In ancient times, a Greek colony was founded in Lezhë by the name Lissos as part of the strategy to secure the trade routes along the Adriatic coast. Later, it was contested by the Illyrians and the Macedonians. Eventually, they negotiated an alliance between themselves against the Romans. However, not even this could prevent the Roman general Marcus Antonius to overtake the town. In the middle ages, the town frequently changed rulers until it was eventually conquered by Venetians in 1386.
It was exactly because the town was under Venetian control, a neutral place, that Skënderbeu chose it for the convention between Albanian, Serbian, Dalmatian and other lords of the area aiming to combine their forces against the Ottoman threat in 1444. The alliance forged here is known as the ‘League of Lezhë’ with Skënderbeu as its supreme military leader.
Vendvarrimi i Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu
Vendvarrimi i Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu [Tomb of Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu] is a memorial tomb of the national hero. He was supposedly buried here in the Cathedral of Lezhë, Shën Kolli [Church of St Nicholas], in 1468. The cathedral was later used as Xhamia e Selimiye [Selimie Mosque]. The legend surrounding Skënderbeu was such that when the Ottomans found his grave, they opened it and made amulets of his bones in belief that this will make the wearer invincible.
A structure was built over the ruins of the cathedral in 1981, during the Communist era. Beside Skënderbeu’s striking bust that dominates the space, on display is the replica of the Arms of Skënderbeu: his famous goat head-topped helmet and sword. The brick walls of the mausoleum are decorated with 25 metal shields, each symbolizing the main battles led by Skënderbeu. Although the tomb does not contain the remains of their greatest hero, the place is of high significance for the Albanians.