Albania: The Woman in the Wall – The Legend of Rozafa Castle


One of the places we stayed in during our recent trip through the Balkans was the town of Shkodër in the northwest region of the country, close to the border of Montenegro. This area was very unlike the southern part of the country from which we had just come. The beauty of the open and mountainous countryside was replaced with a large, bustling town and overlooking it, sit the magnificent ruins of Rozafa Castle.


rozafa castle view 2


Finding the castle took a little time. We could see it but we couldn’t work out quite how to get there. Signs were few and far between and, where the road divided, seemed to be completely missing. Eventually we made our way along the long, narrow road that led the way up and along to a small set of free parking spaces, perhaps only large enough for four or five vehicles, which lay just beneath the feet of Rozafa.


rozafa castle path from car park


A short walk up along the path made for spectacular viewing over miles. The Bojana and Drin rivers could be seen as could Lake Shkodra itself.

rozafa castle views


The short walk along the path led us past a small grave…


rozafa castle grave


A board hung at the entrance showed the entrance fees of 200 lek (approximately £1.30 each), although the chap only charged the 12 of us 1000 lek in total to gain entry.


rozafa castle panorama


Excavations at Rozafa Castle (Kalaja e Rozafës/Kalaja e Rozafatit) have resulted in discoveries from the Bronze Age up to the present day.


rozafa castle walking through tunnel


The thick stone walls are 880 metres long over an area of nine hectares with most of the remaining walls thought have been built by the Venetians.


Rozafa castle entrance tunnel


There is also evidence of Ottoman (16th and 17th Centuries) and 18th and 19th Bushatlli traces within it. In 1479 Rozafa Castle became occupied by the Ottomans and the 13th century St Steven chapel was turned into a mosque.


rozafa castle window in chamber


The castle is divided into three areas, one of which houses the museum which requires a separate entrance fee.


rozafa castle chamber entrance


Once again we were charged well below what our full rate of entry would have been, but it would have been worth paying the cheap price regardless.


rozafa castle museum model


Artefacts, models and information provided an insight into the castle’s history yet, fascinating it was, nothing stuck in my mind quite like the folk story behind the castle itself.


rozafa castle youngest children guarding castle


The Legend of Rozafa tells the story of three young men, brothers of the House of Mrnjavčević, who were given the task of building a castle. By day they worked hard to build the castle walls yet each night, when they left, the walls would fall down.


rozafa castle fortifications


Day after day they built the walls. Night after night the walls would fall. One day, as they were working on the same walls once again, a wise old man approached them.

‘Day after day we work on this castle,’ they told the old man. ‘Yet every night the walls tumble down. We will never complete the castle. What must we do?’

‘I know what you must do but I cannot tell you,’ said the wise old man.

But the brothers pleaded.

‘Do you have wives at home?’ the old man asked.

‘Why yes, we do!’ the brothers answered.

‘The castle will only remain standing if one of your wives is sacrificed within its walls. Do not warn your wives, but  whoever comes to bring tomorrow’s lunch will need to be sacrificed. You must build the stone walls with her within them. Only that shall prevent it from falling.’

The brothers all promised that none would tell their wives of the terrible fate that would occur to them the following day should she be the one to take their lunch over to them.

The oldest brother did not keep his promise and quietly told his wife of the fate that would befall her.

‘Keep away,’ he warned her.

The second brother did not keep his promise and warned his wife also.

Only the youngest brother kept his word.

The following day, the mother of the brothers called the wife of the oldest son over and asked her to take over bread and wine for them.

‘Alas, mother,’ she said. ‘I cannot for I am unwell today.’

So the mother called the wife of the second son.

‘Alas, mother,’ she said. ‘I cannot for I am unwell today.’

The mother then called over the wife of the third son, who went by the name Rozafa.

‘Rozafa, please take over bread and wine for your husband and his brothers.’

‘But mother, I do not wish to leave my baby son. He needs me.’

‘We shall take care of him,’ said the oldest wife.

So Rozafa picked up the bread and wine and made her way to the site. As she approached the brothers looked up sadly and they explained what now must happen.

Rozafa did not protest and accepted her fate, asking only that she be built into the castle whilst still alive. Her plea continued, as she asked for her right eye to be left showing so that she might still see her son, her right breast to be exposed so that she might still feed her son, and for her right foot to be left free so that she might still be able to rock her son’s cradle.


rozafa in wall


The Poem of Rozafa

“I plead
When you wall me
Leave my right eye exposed
Leave my right hand exposed
Leave my right foot exposed
for the sake of my newborn son
so that when he starts crying
Let me see him with one eye
Let me caress him with one hand
Let me feed him with one breast
Let me rock his cradle with one foot
May the castle breast be walled
May the castle rise strong
May my son be happy”




This post was featured in the Monday Escapes and Cultured Kids linkys.

24 thoughts on “Albania: The Woman in the Wall – The Legend of Rozafa Castle

  1. Fascinating – you don’t often read posts about Albania. The castle looks incredible and I loved the story of Rozafa – that will stick in my head too. #mondayescapes

  2. Loved reading about the legend of Rozafa. I’ve enjoyed reading back through your European trip posts too – looking forward to reading more about it in future posts. I’d love to visit Albania, Slovenia and Montenegro one day but haven’t quite got around to it yet….. #Mondayescapes

  3. My word, that is some origin story. Can’t help wondering if there is some kind of eplilogue where the other brothers/ their wives get their comeuppance. Castle looks great though!

  4. I love how these ancient castles have such interesting legends! This one is particularly said and gruesome though. Definitely gives the place a different vibe knowing this story, I’m sure. We’ve never been to the Balkans, but would love to visit one day. #CulturedKids

    1. The stories bring the place to life, don’t they. Although this isn’t a lovely tale as such, it does tend to stick in your mind. If you do plan on going anywhere I’d strongly recommend Albania. Such a beautiful country and so very welcoming.

  5. What a fascinating story, and I’m sure it really made a good day out even more memorable. We’d love to visit Albania, but don’t quite feel ready for it yet. Give us a few years – hopefully we’ll make it there before mass tourism. Huge respect to you and your family! #CulturedKids

    1. It was our first visit to Albania and we all completely fell head over heels in love with it. If you fancy taking Daisy driving through do let us know (we went with our 17 seater minibus!).

  6. The tale of Rozafa has nothing to do with the House idk how they are called, it is an Albanoi(Illyrian) tale. Even Rozafa it is an Albanian name. Nothing to do with the Slavic tribes!!!

    Where did you get the information or wait you just made some lies ?

    1. I’d love for you to share the version of the legend that you are familiar with. Isn’t it wonderful how folklore and tales develop over time? Such is the magic of stories…

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