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Monuments & Habitats

Monuments & Habitats

Venetian tower


This tower was built in the 16th century and together with the triangular fortress which is beyond Vivari Channel were used to protect the fisheries which were the main economic resource of Butrint at that time.It is a tall square blockhouse of two floors with loopholes. Entrance to the tower is by a stair and drawbridge on the east side.

Roman Bathhouse

Just in front of the tower are the remains of a 2nd-century AD Roman bathhouse with heated rooms and an octagonal central chamber, the first of many such buildings to be seen in the ancient city.

Temple of Asclepius


It is the shrine of the healing god, Asclepius. He was an ancient healer so skilled he could revive the dead whereupon he was killed by Zeus in a fit of jealousy.  His cult was very popular in the ancient world. The shrine is demarcated to the south by the large block-built wall of the 3rd or 4th century BC, which acted both as an early line of the city defences and as the temenos, or boundary of the sacred area. Behind the city wall and to the left is a tangle of walls ranging in date from the Hellenistic era to late antiquity. All around the sides were small shrines, treasuries, dedicatory stelae and statue bases, while a brick-built cleansing fountain stood on the north side. This was the public entrance into the theatre. The actual temple of Aesclepius seems to stand in a prominent position on a massive block-built terrace above the theatre.  Its remains can be seen from the orchestra. This is a typical Hellenistic arrangement of a temple and theatre, with the Gods overseeing proceedings.

The theatre


The theatre at Butrint seems to have been a creation of the 4th-3rd century BC, possibly under King Pyrrhus of Epirus, the cousin of Alexander the Great and famous general who unsuccessfully invaded Italy and gave us the term ‘Pyrrhic victory’.  The cavea, or seating banks, are cut into the hillside in the Greek fashion, and retained on the east and west by block-built walls called the analemma. The seats are divided into upper and lower sections by a semi-circular walkway, the diazoma. There are five sections divided by stairs. A now virtually illegible dedicatory inscription may be seen on the third row of seats, and other manumission inscriptions are carved on blocks on the diazoma. The lower rows of seats are named the proedroi, or seats of honour for magistrates and leading citizens; they are carved as benches with lion-foot terminals. The entire cavea was massively enlarged by the Romans, probably at the end of the 2nd century AD. The stone-paved orchestra was the focal point of the Hellenistic theatre; this area is now underwater and covered by the modern stage. To the south of the orchestra stood the scena building (literally the scenery) and stage. In the original structure this was probably a relatively small building. However, with the 2nd-century AD reconstruction of much of the complex, the scena was completely rebuilt as a large two-storied Roman style building, with architectural elaboration and marble veneer. During the excavations of the 1930s, a large group of sculptures was found on the stage. The group included fine portraits of Augustus, his wife Livia, and the great general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the victor of the battle of Actium.

The Hellenistic stoa, the agora and the Roman forum


In the distance, against the acropolis hill, are the remains of a Hellenistic stoa, which originally had three trapezoidal corbelled doorways. Above it there is a much degraded panel of fresco, with a parade of saints and prophets, which is all that remains of a 13th-century Byzantine church. Below lie a sacred well, used also as a public water source. The limestone slab at the front shows deep cut marks made over the course of time by the action of ropes being let down and hauled up to draw water.

Close by the well is a newly excavated complex, which corresponds with the northern, ends of the Roman forum, and possibly also the pre-Roman agora; the civic centre of the ancient town and the centre of its political and commercial life.  The actual open square lay tot eh south of the path, in the lower-lying area. To the north of the paving is a tripartite building which might have been the Capitolium, or shrine to the principal Roman gods, Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.  The forum began to go out of use in the 3rd century AD.  By late antiquity the forum of Butrint was choked with rubbish. The tripartite building, or what remained of it, seems to have been converted into a private house, while outside wooden sheds were built over the old forum square. By the middle ages the forum was gone and the area was subject to redevelopment on a series of terraces as part of the renewed medieval town.



This is an enigmatic complex dating to the 1st or 2nd centuries AD. This is a Roman brick fountain, with surrounding rooms, with mosaics of water birds and a cantharus bowl in the tops of the niches. It is likely that it had again some religious function. It was converted to a church in the middle ages and the inscription now lying in the pool was used as the altar. Adjacent to the ‘gymnasium’ is a square stone monument, originally covered with stone slabs, with a doorless vaulted chamber. While similar in form to a tomb it may be that this is a cenotaph or heroon, a hero shrine, perhaps commemorating an illustrious figure associated with Butrint’s ancient origins, like Aeneas, or Helenus.

The Triconch Palace


The Triconch Palace is one of a number of elaborate later Roman town houses known from around the Mediterranean, but unlike the Triconch of Butrint few have been excavated to modern standards. In its initial phases, in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, the Triconch was a modest residence with wings and a portico arranged around a stone-flagged pavement with a well, which can be seen in the centre of the excavated area. There were two entrances, one from the west into the peristyle and another from the east into the long gallery of the southern range.  This took the most important guests from a private landing stage into the heart of the house. An extremely fine mosaic panel decorated with theatre masks at this point would emphasise the social status of this entrance and the also the owners cultural level. Many of the other rooms were paved with mosaics, and one in the original entrance atrium, contained a Greek inscription which gives some information about the owner. Around AD 425, there was a massive expansion. A new plot of land to the east was acquired, and the whole building rebuilt as a very grand town house with a big central peristyle, a marine entrance from the channel to the south, and another entrance and audience hall leading directly from the city side. The palace was almost completed, the columns and tiled roofs set up, when all at once the work stopped. Why the complex was abandoned at this time is unknown. The building was turned over to industry, with workshops housed in wooden shacks, and later it was used as a cemetery.

The Baptistery


This is one of Butrint’s key monuments and one of the largest and most elaborate baptisteries of its time anywhere in the Mediterranean. The construction of the baptistery can be dated from a stylistic analysis of the great mosaic pavement, which belongs to the period c. AD 550–575. The complex was built with the circular form of the central space. The double ring of eight columns (eight being the Christian number of perfection) would have supported arcades which in turn held up the domed roof.

The baptistery’s main feature today is the great mosaic pavement. The mosaic is a remarkable composition: Its principal scheme is based on seven concentric bands, two of which consist of plain interlocking medallions, the others containing roundels with animals, 69 in total, a variety of quadruped creatures and many water birds and fish – all symbols associated with baptism. The building was the setting for the elaborate and highly important baptismal rite. In late antiquity Easter Sunday was the only day of the year on which baptism could take place. The baptistery appears to have been ruined at some point after the 6th century.

The Great Basilica


The great basilica dates to the later 5th century AD and is a substantial basilicas church. The church survives almost up to roof height, making it one of the best-preserved late-antique basilicas in the region. It has a central nave with clerestory, aisles and transepts of tripartite form, separated from the nave and sacred space in front of the apse (the bema) by pilasters. A church like this would have been divided internally into a hierarchy of spaces, the bema (the space in front of the apse) and main nave being the most important areas, reserved for the priests. In the great basilica of Butrint the bema floor is covered by mosaic, and the nave with stone slabs.

Despite its size, this church was not the original cathedral church of the city, which must lie elsewhere.  His was a church built by a private donor, probably intended for his burial, as it is certainly a funerary basilica with many graves beneath the floor.

The Lake (Scaean) Gate

porta skea

It is an original feature of the Hellenistic defensive circuit which gives access to a stairway and path leading up to the summit of the acropolis. The paving in the sloping gate tunnel and pivot blocks for the doors appear to be medieval. The gateway was discovered and excavated by the Italian Archaeological Mission of the 1920s and 30s, and became a centrepiece of Italian and Fascist party propaganda, being interpreted as evidence of the truth of the Virgilian legend. The excavator, Luigi Maria Ugolini, named it the Scaean Gate after the great portal in Troy, the miniature copy of which was supposedly seen by Aeneas at Butrint.

The Lion Gate

porta e luanit

The Lion Gate, named after the impressive carving of a typical Grecian lion attacking a bull which decorates the great lintel. The bull lies on the ground, and only its horns and head are visible. The carving of the lion is somewhat eroded and, as can be seen from the carving of the tail it may never have been fully completed. The original gateway here was another Hellenistic corbelled archway, larger than the Lake Gate. This structure has been partly hidden by a rebuilding of medieval date, when a tower was added to the re-entrant angle of the wall here. The lion sculpture was reused as an element of the door that led into the city.

The well of Junia Rufina

pusi rufina

At one time a freshwater spring, the well has a natural grotto-like appearance that must have enhanced its appeal as a sacred well. Certainly offerings were placed into its waters from about the 4th century BC. In the Roman period it was elaborated with a well head, and the stone balustrade was carved with an inscription:

‘Junia Rufina friend of the nymphs’ [built this].

In the 5th or 6th century the pagan holy well was Christianised with the addition of a fresco on the back wall. In this painting two peacocks flank a cantharis cup, the same symbols of paradise and everlasting life seen in the baptistery. Though now much weathered and faded, the right-hand peacock can still just be seen near the niche. In the middle ages the well was walled up and a hole cut in the roof so that the castle garrison could draw water.


kalaja dhe muzeu

Conservation of monuments remains one of the essential issues for the Butrint National Park.
Butrint conservation history begins with the work of the Italian Archaeological Mission in 1930 where many of the monuments were conserved except Acropolis castle which was rebuilt. In the early 60’s with the opening of the new road to Butrint, Institute of Monuments created a conservation program. Institute set up a team of experienced workers who were dealing with the maintenance of monuments within the archaeological area and organized a program of restoration and reconstruction of many monuments. Over the last 70 years of conservation methods are identified and developed.

In the recent years, conservation projects are carried out by the Institute of Monuments, Butrint National Park in collaboration with the Butrint Foundation.

In the spotlight of the conservation works, as well as in many other archaeological sites across Europe, is the preservation of what has been excavated. So the practice is focused on a critical survey of existing evidences and on the implementation of new studies about monuments, than in the realization of new excavations.

Conservation projects in recent years, besides conservation of monuments and consolidation of the structures, are focused on the improvement of the landscape, on the visitors infrastructure, on the implementation of warheads (backfillings) to prevent the further degradation of monuments.

The Natural and Environmental Resource

burimet naturore

The Butrint National Park supports a remarkable diversity of habitats as well as natural and cultural landscapes.  A long history of human intervention and the diversity of underlying landscape features from mountain to plain and from freshwater rivers to saltwater lakes have influenced this.  Until recently, the Butrint plain to the south of Lake Butrint and to the east of the bay of Butrint was marshy, grading from saline to freshwater.  Higher ground supported woodland, which in turn gave way to the grazing lands of transhumant shepherds.

This landscape was significantly transformed by a large-scale land reclamation scheme in the 1960s and 70s, which resulted in the drainage of marshy areas and the reduction of woodland areas.  Despite these changes, the low intensity of land-use, which predominates in this sparsely populated area, has preserved a wide range of species-rich habitats.

The special environmental features are integral part of the WH site, of the Ramsar wetland site and of the setting and spirit of place of the whole area.

The main habitats that can be found in the Park include:

Woodland and scrub

Mixed oak woodland occurs on the hills to the north west of Butrint and on the south-facing slopes of the Milesë mountain range.  Both areas of woodland are remnant of previously more intensive tracts, which were managed historically for timber export.

Riparian woodland  occurs primarily in the main site of Butrint where habitats such as the saltmarsh and maquis meet along the northern edge of the Vivari Channel.  This habitat is dominated by elm with ash and some holm oak.

Maquis occurs in areas which are unmanaged and where little grazing takes place.  The maquis is dominated by shrubby plants and bushes including: holly oak, Jerusalem sage, Judas tree, figs, butcher’s broom, Christ’s thorn, arkoudovatos, holm oak and planted aleppo pine.

The woodland and scrub areas are important habitats for a variety of species including beech marten, fox, wild cat, wild boar, squirrel, species of field mice and bat, wolf, jackal, weasel, and hedgehog.

Dry habitats

  • Heathland.  An anthropogenic habitat which occurs over the low hills and Butrint plain.  The heathland is dominated by low scrub such as sage-leafed cistus, brambles, Phillyrea and sparse low plants of tree heath.  The habitat supports bee-eaters, hoopoe and Balkan green lizards and is important as a hibernation ground for Hermann’s tortoise.

    Dry pasture.  An anthropogenic habitat which occurs over the Butrint plain.  The habitat is heavily grazed and species vary depending on the salinity of the soils from winter flooding.  The dominant species include shepherd’s purse, sticky mouse-ear and clovers with milk thistle.  The habitat supports an avifauna of passerines such as crested larks, white- and black-headed wagtails, meadow and tawny pipits, goldfinches, Spanish and house sparrows and corn buntings.

    Shingle bank.  A single small strip of tall scrub runs along the upper margin of a shingle beach located between the freshwater marsh and Lake Butrint.  Legumes and myrtle dominate the vegetation.  Few birds are associated with this shingle bank although the open parts are used as roosts by gulls and the scrub by Cetti’s and Sardinian warblers.

Dry habitats dominate the National Park in terms of area, but represent the least diverse areas in terms of species.

Wetlands (recognized as having international imp[ortance)

  • Seasonally inundated pasture.  This habitat occurs at intervals throughout the low plains.  It is characterized by flora found on the dry pasture, although it contains elements of freshwater marsh flora such as rushes and celery-leafed buttercup.  This habitat is important for migrant waders such as ruff, curlew and little-ringed plover.

  • Ditches.  A system of ditches dissects the dry pasture.  The ditch vegetation is dictated by the degree to which they are managed and the salinity of the water.  Most of the species that occur are pan-European in distribution, including reedmaces, curled pondweed, celery-leafed buttercup, great water plantain, watercress and fool’s watercress.  However, in places vegetation is limited to duckweed and algae.  There is a distinct bird community associated with the ditch habitat.  The most distinctive species are the great reed warbler; migrants such as squacco heron; garganey and common, wood and green sandpipers.  The ditch complex is the only habitat for two species of freshwater terrapin, and is important for otters.

  • Freshwater marsh.  There are approximately 7 hectares of freshwater marsh at the mouth of the channel that connects Lake Bufit to Lake Butrint and along the eastern shore of Lake Bufit.  The marsh supports a number of species that are not common or do not occur in other parts of the Park.  It is dominated by the only large stand of common reed and a fairly diverse aquatic community including great horsetail, a water-dropwort and narrow-leafed water-plantain.  The marsh supports the following fauna: marsh harrier, kingfisher, reed warbler and Cetti’s warbler, the agile frog, Balkan frog, green tree frog and the Epirote frog.

  • Saltmarsh and coastal mudflat.  Saltmarsh occurs as a narrow fringe along the south shore of Lake Butrint, at the mouth of the Vivari Channel and along the bay of Butrint.  The vegetation is dominated by glassworts with patches of tamarisk and sea aster.  The saltmarsh and coastal mudflat is very important for migrating water birds such as the glossy ibis, grey heron, great white and little egrets and curlew.  In addition, flocks of mixed gulls including slender-billed, black-headed and Mediterranean gull, and gull-billed, Caspian and common terns reside in this habitat.

Lakes and lagoons

  • Lake Butrint.  Lake Butrint covers an area of 16 km² and is linked to the Straits of Corfu via the Vivari Channel.  The liminology of the lake is divided into two distinct layers.  The upper layer (approx. 8m in depth) is rich in oxygen (8 – 9 mg/lit) and supports a diverse marine culture.  The salinity of this layer changes seasonally from 15 gr/lit in winter to 33 gr/lit in summer.  The lower layer (approx. 14m in depth) lacks oxygen and is sulphurous.  The lake is rich in fish species including mullet, eel, bream, wrasse, sardine and anchovies.  Mussels are the predominant mollusc and have been farmed in the lake since 1968.  The north and south shores of the lake house saltwater marshes with associated amphibian, reptile and bird populations.

  • Lake Bufit (also known as Lake Rreza covers an area of 83 ha and has an average depth of 1m.  The lake is fed by a series of freshwater springs.  It originally drained into Lake Butrint but is now connected by a cut channel that allows water to flow either way between the lakes.  As a result saline water from Lake Butrint has increased the salinity of Lake Bufit (5 gr/lit).  The lake supports a freshwater marsh and a diverse fish, amphibian and reptile population, which include mullet, carp, eel, agile frog, Balkan frog, green tree frog, Epirote frog, stripe-necked terrapin, pond terrapins, green toad and dice snake.

  • Lake Armur.  Lake Armur is a saltwater lagoon partially cut off from the Straits of Corfu by a series of low salt marsh-covered islands.  The lagoon is rich in migratory fish like mullet and in molluscs.  Further research work is required in this and other coastal areas to establish the characteristics of the habitat and species it supports.

The Butrint National Park is bordered by a range of habitats that compliment the diversity and strengthen the potential resilience of species by increasing the range and surface area of diverse habitats.  These include:

  • High hills and mountains to the south west, east and south east, which support breeding populations of raptors including the Egyptian vulture, Bonelli’s eagle and the internationally endangered species of the white-tailed eagle and lesser kestrel.

  • Freshwater and saltwater wetlands on the northern shore of Lake Butrint support further breeding grounds for water birds.

If the opportunity arises, the Park should include these territories within its boundaries.