E shtune, 07.07.2007, 07:10 PM
Christianity came to Illyrian-populated lands in the first century A.D. Saint Paul wrote that he preached in the Roman province of Illyricum, and tradition holds that he visited Durrës. In 379, under emperor Theodosius I, as part of the Prefecture of Illyricum Orientale, the southern region was divided into three provinces: Epirus Vetus, with capital at Nicopolis (modern Preveza), Epirus Nova, with capital at Durrës, and Praevalitania, with capital at Shkodër. Each city formed an archdiocese.
When the Roman Empire was divided into eastern and western halves in A.D. 395, Illyria east of the Drinus River (Drina between Bosnia and Serbia), including the lands that now form Albania, were administered by the Eastern Empire but were ecclesiastically dependent on Rome. Within time, much of southern Albania, especially to the east, came to be included within the domain of the Byzantine rite and therefore developed into a branch of the Orthodox Church. In A.D. 732, a Byzantine emperor, Leo III the Isaurian, subordinated the area to the patriarchate of Constantinople. For centuries thereafter, the Albanian lands became an arena for the ecclesiastical struggle between Rome and Constantinople. Remaining under Roman influence, most Albanians living in the mountainous north maintained their Roman Catholicism, whereas in the southern and central regions, the majority became Orthodox while forging closer links with Greek peoples to the south.
After the formation of the Slav principality of Dioclia (modern Montenegro), the metropolitan see of Bar was created in 1089, and dioceses in northern Albania (Shkodër, Ulcinj) became its suffragans. Starting in 1019, Albanian dioceses of the Byzantine rite were suffragans of the independent Archdiocese of Ohrid until Durrës and Nicopolis (Preveza) were re-established as metropolitan sees. Thereafter, only the dioceses in inner Albania (Elbasan, Krujë) remained attached to Ohrid. In the 13th century during the Venetian occupation, the Latin Archdiocese of Durrës was founded.