The ruins in the center of Saranda are the archaeological excavations of a synagogue and basilica. Here’s everything you need to know when visiting this sight.
How To Get There
The ruins are located right in the center of Saranda, next to the Friendship Park between Rruga Skënderbeu and Rruga Onhezmi. As Saranda is quite compact, the ruins are easily reached by foot. If coming from further, the bus between Saranda’s ferry terminal and Butrint is pasing by as well. All other buses and minibuses terminate right next to the ruins as well.
What To See
The ruins are the remains of the center of what was once a wealthy Jewish community that lived in the area. You can see the archaeological excavations of a 5th century synagogue complex and basilica of ancient Onhezmus.
Archaeologists believe that construction of the Christian basilica first started in the 4th century BC and that it was later transformed into a synagogue at the end of the 5th, beginning of the 6th century AD. Besides religious activities the complex has also been used as a community center and had a school for bible studies. According to archaeologists, the synagogue has undergone various periods of use, and in its last stage it was even converted into a Christian church. It is unclear what has exactly caused the destruction of the buildings. Some say it collapsed during an earthquake and others claim it was destroyed by a Slavic invasion.
Particularly interesting to see is a mosaic floor depicting Jewish symbols such as a ram’s horn, a menorah (seven branched candelabrum) and an etrog (citrus). The initial excavations of the site started in 1984 under communist rule. In 2004 additional discoveries were made and further excavation occurred by a joint Albanian-Hebrew University delegation. The newly discovered ruins are an extension on the complex by rooms with more mosaic pavings. The decorations represent a fish, different animals, trees and symbols and a shrine.
Another recovered mosaic floor can be found a few hundred meters away on Rruga Flamurit, inside the Museum of Archaeology. The museum also has some more photos of the mosaic floor of the basilica on display.
The archaeologists hope to return for further excavations as they expect to discover more parts of the synagogue that are covered under recent buildings.
At the entrance of the site there is a panel with more information, some photos of the mosaic and a map of the complex. Section ‘B’ below the line is the part that is still undiscovered as its lying under the road and surrounding buildings.
At the site there is also a shack that you can enter in which some old pictures of the buildings are being displayed.