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Porto Palermo Castle

Porto Palermo Castle

Porto Palermo Castle is a castle near Himarë in southern Albania. It is situated in the bay of Porto Palermo, a few kilometers south of Himarë. The well preserved castle is commonly, but wrongly, asserted, by guide books and the local tourist guides, to have been built in early 19th century by Ali Pasha of Tepelena. It looks to have been built prior to the evolution of the star fort design. Most probably it was built by the Venetians as it could be relieved by sea and it has the same triangular plan with round towers found in the Venetian fort at Butrint. In 1921 the castle was called Venetian. At that time the identity of its builders ought to have been clear, from a plaque above the entrance gate. This plaque is now missing but the weathering of the stones clearly shows that it has not been missing for many decades. Almost certainly this plaque had a carving of the lion of St. Mark. The most plausible explanation of the error found in the guide books is a rewriting of history in the communist period. Re-ascribing a colonial legacy to construction by an Albanian fits a nationalist isolationist agenda.

The castle would have been vulnerable to cannon fire from the hill above and this also suggests an early date for its construction when cannon had not developed the range they had later. In 1662 the Venetians feared the Turks would recondition it. In 1803 Ali Pasha offered the castle and port to the Royal Navy. At which time the fort only had 4 or 5 cannon implying that Ali Pasha did not see the fort as important for him.

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