GREGORY OF DURRËS
Gregory of Durrës (Gk. Grêgorios ho Dyrrakhíu), also known as Gregory of Voskopoja, was an Orthodox cleric who was appointed Archbishop of Durrës in 1768 and who died some time before May 1772. He is known to have made Bible translations in an alphabet he invented himself, and most historical and linguistic evidence would seem to point to him as the author of the unique Elbasan Gospel Manuscript (often referred to in Albanian as ‘Anonimi i Elbasanit’) presented here. We may assume that Gregory was born towards the end of the seventeenth century. Traces of him go back to the 1720s when he is said to have met the Serbian illuminist Parthen Pavlović in Berat. He is also said to have been a student of Aromanian scholar, philosopher and figure of the Greek enlightenment, Ioannes Chalkeus (1667 - ca. 1735). It is thought that Gregory of Durrës, as a budding Orthodox scholar, arrived in Voskopoja (Moschopolis) by 1730 at the latest. There he published his first work, 'Life of St. Nikodemos' in 1741. His biography is substantially obscured by continuing confusion between him and another Gregory of Voskopoja, also known as Gregory Constantinidhi or Gregory the Printer (Gk. Grêgorios Typografos), who ran a printing press in Voskopoja at the time. In 1744, our Gregory was chosen as an assistant to the rector of the New Academy and edited two books there. He is said subsequently to have taken up residence at the Monastery of St. John Vladimir near Elbasan (ca. 1746-1772), although there is no documentary trace of him there. What is for certain is that Gregory was appointed Archbishop (Metropolitan) of Durrës in 1768 and that he was succeeded after his death succeeded by Metropolitan Krisanthi in May 1772. The Orthodox Archdiocese of Durrës was a recent creation when Gregory took it over. It had its seat not in Durrës itself, but at St. John Vladimir, where Gregory can logically be thought to have died. Gregory of Durrës was reputed to have been one of the most learned persons in southern Albania during the lifetime. Despite this fact, we know tragically little about him. Gregory’s Elbasan Gospel Manuscript contains Albanian-language translations of New Testament texts in an original alphabet which he invented himself. The alphabet occurs only in this text, and we can date to the year 1761. This unique manuscript was acquired at some point before or during the Second World War by Lef Nosi (1877-1946), an Elbasan scholar and collector of note. Nosi, who is reputed to have possessed the second largest library in Albania, was arrested in August 1945 after the communist takeover of Albania and was shot in February 1946 after a mock trial. The manuscript then found its way into the hands of communist scholar Dhimitër Shuteriqi (1915-2003) who announced its discovery in 1949. It was initially transcribed and published by historian Injac Zamputi (1910-1998), and is currently preserved in the Albanian National Archives in Tirana.