From the 100th Aniversary Booklet for the Contessa Entellina Society, New Orleans, LA
Submitted by Patricia Schiro May 2001

Submitted to the LAGenWeb Archives
Copyright. All rights reserved.


New Orleans, Louisiana
September 8, 1986

The centennial of the Contessa Entellina Society and this commemerative volume are dedicated
to Albania's greatest hero, Prince George Kastriot Scanderbeg. From our proud historywhich
follows, the reader may glean something of the glorious past of the Arbreshe people-and
something of our hope frr the future.
Bret A. Clesi, Historian
Contessa Entellina Society
__________________________________________________ ______________________

By the middle of the nineteenty century, the City of New Orleans had already celebrated
her centennial. It was during the 1850's in the midst of the reign of Queen Victoria in England
and while tempers were beginning to flair in the antebellum South, that the first Arbreshe
(Albanians) arrived in New Orleans. These Arbreshe, descendents of the ancient kingdoms of
Epirus, Macedonia and Illyria, fled their village, Contessa Entellina, in Sicily where they had
lived since 1467. These former citizens of Contessa Entellina, representatives of the most
ancient Indo-European peoples, brought forth to New Orleans their ancient Illyrian language,
their ancient religion, their industriousness and their dreams.

The industry of the Arbreshe in New Orleans soon evidenced itself by the establishment of
many successful commercial ventures. As their businesses flourished and they became a sucessful,
but still a smaller part of the growing City of New Orleans, they became acutely nostalgic for
their village of Contessa Entellina and nostalgic about their ancient language, traditions and
heritage. therefore, to reunite friends and family in this Crescent City where they now lived,
on the morning of September 8, 1886, several Arbreshe New Orleanians joined together and formed
the Contessa Entellina Society.

Who were the Arbreshe of the Contessa Entellina Society? What was their ancient heritage?
Where did the story of the founding of the Contessa Entellina Society really begin?

Archaeology indicates that as early as 1000 B.C., ancestors of the Arbreshe had been known
to inhabit that portion of the Balkan Pennisula bounded to the north by present-day Yugoslavia,
by Greece to the south and the Adriatic Sea to the west. By the second century B.C., Illyria,
as it was known, was a renowned center of education. We know that Julius Caesar sent his nephew,
Octavius (later Augustus Caesar) to Illyria to study.

Ruled by native kings of the land, Illyria eventually threatened the peace of many
provinces of the Roman Empire. Ultimately, Rome reacted to the war-like Illyrians and by 168
B.C., all of Illyria was conquered and under Roman rule. Known then as Illyricum, the
province was subject to Constantinople's jurisdiction by 395 A.D. However, even under Roman
occupation, Illyria was not to be at peace. Invaided by the Visigoths and the Huns between
200 A.D. and 400 A.D., a Slavic onslaught followed in the sixth and seventh centuries A.D.Until
finally the awesome tide of Islam, led by the Ottoman Turks, began to shadow Albania. In their
quest to conquer Constantinople and Christendom, the Turks, eventually inflicted great losses
on the native Arbreshe and began to lay seige to Albania during the fourteenth century.

The eventual Turkish rule of Albania brought a long, unremarkable occupation to this once
great people. Finally, in 1912, the Turkish rule ended and modern, free Albania was born. This
freedom, however, was short lived and abruptly betrayed by Mussolini's invasion of Albania in
1939. The tragic Albanian story continued and culminated in civel was in 1943 and 1944. The
last revolt on Albanian soil ushered in a new, Communist state which by 1961 had declared its
allegiance to the Soviet Union.

But rather than dwell on these last tragic five hundred years of Albanian History when
Albania struggled under the yoke of Moslem and communist domination, what of Albania's golden
milenium before the Turks and what of her great heroes.

Although now a small country less than the size of the State of Louisiana, Albania was once
part of the vastly larger Macedonian empire. Evolving from the most ancient and mysterious
kingdom of Illyria; the kingdoms of Macedonia and Epirus once spread Arbreshe influence
throughout eastern Europe and the Greek isles. The ranks of Roman emperors included Arbreshe
warriors, amongst them Diocletian, Constattine the Great and the great Roman jurist, Justinian.
However, Albania's hero amongst heroes at that time was Alexander the Great.

From the earliest times, the Arbreshe have referred to their own country as "Shqiperi", or
"land of the eagles", symbolic of the largely mountainous terrain of Albania. Indeed, the
greatest sovereign prince of Albania, George Kastriot Scanderbeg, employed the double headed
eagle upon his shield and coat-of-arms. The same double headed eagle crest had been borrowed by
the Russian Royal family, upon the marriage of a Byzantine princess to a Russian prince, as part
of the Russian royal heraldy. This same Arbreshe symbol, the double headed eagle, is also found
in the coat-of-arms of Contessa Entellina and eagles abound in the hearldry of Arbresh families.

Through the fifteenth century, Albania was ruled by several chieftains who in turn presided
over their own clans. Each clan was organized based upon direct male descent from a certain
male ancestor. Therefore, the clan living in the city of Croya in Albania, claimed mutual
descent from one ancestor, an earlier Kastriot. ( The Contessa Entellina Society today still
carries this tradition of direct male descent as a membership prerequisite.) Although many clans
were subdued by the Ottoman Turks, at least one clan, the Kastriots, fought the Turks fiercely.
Upon total domination of the country, the Moslem sultan punished the chieftain of the Kastriots,
Prince John Kastriot, by poisoning his three eldest sons and abducting the fourth. It is the
life and glory of this youngest prince, George Kastriot Scanderbeg, that commands the respect of
all Arbresh.

Born in his ancient family fortress in Croya, Albania in 1405, George Kastriot would become
Prince of Croya, Count of Mat, Lord of Diber and eventually proclaimed by the Pope as King of
Albania and Macedonia. His parents were Princess Voisave of Serbia and JohnKastriot, Prince of
Emathia. At birth, George Kastriot was known in Arbreshe simply as Gjergj Kastriot.

Captured as a young boy by Ottoman Turks and educated at Adrianople in Turkey, the Turks
soon nicknamed young Kastriot, "Scanderbeg". (Literally, "Iskander", Turkish for Alexander in
reference to his illustrious Arbreshe forefather, Alexander the Great; and "bey" or general.)
Scanderbeg distinguished himself in the Turkish army of his captors and tutors, and at the age
of barely twenty years old, he was commanding vast Turkish armies to victories. However, upon
the death of his father, Prince John Kastriot, in 1442, Scanderbeg may have begun to hear a new
the pleas of his countrymen and the roar of his Catholic faith calling him back to his rightful
place amongst the Arbreshe princes. Finally, while commanding a Turkish force in Serbia on
November 28, 1443, Scanderbeg crossed the battle line to join forces with the Arbreshe brethren
against his Moslem captors.

Scanderbeg quickly organized the clans and soldiers of Albania and in 1444 he was appointed
Commander-in-Chief of the league of Albanian princes.

Battling the great Ali Pasha in 1445, Scanderbeg's Arbreshe forces successfully defended
their homeland from thirteen Turkish invasions between the years 1444 and 1466. By 1450, known
as a great hero of Christianity throughout the western world, Scanderbeg began to court other
world powers in his quest to expel the Turks from the Eastern Roman Empire. In 1451, the
Kingdom of Naples came to the aid of the Arbreshe armies with the Republic of Venice following
in 1463 and Pope Pius II shortly thereafter lending official papal support to the cause.
Continuing victories led the Arbreshe forces under Scanderbeg to seek even broader support from
other nations and through various political and religious alliances, Scanderbeg, against vastly
overwhelming odds, repulsed the Moslem tide through 1467. Appointed Captain General of the Holy
See by Pope Calixtus III, Scanderbeg had assumed near mystical powers even in the eyes of his
Turkish enemies.

Suffering from infections from battle wounds, at the age of sixty-three, Prince George
Kastriot Scanderbeg died on January 17, 1468 at Lezhe, Albania. His son, another Prince John
Kastriot, continues Scanderbeg's holy war until the fall of his ancestral castle at Croya in

Although the first wave of Albanian soldiers arrived in Contessa Entellina, Sicily to
assist King Alphonse V of Aragon in 1467, the fall of Albania after Scanderbeg's death signaled
the final emigration of Arbreshe from Albania to Contessa Entellina. Even after this final
emigration to Sicily, testaments to Scanderbeg's memory lived on in Albania. Sicily, Italy,
France, England and in many Christian quarters throughout the western world. In Rome, in the
shadowsof the Colosseum, there is an equestrian statue of Scanederbeg in the Piazza Albanese.
The coat-of-arms of Contessa Entellina still bears the Kastriot crest of eagles. Via Castriotta
is still a major thoroughfare of the town of Contessa Entellina. A great portrait of Albania's
warrior king hangs in the Pitti Palace in Florence.

The genealogy of Scanderbeg's family is preserved for history and often intertwined with
other princely and royal houses of both East and West. Indeed, through marriage, Scanderbeg's
name is claimed amongst the ancestors of England's royal family. Queen Elizabeth II, her son,
the Prince of Wales, and now the Prince of Wales's son, England's king well into the twenty
first century, will proudly recite Scanderbeg as part of their history.

Prince Stephen Brankovic (died 1477), blinded by Turks in 1437, married Angelina
Arianti, (sister of Andronica Arianti Kastriot, Scanderbeg's wife)

Prince John Brankovic (died 1503), Ruler of Serbia

Princess Mary Brankova of Serbia

Countess Catherine Frangepan, married Count Zrinyi, Ban of Croatia, who died in battle
against the Turks in 1566

Countess Catherine Zrinyi (died 1585)

Anna Thurzo de Bethlenfalva (died 1599)

George, Baron Perenyi de Pereny (died 1650?)

Baroness Catherine, Perenyi de Pereny (died 1693), married Simon Kemeny (son of
Prince John of Transylvania)

Simon, Baron Kemeny de Magyar-Gyero-Monostor

Baroness Christine Kemeny de Magyar-Gyero-Monostor

Baroness Theresa Banffy de Losoncz (died 1807)

Laszlo, Count Rhedey de Kis-Rhede (died 1805)

Countess Claudine Rhedey (died 1841)

Frances, Duke of Teck (died 1900)

Princess Mary of Teck, Queen Consort of King George V of England (died 1953)

King George VI of England (died 1952)

Queen Elizabeth II England

Charles, Prince of Wales, married Lady Diana Spencer

Prince William of Wales (born 1982)

So then, is it any wonder that these Arbreshe, these Albanians who survived Roman
onslaught, Visigoth and Hun raids, Byzantine persecution and Turkish occupation: that these
heirs of Alexander the Great and of Scanderbeg; these direct descendents of those noble names
who fought with Scanderbeg and founded Contessa Entellina in 1467, should survive today in this,
the most romantic and mysterious of the cities in the United States.

The momentous achievement of the centennial of the Contessa Entellina Society is willingly
eclipsed only by the greater glory of our sustaining faith and by the memory of Albania's
greatest king. From the poem SCANDERBEG - FROM TALES OF A WAYSIDE INN.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote:

"... Then onward he rode and afar,
With scarce three hundred men,
Through river and forest and fen,
O'er the mountains of Argentar;
And his heart was merry within,
When he crossed the river Drin,
And saw in the gleam of the morn
The white Castle Ak-Hissar,
The city Croia called,
The city moated and walled,
The city were he was born,
And above it the morning star.

... from the castle walls
The crescent banner falls,
And the crowd beholds instead,
Like a portent in the sky,
Iskander's banner fly,
The Black Eagle with double head;
And a shout ascends on high,
For men's souls are tired of the Turks,
And their wicked ways and works,
That have made of Ak-Hissar
A city of the plague;
And the loud, exultant cry
That echoes wide and far
Is: "Long live Scanderbeg!"
And we echo, long live Scanderbeg; long live Scanderbeg; long live Scanderbeg!