Elbasan is a city and a municipality in Elbasan County, central Albania. One of the largest cities in Albania, it is located on the Shkumbin River in the District of Elbasan and the County of Elbasan. The present municipality was formed at the 2015 local government reform by the merger of the former municipalities Bradashesh, Elbasan, Funarë, Gjergjan, Gjinar, Gracen, Labinot-Fushë, Labinot-Mal, Papër, Shirgjan, Shushicë, Tregan and Zavalinë, that became municipal units. The seat of the municipality is the city Elbasan. The total population is 141,714 (2011 census), in a total area of 872.03 km2. The population of the former municipality at the 2011 census was 78,703.
It was called Neokastron (New Castle) in Greek, Novigrad (new city) in Slavic and Terra Nuova in Italian. The modern name derives from the Turkish il-basan ("the fortress").
In August 2010 archaeologists discovered two Illyrian graves near the walls of the castle of Elbasan.
In the second century BC, a trading post called Mansio Scampa near the site of modern Elbasan developed close to a junction of two branches of an important Roman road, the Via Egnatia, which connected the Adriatic coast with Byzantium. It was one of the most important routes of the Roman empire. By the third or fourth century AD, this place had grown into a real city protected by a substantial Roman fortress with towers; the fort covered around 300 square meters. This city appears on late antique itineraries like the Tabula Peutingeriana or the Itinerarium Burdigalense as Scampis or Hiscampis.
It took part in the spread of Christianity along the Via, and had a bishop, cathedral and basilicas as early as the fifth century. As a town in a wide river valley it was vulnerable to attacks once the legions were withdrawn but Emperor Justinian made an effort to improve the fortifications. The city survived attacks by the Bulgars and Ostrogoths and was mentioned in the work of Procopius of Cæsarea.
In 2014 ruins of a Paleochristian basilica, built in the 5th or 6th century AD, were found in Bezistan area.
Elbasan has been occupied by several different groups, including the Serbs, Bulgarians, Austrians and Italians. Elbasan remained a center of Islam in Albania even after the Ottoman occupation. After the 1908 Congress of Monastir (in modern Bitola, Republic of Macedonia) decided to use the Latin alphabet for the written Albanian language, Muslim clerics influenced by the Young Turks held various demonstrations in favor of the Arabic script in Elbasan.
In the middle of the city is found the Saint Mary Orthodox Church. The church was built in 1830 on the foundations of an older church, which had partially burned in 1819. Paintings and frescoes of Onufri, restored by David Selenicasi and Kostadin Shelcani can still be seen. The church has been an important religious and cultural center for the Albanian language. Teodor Haxhifilipi, Kostandin Kristoforidhi, and Aleksandër Xhuvani have served in the church. They are the authors of translations into Albanian of many psalms. The church building served as the first Albanian school of Elbasan in modern times, which opened in 1908.
Other orthodox churches in the Elbasan District include the Mameli church (built in the 17th century), the Saint Nicholas church (Albanian: Shen Kolli) in Shelcan (built in 1554), the Saint Nicholas church in Valesh (built in 1604), the Saints Cosmas and Damian church in Sterstan (built in the 18th century), the Saint Michael (Albanian: Shen Mehilli) church in Shalës (built in the 17th century), the Saint Mary church in Dragot (built in the 18th century), the Saint Nicholas church of Elbasan (17th century), and the Elbasan Saint Athanasius church of Elbasan (built in 1554).
About 7 km away from Elbasan there is an old monastery and orthodox church where notably Saint Jovan Vladimir was buried until 1995 when his remains were transferred to the Orthodox Cathedral in Tirana, being brought back to the monastery only for his feast days.
Elbasan is home to the National Autocephalous Albanian Church (Albanian: Kisha Autoqefale Kombetare), a relatively new Orthodox Autocephalous church that split from the Albanian Orthodox Church in 1995. Father Nikolle Marku is the leader of the new denomination.
Elbasan is also home to a Catholic church.
Industrial development began during the Zog regime with the production of tobacco and alcoholic beverages, and culminated during the communist regime. The city gained prominence after the Chinese built a steel mill in 1974. There were also other industries operating in the city during the communist regime.
The city was a hub for heavy industry during the communist regime, mostly metallurgic and metal processing factories. All these industries caused a big pollution and Elbasan is considered today as one of the most polluted cities of Albania.