Henry Fanshawe Tozer.

Researches in the highlands of Turkey; including visits to mounts Ida, Athos, Olympus, and Pelion, to the Mirdite Albanians, and other remote tribes (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryHenry Fanshawe TozerResearches in the highlands of Turkey; including visits to mounts Ida, Athos, Olympus, and Pelion, to the Mirdite Albanians, and other remote tribes (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 31)
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church, built of brick, in the Byzantine style, which had
attracted our notice from the castle. The original struc-
ture was a tiny place, oblong in form, with one cupola
and no transepts ; to one side of this another building of
later construction had been added on. This is called the
Church of the Agoghi, and is the only Christian church in
Prisrend, though permission has lately been given for the
erection of another and larger one in the lower town,
the walls of which are now half built ; but the work has

* For the proof of this see Leake's 'Northern Greece,' iii. 477.

342 Orosch to Prisrend. Chap, XV

been stopped for want of funds. By looking through the
keyhole we could see a lamp burning before the image of
a saint sheathed in silver, but we were disappointed of
seeing the interior, as the people said the key was kept a
long way off, and showed evident disinclination to help
us in the matter, probably in consequence of our being
accompanied by a Mussulman. We then descended, and
made our way to the opposite angle of the city in the
plain, where there is another and still more interesting
church, which has been converted into a mosque. It was
formerly the cathedral. This building is also Byzantine,
having one central cupola, and four others in various
parts, and, what is very unusual in Byzantine churches, a
western tower surmounting the outer porch, or proaulion,
on the top of which again a minaret has now been built.
The architecture of the interior is extremely plain ; the
nave is composed of five bays, two of which are west and
two east of the central cupola ; there are aisles at the
sides, and between these and the nave are two other ex-
tremely curious narrow aisles, not more than six feet each
in width, the object of which it is difficult to conceive ;
but yet they appear to have formed part of the original
structure. There are three apses at the ends of the nave
and outer aisles ; and over the proaulion there are cham-
bers under the tower. The whole effect of the buildinsf
has, as usual, been spoilt by its re-arrangement as a
mosque. The guardian of the place informed us that
another Frank had visited it not more than a fortnight
before ; and on further enquiry we discovered that this
was none other than the distinguished African traveller
Dr. Barth, who had left Scodra earlier than ourselves,
and after passing through the confines of Montenegro,
where he had nearly been killed in a dispute with a
native, had reached this place, and started again with the

•Chap. XV. Visit of Dr. Barth. 343

view of exploring further south in Albania. How sad to
think that he should have escaped this danger only to be
carried off by an epidemic on his return to Germany in
the autumn ! His loss will be greatly felt by those who
take an interest in the interior of Turkey, for he had
made more than one journey through parts little known,
and would probably have continued his investigations in
subsequent years. His name will frequently occur later
on in this narrative, where our route will meet that which
he took in 1862, and of which he has published an ac-
count distinguished for its almost photographic accuracy.
Our day was concluded with a visit to the Roman
Catholic Archbishop. He is a Dalmatian by birth, and
consequently, like most, if not all, the prelates in Upper
Albania, an Austrian subject : it was outside the Austrian
Consulate that we met him (for that Power is represented
even in Prisrend), and from thence he conducted us to his
house, which was hard by. This was an unpretending
structure, with a large courtyard on one side of it, the
greater part of which was used as a Christian burial-
ground. The chapel, which is the only Roman Catholic
place of worship, might be called a very apostolical upper
chamber, if it were not at the bottom of the house, and in
part underground. It is a simple room, with a very low
roof, and has been added to at different times ; in conse-
quence of this, the original chapel, which contains the
altar, is in one corner of the present building. The Arch-
bishop, who is a handsome man, and young-looking for
his position, conversed with us for some time in Italian,
with a vivacity and energy truly delightful from its con-
trast with Turkish languor ; while his companion, a Fran-
ciscan monk, served us with coffee and cigarettes. He
informed us that notwithstanding the importance of
Scodra and Prisrend, no regular postal communication

344 Orosch to Prisrend. Chap. XV.

exists between them, and there are only occasional means
of sending letters. Speaking of the general neglect that
prevailed, and the absence of public works, such as roads
and other facilities for communication, he remarked how
little excuse there is for this, when the system of the corvee
or forced labour exists, according to which the governors
have the power of employing the people at their discretion
on government works, without being required to make
them any remuneration. The population he estimated at
fifty thousand, a number the magnitude of which surprised,
me, both from the appearance of the city and the accounts
given by other travellers ; but his estimate seemed to
have been carefully made, and he divided them according
to their creeds, into 8000 Mahometan families, 3000
Greek, and 150 Latin. The numerical increase cannot
be very rapid, if it is true, as he assured us, that from the
prevalence of infanticide and want of care in rearing the-
children, from one-half to two-thirds of them die. Those
who belonged to the Greek Church he described as being
Bulgarians, but said that there were many Latin words
interspersed in their language, from which I should
gather that there must be a Wallach element amongst
them, and this is confirmed by their church being called
the Church of the Agoghi, as that name is applied to the
Wallachs in Albania. It will be seen from the numbers
here given that the Archbishop's own flock in Prisrend is
a small one ; and when I enquired whether there were
any Roman Catholics on the other side of the Scardus
range, he answered that there w^ere extremely few — only^
in fact, a few merchants in some of the larger towns. In
former times this would seem not to have been the case,
for originally the Archbishopric was at Uskiub, and it
was afterwards transferred to this place. He spoke
warmly of the persecutions and indignities to vrhich the

Chap. XV. TJie Concealed Christians. 345

Christians in these parts were exposed, and this applied
to the Greeks as well as the Latins. Until a very few"
years ago, the Turks from a neighbouring slaughter-house
used to fling all their offal into the burial-ground attached
to the Archbishop's residence ; which insulting practice
was not put a stop to until M. Hecquard visited the
place as Consul, and obtained leave from the governor
that a high wall might be built round the enclosure.
Numbers of the Mahometans, he said, both here and in
the neighbouring districts, are in reality Christians, only
from fear of persecution they profess the dominant creed :
they observe the fasts of the Church and the Sunday, but
this is done in secret, while in public they appear as Ma-
hometans, and worship in the mosques. In the country
they are known by the name of Lavamani, and we had
already heard them spoken of both in Montenegro and
at Orosch.

The origin of these people is a remarkable one, and
would form an interesting episode in a history of perse-
cutions. Like the Jews in Spain, they are an instance of
the way in which ill-treatment may produce outward con-
formity, and even to some extent acquiescence in a new
creed, while at the same time the old belief has never
been extinguished, but continues to reassert itself in a
variety of ways. Thus it is, for instance, that the Maho-
metans of Scodra, and in other parts of Albania, observe
the festival of St. Nicolas. In that case, indeed, nothing
more of Christianity seems to remain than traditional
customs, though in all probability there is enough of as-
sociation underlying them to be easily rekindled and
fanned into a flame. But those of whom I am now
speaking have a great deal more than this, and some of
them have gone so far as to throw off the mask, and avow
their real belief in the face of persecution. This will

24^ Orosch to Prisrend. Chap. XV.

appear from the following notice, which I have borrowed
from M. Hecquard's volume^ : —

" The origin of the concealed Christians is believed to date from
the time when Servia was occupied by the Turks, but their numbers
were increased at a later period. When, after a series of victories, the
Imperialists had gained possession of Belgrade, the Albanian Catholics,
encouraged by the promises of General Piccolomini, who held out to
them a prospect of independence, rose in insurrection and joined the
Austrian side. These latter, having shortly after made peace with
Turkey, forgot their allies, and made no stipulations in their favour.
To escape the fearful destiny that awaited them, some families followed
the Imperial troops ; while the rest saw their country invaded by the
Tartars, who burned the churches, massacred the priests that minis-
tered in them, and put to death all who dared to avow that they
professed the Christian religion. Flying from this horrible persecution,
part of the Christian families took refuge in the mountains of Monte-
negro ; but when, after a short time, they were compelled to descend
to the towns to provide themselves with the necessaries of life, in
order to avoid ill-treatment they assumed Turkish names, and, without
abandoning their religion, pretended, when out of the region of their
mountains, to profess Mahometanism. Nevertheless, it was not the
whole of the compromised Christians that had been able to fly ; and so,
to avoid seeing themselves plundered or massacred, or to escape being
forced to embrace Mahometanism, a great number of families, pos-
sessing lands and goods in the territory of Prisrend, in the towns or
villages of Ipek, Prisrend, Jacova, Janievo, Guilan, and Commanova,
followed the example of the new inhabitants of Montenegro. When it
could be done in secret, they used to frequent the churches and receive
the sacraments ; and some among them used to have recourse to the
Catholic priests, to obtain publicly from them the last comforts of

" The Archbishops of Scopia (Uskiub), yielding to necessity, thought
themselves justified in allowing their priests to administer the sacra-
ments to the concealed Christians, and give them whatever spiritual aid
they might need. This state of things lasted till the year 1703, when
it was decided at a national council, convoked by the Archbishop
of Antivari and attended by all the bishops of Albania, that those
Christians who, while in heart they held fast to the faith of Christ,
failed, nevertheless, to confess it openly, by following the practices of

*■ Hecquard, 'La Haute Albania,' pp. 4S1-4SS.

Chap. XV. TJicir History. 347

the Turks and assuming Mahometan names, should be expelled from
communion in the sacraments.

'• In confirmation of this decision, an encyclical letter of Benedict
XIV., bearing date August ist, 1754, forbade the Albanian arch-
bishops, bishops, priests, and missionaries, to allow Catholics to take
Turkish names, either with the view of obtaining immunity from taxes,
or for any other reason. ' Let them persuade those,' the letter pro-
ceeded, ' who, after having renounced the profanities of Mahometanism,
have returned to the faith of Christ, to depart from these regions, if
they mistrust their constancy and power of endurance, and to establish
themselves in countries which are not subject to the Turks ; for they
ought not to be allowed, after having been regenerated in the name of
Christ, to keep their old Turkish names ; and if they have the faith at
heart, they ought not in any particular to fail in the outward pro-
fession of Catholicism.'

" From that time to the present these families, although deprived of
all spiritual help, preserved, nevertheless, the memory of the festivals,
observed the fasts, and handed down from one generation to another
the prayers of the Church, which they never fail to recite daily;
although, in order not to expose themselves to the persecutions of
the Turks, they pretend to practise their religion, and marry their
daughters or give them their own in marriage.

" The Christian priests, who are established as cures in the neigh-
bouring villages, have on several occasions endeavoured to eradicate
this abuse, and sought, as far as was compatible with their spiritual
condition, to bring them to a public confession. The most remarkable
among these was Father Antonio Marcovich. Being gifted with reso-
lution and energy, he succeeded in persuading 120 families, who com-
posed the parish of Guilan, in Montenegro, to make public renunciation
of Mahometanism, promising to endure with them all the persecutions
they would have to suffer from the Turks, and never, under any
circumstances, to desert them.

" So bold a move could not fail to have disastrous consequences for
these unhappy families. As soon as it was known, a cry of indignation rose
on all sides, and, instead of tranquillising men's minds, the Ottoman autho-
rities and Hafiz Pasha, the governor, did their best to inflame them.

" Torn from their homes, these families were brought to Scopia.
There, after having been all the way exposed to the illtreatment of
their conductors, they were thrown into dark cells, where they had to
endure the torments of hunger. But Marcovich, the priest, full of
charity and faithful to his promise, had followed them, and did every-
thing in his power to alleviate their sufferings.

348 OroscJi to Prisrcnd. Chap. X\\

" Some days after, the heads of the village were brought before the
Council for examination. Without suffering themselves to be moved
by the terrible threats of the Turks, all declared that they were, and
would die. Christians. Exasperated by this constaiicy— which he
called obstinacy— Hafiz Pasha gave orders that the unhappy beings
should be put to the torture; but, being unable to overcome their
firmness, he condemned them to be banished to Asia Minor and
their goods confiscated. These vvere sold for the benefit of the public
treasury, or rather, as some assert, for that of the Pasha's private

" On this the destitution of these unhappy families, who had become
the objects of fanatical rage, is indescribable. Old men, women, and
children, made their way on foot towards their place of banishment,
joyfully enduring fatigues beyond their strength, and supported by
Marcovich, that worthy apostle of Christ, who led them to fix their
eyes on a better future and an eternal recompense for all their

" When, however, these occurrences came to the knowledge of the
embassies of France, Austria, and England, they communicated them
to the Turkish Government, which allotted to these families a village
in the neighbourhood of Brusa, and gave them some land and the
means of cultivating it. Though apparently favoured by these conces-
sions, the sufferers had much more to undergo. In spite of the injunc-
tions of the Government, the Turkish authorities left them utterly in
want, and on one pretext or another daily overwhelmed them with ill-
treatment. An epidemic put the finishing stroke to their miseries,
and more than half of them perished. Father Marcovich, who had
been appointed their cure in their new place of abode, being unable to
remain indifferent to these sufferings, again betook himself to Con-
stantinople, where, thanks to the urgent representations of the French
and English ambassadors, he succeeded in obtaining the restoration of
these unfortunate persons to their country, at the expenseof the Porte,
and the restitution of their goods.

" These orders were carried out : a steamer bore the confessors of
the faith to Salonica, from which place, with a special /rwzaw, they
were able to reach their homes. Of 120 families, amounting at the
time of their departure to more than 1000 souls, there remained only
80 persons.

" Their return was unfavourably regarded by the Turks of the
country, who were bound, according to the terms of the fnnan, to
restore them their property. The Christians were on the point of
perishing of hunger when in 1849 an attache of the English embassy

Chap. XV. Present Condition.


arrived at Scopia with a ncwfrman, and by means of the energy he
used obtained for them not only the restoration of their land, but also
freedom of religious worship. From that time they were no longer

" The example of the people of Guilan was not immediately fol-
lowed ; the fear of persecution as yet acted as a check on the numerous
families who were in a similar position, and, whilst beseeching their
bishop to bring their case under the notice of the Christian Governments,
these unhappy persons still remained deprived of the means of grace.

" However, on one of the last episcopal visitations of Monseigneur
Bogdanovich (the late Archbishop), they declared to him that they
w'ere tired of waiting ; that as the hathumayoun recognised the prin-
ciple of religious hberty, they should no longer be breaking the laws of
the empire by practising their religion openly ; and that in every case
they were ready to endure anything rather than remain any longer in
this vexatious situation, and run the risk of dying without the pale of
the Church.

" Monseigneur Bogdanovich, influenced by a feeling of prudence,
induced them to wait patiently till the time should come when the new
laws would be brought into force, and the local government would
bave sufficient power to cause their sovereign's order to be respected.
Their archbishop, however, had considerable difficulty in persuading
them, and was reduced to great perplexity when they said to him, ' If
that time does not arrive before we are dead, will you not have to
reproach yourself with having lost our souls ? '

" Is it not really time to put an end to this state of things ? The
concealed Christians are known; all the Turks are aware that they are
Mahometans only in name. Would it not be better for the Ottoman
Government to take the initiative and permit them to practise their
religion openly, rather than expose itself to an immense scandal from
innumerable persecutions, which will not fail to happen shortly; for
the concealed Christians have made up their minds to declare them-
selves, come what may, and it would only require the zeal of a
missionary to renew the scenes of 1847."''

' Professor Ross mentions that in Cyprus there are from 2000 to 3000
concealed Christians who profess Mahometanism, but have their children
baptized. Among their neighbours they go by the nickname of " Ymaw-
cottons" {Kivofidi-iPaKoi), or, as we might say, "linsey-woolseys " (' Insel-
reise,' iv. p. 202). Compare Hudibras: —

" A lawless linseywoolsie brother,
Half of one order, half another."

( 350 )



The Scardus Pass — Its Flora — View from the Summit — Calcandele —
The Khanji and the Mudir — Former Condition of the Country — Here-
ditary Pashas — The Tettovo — Mount Liubatrin — The Vardar —
Uskiub — Its Histoiy — General Geography of the Country — District
East of Scardus — District West of Scardus — The KurschumK-khan.
— Ancient Clock-tower — Justinian's Aqueduct — Circassian Colony.

On the 29th of July we left Prisrend for the pass which
here crosses the Scardus range. By this route it takes
eight hours to reach the foot of the mountains on the
opposite side at Calcandele. We heard, also, of another
route, two hours longer, and somewhat further to the
north, by which Uskiub may be reached without passing
that place, but this appears to be a difficult and unfre-
quented track, only suited to those who have special
reasons for avoiding the highway. In fact, throughout
the whole length of the Scardus chain, — from its northern
extremity. Mount Liubatrin, which overlooks the famous
plain of Cossova, and whose foot is skirted by the pass
of Katschanik, to the gorge or Klissura of the Devol,
which cuts through the mountain mass to its very base,
thus enabling that river to flow through it from east to
west, and forming the most marked point of demarcation
between the Scardus and its southern continuation the
Pindus, — there are only two passes of any importance,
namely, that which we are now about to traverse, and
that which we have already crossed to the east of
Ochrida. This fact it is most important to keep in mind

Chap. XVI. The Scardiis Pass. 351

in studying the history of the country on either side of
these mountains, both in ancient and modern times, as it
was only by these that an army could pass from one to
the other.^ At first the ascent is steep both through and
above the houses of the upper part of the town, until the
summit of the great buttresses is reached, which, closely
massed together and intersected by few lateral valleys,
form the supports of the central chain. Along the ridge
of these we proceeded for some distance, gradually
mounting over grassy slopes interspersed with hazel
bushes, in a direction almost due south, overlooking on
one side the vast plain of Prisrend and Ipek with its
girdle of mountains, and on the other a broad upland
valley, sloping away towards the stream of the Maritza,
which appeared at some distance to the left. Beyond
this rose the highest summits — finely formed peaks, and
generally clothed to the top with grass. Along the
sides of the valley a few villages were visible, and culti-
vation extended in patches for a considerable distance
along our track, but ceased when we began to ascend the
steeper parts of the mountain : these were clothed here
and there with beech forests — the only trees which grow
in these upper regions — reaching upwards as high as
5200 feet above the sea. A small stone-built khan was
the only habitation above this altitude, and with the
exception of the kJianji, the only other human beings
that we saw before reaching the summit were some
Wallach shepherds — Black Wallachs, as they are called,
probably from the colour of their tents, to distinguish
them from those who dwell in the towns.^ These

^ See Gi'ote's 'History of Greece,' iv. 2, 3.

^ In a wider sense the name Black Wallach has been used from time
immemorial as a distinctive appellation of the Wallachians of Dacia, or
those livinsj north of the Danube.

352 Prisrend to Uskiiih. Chap. XVI.

families are completely nomad, having no settled habi-
tation, and remaining in these mountain pastures during
the summer months, until the snows drive them down
towards the plains. As it was we passed several patches
of snow, and saw a considerable quantity on the slopes
of the higher summits. The flowers were magnificent
during the last thousand feet of the ascent ; indeed no
alpine or sub-alpine flora that I have ever seen could at
all compare with them, either for variety of species, or
abundance of plants, or luxuriance of growth. Con-
spicuous among these were Saxifraga rottindifolia,
DiantJius dcltoidcs, Viola tricolor, Ccrastiinn latifoliiim,
Canipajuda patnla, Gann viontajiwn, Potcntilla a?irca,
Rannnadiis Villarsii, Thymus serpylhcm, and, above all,
the brilliant Gann cocciiicinn and the deep-pink clusters
of the Ej'ica spiailifolia.

When we reached the col, which was 7460 feet^ above
the sea, a fine view disclosed itself towards the east. In
front was a long deep valley, narrow and closely hemmed
in by the mountains, at the end of which, where it opens
out into a plain, lies the town of Calcandele, with its
castle rising above it on one of the lower buttresses.
Beyond the plain three mountain chains appeared, the
highest and most distant of which was the Kara-dagh or
Black Mountain ; on the near side of this, though not
visible from this point, the city of Uskiub is situated.
Further south than these rises a lofty distant peak,
perhaps the Musdatsch, one of the principal summits of
the Babuna range. On our left, to the north of the
nearer valley, a sharp yet grassy height stood up con-

* Boue gives the height as 63S0 French feet (' Recueil d'ltineraires,' i. p.
313). My own measurements were taken by the aneroid, corrected by the

Chap. XVI. View from the Siiminit. 353

spicuous ; but what most attracted the eye in the whole
scene was the Hne of noble peaks which bounded this
valley on the south — called Zaribaschina in Kiepert's

Online LibraryHenry Fanshawe TozerResearches in the highlands of Turkey; including visits to mounts Ida, Athos, Olympus, and Pelion, to the Mirdite Albanians, and other remote tribes (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 31)