returned to me, even if they had to pay for it out of their own pockets. But nothing ever came of their promises. I do not know whether this is more because of the lack of sincerity with which the Turks treat the Christians or because they needed to maintain good relations with the Turks of Ulcinj in view of their hostile relations with Isuf Çaushi, timar holder of Shas and Saint George, and with Mustafa Çelebia, revenue collector of Zadrima, with whom they had had a big altercation which caused much grief to the Christians of Zadrima before I set off in that direction.
The three villages of Trush have no other church than that of Shirq, two miles away. It is, however, a magnificent structure capable of holding some three thousand people. In the past, Benedictine monks used to live there with substantial income, which the Turks have now got their hands on. The church itself has been damaged by them, as they have removed and broken the best slabs of marble and have gouged out the eyes of all the faces of the saints, with the exception of Saint George and Saint Michael whom they hold in some veneration. As I had been informed that the church had been the object of much impiety, I reconsecrated it. The inhabitants came and brought me half the sum necessary. For the remainder, they asked me to wait, because the three villages had been in conflict with one another as a result of fighting and murders which had occurred when they were finishing the roof of the church. The men from one of the three villages decided, as a result of this, to reduce their contribution to the fraternity and in particular their part in the great amount needed for the feast of Saint Serge, during which food is cooked to be distributed to all the people who come and take part in the feast. The others, without whose consent the decision had been taken, did not agree. As such, they told the priests simply to say mass and hold the feast in the village. This way, no one would have a reason to go to church that day and cause further expenses. But since they were in the minority, they were outvoted by the others who wanted to go to church and do so according to custom, taking Dom Athanasius with them to say mass, since Dom James had refused to go.
When the feast was over that evening, they all departed in a good mood, wanting to pass through the third village which had refused to take part. Some of those who seemed to have been upset by the matter began to insult the other side verbally. They were also angry at the priest, who had gone to celebrate mass against their wishes, and were infuriated in particular when they heard a woman complain about one of them who had shot and killed a chicken with an arrow. They believed this had been done with the expressed purpose of angering them. The altercation progressed from words to deeds involving the arms they were bearing. As such, aside from a good number of wounds on both sides, several people from the third village met their deaths. The one who was accused most for all of this was the priest, who had gone to the church that morning to say mass. A number of the elders thus came forth to ask that he be punished, saying that he had been the first person to raised his hand and shoot five or six arrows. I replied that as soon as my secretary got back from Samrisht, the case could be tried with witnesses, because I did not want to leave the matter unsettled. The priest suddenly turned to Ibrahim Aga, one of his superiors, who appealed to me in no uncertain terms not to try him and not to hold any grudge against him, for he was certain that they were accusing him not because he bore any guilt, but out of pure malevolence and that the priest had only wanted to clarify the matter. He also stated that, since the priest was a relation of his, any action taken against the priest would be considered an action against him, too. I replied that I would gladly do anything I could to please him and that I would be happier if they did not raise the matter and did not bring forth witnesses. But if, on the other hand, they insisted on proceeding, I could not deny them their right to justice, as I was compelled to act accordingly by Christian institutions. He then put the rayah of that village under such pressure that they did not raise the matter again, even though I stayed there among them for almost a week. On this occasion, I asked the aforementioned Ibrahim Aga and his brother Suleyman to intervene between the villages, and the matter was solved within a month.
As such, I had Dom Peter Izi, abbot of Saint Paul's and student of the Clementine College, begin preaching in that language. He had come to accompany me in the region and had been fishing for souls throughout it with the word of God. When we finished baptizing and carrying out other essential activities, we decided to carry on to Barbullush. But since we had a large retinue and much baggage, difficulties with the horses, and since the Turks were looking upon our load of goods with evil intent, I felt it appropriate to send the chaplain, Dom George, and others of the family with almost all the baggage back to Budva, with the exception of what we needed for the journey. I had them accompanied to the river Buna where they boarded a boat for Budva, sailing to the mouth of the river and out to sea to continue their journey. Since it was a large and fully-laden boat and there was little water in the river, they had to stay put for several days before they were able to leave. At that point, the Turks of Ulcinj, who had reasoned or had been informed that I was sending much of the baggage back to Budva on that boat, made their way forthwith and, boarding the vessel, began searching it. Although much of the luggage was hidden under bails of wool with which the boat was laden, they discovered it and carried it all off with them, with the exception of a cross full of relics which had been stored in a safe belonging to the owner of the vessel. Dom George and the others barely escaped into a nearby forest. They were able to take nothing with them but a silver covered mitre with gold bands and a copper cross covered in silver and gold. Isuf Bey had given us nothing but vain promises and words, in the faith of which I believed longer than I should have, and without any result. All the while, I had been striking the iron while it was hot with continuous gifts and had not dared to appeal to the new sanjak bey of Shkodra in order not to anger the said Isuf Bey, under whose authority the people of Ulcinj were said to be.
Thus, as mentioned above, after having our luggage and some of our retinue returned, we advanced quickly from Trush to Barbullush which is situated on the banks of the Drin, a river larger than the Tiber. This river flows with many bends down from Lake Ohrid, dividing the northern part of Albania from Serbia, and passes through the region of Zadrima to arrive in Lezha where it separates into two branches and flows into the Adriatic Sea, forming on its way an island composed of all sorts of trees. Here I came upon Dom Nicholas Gramshi who had been conferred with that parish by the Bishop of Sapa. He was one of the suffragans of Bar. The parish was, however, beyond the border of his diocese, being situated in the diocese of Shkodra. I therefore decided to remove it from the diocese, in particular since the afore-mentioned Ibrahim and Suleyman with their local timariots had asked me to install some priests recommended by them. But finally, upon my return from Rodon and Durrës, after much imploring from the Christians there, who had also turned to Isuf Bey, I restored it once again to the diocese there and made another patent for it.
In Barbullush there is a church of Saint Stephen encompassing 300 souls, with a chalice, paten, a silver cross, but badly paved as usual. There I met the afore-mentioned Bishop of Sapa, Monsignor Nicholas Bardhi, a prelate of good and healthy manners who came out to meet me, as his diocese borders on Barbullush and is separated only by the Drin. On this side of the river, one enters into Zadrima, which is ancient Pharsalia where the battle which pitted Caesar against Pompey took place between Shkodra and Lezha. It is as fertile and pleasant a countryside as one can find in Albania, blessed with a sublime nature and all good things.
Once we had finished our duties in Barbullush, we crossed over the Drin and spent the night in Gjadër, a village with about eighty houses, all inhabited by Christians and with only two or three Turkish houses. Among the latter was Ferat Aga, also known as Cotus (8), meaning the enraged, because the Turks said whenever they had seen him enter battle it was as if he had gone berserk, beating his breast heroically. I paid him a visit and, as usual, took presents with me because my predecessor, Monsignor Orsino, having returned from Serbia, had not treated him in the proper manner and given him the presents he expected. He had therefore been imprisoned and the local Christians had then had great difficulty in getting him released. Nonetheless, the aforementioned abbot, who at the time was in conflict with Muslim Bey, my cavalryman, brought the matter up because Ferat Aga had got his hands on my nephew's jacket which he had taken from the Turks of Ulcinj and put on immediately. He wore it demonstratively, making things worse and trying to play for time although he had been asked on several occasions to give it back. The next morning, however, he left for Shkodra, pretending that he wanted to deal with the business of the Serbian priest. I never saw him again because he was later conscripted into the Persian war and set off with the jacket, as is the custom of the Turks, since they neither keep their word nor respect the law.
From Gjadër we continued on to Blinisht, a village of over two hundred houses, without a single Turk. They pay their poll tax to Mustafa Çelebia of the region, whom we mentioned earlier, amounting to 14,000 talers of income, of which he is obliged to remit 2,000 for some hospitals in Constantinople. He is a man of good and humane behaviour and does good deeds which the Christians do not cease to praise. I went to his home three or four miles away to pay him a visit and offered him the customary presents. I found him seated at a table with over twenty high ranking Turks. After offering me a seat, he invited me several times to dine with them as the table was covered with meat and poultry. I informed him, however, that according to the rules of our faith, we abstained from such foods for 46 consecutive days, during which we fast, and that we were in precisely that period. He told me he was surprised that I was not going to Constantinople to meet Mahmut, the secretary of the grand vizier, to whom, he had been informed, I was closely related, because Mahmut was a highly respected individual and had influence at the Court. He also informed me of the offices and titles he had held up to then and that he would be named Sea Admiral as soon as changes were made in the profession. He concluded by saying that if I should decide to go, he would be glad to accompany me because he would been going in that direction in sixteen days. I replied that I was honoured by his offer and would let him know.
In Blinisht was chaplain Primus Izi who also served in the village of Gjadër. When I passed through, the elders of the village implored me to assign to them a chaplain of their own since Dom Primus was not in a position to serve both places. They proposed Dom Peter Izi, abbot of Saint Paul's. Nonetheless, since the two villages jointly used the church of Saint Stephen, which is situated near Blinisht, and since the inhabitants of this village asserted that they had furnished it with garments, chalices and other necessities, it was uncertain as to whether the priest of Gjadër would have been able to use it without difficulties and expenses. With the intervention and indeed the authority of the bishop, we thus gave satisfaction to both priests and charged both of them jointly, and in this manner, the two villages were satisfied.
As the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin was approaching, I was invited to Lezha, five or six miles from Blinisht, to take part. The feast was celebrated there by a multitude of people in a splendid church capable of holding over two thousand persons, situated outside the town in the direction of the river Drin. The feast was officiated by the Franciscan brothers who have a monastery inhabited by three or four members of their order. They are poor and wretched individuals, having suffered from continuous attacks by the Turks who eat up everything they have. In the aforementioned church, they claim that the famed Alexander Castrioto, also called Scanderbeg, lies buried. He is remembered for his many valiant deeds against the Turks, which have been committed to verse and are sung by all the Albanians in that language, even in the presence of the Turks themselves.
On my arrival in Lezha, I went as usual to visit the kadi of the town to present him with gifts. I showed him my patent from the sultan and he, for his part, prepared another one for me, thus allowing me to travel freely throughout the territory under his jurisdiction.
In past years, Lezha had been something to see, but now it was so much reduced both in buildings and inhabitants that it was almost like a village with the surrounding walls fallen in and with a good proportion of the houses in ruins and reduced to nothing. It is inhabited by Turks who are more insolent here than anywhere else. But it has a fortress on top of a hill which guards and dominates the town.
There are about 30 Christian homes which, for the most part, were hostile towards their bishop, Monsignor Innocent Stoilino, a monk from Dubrovnik and one of the suffragans of Bar, because he had written some unfavourable reports about these poor Christians to Pope Clement VIII and had accused them of being evil tongued and disgusting in appearance. On more than one occasion I had admonished him, though in vain, to move to his residence here from Dubrovnik where he was staying and where I finally encountered him on my return from Serbia. He reacted coldly towards me because I had informed Rome that he was not residing where he should.
At any rate, we celebrated the aforementioned feast in which a surprising number of Christians from the surrounding area came to take part, bringing with them many Turks who entered the church out of curiosity to witness our celebration of mass. There, in the presence of everyone, and in particular of the vicar who was the head of the brothers, I celebrated mass in the most solemn robes I could find, the celebration being attended by many priests and friars who had come from all the villages of the region.
From there, we set off for Balldren, a village of some fifty homes. Dom Andrew Julsi, a native of the area, was serving there at the church of Saint Anne. He had chalices and decent clothes at his disposal. There is a rectangular bell tower, but without a bell. The inhabitants are all Catholic Christians, with the exception of two homes of Turks.
We then went on to Kakarriq which, since it is a village of 160 homes, has two priests: Dom Christopher Krytha and Dom John of Nica. It also has a church of Saint Nicholas with a rectangular bell tower complete with bell. There were no Turks. We then proceeded to Kukël on the same side of the Drin, half of which is in the diocese of Shkodra and the other half in that of Lezha. There I had happened on Isuf Bey with his brother and a large company of Turks who had just come back from a holiday at the house of Teta Midha, one of the leaders of that region. On this occasion I went to visit him to see if any decision had been taken regarding the restitution of the goods stolen by the men of Ulcinj. He offered his apologies, saying that he had not had an opportunity to talk to them because a number of things had got in the way, but that as soon as he found the time, he would do everything in his power to see that the goods were returned to me. From this reply, slightly different from the earlier ones, I realized that it was a waste of time to pursue the matter any further. His words were only designed to exhaust me. And this turned out to be the truth since a little later, I was informed that he had got his hands on part of the booty himself. Among other things, a beautifully ornate bedspread made of silk was seen in his home, the one which the thieves had stolen from Dom George at the time.
It so happened that I had breakfast with him one morning when my nephew was present. Halfway through the meal, he invited the abbot and Dom Primus Izi to have a seat, the two of them having come to accompany me. He sat on the floor on a rug made of a skin which looked like it was covered in weasel hair, and wore a great turban on his head. He was an attractive, noble looking man, eloquent and exceptionally courteous.
When we returned to Blinisht that evening, we were visited by the aforementioned Bishop of Sapa with all the priests of that diocese who had come to invite me to bless the holy oils in his church of Saint George, four or five miles away. He refused to do this himself because, knowing that I was there, he regarded it as my duty. I thought it a good idea to satisfy his request because I very much liked and respected him for his good qualities. As he had invited me to visit his diocese before I went any farther, I promised to satisfy his wish as soon as I had returned from Renc on the coast, where the church of Saint John had been desecrated. Some of the old people had come to me on various occasions to beg me to go there and reconsecrate it.
Before leaving the bishop, I decided it was the time and right moment to pay a visit to the kadi of Zadrima since he was not far away from there at the village of Mjeda. While the horses were being made ready on the morning of Good Friday, a number of Turks rode into the bishop's courtyard and declared that the kadi was particularly dissatisfied with him because the Christian archbishop of the region had arrived in Zadrima and had paid the bishop a visit without taking care to present himself and show his esteem to the kadi. We replied, asking them to inform him that at that very moment we were saddling the horses to go and fulfil our obligations towards him. But the Turks refused to depart before we were all on our way. The bishop, apprehensive that some misfortune might occur, took two pairs of roosters and a number of other things with him, in addition to the gifts which I had brought with me, in order to better placate the barbarian.
It was the morning of Good Friday and we were expected for services at the church of Joseph Bardhi, chaplain of Saint Mary's in Glina, which is situated on the road to Mjeda. As soon as we had approached the church, we asked two Turks to ride ahead and inform the kadi that we were on our way so that he would not be angry when we arrived.
I sent the family back to Blinisht and, when the church service was over, only I, the bishop, the abbot and some companions set off on foot. We were accompanied in case of trouble by a good number of elders from the surrounding villages of Hajmel and Renc (9). We soon arrived at the home of the kadi in Mjeda. He was wearing a large turban on his head and was sitting on a bed which resembled a theatre loge three hands above the ground. Seated on rugs and cushions, he was a good looking man with a long black beard. He sprang to his feet to greet me when I entered the room. I was informed that kadis usually do this only for sanjak beys and high level dignitaries. He welcomed me cordially and gave me a seat on some cushions beside him. I apologized for having spent several days in Zadrima without having come to fulfil my obligations towards him. I told him that I had come late because I was hoping to recover the things which the men of Ulcinj had taken from me and, had I had them, I would not have been ashamed to visit him right away since I would have had gifts commensurate with his status. I now hoped at any rate that he would accept my best wishes, together with the humble gifts. Aside from the gifts, I also gave him some money so that he would grant me a passport in accordance with the patent of the sultan. He read out the patent and the other documents I had brought with me and responded that, as soon as his secretary arrived, he would have the passport readied and brought to Blinisht. He expressed his wish to provide me with greater services because of the esteem in which he held Mahmut, the secretary of the grand vizier . He also asked the bishop to sit down across from him, while all the others remained standing. After talking for a while, we begged leave of him and went for lunch with the aforementioned Dom John, who was the nephew of the bishop. There we stayed until late and then mounted our horses once again. The bishop came out and accompanied me almost half the way to Blinisht. As it was already growing dark, I spurred my horse into a gallop so as not to be crossing the plain at night in the land of the Turk. This caused the sword which the abbot was carrying at his side to beat and cut its way into the bottom of the sheath where the patents of the sultan and other things were being kept, because he had attached them to his belt, together with the sword. As such, everything fell out of the sheath and onto the ground without our seeing it, and we arrived in Blinisht without the documents. Not only did we encounter our retinue there half petrified by our late return from the kadi, fearful that something might have happened, but we ourselves were also horrified at the loss of the patents. Although the first two hours of night had already passed, I therefore sent my nephew and the abbot back along the road immediately to see if they could find the things. And thank God, with the little bit of moonlight there was, they discovered everything a little over two miles away and we rendered thanks to the greatness of God that He had helped us out of this predicament.
We celebrated Easter in Blinisht and were witness to the great devotion of the people there. I was very comforted by them when I heard them all in the procession seeking God's mercy and continually repeating and responding to one another in two choirs, 'Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison', both the men, the women and all the children. They are a people with a genuine inclination to spiritual devotion. When they enter a church, they first of all fall upon their knees to say prayers in front of the doorway. As a general rule, none of them eat anything on Fridays throughout the year except eggs and dairy products. When they see a priest pass by, they abandon everything and rush to kiss his hand. At mass, when they hear the word 'Jesus', they all bow and repeat 'Jesus', and observe many other acts of devotion.
I then left to reconsecrate the aforementioned church of Saint John the Baptist of Renc, which is over two miles away from a very large port protected from all the winds. The port takes its name from the aforementioned church, surnamed Medua. Here, upon our arrival, several boats from Budva and Perast fired off artillery to salute us. Because the people of Renc were dissatisfied with their chaplain, Dom Christopher Krytha, who was wont to go there from time to time to say mass and to minister the sacraments, they turned to me, and I assigned Dom Andrew of nearby Balldren because, as they were a poor community, they were unable to maintain a chaplain of their own, even if one could have been found.
In the meanwhile, the time for the aforementioned revenue collector to depart for Constantinople was approaching and I resolved to send with him my nephew Marino to see if he could recover from the Turks the possessions and income of the archbishop and of the other churches of Bar because, in contradiction to agreements made, they had been stolen when the town fell. I also wanted to ensure that my Catholic subjects would not be troubled any further by illegal extortions on the part of the schismatic Serbian patriarch, in addition to confirming my reputation as a subject of the aforementioned pasha so that we would be better treated by the Turks wherever we chose to go. Thus, on the first day of May, when the revenue collector had assured himself of his authority over Zadrima by means of reconciliation with his enemy, Isuf Bey, strengthening this friendship even further by having breakfast with him in his garden in Gramsh, he set off on his journey, accompanied by over thirty horses. I waited for him in Blinisht which he was to pass through to pick up my nephew, for whom I had found a good horse for this long journey. I also wanted to give him some letters for the Bailie of Venice and for his page called Pervana who was trying to get into one of their schools in Constantinople.
When he arrived, he stopped and willingly took with him the letters. As he picked up my nephew, he told me not to worry about him because he would look after him as if he were one of his best friends, and immediately assigned the aforementioned page to look after him exclusively. Once they departed, I was told that when the Turks mount their horses for such a long journey, they hate to be stopped on their way during the first day. If this does happen, they are wont to return home and remount their horses in order to avoid bad luck. He nonetheless journeyed on towards Lezha where they spent the night in a tent. Also with him was the aforementioned archdeacon of Bar who was on his way to protest to the Porte in Constantinople about Kaçeniku, the sanjak bey of Shkodra, who had forced the archdeacon to pay 500 talers for a would be infringement by Dom Francis, his priest. Also in the retinue was Damian, the Emin of Bar and Ulcinj, who was on his way to Constantinople to better secure the position he had. This pleased me greatly in view of what might possibly happen to my nephew on such a long journey.
After the departure of the revenue collector, it seemed to me that it was the right moment to satisfy the wish of the Bishop of Sapa, so I set off for the villages of Troshan and Fishta. Chaplain Dom Primus Cinci was assigned to the church of the Madonna there, itself not badly furnished with garments and silver chalices. There I left orders for another large slab of stone to be made for the little altar and for it to be taken to the bishop to be consecrated. On Wednesday, a messenger arrived from the Rodon area near Durrës, sent by the has bey, a powerful leader in that region, with a letter inviting me to visit the area to provide consolation to his Christian subjects. The latter had appealed to him continuously to this end when they received word that I had arrived in Albania. He informed me that he wanted to grant them the favour and that the messenger, called John Çeka, would accompany me personally when he returned from Perast, where he was being sent on business. I responded that I would be very pleased to go once I finished my visit to Zadrima and that it would be quite sufficient if he ensured my security during the trip by sending some Turk with authority to accompany me.
Once the messenger had departed for Perast and I had fulfilled my functions in Troshan and Fishta, we set off for Sapa where we blessed the holy oils in the church of Saint George. It was here that the very reliable and intelligent Dom Primus Kryeziu was serving.
A Christian woman approached me here, the wife of a Turk. With tears in her eyes, she explained that she was the most unfortunate and desperate woman in the country because she was being kept in the power of a Turk (although she was his wife) and could not get away from him. She had been excluded from the sacraments and from attending church because the priest would not let her in, as he did the other Christian women. She implored me, suffering and enslaved as she was by that infidel, to order the priest and the bishop, whom she had approached several times, to admit her to mass and communion with the others. She was in such a state of despair that she was not to be consoled at all. I was afraid that things might get out of hand and that she might kill herself in order not to suffer from the misery any longer. I did not leave her before managing to calm her down somewhat with much reasoning, telling her that those who took the morally wrong decision to kill themselves in order to escape from the miseries of this world entered into another world of such dire misery that it would have been better for them not to have been born at all. I said that since she could not escape from the clutches of that man, as she claimed, and since, having had children with him, he would not accept to divorce her, she should pray to God to liberate her so that she could be admitted with the other women as she wished. I also promised to take the matter up with the bishop so that she could at least enter the church with the other Christian women and to see what else could be done. Such women were always excluded from confession because, having given birth to children, they had consented to sin, even though the force of such infidels is such that the poor women they take for their wives cannot fight them off if they do not consent. It does not seem right to me to exclude such women from church, of whom there are many throughout Albania and Turkey. Even if they are not allowed into confession, they should at least be able to retain their Christian faith and protect themselves from apostasy, to which they are driven by their infidel husbands. As the situation is, they abandon their faith more readily than if they had never entered a church at all.
Indeed I regard it as a great failing of this Christianity of ours to tolerate such detrimental abuse. They have never bothered to bring the problem up with their superiors, in particular with the Mufti, who is the spiritual head of the Muslims, so that he could expressly prohibit Turks from marrying Christians. In many places I did not fail to chastise the carelessness they had for the physical and spiritual health of their children, not to mention the honour of their families which was being put to shame, and told them that they would most certainly have to render account to God.
We left Sapa and proceeded to Hajmel and Renc where, as was mentioned earlier, Dom Joseph Bardhi was serving at the church of Saint Mary in Glina. We then descended from those villages which are all on the hilltops and arrived at the village of Mireri on a fair plain washed by the Drin, into which flows the river Gjadër. There, in the church of Our Lady, which is very small but which has a portico in front of it, we came upon chaplain Dom Nicholas Kabashi, and at the nearby village of Shelqet, its priest, Dom Joseph. From there, we proceeded to the village of Baba, where Dom John Trushi, also known as Scanderbeg, was serving at the church of Saint Pantaleon. This church, big enough to hold 300 people, was consecrated with crosses on the two facades and crosses on the other two (sides). It contains a silver cross, but the chalice and paten are made of tin.
Since the bishop was there with his vicar, I was requested to admonish the priest and demand that he abandon the concubine he had kept with him for many years. The bishop had admonished him several times and had set out to punish him, but this was in vain because he immediately went to the Turks who ordered the bishop to leave him alone. I admonished him to leave her, on pain of suspension from mass and of deprivation of his official status. He abandoned her immediately, but as soon as he heard that I had left for Rodon and Durrës, he returned to his abomination. Thus, when I returned to Zadrima, after the bishop and all the other priests had complained to me that he was incorrigible and had begged me to punish him, I issued a warrant against him, giving secret notice to the bishop to restitute him if he should mend his ways so that he would not end up on the streets, because he was an old man.
As we were in close proximity to the gardens and houses of Isuf Bey, who had retired to his own home when Cascapan, the Sanjak Bey of Shkodra, took office, I went to pay him a visit out of pure humanity and took him some presents as I was wont to do. He made many promises that he would take action and speak up about the issue of the men of Ulcinj. But these were nothing but empty promises. In the course of the conversation there, when he was talking to the abbot who had come with me, he revealed his dislike of the aforementioned revenue collector, although they had apparently patched up their relations. Taking advantage of the absence of the revenue collector, he had decided to go on the offensive and destroy Zadrima by looting the houses of the revenue collector. This he did several days later, telling the abbot that as soon as the Sanjak Bey of Dukagjin arrived, whom he had won over and who was to turn up shortly, he would punish the people of Zadrima because they had hindered him during the previous winter from making incursions, from which he had hoped to gain great booty and many animals and to put down the people of Dukagjin who were enemies of the sultan. By hindering him, they had proven themselves to be rebels because they were defending the enemies of their own prince. As I was their greatest spiritual leader after the pope, he wanted to allow me to decide what type of punishment they merited. Several days passed and I was once again in Zadrima at the village of Gryka where Dom George Bardhi, a pupil of the Clementine College and nephew of the bishop, was serving as vicar at the church of Saint Demetrius. This church was rebuilt from its foundations as it had been destroyed by an earthquake. There we received word that the aforementioned Sanjak Bey had arrived with a large retinue, had crossed the river Drin and had entered the plain of Mjeda. He had set up his pavilion not far from the ruins of the town of Deja, which had been destroyed at the time by Scanderbeg, and was waiting there to join forces with the Sanjak Bey of Shkodra and with Isuf Bey. He had gathered all the Muslims and Christians under his authority from Bar, Ulcinj, Trush, Kakarriq, Kukël and the banks of the Buna.
This news was of great concern to us all so I decided to leave the region and cross the Drin to get to the town of Kakarriq until the storm passed. But my nephew Angelo fell gravely ill from a certain stomach disorder. This reduced him to such a state that by the fourth day he could not hold any sustenance at all. Nonetheless, either because of his fear of the impending danger or because he did feel better, as he said, he managed to get back on his horse, Kakarriq being no more than three miles away. We all arrived happily because we were now in safety. Less than two hours had passed when he felt as if something had ruptured in his chest and his throat swelled. He begged me to commemorate his soul and invoked the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and of Saint Cecilia, his patron. He confessed to me but I could hardly hear the words which he endeavoured with such fervour to utter. I held him in my arms, giving him encouragement and praying to God in His mercy. When he lost his voice, I gave him absolution and left him in the care of the theologian father and the other priests. Stepping aside, I fell on my knees and prayed to our great Lord in His grace to save his soul. A little later, on May 13th, his soul departed the body in a sign of great attrition, leaving me in such pain and confusion that I hardly knew where we were. He was so young, a mere twenty three years old, of a lively nature and with an excellent memory. He had served me not only as a secretary but also for other needs. I had often asked him to preach to the people. He abandoned me at the hour of my greatest need during this distressful journey when we were sleeping without sheets, for the most part on the ground and in ubiquitous filth from which no one could escape.
Hearing of his death, the bishop and many priests came to console us for our loss which, being the will of God, had to be borne with patience and gratitude to the Lord.
In the meantime, the men of Zadrima, seeing that the enemy was about to attack, took counsel before the conflagration spread and before the Turks began to lay waste to their region. They resolved to appease the Sanjak bey and persuade him to turn back without causing them any further harm. They therefore collected food and other gifts and sent several of their elders to present them to him. Although he accepted the gifts, he made no promise and gave no sign that he would withdraw. Nor did he say openly what he intended to do since the men of Isuf Bey were as yet not ready for war. When the men of Zadrima saw this, they united under the command of Safer, the prefect of the revenue collector. The aforementioned Ferat Cotus Aga also took their side, and they took up position across from the camp of the Sanjak Bey, in support of whom Ali Cascapan, the Sanjak Bey of Shkodra, had arrived with his own forces, as had a good part of the forces of Isuf Bey. Interpreting this as a declaration of war, they went forth and attacked. During the first skirmish, some men were slain and many were wounded on both sides, especially on the Zadrima side. Realizing that the Turks were attacking with more men than they had themselves, as they only had the support of the men of Lezha, they began to retreat, nor could they hold their ground. Despite this, Safer, who was a young man of some twenty two years and who was very courageous, rushed to the fore and resisted the onslaught of the enemy. But in the end, seeing that even Ferat Aga was retreating with his company in disarray, he gave way to the enemy. The battle that day concluded with the victorious return of the Sanjak Bey to his camp, after having plundered Hajmel, Renc and the surrounding villages, including the home of the revenue collector. Everything was taken by the enemy as booty, and no house was spared. Barrels of wine were looted and many women were raped. The houses were put to the torch and so terrible was the conflagration which rose into the sky, that it could be seen from Kakarriq and the other villages nearby. As soon as the Turks began to approach, the men of Zadrima drove their animals up into the mountains so that they would not fall into the hands of their enemy. Only the men of Gjadër drove their animals to the village of Kakarriq. After the battles, not only did the Turks plunder those who were in the mountains, but they also threatened to come back and loot the other villages and set them on fire. The people of Zadrima were thus obliged to pay a huge sum of money which, after many endeavours, appeased the enemy and calmed the situation.
The people were thus allowed to return to their homes, but one morning, we received word in Kakarriq that over one hundred Turks from Ulcinj had crossed the river Drin there. They were on their way to steal the animals of the people of Gjadër and were now about to arrive. For this reason, all the people who had animals began to drive them quickly to Balldren or up into the mountains which rise about Kakarriq. I realized that there was nothing I could do to alter the situation because the barbarians had even been enraged by the requests made for the return of the goods which they had taken from me, and had threatened me. I immediately grabbed a shirt and stuck a little breviary into my pocket and, rushing out of the house with my retinue, came upon Dom Christopher who was making ready a barque. We jumped onto it and tried to punt across the canal in the direction of Balldren, but we could find no one whom we could pay to drag the barque out. Since the vessel appeared to me, in view of the emergency, to be moving too slowly, I decided to disembark as I was afraid that the Turks were too close at hand. We thus set off on foot, running as fast as we could to get away from the village and looking over our shoulders all the time to see if the Turks were behind us. We were about a quarter of a mile from Balldren, I believe, when I discovered that there were no barques there to take us across the canal, and that we had fallen into a trap. Indeed we would have fallen into the hands of the Turks, had they been after us, since, as we could find no ford to get across the canal on foot, there was no other choice but to swim. This horrified me, and all the more because I was covered in sweat and was afraid that I would catch my death in the cold wind which was blowing. But at that moment, a barque loaded with wood approached from Lezha and took us over to the other bank, though this took time because it could only transport us one by one.
When we arrived in Balldren, there was hardly anyone there. Since the watchmen there had spotted us running across the plain and had known there was a multitude of armed Turks in the vicinity, they thought we were Turks who were approaching to pillage and rape them. For this reason, almost all of the inhabitants fled into a nearby forest, taking with them their children and as many of their possessions as they could carry from their homes. When the watchmen recognized who we were and heard what had taken place in Kakarriq, they sent for the refugees and called them back. They also sent one man along the mountain road to see what the Turks were doing, and reinforced their watchmen at other spots. The scout returned and reported that the Turks had gone back to Ulcinj without causing any further harm. I therefore took a barque with my retinue and returned to the village that evening to wait for the messenger of the has bey in order to get to Rodon. I did not dare to set off on my own because I had to pass through territory bathed by the river Mat which was a small fiefdom run by an alay bey who let it be understood that wherever I happened to go, I would be caught and sent packing forthwith to Constantinople. It was therefore impossible for me to explore the country without being caught up in some unrest. But no one turned up. John Çeka, whom the has bey had sent, had, on my orders, brought a number of ships from Perast to load them with grain in Rodon. He had embarked on one of them and was travelling back by sea.
Not many days had passed, during which I was absorbed in thought, when the abbot arrived to inform me that Boe Gianchi of Mërqia had told him that he had recently been on business to the aforementioned alay bey. Not only had the alay bey altered the negative opinion he had held about me, but he had also expressed the wish to see and assist me, realizing that we were under the protection of the Porte in Constantinople. The alay bey was to visit his house in Mërqia in a few days' time where I would have an opportunity to talk to him. In view of this news, I thought it best to return to Blinisht. There, we received word from a messenger of the alay bey himself that the latter had arrived in Mërqia and that I was invited to meet him before he left to return to the Mat area. I therefore set off immediately, having made ready the usual tribute, mounted my horse and rode with the abbot to Mërqia, two miles away, not without apprehension about possible mischief on the part of the Turks. Having faith in God, in whose hands I had been during the whole journey, I carried on intrepidly. There, we came upon a large group of Turks in the shade near a spring, with many choice horses. The alay bey was sitting at a table set up in the grass. When he saw me, he welcomed me with a kind expression on his face and, seating me right away beside him, he spoke graciously and paid me many a fair compliment, inviting me, should I wish to travel to Rodon and Durrës, to meet him the next morning in Lezha to visit his home in Mat. It would be a good idea, he noted, for me to wait for the return of the revenue collector of the local Sanjak Bey in order to get the patents which would ensure my safe passage through those areas. They were not ready because the revenue collector had departed to accompany the Sanjak Bey for a couple of days, who was involved himself in the Persian war. As we were seated side by side, he asked me to sit across from him so that, as he stated, he could better enjoy my presence. He spoke and acted in such a distinguished manner that I marvelled just as much as I delighted in his behaviour.
Finally, I begged his leave and returned to Blinisht for the appointed meeting. The next morning we crossed the Drin and travelled to Lezha, taking up lodgings at the monastery where, as was mentioned above, friar Louis Carli was guardian and vicar of the bishop. He was of the opinion that since we had to wait for the arrival of the revenue collector at the home of the alay bey, we could look in on and give comfort to several villages situated between Lezha and Mat. I had received repeated warnings from the priests of Rodon and Rendesia (10) not to proceed any further because we would otherwise encounter some misfortune there. Not only had Idromen Dervishi invaded the plain with some 300 Turkish thugs, killing people wherever he went, but also the conquest and looting of Durrës the year before by the Western fleet had made the Turks so suspicious that they would believe I was coming to try and foster some uprising. They offered me many gifts if I would only turn back. But I resolved to continue my journey since I knew that I had the support of the Turks, i.e. the alay bey and the has bey, and had proof of the many patents I had brought with me, and since I had received indication that some major disorder had occurred there and, in particular, since the has bey had invited me to come.
The next morning, June 1st, I left the representative of the alay bey in Lezha and set off with the vicar for the village of Solamunt (11) where Dom Nicholas Gjunsi was serving at the church of Saint Blaise. He was also responsible for another village further up in the mountains called Dardha. There were 30 Christian homes in each of the villages. The aforementioned church is in a very good condition, but is in a mountainous region and far from the aforementioned villages, something which is not unusual for Albanian villages. It has a chalice, one paten made of silver and another one made of tin. There are two rather large bells, but they hang in the middle of the church. It has a chasuble of crimson damask but, like all the other churches, it has no baptistry. The altarpiece has the image of Saint Nicholas on it with two brass candle holders. The altar was constructed of wooden boards so I gave instructions for it to be built into the wall and for the corporales to be washed. Around the church is a cemetery. On the 17th of the month, Dom Demetrius Carpassi, chaplain of the village of Zejmen, came to pick us up, and we departed.
It is there that the church of Saint Nicholas is situated. It is not very big but is well-adorned with paintings by painters who have come from all over Albania. The external portico, in particular, which can hold 200 persons, is well-built with seats around it. The altarpiece has the image of the Blessed Virgin. The church has a chalice, a paten, a silver cross, a chasuble of crimson damask, and a bell inside the church which is rung for mass. The priest is badly educated and has little knowledge about the celebration of mass and about the formula of absolution which he reads out of a book, as do most of the other priests. I therefore gave him orders in writing to learn the formula by heart, as I had done in all other such cases.
This village is situated at the top of some hills, below which is a deep valley. On the other side there is a ridge of other hills, at the start and near the highest point of which is the village of Bërzana. From here you can see the people on the Zejmen side and even talk to them because the distance over to them is no more than that of the descent into the valley and the ascent to the other side. Dom Andrew Carli is serving here. It was a good church that I came across here, capable of holding 500 people. It bears the name of Saint Barbara and has a fine large portico in front of it. It has a chalice, one paten made of silver and one made of tin. Like the other churches, its bell is within the church building. The garments and linen were all in good order. In this church, there was a portable altar with some brickwork or rather a bit of tiling in which there were no noteworthy relics. The priest said it had been consecrated by Monsignor Prushe, Bishop of Lezha, but he only knew how to read a little and was unable to write, like most of the priests in Albania. Thus, upon the request of the vicar and the priest, I consecrated another priest so that they would not have to do without mass and so that the other priest would not endeavour to say mass without the altar, as he was very uneducated. He barely knew how to read so there was no talk of him knowing the formula of absolution by heart. I therefore gave it to him and ordered him to learn it. We tried hard on several occasions to teach the celebration of mass to him and to the other priest of Zejmen. We were obliged to put up with such ignorance in this region because there was no one else we could give the parish to. In the meanwhile, John Çeka arrived with another letter from the has bey to invite me once again. Since the houses of the has bey were near Bërzana, a little over one mile away, it seemed to me to be the right moment to visit him and confer with him about a decision to travel to Rodon, in particular since the has bey had invited me and since I had received no word up to that moment about the return of the steward. I met him in a large building in the countryside which was divided into two parts in accordance with the custom of the Turks: one side for the men and the other for the women. He was still seated at a table with a number of hodjas or priests of their sect although it was already 10 P.M. They had not got up from the table the whole time, this being the custom of the Turks who keep on eating and drinking at the table for days and nights on end. I experienced this once myself in Bar when I was staying with the dizdar or warden of the fortress. When I thought we were about to get up from the table, he ordered several chickens to be slaughtered and roasted. We did not get up from the table at all, except for the reasons one can imagine, and when the food was finally brought in, we ate it all, and continued conversing and drinking. Since I could not keep seated for such a long time, I found a pretext to get up and retired to another room. I was told, however, that the warden was offended by this, which he considered to be uncivil behaviour.
As soon as I arrived in the presence of the alay bey, he offered me a seat beside him and we began to talk. He asked me to write two letters for him. One was for the Pastrovic tribe to tell them to come back and reconcile themselves with him, and to bring him a large sum of money to recompensate him for the blood they had spilled when they murdered his nephew. It is customary in this region for the relatives of those murdered or injured to demand payment for blood when they conclude peace with one another. The other letter was for the Dukagjin tribe of Kthella to tell them to return some of his men whom they had taken prisoner at the time of a ceasefire and not to make any more trouble. As soon as the meal was over, they brought in and set another table in my honour, i.e. a round Bulgarian table which held ten people. This they opened up on a carpet while I was seated on another carpet, and covered it with all sorts of food. They did this as if they had not yet eaten at all, and rubbed their hands as if they were hungry. Not understanding that they had set the table for me, I declined when he asked me to have dinner with him. But as it was late and as he refused to accept any excuse on my part, I was forced to give way for some time until I was able to beg his leave to return to Bërzana. He said he would do everything he could for me if I wished to travel to Rodon and would accompany me to the border.
But when we set off in that direction, I was unwilling to approach his house because I had heard that he had invited the aforementioned robber Idromen Dervishi that morning, who had arrived at his house with over two hundred of his men. I discovered that he wanted to take me prisoner as soon as he found out that I had arrived in that region. I therefore sent John Çeka to inform the alay bey secretly that I was leaving. I also sent him the letters he requested so that he could send them on to the Pastrovic and the Dukagjin tribes. He replied that there were a lot of people at his home and he therefore did not have time to thank me (in person) for my assistance. Since the robbers were not far away, I had the impression that they would be after us at any moment, so I spurred the horses into a gallop until we arrived at the river Mat. John caught up with us a little later and we got to the river Ishëm. By that evening, we had reached Gjuricaj in the diocese of Albanensis where Dom George Bardhi, a Macedonian, was serving at the church of Saint Nicholas. He was appointed by the Bishop of Stephanensis, one of the suffragans of Bar, as vicar over the priests of Rodon.
The facade of this church was scarred by an earthquake which had ravaged the land. A warning was thus issued at the request of the vicar against those who were pillaging the property of the church for them to give up their sins and for the church to be repaired. It has a chalice, a paten, a cross made of silver, a tin chalice and a chasuble of multi-coloured damask. The table of the altar was made of wood with a little portable altar on it, which I refused to accept because the slab was too small. When I opened it up, I found nothing in it, neither relics nor anything else, not even a grave. The vicar told me that he had bought it in that state, believing it to have been consecrated. I thus consecrated another one. The said vicar did not possess a patent of orders but he did have a certificate of admission issued by Monsignor Capitre, Bishop of Bar, of blessed memory. I left him the formula of absolution to be learnt by heart and, upon his request and that of the priest, I carried out confirmations in the presence of a great multitude of people. We left Gjuricaj for the village of Rrushkull where Dom Mark, a native of the village, was serving at the church of the saint. The said church is not very large and was in a rather sorry state. It had a chalice, a tin paten and one chasuble of white cotton. I reprimanded the priest for the dirty corporales. I prohibited use of the portable altar because the slab of stone was not thicker than two fingers and, when I opened it up, I found neither relics nor anything else in it. He told me that he had found it in this state when he first arrived to serve at that church. I therefore consecrated another one.
In addition to this, I came across further disorder. When I inspected the holy oils, I did not find any for the sick and when I asked the reason for this, the priest told me that he did not keep any as the people did not want them. As elsewhere in the region, they were filled with remorse because they believed that, if they were cured of the illness in question, they would not be allowed to get married or to walk barefoot without committing a mortal sin. I encountered this belief throughout the region. Therefore, in order to overcome their diabolical error, we brought the matter up in public everywhere we went in order to open the eyes of those people as to their erroneous beliefs and to convince them not to avoid any opportunity to receive this holy sacrament because if they refused to receive it, they would be committing a mortal sin and, as a result, would bring about the damnation of their souls. On the other hand, those who received it (according to the assertions of the doctors of the church), would bring about the annulment of their confessed sins. If they did die of the disease in question, they would die with less suffering and if they survived, they would be healed more rapidly. In particular, I left instructions to the confessors to administer the holy sacrament to the sick in every case in which they regarded the latter as being in danger of imminent death. I also ordered them to acquire the holy oils immediately. And as it turned out, these people and all the others who realized the error of their belief publicly stated that in the future they would willingly accept them, as is done in other Christian countries, and they praised God that they had now seen the truth. This was verified by public declarations made by the vicar of Rodon and the vicar of Durrës who accompanied us through almost all of the region and who certified that they, as natives, had not had enough confidence in themselves to rid the people of their errors, but rather had had full confidence in me as a foreigner and as archbishop.
In the patents which the Monsignor of Stephanensis issued to Dom Mark, the village is stated to be in the diocese of Albanensis. The diocese has now been done away with, as have many others in Albania, not without grave harm to the country and not without diminishing the divine cult of Christianity, because there are now no more than three dioceses in the whole of that kingdom, i.e. those of Sapa, Lezha and Stephanensis. To get to the seats of residence is quite dangerous, the voyages being tedious because of the insolence of the Turks and because of the murders committed along the way. The result of this is that there are few priests in the region and those who are left are unskilled in their duties. A great many Christians thus grow old and die without the sacrament of confirmation, and almost everywhere they have abandoned their faith.
At the insistence of the vicar and the people, we held confirmations in this place with more people taking part than in the village of Gjuricaj. Since the time had now come to visit the has bey who had houses in the countryside below the village of Sporagni (12), we went to that village one evening, where we stayed at the house of Dom Nicholas, the local chaplain. The next morning, I paid the has bey a visit, taking the usual tribute with me. I encountered him sitting on a carpet on the ground, as is the custom of the Turks. He was a man of seventy years or more, his head being partially paralysed. He was busy with the construction of a tower, no doubt to protect himself from attack against his person or against the large amount of money he owned. And a few days later, he indeed almost did fall victim to the setting fire to his boats when, under the escort of local men, the assailants sailed up the river Ishëm and disembarked to attack him without warning. But the deed was discovered by some men of Lezha who were in a frigate on that river. They jumped out onto the land and raised cries of warning, so the others retreated.
He read the Sultan's patents out with great pleasure, admiring the unusual magnificence of the script. But when he saw the other passports I gave him, he replied that they were all of no legal value because the command of the sultan alone was quite sufficient and there was no need for me to have incurred expenses to have the other ones issued. He made generous offers of his support to ensure my security in the region under my jurisdiction. He exhorted me to punish those who were guilty, without regard to anyone, be they priests or laymen, and said he would always extend to me his supportive embrace. This was because the Turk believed I had come, as they are wont to do when they travel through the country, simply to extort money from the people by fining them for minor infractions. He hoped that I would give him a portion of the money extracted from the fines, as the dragoman later told me. But when I told him that I did not intend to collect fines or money or anything else and that I had only come to do good and, at most, to correct some irregularities and abuses, he told me that he was not angry with me because he had misunderstood. He praised my good intentions and charity, and said he would support me whatever happened. Nonetheless, when I left Rodon, I discovered that he had been dissatisfied with me for not having agreed to a request on his part, as will be said below, and he let it be known that he regretted not having taken me prisoner and not having held me for ransom.
We then visited the aforementioned village of Sporagni which, like the other villages, had eighty houses or a bit more, almost all of which, like the other villages, were Christian and of those, all Catholic. The church is named after Saint Elias, and is a good construction capable of holding over one thousand people, but totally uncovered with the exception of a chapel outside on the left. When I heard that the income of the church was being stolen by some of the Christians, and that the church could therefore not be covered over, I issued a warning against them, stipulating that the income be used to roof the church and thereafter to support the priest serving there. He was being supported by a few contributions from homes there, as is the case in the other villages. The church had its principal altar in the wall and was without a table. The little altarpiece consisted, as usual, of a small slab. I consecrated another one as I had done almost everywhere else, because this one was not good enough. The priests told me that when the Monsignor of Stephanensis had been in that village, he had given an order for a general consecration, but did not have the time to carry it out because the barbarians were after him to persecute him and he was obliged to leave the region. The aforementioned church of Saint Elias has a chalice, a paten of tin, a chasuble of old crimson velvet, a golden fore-altar for the choir, a bell in the church which is rung for mass, no baptistry, and, like the others, no oils for the sick.
From those villages which are situated on hilltops, we returned to the left side towards the plain across from Kruja, to the village of Bilaj. Dom Domenic Vojo, the deputy of the priest of Lower Bilaj, came out to meet us. It is a fair and spacious plain, cleared recently of the forest which covered all of it and indeed still covers most of it. Above it, on the ridges of several hills is the town of Kruja which, together with the town of Shkodra, holds sway over Albania. There are no other fortresses and towns with the exception of some in bad condition, such as Ulcinj, Durrës, Lezha, Ishëm and Preza. The latter two may be regarded more as minor castles than as towns. All the rest of the country from Elbasan and beyond, which is in the interior, consists of villages, almost all of which are inhabited by Christians, with few Turks.
In Bilaj there is a church named after Saint Elias. It is quite spacious, but dark because it is low. I gave orders for it to be raised so that it could get more light. It has two outside doors. There used to be Franciscans here. It has a cross, a chalice and a silver paten, but they are in a bad state because of their age. I therefore ordered new ones to be made. The altar turned out, as usual, to be small and with enormous fractures in it. When I opened it up, I found no relics in it. I consecrated another one. It has a brocade chasuble. The golden fore altar for the choir contains the image of the Blessed Virgin. I left the formula of absolution with the priest for him to learn by heart. There was a bell on the top of the church to assemble the people, and there was another one in the church for the elevation of the holy sacraments. There is no altarpiece, but the rostrum contains the image of the Blessed Virgin and several others. The church enjoys a full and perpetual indulgence accorded to it by Pope Gregory XIII for the feast of Saint Elias. In the patents it is written that this village is situated in the diocese of Albania which also stretches for quite a distance through the mountains of Dukagjin to the border with Serbia. There are 60 houses, all Christian. Around the church there is an extensive cemetery surrounded by hedges. It is entered through the door of the priest's house, for the protection of which he keeps two terrible mastiff dogs. But there were complaints because many people were afraid to go to church for fear of being bitten by the dogs. I therefore gave orders either for the said dogs to be removed from the house or for the door of his house to be moved away from the entrance to the church. To ensure that the order was obeyed, I authorized the has bey to collect the fines.
From here, on July 4th we departed for Upper Bilaj where Dom Peter was serving as priest. The seat of the church of Saint John the Baptist is well-furnished and constructed, but dark. It has a bell on the roof, as do those in the other villages. It has a cross, a chalice, a silver paten and another tin chalice. It also has an altarpiece with images painted on the rostrum. There was a brocade chasuble. The altar was small, as elsewhere, so I consecrated another one. There are 50 Christian houses in this village and not a single Turkish one. I left the formula of absolution with the priest for him to learn by heart.
In the meantime, the presence of Idromen Dervishi with his some 300 followers was being felt in the nearby forest. They spared neither Turks nor Christians and indiscriminately plundered whatever they could find, slaying many people, too. At that time, Dom George, the vicar of Kruja and Rendesia and uncle of the aforementioned priest, came to meet me in Bilaj with some other priests because they were of the opinion that I was going to visit their region and they wished to accompany me. I received requisite information from him and from the others about the spiritual situation of the inhabitants there and gave orders for the proper care of those souls. I decided, however, that it would not be a good idea to jeopardize myself and my retinue, which was terrified by the great danger involved. Realizing that I was resolved to get away from that forest and return to the hill country, he begged my leave and returned to his region where he collected all the defective altars and brought them to me so that I could consecrate other ones in their place because the ones he had were unacceptable, and this I finally did in Kales (13).
On our way back from the plains to the hill country, we arrived on the 3rd at Mallkuç where Dom Michael Bardhi was serving at the church of Saint Barbara. This village had 50 households, all Christian, who were constructing the church from its foundations and were already putting a roof on it. I opened up the little altar consisting of a small stone, but did not find any relics in it. I therefore consecrated another one. The church has a chalice, a tin paten and a brocade chasuble. The golden fore altar for the choir has on it the image of the Blessed Virgin. There were many complaints about the priest, among other things because he had been stubbornly and incorrigibly living with a concubine for 15 years now and the many measures taken by the Bishop of Stephanensis were not sufficient to separate him from the concubine. I admonished him and promised to pardon him for everything if he would only remove the woman from his household and not have any more contact with her.
This he promised immediately and did so. In order to be sure, I issued an order including not only the pains of censure, but also a heavy fine if he should return anew to his disgusting ways, another admonition for him to leave her, and the same penalties every time.
Before I left Mallkuç, John Kusa arrived to declare his guilt for having publicly beaten up the priest one day five years ago when he had been drunk with wine. He begged me to give him absolution and penance. Three friars also appeared: Nicholas, John and George, to ask for absolution, too, because they had fought and wounded one another some time ago, causing their priest to die in pain.
From here, we continued on to the village of Mazha in Laç, where Dom John of Petralba (Guri i Bardhë) was serving at the church of Saint Blaise. This village has about 40 Christian households. The church, with a capacity of 600 people, has a chalice, a tin paten and a little altar, although I consecrated another one. It also has a golden fore altar for the choir and a chasuble of white cotton with ribbons of red and white silk containing the arms of His Holiness. Here, too, I issued a warning against all those who usurp the property or income of the church.
On July 13th, we left for the village of Kalivaç where the sixty year old Dom Primus was serving at the Church of Our Lady on the top of a high hill. There are 60 Christian households there. The church has a roof of boards. They promised that they would roof it with tiles as soon as possible. It has two tin chalices, one of which I prohibited because it was not actually made of tin. There are several painted images but only on the rostrum. It has a fore altar in golden brocade with tassels around it made of green satin.
Here, more effectively than elsewhere, I lectured about bestowing the sacrament of extreme unction, because the people had alleged that this was only for priests and monks. But they understood and indeed thanked me for having told them the truth. There are 10 Turkish households here, which also contribute to maintaining the priest because almost all of them have Christian wives. I also lectured about usury from which they suffered greatly, and ordered the priest to give absolution only to those who were really convinced they were cleansed. I left with him the formula of absolution and consecrated an altar because the one he had was too small as usual. I confirmed a good number of people and conducted other essential functions.
Every morning when I entered the church there to celebrate mass, I saw a Turk sitting near the altar. As with everyone else who wants to enter, I could not deny him access to the church. This man kept his cap on all the time as I said mass, even when the most holy sacrament was elevated. I noticed that he turned his back to the people somewhat more and raised his eyes in adoration, beating his chest and not wanting to be seen. One day he came for lunch, so I asked him why he did it and what his intention was in doing so. He replied in confidence that a few years earlier, several Turks had got him drunk and persuaded him, while he was incapacitated, to state that he would foreswear his Christian faith and raise his finger to the sky, as is their wont. He later let it be known that this had not been his intention and he did not regard himself as bound to the Mohammedan sect because of an act committed while drunk. They, however, made it clear to him that if he returned to his Christian faith, they would cut off his nose. He was thus forced to declare that he was a Turk, but in his heart, he remained true to his Christian faith in which he wanted to live and die. I told him, if this was his intention, to take other measures towards his salvation, because it was not enough to have Christianity in his heart and to profess the Mohammedan faith. For Christ said: whoever bears witness unto me before mankind, I will bear witness unto my Father. In this connection, the holy martyrs preferred to lose their lives rather than profess another faith than the Christian. And if he could not profess it in Albania without losing his life, the world was large enough and Christianity embraced and indeed helped those in such circumstances. He stood there contemplating the matter, but after my departure I never found out what decision he had taken.
These poor people believe in their hearts, out of fear of others, that they can profess Mohammedanism and keep the Christian faith in their hearts. There are great numbers of them in the Ottoman countries, especially in Albania, where whole villages have abandoned the faith to escape from paying the poll tax. A few years ago, Kaçeniku, the sanjak bey of Durrës, doubled the poll tax on a village. To escape from paying it, the village declared that it had abandoned the Christian faith. This caused the other villages to think about taking the same step.
From Kalivaç we continued towards Durrës to the village of Lapsi (14), it too being situated in the hills which stretch for some distance eastwards. From Lapsi to the sea, where one can see the city, there is a beautiful wide plain, well-cultivated like those one can see in central Italy. The said city of Durrës is situated at the coast on a headland which rises slowly in a westwardly direction. Because the headland comprises several hills which continue beyond the city, the Turks built two forts there and defend the city in them from any forces passing through, although the said hills are higher than the forts.
This was once a city stretching over a large territory, but it is now small and with few inhabitants, especially since it was taken and plundered last year by the Western fleet. It is about five miles from the hills of Lapsi. Not long ago, the Turks built a small but strong castle on the hills called Preza, in order to keep the local Albanians in submission and make them more obedient.
Dom Scura of Scurio was serving in this village with two companions, Dom Nicholas from Shënkoll and George Scura. All three of them were very ignorant, except that they knew how to read a bit, although they had no literature and, like most of the others, did not know how to celebrate mass. I therefore left the first of them with the task of appearing every two weeks before the vicar until he had learned the complete formula of absolution, which I left with him in writing, as I had done with the others. They had been using a formula which absolved from excommunication after absolving from sin, and not beforehand. I withdrew the authority and right to say mass from the other two priests until they learned the other ceremonies from the vicar, too. The church here is built of wood but has slumped to one side because of age. I therefore gave the people a deadline to repair it by Christmas with new walls and bricks. Once this deadline passed, they were no longer to use it to celebrate mass. They promised to repair it as quickly as possible and had already received permission from the Turks. From here we continued on towards the village of Kales, arriving that evening at Sporagni for the feast of Saint Elias. Here I received some letters from Constantinople, including some which Mahmut Pasha, the secretary of the grand vizier, who had written to some friends to recommend me to them. In particular there was one letter addressed to the Sanjak of Shkodra, sending me a translation because it was written in the Turkish language and in Turkish script: "To Ali Pasha, the mighty Sanjak Bey of Shkodra, from his beloved friend Mahmut, the secretary of the grand vizier. After presenting greetings due to you in acknowledgment of the very honourable pasha, my brother, I would like to make known the following. In view of the fact that Your Lordship is presently in possession of the Sanjak of Shkodra, of the friendship which exists between us and of my desire to ensure that my relatives and other dependents in that region are in the shade of your protection, I venture to write affectionately and send Your Lordship this letter, begging you that Marino, Archbishop of the Franks, bearer of patents, our very close relative, not be lacking in your protective care during his various travels, together with his brother George, through those regions with their particular customs. And since our relative Christophor, now Emin in that region, is residing in the fortress of Bar, I would ask you to give him every possible support. I thus hope that, with your protection and diligence, they will not be troubled in any way by anyone. In other words, all the support which you give to the aforementioned individuals out of your infinite grace, causing them without doubt to be indebted to you, will be regarded as a great favour, as if you had done it for me personally, your close friend. For my part, I shall endeavour however possible to maintain best relations with your person and will carry out all obligations which the bounds of friendship require. For the remainder, may God keep you in His honour. From Constantinople on the first of the month of Rabi al Awal and in the year 1019 since the transmigration of the Prophet (15), etc."
I am including the above letter to show what genteel words high-ranking Turks are accustomed to using and what force of phrasing they employ to persuade others of their wishes.
I celebrated the aforementioned feast of Saint Elias in the presence of a great multitude of people, with just as many Turks as Christians, and held a sermon during mass. We then proceeded to Lalëz, which is a village of about 80 Christian households. There Dom John, an old man of some sixty years, was serving at the church of Saint Demetrius, but he, too, was of little intelligence. He held the missal in his hands and read confession out from it at the beginning of mass. The church is quite spacious, though considerably damaged by an earthquake and almost in ruins. It has a silver cross, a chalice and a paten made of tin. I consecrated an altar because the slab in use was no more than two fingers thick. It was also raised due to some fractures in the middle. Inside there was a note that it had been consecrated at the time of the principality of Scanderbeg. Upon the wish of the people and of the vicar, I confirmed over two hundred souls, most of whom were incapacitated, elderly people. I also ordained some clerics from various villages into the four minor orders and exhorted the people to contribute towards the separation of the church. I told them about the sacrament of extreme unction and reprimanded the evil custom which many of them observed of taking wives without getting married. I also issued an order for those keeping women in their homes to get married in the presence of the parish priest and witnesses in accordance with the stipulations of the holy Council of Trent and not to copulate without having celebrated matrimony first. In addition to spiritual penance, I authorized the fine to be collected by the has bey in order to ensure that the order was carried out. Orders were also given to the confessors to ensure that they penalize and oppose anyone giving his daughter in marriage to a Turk and that any women accepting to enter into such alliances be informed that during such hideous concubinates they would not be absolved of their sins or admitted to communion. These wretched people are convinced that such a concubinate does not constitute a sin because the Turks are the rulers of the country and one cannot and must not do anything but obey their every command. Even when they abandon their faith for secular reasons, they retain their Christian beliefs in their hearts. At the same time, they profess outwardly to be Muslims, as was noted above.
Meanwhile, a Turk called Kasun came to meet me, who with another Christian was the Cephalia or head of almost all the villages in Rodon after the aforementioned has bey. This Turk and his companion were of great assistance to me and accompanied me courteously to many of these villages. Calling me to one side near the said church of Saint Demetrius, he pointed out an armed Turk and made it clear to me that the latter was one of the men of Idromen Dervishi who had come to find out when and by which road I would be leaving the territory of the has bey. He was waiting in the woods on the plain leading to Lezha, thinking that I would take that road. The Turk, calling upon the heavens as his witness, claimed that he was just as troubled by any disturbance or harm I might suffer as he would be if he had suffered it himself. As it became evident that these scoundrels intended to rob and mistreat me, it would be best when I departed from Rodon if I returned to Lezha across the water. In order for me to arrive at the coast in safety, he was willing, if necessary, to accompany me with over 300 men.
This news only served to confirm my intention of not carrying on towards Kruja, Rendesia, or Durrës on Cape Lacchi (Lagji), in particular since the vicar had now returned from Rendesia with a good number of altar stones which he had come upon and found defective during his visit. He thus wanted to consecrate others and to have some clerics ordained into the four minor orders, which was accomplished according to his wishes.
Dom Andrew Lopës, the vicar of Durrës and that region, arrived from Cape Lagji to see me. He seemed to me to be a priest of good manners and intelligence, having attended the Clementine College in Rome and returned but a few years ago. He had also come with a few priests from the region, bringing with them many little altars to be consecrated, and with a few clerics who had been ordained into the four minor orders.
I gave much good counsel with regard to the cult of the divine and the governing of those souls, as will be seen below, and gave orders in particular to the said vicar of Durrës and to that of Rodon for their respective villages, that they teach the celebration of mass to the other priests. I was then very keen on leaving the place as I did not feel safe there in view of the news given to me by Kasun. I was afraid that the robbers wanted to get their hands on me. They were so close that they could have arrived overnight without being discovered and would not have come upon anyone guarding me. I had just resolved to flee that night and sleep in the forest when the vicar of Rendesia changed my mind by reminding me of the danger of wild animals and by telling me that we were under the protection of Idromen Dervishi. I was not to worry because he was a powerful man. I finally spent the night in the house with him, but did not sleep well because I thought I heard noises from time to time.
When the sun came up and while I was still in bed, I heard that some Turks were arriving at the door of the house where we were staying. They said, it being that the archbishop of the Christians was there, that I was to get dressed and accompany them to a tent they had set up a little ways away. This was because I had not paid my respects to them upon my arrival in the region. When I asked who the people were who had set up the tent and were requesting my presence, they said they were from the kadi of Rodon who, ever since my arrival, had been waiting for me to visit him and bring presents. As he realized that I was dealing with the has bey and not with him, he wanted to know by what authority I was travelling through the region. I did not dare go out since I had already distributed all the money and sweets I had, and did not have anything more with which to placate the barbarian. Instead, I sent the vicars of Durrës and Rendesia to give him some zecchini so that he would desist and go his way. The Turk, nonetheless, insisted that I visit him in person and was not to be calmed down, so I set off. That day, I happened to have been visited by the voyvode, who is a company commander of the has bey. Having foreseen the fear I would have of those bandits, the has bey sent me word that he would pay for any damage I might suffer while I was on his territory. For my return to Lezha, as I had not planned to go any farther, he encouraged me to travel by sea because, beyond his borders, he would not be able to ensure my safety from the bandits who were everywhere. I was told that I had made a mistake by giving something to the kadi, whom he promised to thrash as soon as he came upon him. He also told me that he wished to request a favour of me, which would make him very happy. Since Gega Chiusi was his friend and relative and had approached me on several occasions without result, he could do no other than to intercede with me directly and request from the bottom of his heart that he be allowed to divorce the wife he had and to marry another woman. He could not put up with the former woman anymore because she had made an attempt on his life by using black magic and had caused him much grief. He was convinced that his request would not remain unfulfilled and added that he would render me every possible service and would endeavour to please me in every possible way. I replied that I felt very much obliged to his kindness and as such there was nothing I would not do to please him if such a thing were not expressly forbidden by divine law in the Christian faith. The voyvode was therefore to beg his lordship on my behalf to understand that I did not have such authority, nor did the supreme spiritual leader of the Christian church, the Pope in Rome. The voyvode replied that the has bey knew very well that the matter could not be resolved without sin and had ordered him to tell me that if he (the bey) was willing to enter into sin by getting a divorce, he asked me to enter into sin with him by granting it to him. Wearied by their nagging and by such a bold request, and just wanting to get rid of them, I replied that I was convinced of the affection the has bey held for me and realized that he, like any other of my friends, would feel sorry for any trial and tribulation I might suffer. He was to be informed, however, that if I were to do such a thing, I would be completely devastated because, in addition to the punishment I would receive from God for having transgressed His commandments, I would most certainly be executed en route by my highest superior before reaching his presence. He was to take comfort in my willingness to please him with anything else I could do for him. One sign of this were the monetary fines I had issued in his favour upon those who did not obey my warrants. I had given him copies of the warrants and he had said nothing about the aforementioned divorce, but had departed, satisfied with the copies. After my departure from that place, I heard that the has bey was so infuriated at my denial of his request that, had we not left so quickly, he would have imprisoned me and held me for ransom. He admitted this to several people. As I was anxious to leave the region as quickly as possible, I assembled all the priests, as if in celebration of a synod, and I had the warrants, being the constitution appendixed below, published, ordered the vicars to distribute copies of the warrants and make them known to everyone, and recommended the care of their souls to our divine Lord.
In the meanwhile, I endeavoured to procure a barque at the coast to take me to Lezha. At that moment, a Turk called Dervish Bey came to see me, pretending to have been sent by the has bey with an order for me to take the barque to Lezha which was waiting for me on the river Ishëm. I was convinced that this was not true because for a sea journey of but a few miles they were asking payment of many talers. But since there was no other barque available at the time and since every day there seemed like a year to me, I was obliged to acquiesce to his wish. Then, an important and highly suspicious event occurred when the Turk refused Christian sailors on the barque and would accept only Turks, six in all and no less. For my part, I was unwilling under any circumstances to accept this number. He refused to reduce the number and insisted that a lesser number would not do. Finally, we agreed on three Turkish sailors and three Christians sailors. He gave his word and I gave him the down payment. I then set off for the barque to have it put into the mouth of the aforementioned river Ishëm. I was thus on the point of embarking with him, the vicars of Durrës and Rodon, Dom Scura de Scurio, Dom John, our last host, other clerics and other men from the said village of Kales. The barque was ready, but on it, in contradiction to the agreement, there were six armed sailors - all Turks and not a single Christian. I was stunned and did not know what action to take and whether or not to trust my life and those of my men to the mercy of the barbarians. In addition, the said Dervish was displeased with me since I had not agreed to his request to appoint the priest of Upper Bilaj as vicar. He had asked me to do so on several occasions in the days before. Nonetheless I had no choice but to embark because I received word that Ali, a janissary from Preza, had arrived there. The later believed himself to have been insulted by me since I had refused to issue a confirmation asserting that he had been the one who had slain Vuk Rubic of Budva. With such a document, he could have gone to collect the reward of 300 talers which had been placed on the head of that gentleman from Dubrovnik. Ali, believing that I would be taking the land route back to Lezha, was laying in wait in the woods over two miles from there with a good number of Turks in order to kill me. Soon thereafter, John, my dragoman, arrived and brought news that some Christians had ordered him to tell me not, by any means, to take the land route back to Lezha and not to let my barque approach the land at any point because the woods were all full of highway robbers. As I was getting onto the barque, I asked the vicar of Durrës to accompany me back to Lezha as I was very much afraid that the barbarians might attack me during the journey. I was convinced that, since he was a local man, they would not dare to commit any evil act in his presence, which they might have envisaged committing against us as foreigners. Had he not been with us, they could have committed a murder without anyone finding out.
It was God who inspired me to take the priest with me. We had given them no other cause for offence except for the fact that they wanted more money than we had offered them. When we arrived at Lezha, I took up lodgings with a friar while the vicar went out almost immediately with a guard to conduct some business in town. While in town, he came upon a Turk from Kruja who recognized him and asked him what good fortune had brought him to Lezha. He replied that he was doing nothing in particular, but had been accompanying the Archbishop of Bar back from the region of Rodon. The Turk responded saying, "Then you have arrived safe and sound! I did not think you would ever see Lezha alive, because yesterday, I happened to be at the place where Dervish Bey and his companions were making ready a barque and he told me in confidence that he intended to sink the barque out at sea that night and drown all those on board, taking all their belongings."
On hearing this, we gave thanks to the Lord for having saved us from such peril and entrapment. We realized that everything was in the hands of His Divine Majesty despite the malevolence and wicked designs of evildoers, which are in vain and will fail wherever divine protection is to be had. During all my journeys and perils I always had faith in the Lord because I am His servant.
On the last day of July, I returned to Blinisht to cross the Dukagjin mountains in order to visit the Christians of Serbia. As the feast of Saint Stephen was approaching, which takes place on August 20th, Dom Nicholas Gramshi, chaplain of Barbullush, came by to invite me to comfort with my presence the great multitude of people who had arrived that day. But because the priest's house was very small and it was very hot out and because I had not been paying any particular attention to personal comfort for the whole of the journey, in particular during sleeping hours, when I suffered enormously, I chose to camp out in the open air under some trees on a bed raised over six hands above the ground. The others also accommodated themselves as best they could. This, perhaps in conjunction with our other sufferings, caused the theologian to come down with a high fever soon thereafter in the village of Juban near Shkodra, which did not leave him for over 20 days. I had retired thither before leaving Albania in order to appoint a chaplain to the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene which is situated in Shiroka under the said fortress. It had been left abandoned after the death of Dom Primus Gruemira.
The sixty year old Dom George Arileti was serving at the church of Saint Veneranda in the village of Juban, which comprises thirty Christian and five Turkish homes. The church is small and is surrounded by a cemetery. It is situated two miles from the town. It has a silver chalice and a paten of gold-plated copper. I came upon a chasuble of crimson damask and a portable altar desecrated because the slab had been shifted on several occasions due to the lack of care taken of it by the priest. I therefore consecrated a new one. I confirmed a total of 31 souls, many of whom, here too, were old people. The Christians of the village of Shiroka, which is more or less the open town of the said fortress of Shkodra, begged me to go there to confirm more people who had not been confirmed. It is, however, very dangerous for foreigners to approach the fortress, particularly in view of the example set by the Bishop of Sapa who was arrested the year before on the charge that he had gone there to spy. He was given a heavy fine, and indeed almost paid with his life. I was thus unwilling to go there without having first requested permission from the authorities. The latter, and in particular Suleyman Aga replied that if I were to go there, I would be received with great hospitality by them and by the other citizens because I had the authorization of the Sultan. But since there were always drunks and ruffians there, who would cause me grief which would put the authorities to shame, if I were interested in their welfare (this was the term they used), I would not go. And as such I did not go.
The theologian was now feeling better so we set off for the aforementioned Bishop of Sapa, upon his invitation, since he lived on the track leading into the Dukagjin mountains and wanted to accompany me into Serbia. I thus departed from Juban and, having forded the Drin, came upon the bishop who was waiting for me in Mjeda within his diocese. From there, we continued on to Sapa where all the priests of the diocese had gathered. Among them was Dom Peter Isio, the abbot of Saint Paul's, with his companion. The two of them informed me that some Turks had said they had received word from some men of Ulcinj that, upon the request of some people who had intervened on my behalf, the Sultan had given orders to the Sanjak Bey of Shkodra for them to restitute to me what had been stolen from me and for the appropriate punishment to be meted out. Even their Mufti had expressed condemnation if they did not obey. The men of Ulcinj were therefore furious at me and had offered a reward for my capture and execution. This worried me greatly and caused me to advance my departure from Albania. But since all the priests had congregated there as if for a synod as in Rodon, I issued the warrants and constitution mentioned below and, at the insistence of the bishop and everyone else, suspended the aforementioned Dom John Trushi from his service as chaplain and from mass because he had returned to living with the concubine after my departure from Zadrima. I nonetheless left a secret order with the bishop for his restitution if he should mend his ways. I also left a secret order that, if he were to return to office with the support of the Turks without having mended his ways, the bishop could excuse himself by saying he did not have the proper authority with respect to the order given by his superior. In the meanwhile, the bishop fell gravely ill and since he was no longer able to travel with me to Serbia as he had wished, he sent with me Dom George, his nephew and vicar, to replace him. We were thus ready for departure on September 3rd. Dom Nicholas Reggio, priest of the village of Ndërfan in Dukagjin, arrived to accompany me, in accordance with instructions I had given. The bishop insisted on mounting his horse and accompanying me for several miles. After that, he had Dom Primus Kryeziu and Dom Primus Cinci come with us until we reached Bukëmira.
Up on the mountainside we lost one horse which had wandered off the track and tumbled down the mountainside with its load. The next day, the theologian, mounting his horse, inadvertently kicked it in the flank with one of his spurs, wounding the horse to such an extent that it reared up on its hind legs and hurled the father to the ground. This resulted in such injuries that he almost lost consciousness. Everyone was dismayed, in particular since this was a very dangerous region to remain in and we had to keep going at all costs. Thus, making necessity a virtue, we got him back onto his horse and continued on to the villages of Mirdita in the mountains, which we passed by on our left side. That evening we arrived at Bini (16), one of the villages of Fan where the main chieftains of the people there live. Taking advantage of the mountainous terrain in the region, these people have always maintained their freedom without ever submitting to Turkish rule. They are continually at war with the Turks and maraud not only in Albania, which is situated along the coast, but also in Serbia, which in deep in the interior and stretches up to the Danube. They spare neither the Turks nor the Christian subjects of the Turks and with their continuous incursions have laid waste to great reaches of the said province, no less than the misgovernment of the Turks has done, who, as was noted above, have no desire other than to extort and steal from their subjects as much money as they can get out of them. Here, I met one of their chieftains, Gjek Laloshi, who, before I went to Rodon, had arrived in Blinisht with a passport issued by the revenue collector of Zadrima. There, publicly, he fell on his bare knees in front of me and begged me, as I was the highest spiritual leader in the country after the Pope in Rome, to give him my blessing since he acknowledged his great sin in having murdered with his own bare hands a great number of his people of every class, many of whom he murdered simply out of greed. I did my best to console him. I was informed that he had been living for many years in that house with a concubine, so I exhorted him to marry the woman because he was committing a sin in the presence of the Almighty. He promised to do everything I said before my arrival in that region, so I fulfilled his request. Following his example, another one of the chieftains, a friend of his who had been living with a concubine for many years, got married at the same time. Both held their weddings on this occasion and almost all the chieftains of the region took part. Whole roasts of mutton were grilled on spits and the meat was distributed on wooden platters with no particular care to cleanliness or refinement, which is missing in these regions.
They are a proud people accustomed to suffering. Most of them walk or run barefoot, both over rocks and on earth. Those who do wear shoes, have them made of rawhide. They wear short pants with their thighs remaining bare so that they can walk more easily and run more quickly. Indeed, they wear little more than these short pants and a shirt both in summer and in winter. They go about armed with shields, javelins, arrows and scimitars, and it is with these weapons that they attack and terrorize the inhabitants of all the surrounding regions. Most of the women are not dressed any better. They wear only a sort of open cloak, but tied in front and with bare arms. Few of them wear blouses, and when they walk, it happens that all the parts of their bodies are exposed by their movement and by the wind. I spoke to the elders about this and urged them, being Christians, to correct this abuse in order not to give the devil an opportunity to promote licentious behaviour among the young people. In this connection, I also gave orders to the confessors to see to it that the women dressed with greater modesty. They however replied that no one in that country would be scandalized, for such had been the custom of the land since ancient times. The women of the villages situated on rivers in Albania wade into the water without any concern in order to fill their water jugs and to wash clothes. Their garments float to the surface of the water to such an extent that they are totally exposed. But such was the reply of the inhabitants of this region.
Now as to the wedding, in the course of the conversations which took place at the table, I discovered that the people there had been displeased with the correction of the calendar year, i.e. with the reduction by 10 days made by the late Gregory XIII. They stated that they believed this to be a mere whim and were of the impression that they had suffered much damage and, in particular, a loss of income, which since time immemorial had seldom been sufficient anyway. They were on the verge of deciding to return to observing the old calendar. With regard to this, I thought it a good idea to inform them of the reasons which had moved the said pope to make the said correction. I told them in particular that governing the holy Christian Church was the business of the Roman popes, as the vicars of Christ on earth. It thus behoved all good Christians to obey their every command, especially since the former acted with great prudence and consideration in all their solemn and important affairs, such as in this case. They had found out that the holy feast of Easter resurrection and other movable feasts were not being celebrated on the days set forth by the holy Church. They made this known to all and, as such, all good and Catholic Christians were to act accordingly, with only the heretics and schismatics being disobedient as usual. I also explained to them that the present correction of the calendar year could not possibly result in a reduction of income because God sent famine and other scourges upon earth because of sins and not because of good deeds such as the worship of the Lord.
I explained the matter to them with clear examples so that, once they understood the truth, they thanked me for giving them an opportunity to comprehend the problem which up to that time had caused all of them to doubt.
From this matter, we carried on to the grave error which those people commit who, out of the vain remorse of their conscience, do not accept the sacrament of extreme unction. I convinced them of the truth and then left holy oils not only with the priests, but also with the others, with which they had not been furnished up to then. I had taken the oils with me, having foreseen the problem caused by the absence of the bishops.
These regions are partly in the diocese of Albania and partly in the diocese of Pult. The Monsignor of Stephanensis served them for their many needs when he took shelter among them for the time out of fear of the Turks, but now there was no one.
They have a church named after Saint Mark, which was half razed by the Turks who had made incursions into the region over the past years. But the people had now assembled the material needed for its restoration. There is a bell on the roof and another one inside the church for the elevation (of the sacraments). It has a chalice and a silver paten. There are graves around the church, in which the sixty year old Dom John Zaguri was serving.
I did not have time to stay long in that region since it was already the seventh day of September. Accordingly, I was busy making preparations for the voyage to revisit the Christians of Serbia so as to have time to get back to the coast before it began snowing in the mountains. I hired some armed men and paid them to accompany me to Kolsh, which was the last village of Dukagjin in the direction of Serbia. I left my blessings with the people, giving them hope that I would soon return to comfort them again, and we departed at 8 o'clock. The day we spent travelling was long and tiring not only because of the distance to Kolsh but also because of the high mountains and the dangerous places we passed through.
And indeed throughout these mountains, there are many fortified sites which are virtually inaccessible because of the height of the mountains. In some places, one is obliged to climb up to the peaks. All the roads are lined with huge pine trees, which cover the mountains in great forests. The people of Dukagjin have felled the trees everywhere in order to prevent their enemies from entering the region and, if the latter do enter, they attack and allow them no time to get out without great losses. These people, like the Albanians of the plains, also use huge logs from these trees to illuminate their homes at night, few of them having candles or lamps. Someone always stands in the middle of the room, tends to the said logs and holds a blazing torch in his hand which shines as brightly as any lantern.
At noon, we set off to climb a lofty mountain on a path steeper than I had ever been on before. It was extremely difficult for the horses, and even the footmen could only advance with the help of the lances and javelins they held in their hands. Nightfall had already passed when we reached the peak. The most dexterous of the young men, more like mountain goats than anything else, scattered, keeping their distance from the main group. They then rushed forth down the pass into the forest, holding shields and javelins in their hands, brandishing the javelins as if about to hurl them. Others ran forth with unsheathed scimitars. I asked what this unexpected behaviour meant and was told that the pass was particularly dangerous because of bandits who were wont to lay in wait in the forest in order to prey upon travellers wearied by the steep climb. Our young men had made a show of force so that the bandits, should they be in the forest, would be frightened and take flight, clearing the pass for us.
We finally arrived at Kolsh that evening where we spent the night at the home of the priest, Dom Athanasius, chaplain of Janjeva in Serbia. He was surprised at our arrival and explained to me about the perils of such a journey, noting that there was a good chance that neither I nor my companions would ever return alive since all the roads in Serbia were full of terrifying bandits. The local people themselves do not even dare to leave their villages. He advised me to return to Albania and abandon the undertaking.
My travelling companions were greatly disheartened to hear this, but I asked them to consider the fact that all our previous travels in the country had involved great danger, from which the Almighty had saved us because we were in His holy service. He would continue to save us in the future, especially with the intercession of all the saints whose relics we were carrying with us in the service of the Christian faith there. Christianity would continue to decline by the day if it were not supported by such visits. These visits comforted the people and gave them the courage to maintain their faith. It made them aware that His Holiness, like a loving father, was concerned for their salvation. I told them that if I turned back, taking with me the patents of the sultan and other seals and passports issued by so many Turkish leaders in Albania and with my reputation as a relative of Mahmut Pasha, the secretary of the grand vizier, I was certain no other prelate would ever dare to visit Serbia in the future and, as such, with the remaining souls now abandoned, we would no doubt experience a substantial degradation in the divine cult among them. I concluded by saying that even if we should prove ourselves worthy enough to shed our blood and lose our lives en route, it would be blood well spent because everything would be in the service of those souls and of the Almighty. If we did enter that country, we would do so with proper care and would travel everywhere in the company of local people we could trust. I therefore decided, before we set off from Kolsh, to send for some priests from Serbia because we could get all the information we needed from them and they would accompany us through the dangerous regions. Despite this argument, it was impossible to find anyone in the village willing, for money, to take a letter to the city of Prizren, which was less than one day's journey hence. It seemed that no one had the courage. We were at a loss until a young man, eighteen years old, let it be known that he would be willing to go if he were handsomely paid. I summoned him and gave him the sum he requested, promising him a big tip in addition if he returned with the priests. I wrote a letter to the chaplain of the city and to that of Kukës, which is nearby, to come to me without delay because I was determined, after my visit to Albania, to travel to Serbia in their company in order to visit the Christians there. The lad set off immediately and we waited in Kolsh under difficult conditions with regard to sleep and drinks. As it was harvest time, there was not a drop of wine to be had. We were therefore forced, to our great peril, to drink the water. Towards the evening of the third day, the lad returned and, requesting the tip I promised him, happily brought me news that the priests were nearby.
When the priests arrived and learned too of my decision, they told me that there was indeed great danger involved everywhere, both from the multitude of bandits and from the normal and insolent followers of the Turks, in particular in Prizren. The city was full of janissaries and cavalrymen, not one of whom had yet departed for the war with Persia, though their recruitment was underway throughout the country. In the city was the schismatic metropolitan, from whom some trouble was to be expected, as had happened to my predecessor the archbishop, Monsignor Orsino, when he was in the country. We nonetheless resolved to set off for the village of Kukës the next morning from where Dom Mark, one of the priests, would continue on to the city to find out from the Christians there what was to be done to ensure my safe arrival in that town. And so it was done. We spent the night in Kolsh where there were no priests except for one who was almost blind. He no longer celebrated mass, but heard confession and carried out baptisms. He had no holy oils so I left him some. I also explained to them about the holy oils because they did not know how to use them.
The next morning, September 10th, we mounted our horses and set off to ford the Drin. The river was two miles away and divides Albania from Serbia. We were less than a mile away from Kolsh when, entering a forest, we came upon 25 armed men who gave us a great fright. We thought we had fallen victim to thugs, but they turned out to be locals since they came from the surrounding villages. They told us they had heard that some bandits had been seen in the forests and they had come to catch them. I therefore gave them a big tip to accompany us out of the forest and across the Drin. On the other side of the Drin, they accompanied us for quite a ways to the bank of the Lesser Drin, which flows from Serbia into the Greater Drin. Here we crossed over to the other side, which was not wooded, and continued along the river to Kukës. When we arrived there, we sent Dom Mark in advance with the patents and passports I had with me so that he could return with a decision. He did not return before three days had passed because the Sanjak Bey and the kadi were off with all their cavalry and infantrymen in search of some bandits who had killed a cavalryman on the road leading to Janjeva. He presented the patents and passports to the Sanjak Bey upon the latter's return to the city. The priest brought me news of their reply that I could proceed in safety wherever I wished. In the meanwhile, word had spread of my arrival and many of the Turks were asking the priests when their superior would be arriving. As such, we got ready to depart in the evening to enter the city by night.
The village of Kukës has 50 households, of which only five are Turkish. The rest are Christians and Turkish renegades who have not paid their taxes. There is a church there named after Saint Alexander, which is in good condition and has a portico in front of it. It has a chalice, a paten and the image of a little silver crucifix. It has no altarpiece but the image of the Blessed Virgin is painted on the rostrum. It has a shrine but no baptismal font. The altar was very small so I consecrated a new one. I gave some holy oils to the priest because he did not have any and left with him an order that the sacrament of extreme unction be administered to the sick. I also explained to him the reasons for this in order to overcome his doubts.
From this village I was shown a spot not far away where the Turks that year had found over 20 gold medals hidden in one of the walls of some ruins when the village fell.
When the time arrived, we set off on our journey to the city of Prizren, which we entered at two o'clock in the morning, this city being without walls as are almost all of these towns. The priest walked through the town with some trepidation because some janissaries had recently killed one another in his house. They had gone there for a meal. The Turks claimed that the priest ought to be punished, because the murderers got away.
This city contains 8,600 quite large houses, almost all of which have courtyards like rural homes in Italy. It is larger than all other towns except Skopje which is 40 miles away. Prizren is irrigated by fountains and other sources of flowing water, which turn the water mills and enrichen and enliven the city.
Upon our arrival, we were told that some monks of the schismatic metropolitan had been waiting near the doorway of the priest's house where I was staying until one in the morning to meet me. The next morning I learned that they had only wanted to meet me. I heard nothing more of them during the three days I spent in Prizren, but on one of the mornings, the said schismatic metropolitan sent his janissary to force the priest to give him money, as usual.
In this city, a bell rings from atop one of the many minarets which belong to the mosques. It keeps time by means of a clock built for the Turks by some Frenchmen, something quite unusual in Turkey. There are hardly more than 30 Latin homes. There is a church bearing the name of Our Lady of the Assumption, which within a short period was set on fire three times by the Turks and looted twice, in particular on the occasion of the murder among the janissaries. It has a good portico in front of it and a very large cemetery surrounded by walls. It has a chalice and paten and a small image with a silver cross, which is placed upon the altar when mass is celebrated. It had two silk chasubles with two nice tablecloths and a golden fore altar for the choir. There was no shrine, no baptistry and no holy oils. We therefore gave them some of ours. There are many schismatics in the city. They much exceed the number of the Latins, who have at their disposal only two churches out of the 80 they once had.
I consecrated some little altars for this and other churches, confirmed a little more than 25 souls and offered communion to almost all the people, who indeed go to church every day with great devotion.
In this region of Serbia they speak the Dalmatian language although the province penetrates partially into Albania, which has its own language. As we could understand one another without an interpreter, I spoke to them and assured them that His Holiness, like a loving father, always had them in his mind and heart, desiring their salvation. I encouraged them to live unwaveringly in the Christian faith and not to let themselves be swayed by worldly interests to renounce the Church, as many of them had done, to the eternal damnation of their souls. God has set forth unspeakable punishment for the wicked just as he has prepared the glory of paradise for good Christians, who must all strive to observe divine law and valorously resist the enemies of their salvation.
From Prizren, we were to continue on to Janjeva, a city one and a half days away along a rather dangerous road. The Christians placed a cavalryman at my disposal, who was to accompany me and my retinue to Janjeva with some of his companions. With the usual presents and expenditures, I thus received a passport from the sanjak bey. We set off on the morning of the 19th, two hours before dawn, accompanied among others by the priests of Kukës and Sërriqja, who were armed as is their custom when they travel. Around the third hour, after riding across a fair and well-cultivated plain full of schismatic villages, we rode up some hills. As we had some dangerous woods to pass through, we stopped over in one of the villages to find some people to assure our passage. There, we received the appalling news that, although they were on guard all the time during the day, they all withdrew at night to sleep in the forest because of killers in the surrounding area. There was a total of 20 of them on horseback and 40 on foot who that very week had robbed and murdered some travellers a little over two miles away from there. They exhorted us to return to Prizren because they were certain that we would encounter the murderers in the forest. None of them had the courage to accompany us. But our calavryman, who was a courageous and worthy fellow, seeing that we were very undecided as to what to do, told me to leave everything in his care and that we would surpass all the dangers involved. He mounted his horse with his men and set off in front of them to enter the forest. Before doing so, however, he sent forth one of his Turks called Suleyman Bey on horseback to scout the forest, assuming that, if there were any robbers there, they would come out and attack them. He could then spur his horse and return to inform us. Thus, if they were of such numbers that we could not deal with them, we could all return to where we had come from. In the meanwhile, we followed slowly in the steps of Suleyman, keeping the cavalryman in the vanguard with his bow drawn in his hand. The others kept their bows drawn, too, ready to shoot. When we had gone several miles through the forest, we came upon Suleyman who, as we had just crossed some hazardous passes, was waiting for us in a clearing, from which several houses of the schismatics could be seen. Beyond the houses, the road continued into another forest. The cavalryman therefore decided to get some of the men from that village to escort us and sent Suleyman forth with instructions to return with one of them so that the others would come to his assistance. And so it was done. He came upon five men who were threshing grain in a field and held them until the cavalryman, having removed his turban so they would not know he was a Turk, galloped forth to take two of the villagers. He forced them to walk in front of us to guide us safely out of the forests and onto the Plain of Kosova.
This is a very beautiful plain over 80 miles long and 20 miles wide. It is famed for battles fought with the Turks under Yanko the Voyvode and for the decision taken by Miloš Kobilic against the person of Sultan Murad. He killed the sultan with his own hands because he was suspected of infidelity towards his own lord, the Despot of Serbia, when the Turks invaded the region to make war. In order to give proof of his fidelity, he rode out of the trenches and into those of the enemy, pretending to bring a message from the Despot. He got off his horse which he left beside the sultan's tent and, entering it, slew the sultan before anyone could come to the latter's assistance. He then jumped onto his horse forthwith and galloped away from the camp of the enemy, but was struck by some shields thrown across the road. There his horse fell and Miloš himself was caught and slain.
That evening, we arrived at a schismatic village in the midst of the plain. The next morning we continued on to Janjeva which is situated among some hills all disfigured by the silver mines from which much ore is extracted.
This town has 120 Latin, 200 schismatic and 180 Turkish homes. Dom Athanasius of Kolsh was serving there at the church of Saint Nicholas. This church is not large but is solidly built and well-equipped with a silver chalice and paten of great weight and another lesser one, two crosses, a censer, vessels of pure silver, 8 silk chasubles and one of gold fabric, a cope of golden brocade, 3 shirts, 2 thin coats and 7 rugs. The altar is approached by climbing four stone steps, on the two sides of which are little columns with cornices on them. During mass, six large candles weighing 15 pounds each are lit on them, in addition to other candles in the brass chandelier above the altar.
The said church is paved in flagstones. Four bells were removed from the bell tower above the church door and buried by the Christians in a secret place so that the Turks would not steal them. The church has some vineyards and property. Everything is governed by four agents who, as in almost all other places in Serbia and Albania, are responsible for collecting remunerations for the priest in accordance with an agreement I made with them for his services. The remuneration was approved of by both sides.
I preached to these people, too, as I had done to the people of Prizren. I confirmed 164 souls, offered communion to almost all the people, and carried out the other usual functions. We then departed for the town of Novobërda. This town, too, is situated on some rather high hills all full of mines, from which the sultan gains much income since he gets half the silver in net profit without any expenditures. The rest goes to those who extract the ore. There are 40 Latin, 60 schismatic and 100 Hebrew and Turkish houses in this town. The Turks have converted a beautiful and sumptuous church belonging to the despot of Serbia into a mosque. It is embellished with mosaics and is of fine architectural style. The Latins, nonetheless, have a church on the outskirts which is quite nice and can hold 1,000 souls. The roof is covered in boarding as are almost all the other churches and houses of the region. At that time, it had been destroyed by the fury of a storm but the Christians were on the point of repairing it. Half a mile away, there is another large and beautiful church named after the Madonna which can hold 3,000 people. It has a big, attractive portico adorned with beautiful paintings. In this church, I came across 12 silver chalices with patens, two silver crosses and well-kept garments. Serving in this church was Dom Mark, an old man of some sixty years who looked well though he was suffering from gout. He had earlier been the vicar general of Serbia, appointed to the post by my predecessor. The agents give him 30 talers for his services. I consecrated two altars for the church there and in Janjeva because I found them to be too small, as usual. In this place I came down with a bit of fever which prevented me from going to church Sunday morning. I therefore sent the theologian who said mass and preached. I wanted to set off the next morning for Prokuplje and therefore got dressed before the morning of the feast so as to give some small instructions to Hieronymus, the nephew of the said Dom Mark, at home as best I was able to there. I did this so that they would not be obliged to come after me in Prokuplje, which was two full days away. I thus set off from Novobërda, but it took three days to get to Prokuplje because I was plagued by a constant fever of such strength that it was only by the grace of God that I did not die en route. The whole country here is full of schismatics and Turks and there was nowhere we could stop. We thus had to keep on going dead or alive. When we finally arrived in Prokuplje, a town of 1,500 hearths, I was not able to get out of bed for 20 days. In the meanwhile, the Bishop of Sofia, Monsignor Peter Salinate of Bosnian nationality, one of the suffragans of Bar, hearing of my arrival, came from Ciprovci, which is four days away, to meet me and talk to me in Prokuplje. He found me in a terrible state and saw that I was not able to travel any further into that part of Christendom. Aside from the Latins of Sofia and Trnovo, there are over 600 Latin homes and a Franciscan convent in Ciprovci, recommended as I noted above, to the care of his Holiness, Pope Clement VIII. In addition to this, the bishop himself had succeeded in converting many of the people called Paulicians on the banks of the Danube to the Christian and Catholic faith. Due to a lack of priests, they had lost the light of their Christian faith and had been left with no information at all. They were therefore neither Christians nor Turks. They were not like the latter because they did not practise circumcision and were not like the former because they did not have themselves baptized. Eight of their 14 villages were already converted and they had built some churches from donations collected by the Latins of Serbia. They also furnished them with some priests who lived on donations and were without salaries because the people were very poor, unfortunate and extremely oppressed by the Turks.
The bishop asked me, in support of such good deeds, to issue some orders, this being my privilege, with regard to the chaplains under his jurisdiction, so that they would be able to meet the expenditures required for the Christians there to maintain their faith. I willingly agreed to issue them, though without compromising [the authority of] my successor. I mentioned that the bishop was of Bosnian nationality and of the Franciscan order which, with its many convents in Bosnia, upholds Christianity in that kingdom with great numbers of people. Almost all of these people are Latins under one bishop called Monsignor Fran Balic of the same order.
Now, after the bishop of Sofia had spent four days with me in Prokuplje, he returned to "iprovci to attend to his own business. Soon thereafter, by the grace of God, the fever left me and I began to get out of bed. All the time, the theologian went on consoling those souls with his preaching and giving great comfort to that people, when preaching in the country had become rare and indeed had not been heard of for a long time.
The Latins in Prokuplje did not have a church but did have a chapel in the house of the chaplain who celebrated mass and administered the sacraments. At that time it was Peter Dragisa of Dubrovnik under the authority of his superiors. The Latins in that town consist of no more than 12 households, traders from Dubrovnik for the most part, who had settled there not long ago. These individuals, Albanians, Bosnians and people from Dubrovnik, had emigrated there like all the rest of the Latins in Serbia. Few of them were living in this region during the reign of the Christian princes because the latter, together with the whole population, had fallen to the Schism which they maintain obstinately even today. And although there are few homes in Prokuplje, I nonetheless confirmed about 30 souls.
From Prokuplje, we arrived in Trepça in two days, accompanied by some of the traders and by the aforementioned Peter who arranged for a friar from the convent of Ciprovci to serve in his place.
Trepça is a town of 500 hearths with forty or less Latin households. It has over 200 schismatic households which have their own bishop who resides in a monastery of Orthodox monks outside the town. This town also produces great quantities of silver ore. The Christian faith here, very sound and devotional, was being attended to at that time by Dom Gregory, the nephew of Dom Mark of Novobërda. There is no church in the town, but there is one two miles away, so mass is celebrated in a chapel in a home most of the time. The church is very beautiful, constructed of stonework. All of the interior is decorated with paintings. It is furnished with chalices, silver crosses and decent garments. I was in this town for All Saints' Day so we went to the said church to celebrate the feast. The preaching was attended by great numbers of our people. On our return, halfway back, we came upon the said bishop who was returning from town accompanied by his vicar and many Orthodox monks. Almost all of them were on their way to one of their houses near our church. When the bishop realized who I was, he hastened towards me and bowed to me several times with a smile on his face. He took my hand and he and all his retinue kissed it. He then fell upon his knees and paid me compliments in a very civil manner. Since we returned there the next morning to honour the souls of the dead and since we had to stay there for a long time to visit the graves virtually one by one, according to the custom of the country, we took food with us to have lunch near the church. While we were sitting there in the shade on carpets, the bishop, who was at his home nearby, sent us presents. I was amazed to find him so benevolent because my predecessor had experienced many trials and tribulations with them.
I offered communion to these people and carried out confirmations which were well-attended. There was a snowstorm that night so I hastened to finish my remaining duties there. I did not have enough time for the surrounding region because, in view of my fragile health, I did not have the courage to spend the coming winter in that region, where it is usually very cold. I was visited by Dom Pjetër Budi, the chaplain of Christendom in Skopje, a town of less than [...] Latin households out of a total population of 40,000. He arrived to present account of his office. In addition to the good reports about his abilities, I found him to be a quite intelligent priest of good quality. I thus thought it a good idea to keep him as vicar of Serbia, as my predecessor had done. As it is not possible for one vicar to care for the whole country since, in view of its size, it is difficult to visit all of it and it is difficult for others from distant regions to get to the vicar, I decided, after consultations, to appoint a second vicar for a certain number of towns and villages in the western regions of that kingdom, i.e. the aforementioned Peter Dragisa of Dubrovnik, and to give each of them a region with its own jurisdiction. I published the orders set forth below, as I had done in Albania, and left them with the two vicars, requesting them to transmit copies thereof to all the other priests of Serbia and request that the orders be implemented. I was still undecided about returning to Bar through Albania as everyone regarded the route as too dangerous. I then received word from Prokuplje that two Ambassadors from the Republic of Dubrovnik had arrived there from Constantinople on public business and would be travelling to the town of Novi Pazar within two or three days in order to continue on towards the coast through Hercegovina or the Duchy of Chelmo. These gentlemen were well accompanied and respected by everyone as if they were high pashas of Turkey. I was very pleased to hear this news, realizing that the Lord was ensuring the safety of my return. When night passed and I was to depart the next morning to get to Novi Pazar, all the people congregated for mass and received blessings. We mounted our horses and left the town. Despite my many well-meaning appeals, I was not able to dissuade some of the elders from accompanying me for over a mile on my difficult way out of town until we reached a hill. They all fell upon their knees and I blessed them and all the other Christians of that kingdom, and recommended them to the care of the Almighty. They turned back with such emotions, though not all of them. Many other armed men on horseback and on foot could not be dissuaded from accompanying me for the whole day, and some indeed right to Novi Pazar, where I was put up by one of them.
This town is large and attractive with over 3,000 hearths, but there are no more than two Latin homes, these being traders from Dubrovnik. The schismatics are in great number. We arrived here on Thursday, November 4th, and on the following day, the ambassadors arrived: the aforementioned Peter Proculi and Joseph Venlì with a substantial retinue on horseback and on foot, together with large banners on their lances. The people of Dubrovnik are well looked upon and liked in all the regions of Turkey. Their traders are exempt from import duties. They sent me word that they intended to depart on Sunday morning and that I should make myself ready.
That morning we attended mass together and, mounting our horses, left the town. Many people came to see our cavalcade.
Hercegovina or the Duchy of Chelmo or Saint Sava begins in Novi Pazar. The Archbishops of Bar take their titles from this duchy because the king of Serbia, having conquered the land jure belli, took over the Archbishopric of Bar. The archbishop at the time was the Great Chancellor of the kingdom. Shortly thereafter, however, the king, showing clemency towards the duke, restored his possessions to him. It is said that he did not have the authority to do so because they were no longer his possessions but those of the church. Hercegovina stretches down to the coast, bordering on the territory of the Lords of Dubrovnik. It goes up to the river Cetina at Narenta and is about 12 days long and 4 days wide. It is now all under the tyranny of the Turks.
We arrived early that evening at a caravanserai, which is lodgings for travellers and actually nothing more than a room with an earthen floor where humans and horses spend the night together. One has to buy and cook one's one food because the accommodation has no facilities. Here we met over 60 Moors from Granada who were on their way to Constantinople with their wives and children, some in cradles, after having been expelled from Spain by the Catholic king. They were all dressed in Spanish fashion with only turbans like those of Muslims. Upon our arrival, they were immediately chased into a corner of the room by the janissaries so that the Ambassadors could be by themselves. The next morning, we rose before dawn and travelled for the whole day through some beautiful countryside, but mostly through uncultivated wasteland. That evening, we arrived near Rocca and spent the night in a similar caravanserai. Towards the evening of the next day, we left the fortress of Miloševgrad (17) on our right side, so strategically well-designed and constructed on a cliff that you would think it were impregnable. It is quite similar to the fortress of Kotor belonging to the Lords of Venice. A little over a mile away, one can see a beautiful monastery named after Saint Sava with over 100 Orthodox monks and a church with a leaden roof. The monks say that his corpse is to be found there, but they do not show it, and it is said that when Sinan Pasha passed through the region for the Hungarian war, he had it burnt. That evening, we arrived in Prijepolje, a town without walls like all the others. We then passed through some nice towns like Taslidza and Foca. From here we continued our journey and spent almost all the day riding along roads shaded by fruit trees, especially by hazel and apple trees. In the evening we stopped over at a small and uncomfortable caravanserai below Mount Cemerna which means 'the painful one' in that language.
And indeed, we suffered greatly that night in such close and uncomfortable quarters. In addition to this, we travelled the next morning over a very difficult stretch of road, both because of the steep rocky trail and cliffs and because we were travelling at a time when the snow was beating down upon us with a raging wind. There had been much precipitation throughout the previous night. We were therefore obliged to send some footmen and the swiftest horse out early in order to clear the road of the high snow. We arrived at Crnica without having been able to advance very far, this being a small town and open like the others.
At the end of 11 days, we arrived at the border of (the territory of) the Lords of Dubrovnik in the region of Trebinje where the ambassadors continued on to the right towards Dubrovnik and we carried on towards the sea. That evening we came to the monastery of the discalced friars (18) at Konavlje, which is a beautiful valley near Dubrovnik. From here, we arrived the next day at the gorge of Kotor and continued on to Budva. Our arrival gave rise to great relief among all the people since it came unexpectedly. They had all thought we were dead because we had been away for so long on such a dangerous journey. ...
(1) Village on the road from Ulcinj to Shkodra, between Vladimir and Sukobin on the Montenegrin side of the present border.
(2) The words Turk and Turkish are synonymous in this text with Muslim.
(3) Settlement on the Montenegrin side of the river Buna, known in Serbo-Croatian as Sveti Djordj and in Albanian as Shën Gjergj.
(4) Village on the river Buna, across from Oblika, recorded by Bizzi as Samarisi.
(5) Villages on the river Buna near Samrisht.
(6) Village downstream on the Montenegrin side of the river Buna.
(7) i.e. Orthodox.
(8) Turkish kötü 'evil, wicked'.
(9) Unidentified. Presumably somewhere near Hajmel, and not the above-mentioned Renc on the coast.
(12) Unidentified. The Albanian form would be *Sporaj or *Shporaj.
(15) i.e. the spring of 1610 A.D.
(16) Unidentified. The modern Albanian form might be Bena, a toponym found in Elbasan and Shkodra.
(17) Now Mileševa.
(18) i.e. of the Franciscan order.
[Extract from: Relatione della visita fatta da me, Marino Bizzi, Arcivescovo d'Antivari, nelle parti della Turchia, Antivari, Albania et Servia alla santità di nostro Signore papa Paolo V. Published as: Franjo Racki (ed.): Izvještaj barskoga nadbiskupa Marina Bizzia o svojem putovanju god. 1610 po Arbanaskoj i Staroj Srbiji, in: Starine, na sviet izdaje Jugoslavenska Akademija Znanosti i Umjetnosti, Zagreb, 20 (1888), p. 50 156; and in: Injac Zamputi (ed.): Relacione mbi gjendjen e Shqipërisë veriore dhe të mesme në shekullin XVII. vol. 1 (1610-1634), Tiranë 1963, p. 48 241. Translated from the Italian by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 77-129.]