Voskopoja – Moscopole

Former Moscopole or Moschopolis, also known as the “Aromanian Jerusalem” had been established in the 14th century by Aromanians /Tsintsars – Vlachs/. Tsintsars or Aromanians or Vlachs are settled in the Balkans for more than 2000 years, they are descendants of the authochtonous Balkan population – Ilyrians, Thracians, Dardanians and the Roman legionnaires of the V Roman Legion. The name of Tsintsars come from the Latin word “quinque” which means five. One would assume that the Tsintsar-Aromanian language is the mixture of the Latin and the languages of the antique population of the Balkans, but the Tsintsar language is actually the mix of the Latin and the Serb languages.

Between the 17th and the 18th century Moscopole – Moschopolis became one of the most developed and prosperous cities in the European part of the Ottoman Empire. Testimony to the peak of Moscopole – Moschopolis as the cultural and intellectual center of the entire south Albania and the northern Epirus are one of the first Printing House in the Balkans established in 1720, the Academia of Moschopolis – Voskopoja founded in 1744, the famous Christian Basilicas, the house of walls painted by the famous Albanian post-Byzantine painters, including David Selenica and the Zeografi brothers. Although located in a rather isolated place in the mountains of southern Albania, the city of Moscopole -Moschopolis rose to become the most important center of the Aromanians. In its glory days (1760s), it is said that Moskopole – Moschopolis had a population surpassing 60,000 and was the second most important city of the Balkans in regard to population and prosperity. At the second half of the 18th century, Moscopole – Moschopolis was ruined, burned and pillaged by bands of local Muslim Albanians, as the anti-Orthodox feeling encouraged by the Ottoman authorities during the Russian-Ottoman war of 1768-1774, to be turned again into a village as it had been originally. Between 1769 and 1789 Voskopoja – Moschopolis was pillaged several times by notorious Ali Pasha and eventually came to lose its vitality and significance as a commercial center on the trading route between Constantinople and Venice. The pillaging of the Moscopole – Moschopolis, especially of its treasures, of the records and manuscripts of its churches continued even during the World War I and II. In 1916 the Moschopolis was devastated by fire and only five from some thirty churches had survived. Moskopole – Moschopolis was finally destroyed and completely ravaged in 1916 in fighting during the First World War by Albanian irregular bands, headed by Butka and cooperating with the Austrian forces, and, with the exception of four or five beautiful Orthodox churches, the historical buildings which did survive were razed during partisan warfare in 1943. Famous commercial Aroman elite mainly fled and emigrated to Thessaly and Macedonia and Austria-Hungary, to nowadays towns of Berat and Korca in Albania, enriching and enlightening economic and cultural life of all the Balkan countries. The city of Moscopole – Moschopolis never succeeded to gain to the level of its earlier economic status, vitality  and prosperity.

Moscopole – Moschopolis – Voskopoja remains to this day as an abundant storehouse of art works. 24 Orthodox churches of Voskopoja famous for their wonderful frescoes and icons had been built during the period between the 16th-18th centuries, but now there remained only eight of them. Some of Voskopoja – Moschopolis churches are the Church of Saint Nicolas, Church of Saint Mary, Church of Saint Athanasius, Church of Saint Michael, Church of Saint Elijah, Church of Saint Charalampus, Monastery of Saint John the Baptist /mostly dating from the 17th and the 18th centuries/. Unfortunately, at present this uniquely valuable cultural heritage of Voskopoje is in pretty poor condition, neglected and often closed. Perhaps the time will come, where many of the old churches and monuments of Voskopoje will be restored and opened to the visitors.

Moskopole – Moschopolis – Voskopoja is today just a tiny, picturesque, remote mountain village /population about 500 inhabitants/ located 21 km west of Korce at an altitude of 1160 meters, surrounded by the gorgeous Morava Mountains whose orchards and fields hide the ruins of its former glory…. Voskopoja has perfectly clear air and fresh cold and curative potable waters. Voskopje – Moschopolis is a winter resort with premium opportunities for skiing and an air spa and the vacation resort throughout a year. In order to commemorate and relive the experience of the past of Moscopole – Moschopolis (222 years since the city was entirely destroyed by Ali Pasha in 1788) the biggest Arman reunion is celebrated traditionally in Viskopoja on the 15th August, when Armans from Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania join.

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