Belgrade Fortress
Sane Mind Serbia

Belgrade Fortress

The Belgrade Fortress is the most important historical site in Belgrade. Its position, overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, makes it a very unique place, because not many other cities have two big rivers. Views from the fortress are spectacular.

 

 

HISTORY OF THE BELGRADE FORTRESS

 

The city-fortress was first established in the 3rd century BC. For centuries, the city population lived within the walls of the fortress. Thus, its history was also the history of Belgrade.

Today, the fortress is a beautiful place, right in the heart of the city. You can go there to escape the crowds in the city, away from the noise and the traffic. You can also spend a peaceful morning or an afternoon, surrounded by history, while you enjoy the views.

The Belgrade Fortress is divided in the Upper and the Lower Town and Kalemegdan Park. Unfortunately, the lower section is neglected, despite the fact that it contains some historically very important structures. Anyway, you should go there to see the Upper Town and Kalemedgan Park.

 

 

THE MAIN ENTRANCE

 

The main entrance to the park starts at the end of Prince Mihailo street.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The entrance to Belgrade Fortress

 

That’s also where you can see a place where they read the Sultan Abdulaziz’s ferman in 1867, by which the fortresses of Belgrade, Kladovo, Smederevo and Šabac were handed over to Prince Mihailo Obrenović and the Serbian Army. It meant the end of the Ottoman occupation of those parts of Serbia.

 

Belgrade Fortress
Sultan Abulaziz’s Ferman

 

 

“A LA FRANCE” MONUMENT

 

Next, you will come across the “A La France” monument. Unveiled in November 1930, 12 years after the end of the First World War, it represents gratitude to France for her military aid during and after the war and it also honours French soldiers who lost their lives while defending Belgrade in 1915.

 

Belgrade Fortress
“A La France” Monument

 

The monument is a work by one of the greatest Yugoslavian sculptors of all times – Ivan Meštrović. The Belgrade city authorities thoroughly restored it in 2018.

The monument stands as a symbol of eternal friendship between people of Serbia and France.

 

Belgrade Fortress
“A La France” Monument

 

 

THE “UNHAPPY FISHERMAN” FOUNTAIN

 

In the vicinity of the “A La France” monument, you will see the “Unhappy Fisherman” fountain, by Simeon Roksandić. Famous for his bronzes and fountains, he was one of the most renowned sculptors in Serbia and Yugoslavia. He also made the same fountain for the Jesuit Square in Zagreb.

 

Belgrade Fortress
“Unhappy Fisherman” – Simeon Roksandić

 

 

THE PROMENADE

 

The Promenade and the Vista Point are one of several points within the fortress from where you can see the best views of the city.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Promenade

 

It starts with the Small Staircase on one side, directly opposite the French Embassy.

 

Belgrade Fortress
Small Staircase

 

On the other side, it ends with the Grand Staircase. I mentioned this staircase in my post “Work in Progress” from last year. At that time, it was under renovation because it was in a terrible state. Now, the staircase looks magnificent and it certainly adds to the beauty of the whole park complex.

 

Belgrade Fortress
Grand Staircase

 

From the Promenade, you can see the Sava river and New Belgrade on the opposite side. You can also see the Belgrade Waterfront construction site and bridges over the river.

 

Belgrade Fortress
Bridges over the Sava River

 

 

THE MILITARY MUSEUM

 

The Military Museum, founded in 1878, contains over 3000 ancient and modern artefacts. The collection includes Roman swards and helmets, Greek daggers, Serbian heavy knight’s armours, axes, shields, crossbows, armoured gloves and also western medieval weapons.

 

Military Museum Belgrade Fortress
Military Museum

 

There are also more modern guns, firearms and elements of soldier’s uniforms and equipment. The first permanent display opened in 1904 and it coincided with the 100th anniversary of the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman rulers.

 

Military Museum Belgrade Fortress
Military Museum

 

From there, the path takes you towards the central and the most prominent area of the fortress.

 

Belgrade Fortress Belgrade
Belgrade Fortress

 

 

THE VICTOR

 

The Victor is a symbol of Belgrade and its most famous landmark, erected in 1928. It commemorates Serbia’s victory over Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires during the First and the Second Balkan Wars and the First World War.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Victor

 

The monument is a standing bronze male figure with a falcon in the left and a sword in the right hand, as symbols of peace and war. It is on a pedestal in the form of a Doric column, on a tall cubic base. The statue looks forward, across the confluence of Sava and Danube and over the vast Pannonian plain, an area that belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire until 1918.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Victor

 

A big scandal followed the creation of this statue. They originally wanted to erect this monument in the centre of Belgrade. However, the public challenged the erection of the monument in the city centre on moral and artistic grounds. The public made claims that the statue of a nude man insulted and damaged morality of chaste Belgrade ladies and girls. Thus, after a lot controversy, debate and criticism, they put the monument in its current position within the fortress.

In the photo below, you can see the newly restored monument.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Victor

 

 

THE KING’S GATE

 

To get to the section where the Victor is, you have to pass through the King’s Gate, which is one of several remaining original gates that led into the fortress.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The King’s Gate

 

It dates between 1690 and 1696.

 

The King's Gate Belgrade Fortress
The King’s Gate

 

 

THE ROMAN WELL

 

As soon as you pass the King’s Gate, you will come across the “Roman Well”. Strangely, the well has nothing to do with Rome or Roman times, although it’s called like that. Rather, it was constructed between 1720 and 1731, at the time of the Austrian rule over the Belgrade Fortress.

The well was a military edifice and it represented the most advanced fortification architecture at the time. You can also visit the well, but they charge the entrance fee.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Roman Well

 

 

THE INSTITUTE FOR PROTECTION OF CULTURAL MONUMENTS

 

A building that you can see in the photo below, opposite the Victor monument, houses the Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments in Belgrade.

 

Belgrade Fortress
Belgrade City Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments

 

Built between 1902 and 1904, it was severely damaged in the 1915 bombing of Belgrade, during the First World War. The original building was in the style of Academicism.

However, after the 1919/1920 reconstruction, it assumed the style of a traditional 19th century Balkan townhouse, as a half-timbered structure with Ottoman elements.

 

Belgrade Fortress
Belgrade City Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments

 

 

CONFLUENCE OF SAVA AND DANUBE

 

The best view of the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers is from a point where the Victor monument is. It’s a truly magnificent image of two big rivers merging together, which no other European capital city has.

The view is especially captivating in the spring and the summer, with lush greenery everywhere and images of sprawling New Belgrade across the river.

 

Belgrade Fortress
Confluence of Sava and Danube

 

 

THE DAMAT ALI PASHA’S TURBE

 

The Damat Ali Pasha’s Turbe, named after the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, during the reign of Sultan Ahmed III. It was built in 1784, on the grave of Izzet Mehmed Pasha, another Grand Vizier and governor of Belgrade. The turbe was badly damaged during the First Serbian Uprising. So, the Ottoman governor of Serbia, Marashli Ali Pasha, reconstructed it in 1819 and dedicated it to Damat Ali Pasha.

Another two governors that only administered the fortress, as Serbia gained autonomy, were also buried there: Selim Sirri Pasha in 1847 and Hasan Pasha in 1850. It is one of the very few remaining Ottoman architecture monuments in Belgrade.

 

Damat Ali Pasha's Turbeh Belgrade Fortress
Damat Ali Pasha’s Turbe

 

 

THE DEFTERDAR GATE

 

The Defterdar Gate, built in the last decade of the 17th century, is directly opposite the Sahat Gate. Through this gate, you can go down to the Lower Town.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Defterdar Gate

 

 

THE SOKOLLU MEHMED PASHA FOUNTAIN

 

Of all Ottoman heritage in Belgrade, perhaps the Sokollu Mehmed Pasha fountain is the most significant. I’ve already written about this Ottoman Pasha in my post “Ottoman Istanbul”. He was Serbian, abducted by the Ottomans at a young age and taken to Istanbul. There, he was converted to Islam and educated in the Topkapi Palace.

He became a Grand Vizier under the rule of Selim II and after Selim’s death, he ruled the empire together with Selim’s formidable wife Nurbanu Sultan.

 

Belgrade Fortress
Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Fountain

 

His significance in the Ottoman history is reflected by the magnificent Sokollu Mehmed Pasha mosque in the historical part of Istanbul, not far from the Blue Mosque. In fact, there are two mosques with his name in Istanbul.

 

Belgrade Fortress
Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Fountain

 

The Serbian version of his name is Mehmed Paša Sokolović. The fountain was built in 1576 – 1577.

 

Belgrade Fortress
Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Fountain – rear view

 

 

THE DESPOT STEFAN TOWER

 

The Despot Stefan Tower is one of the oldest constructions within the fortress, built around 1405, several years after the city became the capital of the Serbian Despotate, under despot Stefan Lazarević.

 

Despot Stefan Tower Belgrade Fortress
The Despot Stefan Tower

 

 

THE ZINDAN GATE

 

The Zindan Gate was built in the mid-15th century, between two round towers. From the 18th century, the Ottoman rulers used the towers’ basement as dungeons and the gate’s name originates from the Turkish word for dungeon – zindan.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Zindan Gate

 

 

THE LEOPOLD’S GATE

 

The Leopold’s Gate is immediately next to the Zindan Gate. In fact, you first pass through this gate and then you arrive to the Zindan Gate. The construction of this gate started in 1688, during the first Austrian occupation of Belgrade.

The gate is one of the most representative Baroque gates of the Belgrade Fortress. The facade is in the German-Baroque architecture, with Tuscan influences.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Leopold’s Gate

 

 

THE RUŽICA CHURCH

 

The Ružica Church is also within the Belgrade Fortress. The Ottomans demolished the original church with the same name in 1521. In the 18th century, the site was a gunpowder storage.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Ružica Church

 

The church was further damaged during the First World War and rebuilt by the Russian architect in 1925.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Ružica Church

 

 

THE SAINT PETKA CHURCH

 

The Saint Petka Church, built in 1937, is immediately next to the The Ružica Church. It’s small but beautifully decorated with mosaics.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Saint Petka Church

 

 

THE CLOCK TOWER

 

The Clock Tower is also one of the most important constructions within the Belgrade Fortress. The Venetian architect Andrea Cornaro built it in 1789. The gate under the tower carries the same name.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Clock Tower

 

 

THE INNER STAMBOL GATE

 

The Inner Stambol Gate, built around 1750 and named after Istanbul, was the main gate of the fortress, within the second city wall.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Inner Stambol Gate

 

 

THE OUTER STAMBOL GATE

 

Constructed in the mid-18th century, the Outer Stambol Gate does not display any sculptural decorations. It is representative of the utilitarian architectural style of the Ottoman period.

 

Belgrade Fortress
The Outer Stambol Gate

 

 

THE GALLERY OF THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

 

The Gallery of the Natural History Museum in the Kalemegdan Park serves for exhibitions, educational workshops and conferences. It’s a small gallery, but it contains a lot of of interesting exhibits.

 

Natural History Museum Belgrade Fortress
Gallery of the Natural History Museum

 

 

THE KARADJORDJE GATE

 

The Serbian leader of the First Serbian Uprising passed through the Karadjordje Gate, to conquer the fortress from the Ottoman Turks, in 1806. The gate is from the 18th century.

 

Karadjordje Gate Belgrade Fortress
Karadjodje Gate

 

 

THE CVIJETA ZUZORIĆ ART PAVILLION

 

The Cvijeta Zuzorić Art Pavilion, built in 1928, in the Art Deco architectural style, was the first venue specifically built in Belgrade as an art gallery. Cvijeta Zuzorić was a famous 16th century poet and benefactor from Dubrovnik.

 

Belgrade Fortress
Cvijeta Zuzorić Art Pavilion

 

 

THE BELGRADE ZOO

 

The Belgrade Zoo is also within the Kalemedgan Park.

 

Zoo Belgrade Fortress
Belgrade Zoo

 

It’s a small zoo, but it contains a lot of animals and it’s definitely worth a visit. The most recent addition to the zoo were two hyenas.

 

The Zoo Belgrade Fortress
Belgrade Zoo

 

They neglected it for a long time but, in recent times, the zoo made a lot of effort to improve conditions in which they keep animals. Thus, newly renovated enclosures look good and spacious.

However, the works are ongoing in the large part of the zoo. It will certainly be interesting to visit it when they finish everything.

 

The Zoo Belgrade Fortress
Belgrade Zoo

 

Every visitor to Belgrade will inevitably visit the Belgrade Fortress. It’s a magical place where you can easily spend several hours, if not the whole day.

It’s also a place from where you can see the breathtaking confluence of the two Belgrade’s rivers.

If you go to Belgrade, don’t miss it!

 

 

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