Today is the 139 birth anniversary of Fan Stilian Noli, an Albanian writer, playwright, scholar, diplomat, politician, historian, orator and founder of the Albanian Orthodox Church. He was born in the village of Ibrik Tepe in Turkey on January 6th, 1882. Since young Fan Noli was taught Byzantine tradition and Orthodox culture by his father who was a notable cantor in the Orthodox church and from an early age. Noli attended a Greek secondary school in Edirne for four years before finding a job as an actor. It was during his time in Egypt that he learnt more about the traditions of Byzantine music and decided that his calling was to become an Orthodox priest.
Then in April 1906 Noli went to New York and then moved to Boston where he was given a job as the deputy editor of the Boston-based newspaper “Kombi”. He founded the "Besa" society in Boston. Noli set up the autonomous Albanian Orthodox Church came at the helm of it. In1908 he became an Orthodox priest.
In 1911, he toured Europe and then founded the Pan-Albanian Vatra Federation of America which became the most powerful Albanian organisation in America. Noli became a recognised leader of the Albanian Orthodox community, a writer and journalist with distinct nationalist inclination.
Then in November 1912, Albania was declared an independent state By Ismail Qemali and Noli, having just graduated from Harvard University, returned to Europe and visited Albania for the first time in July 1913. Over the next few years, his popularity further increased and he became not only the Bishop of the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, but also a respected writer, public speaker, and political commentator. He met with US Prime Minister and was also selected as the head of the Albanian delegation to the League of Nations in Geneva which resulted in the country’s accession to this organisation assessed as one of his greatest political achievement, which brought the recognition of Albania abroad.
He was described as “a man who would have been remarkable in any country. An accomplished diplomat, an expert in international politics, and a skilful debater. He is a man of vast culture who has read everything worth reading”.
In 1922, he was residing in Albania and was appointed as the Foreign Minister in the government of Xhafer bey Ypi and then in 1923 he was consecrated as the Bishop of Korca and the Metropolitan of Durres. In the wake of the June Revolution, Fan Noli was proclaimed Prime Minister and then the Regent of Albania. For the following six months, he led a democratic government which tried to cope with the dismal economic and political problems that the young state was facing. He tried to to modernise and democratise the country through a 20 point programme which turned out to be unsuccessful. It was on the 24th of December 1924 that Noli's government was toppled down by the Zogist forces. Noli was obliged to flee the country and he sought refuge in Italy. He then returned back to Boston in 1930. He founded a weekly periodical called Republika. He resumed his duty as the head of the Albanian Autocephalic Orthodox Church, but in 1933, he fell seriously ill.
After his recovery, he continued various post-graduate studies at Boston University, culminating with a doctorate in 1945 writing a dissertation on Skanderberg. He also composed a one-movement symphony called Scanderbeg in 1947. Fan Noli died at the age of 83, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on the 13th of March 1965.
Throughout the course of his life, he became a renowned political and religious figure, a dramatist, poet, historian, musician, and translator and rendered a great contributions to the development of the Albanian literary language. Amongst the many poems, plays, and essays that Noli penned, one of his most renowned works s a scholarly history of the life of the Albanian national hero, Skanderberg- Hisotria e Skenderbeut, mbretit te Shqiperise. He is recognised today as a revolutionary contributor to the literary, linguistic, and cultural development of Albania.