The Family Gjon Marku
The Gjon Marku family, according to traditions dating back to the time of Puoqueville1 (known albanologist, who was Napoleon 1st Consul for many years at Ali Pasha Tepelena2) and also historically very probable, could go back to some branch of the Dukagjini Princes (who had Principalities in the western part of Kosova and in the eastern part of the province of Shkoder in the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries). Its current legal position, according to Pouqueville dates back to the middle of the 17th century; according to others to a later period, but no later than the beginning of the 18th century, an era from which there is also a regular family tree of the dynasty.
Internationally, even in all official diplomatic acts, the title of Prince has often been attributed to it, which was historically used for the first time by Pouqueville and recognized by the French Imperial Government, following the merits acquired by the Dynasty through the conduct of the troops during the war of Crimea. The title of Kapidan of Mirdita is given within the internal diplomacy of the country. In central-southern Albania this title is frequently used relating to the Head of the Tribe or lower; in northern Albania there is no other derivative.
The juridical figure of the Kapidan of Mirdita and his family is unique in the world of Kanun or traditional law of the Albanian tribes. The elements that give it this unique character are 4:
While all the other Chiefs of the tribes are only the primi inter pares3, enjoying precedence but not authority and acting as judges at the same level as the other chiefs and elders, the Kapidan of Mirdita, in certain sectors, has a real authority, enjoys substantial prerogatives of honor and is a judge in all cases of any nature and can sentence real penalties, even death. Furthermore, contrary to the principle of the Kanun, which does not allow an appeal, he acts as the supreme appellate judge, not only for his region, but is acknowledged for other Tribes as well.
His authority in legal matters is also valid as an authority for authentic and definitive interpretation in all legal matters, including non-judicial ones, with strength completely different and superior to that of other experts of the Kanun, even though hereditary.
The Bloc of the 5 Flags and Districts make up the Mirdita Federation, which historically is neither the oldest nor the most noble among the Tributaries of Upper Albania but due to the fact of the special figure of the Kapidan enjoys precedence over all the other Tribes in peace and war; including those of Matia and Kruja, which had the Begs4 who were recognized by the Turkish Authority as superior to the figures of the traditional Chiefs of the Albanian Tribes.
All degrees of pre-eminence in the Tribe are hereditary, but not above and beyond that of the physical person of the Kapidan (the other members of the same family do not enjoy any prerogative practice); instead all the members of the Gjon Markaj Family, in addition to enjoying the title of Kapidan, can be sent by the Head of the Family to the office of judges with the right to represent himself at his own trial.
All this would conclude that in this Family not only the representative of the community is recognized, but also that of superior imperial authority having jus gladii5 and this would lead to a new confirmation of the theory of the derivation of this special authority from the descent of the ancient Princely Family of Dukagini.
According to Don Prend Sul Spaci, who was undoubtedly the greatest expert of the specific Mirdita Kanun and the main source of the well-known Gjecov compilation, the Dynasty is currently divided into six branches, one of which, by right of majority, would constitute the direct descent of the old Dynasty. While another branch, by unanimous will of the 5 Flags in recognition of the Ecclesiastical Authorities and of all the other Tribes, as well as by consent of the eldest branch, currently enjoys and exercises all the prerogatives of the dynasty since the death of Prince Preng Bib Doda. That branch is that of Gjon Markaj, represented by Mark Gjon Marku. After his death, his son Gjon Marka Gjoni inherited the title; he was able to measure his influences and authority beween 1926-1928, by being able to exercise the function of supreme judge with an itinerant court called Zabit Name and pacify 620 pending blood revenge issues.
At the end of 1943 to beginning of 1944, its influence could form a blockade of all the Tribes of Upper Albania, so as to maintain the order of the country, independent of the German occupier.
Prince Gjon Marka Gjoni found himself a refugee in Rome together with his second son Ndue, while the eldest son Mark and the third son Llesh keep alive the resistance of the Tribes of Malsia and Vogel, Puka, Mirdita and Matia against the communist forces of Tirana.
From a religious point of view, the situation of Mirdita is also unique; it is the only one of the Blocs of Upper Albania that has remained absolutely Catholic without exception, moreover, given its strength and thanks to the influence, ability and good value of the Gjon Marka Gjoni, 2 flags: Dibri and Fandi were also added, as well as the 4th Flag of the mountain of Alessio, also Catholic, who was threatened with a merger to other Islamic Blocs. His political activity was conducted with a fine ability between loyalty towards the Sublime Door and the intransigence for local autonomies, especially religious ones, in such a way as to allow the Gjon Marka Gjoni to save, with his intervention, in the most critical circumstances, the Catholic people of the Scutari region, both from Turkish oppression and from the Montenegrin schismatic invasion.
It follows therefore that Mirdita constitutes the most solid shield of the Albanian Catholic Community (about 13 thousand rifles) and the House of Gjon Markaj is the institution which is politically more faithful to Catholic interests than Albanian Catholicism can boast.
In recognition of these merits, the heads of this family were several times decorated with papal decorations.
THE ORDER OF MALTA
The Order of Malta6 has had relations with Albania in the past. It should be remembered that, after the Battle of Lepanto7, the Order was particularly interested in the movement for the independence of Albanians from the Turkish regime. In that period Knight Francesco Antonio Bertucci8 stirred the cause of Albanian freedom.
The descendants of Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg9, the Albanian National Hero who was called the Knight of Christianity for his epic twenty-five-year successful fight against the Turkish, were welcomed into the order of Malta. Of them the late Marquis of Auletta and Col. Kastrioti Skanderbeg continue the Skanderbeg tradition in the Order.
The greatest representative of Catholic Albania is Prince Gjon Marka Gjoni10; In central-southern Albania the title (as it relates to Kapidan) is frequently used relating to the Head of the Tribe or lower; in northern Albania there is no other derivative.
An interest of the Order of Malta in the field of assistance for the Albanian refugees, among whom the major representative of Catholic Albania is Prince Gjon Marka Gjoni, would be in the spirit of such a noble tradition.
POUQUEVILLE: “Voyage dans la Grece” – Tomo I, Book II, Chap. VI
LEGRAND: “Souvenir de la baute Albanie” – Chap. “De Scutari a Oroshi- Oroshi” etc.
GJECOV: “Il Kanun di Lek Dukagjini” – R. Accademia d’Italia, 1942.
VALENTINI: “Considerazioni generali e preliminari sul Kanun detto di Lek Ducagini” in “STUDIME E TEKSTE” – del R. Istituto di Studi Albanesi, Serie giuridca, N.I. 1944
SUL SPACI: “Nierzit e Kanus” in “Hylli i Drites”, 1943
3First among equals
4Governor of Turkish denomination