The Sarajet e Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjonit is a historic estate in Orosh, Mirdita, with a rich history dating back to the Ottoman Empire. The Sarajet (Palace) itself was the seat of the Gjomarkaj Family and belonged to the Kapidans of Mirdita, Princes of the region. It was destroyed multiple times over the last three centuries, last of which was by the communist regime in 1944. Orosh originally had two Sarajet (Palaces). The first Sarajet was built c.1833 and partially demolished in 1877 by the Ottoman occupiers, during the insurrection and the rebellion of the Tanzimat Reform. In 1883 it was completely burned down when Mirdita was occupied by the Turks. Traces of the old Sarajet are located next to the Orosh Dormitory. It was rebuilt in 1892 and ultimately burned to the ground in 1944 by the communist regime.
“The Mirditore recognize as their leaders the descendants of Gjon Marku (John son of Mark) who lived c.1700, where the family is known by “Dera e Gjon Markut”. The first author to recognize a Kapidan of Mirdita, calling him “Prenk or Prince”, is, I believe, the anonymous German author of travels through Greece and Albania published in 1826. All the male descendants of Gjon Marku carried the title of “Kapidan” bestowed on them by the Turks, while the Europeans always referred to the head of the family as “Prince”.
“The head of Mirdita is actually Gjon Marka Gjoni (John son of Mark, son of John) from a branch of the Gjonmarkaj family, having become extinct the line of succession in 1922 with the death of Preng Bibe Doda.” (Bizzi, p.144-Gaspari, 1931, p.439, ecc.)
Preng Bib Doda (1860-1919). After the murder of his father in 1868, Preng Bib Doda was taken by the Turkish government and exiled to Turkey.
In 1876 he was returned to Mirdita where he took on the role vacated by his father as Kapidan.
In 1883 Preng Bibe Doda was betrayed, subsequently caught and exiled to Kostamun, Turkey. Mirdita was occupied and the Sarajet was burned down.
1908 saw the return of Preng Bib Doda where he once again took the reins of Mirdita.
Preng Bib Doda was murdered during an ambush in Lezhe in 1919. He left no heirs and the succession of Kapidan fell on Marka Gjoni. He is buried in Shkodra.
Marka Gjoni (1861-1925). Kapidan Marka Gjoni took over the lead in Mirdita in 1883 at the age of 22, during the absence of Preng Bib Doda, but due to the lack of resources and living conditions he had to leave Orosh and went to live in Nderfande. The House of Gjomarkaj was in great distress.
The Turkish saw an opportunity and by order of the Turkish Governor, Dode Gega was named leader of Mirdita. Over the next few years his position became stronger and he contemplated how to maintain it permanently, thereby ridding himself of Marka Gjoni. Marka Gjoni came into his own and began to formulate a plan to reunite Mirdita, which meant removing Dode Gega at any cost.
In 1892 Dode Gega was murdered by Marka Gjoni’s brother, Ndue Gjoni, which meant that Marka Gjoni was now openly against Instabul. This action had great political significance for Mirdita and the House of Gjomarkaj. There were still other obstacles for Marka Gjoni before rightfully reclaiming his position, but through his determination and resistance against the Turks he was able to succeed.
It was during this time that Marka Gjoni began to rebuild the former Sarajet.
In 1897 Marka Gjoni was summoned to Shkodra by the Governor for important political negotiations, however this was just a ruse. As soon as he arrived he was caught and immediately sent to Istanbul and then Mosul, Iraq. He was exiled there for five years.
In 1902, with the help of nuns, he managed to escape Mosul and make his way back to Mirdita.
In 1903 he united with Puke and helped Mirdita recover.
In 1908, through his efforts, he was able to negotiate the release of Preng Bibe Doda from his exile in Istanbul and finally they were reunited. Marka Gjoni would be a part of every political aspect of Preng Bibe Doda’s life.
On April 26, 1912, Mustafa Kruja was fired as a teacher of the high school of Durres because of teaching the Albanian language. This date marks the historic date of the agreement between Preng Bibe Dode and Mustafa Kruja to organize the Bajraks of the mountains in the Durres uprising. The historical explanation is found in act 175 of April 26, 1912, “String of historical documents”. From the Durres uprising, where Marka Gjoni and Preng Llesh Gjoni (his nephew) led the Mirdita and highland armies, along with Ibrahim Kaloshi on one side and the Dibra army on the other, the flag was raised and the Albanian language made official. In achieving this success not only the names of the House of the Kapidan were elevated, but also of those who were friends of the House.
For these reasons, Preng Bibe Dode Pasha kept the two most appropriate variants. His house in Kallmet and the Kulla in Shkodra, which was a suitable villa for diplomatic meetings.
The Sarajet in Oroshi remained under the care of Marka Gjoni.
In 1919 Preng Bibe Dode Pasha was killed. His death left no heirs and the succession of leadership went to Marka Gjoni, who was a descendant of Lleshi i Zi, Mark Lleshi, Gjon Marku (hence the name Gjomarkaj).
During this time there was a plan in Mirdita by Kapidan Marka Gjoni to build 18 towers and foundations for a new Sarajet. The work progressed, overseen by three brothers, rare masters of the Pershqefa Tribe. In addition to the grief for the murder of Preng Bibe Dode, another rage was born in Orosh. The location of the Sarajet was very strategical. It allowed visuals of the incoming invaders if they were to approach, as it overlooks the valley of Gryke Oroshi , which includes the Abbey of Orosh that can be seen from the Sarajet, thus protecting it from the invaders.
Abbey of Orosh
Marka Gjoni died in 1925 and is buried in Fan, Mirdite.
Gjon Marka Gjoni (1888-1968). The Sarajet was inherited by Kapidan Marka Gjoni in 1922 and passed onto Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni from the first anniversary of the death of his father; Easter Sunday 1926.
The Sarajet e Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjonit, except from a cultural heritage standpoint, remained a strategic fortress built in opposition to and protection of the Abbey, in obvious contrast to the place where Bulshari and Bajraktar Tower could be seen. The protection of Orosh was safe, as those palaces were built in the distance from the old Sarajet; in order to protect Orosh, its religion and history from Serbian attempts.
The first major occurrence in the new Sarajet was the renewal of the covenant of the Besa of 1928, which was gathered by the Kapidan of Mirdita in May of that year in Shpal, for to the equality of the Bajraks, but was declared in the Sarajet as a holiday.
The second occurrence that took place in the Sarajet was the wedding and coronation of Kapidan Mark Gjon Marku (Gjomarkaj) as Prince of Mirdita, where for forty days and nights he was celebrated with the slaughtering of an animal in honor of the friends gathered at the Sarajet.
The third and most vile act was fulfilled by communism in September 1944, by burning the Sarajet to the ground. In doing so they did not succeed in eliminating the name or the history but only adding value to it.
Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni lived in exile in Rome, Italy from 1945-1968. He died on April 26, and is buried there.
Drawing of original Sarajet c.1865. From the travels of Rev. Henry Fanshawe Tozer, M.A., F.R.G.S, tutor and late fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, during 1853-1865.
Blessed is the stone that is in those lands.
Another drawing of the original Sarajet c.1865.
Photo of the second Sarajet after the rebuild of 1892.
“The great stone house, high on a shelf on the mountain-side, it’s big, airy, white-washed rooms, the great hooded hearth, the solid native-made furniture, chip-carved in old Albanian style (alas, that it should ever be replaced by commonplace machine-made European stuff!) is the fitting home of a mountain chief, and harmonises with the simple dignity of its owners.” (High Albania. By M.E. (Mary Edith) Durham, 1863-1944: Edward Arnold, 1909)
The Sarajet was burned in 1944 by the communists and all that is left are the ruins.