Elbasan is a city and a municipality in Elbasan County, central Albania. The third largest city 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 872.61 km2. The population of the former municipality at the 2011 census was 78,703.
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, North 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.
Elbasan has four museums:
- Ethnographic Museum (1982) held in an 18th-century building
- “Kostandin Kristoforidhi” house (started as a museum in 1978)
- Shkolla Normale Museum
- War Museum
Elbasan is home to the Summer Day festivities, a pagan feast celebrating the end of winter and the coming of summer. Ballokume, cookies made from butter and corn wheat, is the traditional dessert served in this day. Since 2004, it has become a national holiday being celebrated nationwide, in all Albania.