Belgrade Fortress/ Kalemegdan Castle

Kalemegdan Castle



Location: Stari Grad (Belgrade) Map

Constructed: 535


Description of Kalemegdan Castle

Kalemegdan Castle or Belgrade Fortress is located in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. Although its initial construction date back to 535 AD it was constantly expanded and improved to meet the needs of ever changing military fortifications. Kalemegdan Fortress kept a strategic location overlooking confluence of Danube and Sava rivers.



The fortress is located at the top of the 125.5 m high final ridge of the Šumadija geological plate. The cliffs of the ridge face the Great War Island and the confluence of the Sava River and the Danube. It is surrounded by three streets: Bulevar Petra Bojovića, Ulica Tadeuša Košćuška and Pariska ulica.

The appearance of the fortress
The base of the fortress consists of two parts:
Upper town - includes the plateau of the former Roman castrum, the Byzantine castle or the Despot's city and artillery extensions to the mainland to the south and east.
Lower town - includes Milutin's Western suburbs and Despot's suburbs on the coast, artillery extension to the east.

Strategic position of the fortress
The Belgrade Fortress, and thus Belgrade itself, has a very important strategic position within the whole of Southeast Europe. It is located on the border of the Pannonian Plain and the Balkan Peninsula and is a crossroads of roads that have long connected Constantinople (Via Militaris) and Thessaloniki (Via Egnatia) with the interior of the European continent. In addition to the land roads that connect at that place, it also crosses waterways embodied in the Sava and especially the Danube, which is the most important European river.

In the local sense, the fortress is located at the end of the ridge plateau, which descends steeply towards the confluence of the Sava and the Danube. In that way, the rivers were prevented from accessing the fortress from the north and east by the Danube and the west by the Sava.

The past of the Belgrade Fortress
Temporary camp
The strategic position of the Belgrade Fortress was used in the Neolithic and Eneolithic, but in addition to that, the Celtic city developed in the area of ​​today's Karaburma, around the Rospa Bridge. The arrival of the Romans in this area brings the Terazije plateau back to the center of attention. It is assumed that legions (IV Scithica and V Macedonica) were stationed in the area of ​​Singidunum at the beginning of the 1st century, but for now, there is no archaeological confirmation of that. Domitian's (81-96) division of Moesia in 86 into the Upper and Lower, brings to this region from Dalmatia the IV Flavia Legion. It is not known where it was originally stationed (perhaps in Magrum), but it is certain that it was permanently housed in Singidunum after the end of the Dacian Wars in the early 2nd century.

At that time, a temporary military camp was built of earthen ramparts and wooden palisades surrounded by a moat. For a long time, it was considered that it was located in the area of ​​today's Upper Town, but there was no confirmation of that in archeological research. Discoveries from the end of the 20th century (made in 1997) opened the possibility that it was actually located on the stretch from today's Republic Square (National Museum and Theater) to Kolarac's endowment and Student Park, bordered by today's streets of Prince Mihajlo and Braće Jugović. Although this hypothesis has not yet been fully confirmed, today it is considered that the temporary camp was most likely located in that area. Based on this assumption, it is estimated that it had a rectangular base whose maximum dimensions could be 200 m x 400 m.

Roman castrum
Traces of settlements in the area of ​​the Belgrade Fortress date back to the Neolithic, so that in the Celtic era, a real city called Singidunum developed in the area of ​​today's Karaburma.

The oldest fortification on the site of today's Belgrade Fortress was probably built between the 6th and 11th years of AD. e. at a time when barbarian tribes were beginning to threaten the northern borders of the Roman Empire. At that time, a fortification made of earthen ramparts and palisades was built on the plateau from the National Museum and Theater to the Student Park, which later, most probably in the 2nd century, grew into a classic Roman castrum which was an integral part of the famous limes. Kastrum had a rectangular base measuring 560m by 350m and included today's Upper Town with part of Kalemegdan Park to today's Paris Street. During the first centuries of the new era, it was the permanent seat of Flavius ​​IV's legion. After the division of the Roman Empire in 395, the fortress became part of the Eastern Roman Empire under the name Singidon, and in 441 it was destroyed in a great attack by the Huns. King Theodoric the Great of Ostrogoths conquered it in 471, and left it in 498 during the migration of Ostrogoths to the Apennine Peninsula.


Late antique or early Byzantine fortification
The fortress was rebuilt and strengthened a little before 535 during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (527-565). On that occasion, its surface was most likely reduced to the rectangular space of today's Upper Town. During the Slavic settlement on the Balkan Peninsula, Serbs settled around it. The fortress was destroyed by Aubrey in the 8th century, after which it was abandoned for some time.

Medieval fortress
It is not known for sure when the ramparts and life in the Belgrade Fortress were restored, but it is certain that there was a fortified settlement in the middle of the 9th century. It most probably included the western corner of the former late antique fortification (the area of ​​the future Byzantine Castle and Despot's City) as a citadel fortified with stone, while the rest of the former late antique fortification or rectangular area of ​​the Upper Town was surrounded by an earthen rampart with a palisade in front of Belgrade. the fortress did not differ much from most other fortifications in Europe at that time. Archaeological remains of the trench were found in 2012.

The early Byzantine (late antique) fortress was built of white stone that shone from its elevated position above the Pannonian plain, which is why the Serbs gave it the name White City or Belgrade, under which the fortress and settlement were first mentioned on April 16, 878 in a letter. Roman Patriarch John VIII addressed to the Bulgarian Khan Boris (852-889).

For centuries, the fortress and the city were ruled by Bulgarians, Byzantines and Hungarians, and in the 11th century it came back into the hands of the Byzantine Empire after the collapse of Samuel's Empire (1018). Since the city then became a protruding border fortress of Byzantium, the former late antique ramparts were restored.

The Hungarians tried to capture the city in 1071, and in 1127 they managed to capture the city for a short time, but since they were not able to keep the city, they destroyed the fortification and used the material obtained to fortify the Zemun City. During the reign of Manojl Komnin (1143-1180), the Byzantines occupied Zemun, and the stone that had crossed the Sava three decades earlier was returned and installed back in the Belgrade Fortress, which in the period from 1151 to 1165 was turned into a deltoid castle. about 135 m by about 60 m, located on the site of a former citadel.

In 1183 or 1184, the city fell into the hands of the Hungarians, who ruled it until the beginning of the 15th century, with a small interruption from 1284. King Dragutin of Srem (King of Serbia 1276-1282, King of Srem 1282-1316), and then his brother Milutin (1282-1321), to be recaptured by the Hungarians in 1319. During his reign, Milutin expanded the fortification to the west, lowering the ramparts to the Sava (the so-called Western Suburbs). Serbian Tsar Dusan (1331-1355) and later Prince Lazar (1371-1389) tried to capture the fortress, but without success.

Belgrade Fortress in the time of despot Stefan Lazarević
With the vassal agreement that the Serbian despot Stefan Lazarević (1377—1427) concluded with the Hungarian king Sigismund (1387—1437) in 1403, the Serbian despotate gained Belgrade and some other areas. During his administration of the city, the fortress destroyed by the Ottomans in 1397 was rebuilt and significantly expanded in the period from 1403 to 1407 when the castle was rebuilt and turned into the despot's fortified castle (1405), after which the Western Suburbs were rebuilt. the Port of War was built. The works on the expansion of the fortification lasted until the death of despot Stefan in 1427, and since 1405 the capital of Serbia has been located in the town itself, which had been in Kruševac until then (see City of Emperor Lazar). During Stefan's reign the city was rebuilt:

Manojl's castle which was turned into the despot's fortified castle with the original Nebojsa tower as a dungeon (completed 1405)
Western Pograđe which was strengthened and next to which the War Port was built (completed in 1407), while as completely new parts of the fortress in the period from 1407 to 1427, the following were built:
The Upper City, which is surrounded by a system of double ramparts, such as the low and last ramparts in the Constantinople ramparts of Theodosius
Deep dry trench in front of the Upper Town on the mainland
Donji Grad with the City Port, the entrance to which was guarded by a tower that was later converted into today's Nebojsa Tower

which increased the area surrounded by ramparts tenfold in less than a quarter of a century.

After Stefan's death, Belgrade was returned to the Hungarians, who further strengthened it due to the growing danger from the Ottomans, who besieged it three times:

1440 - First siege under Murat II (1421-1451)
1456 - Second siege led by Mehmed II the Conqueror (1451-1481) who captured Constantinople in 1453 and overthrew Byzantium
1521 - the third siege under the leadership of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520—1566) who occupied Belgrade on his march towards Vienna (1529) across the Mohács field (1526).
During their rule, the Hungarians added barbican in front of the main city gates, a protruding part of the fortification in the east, and transformed today's Nebojsa Tower into a typical artillery tower of that time.


Artillery fortification
The Austrians conquered the fortress in 1688 and began an extensive renovation and conversion from a medieval to an artillery fortress. The work was entrusted to Andrej Kornar, who mostly brought it to the end of 1696 under the Ottomans, who in the meantime regained the city. On that occasion, during the bombing, a gunpowder warehouse located in Despot's City was hit, which caused a big explosion in which almost the entire Despot's City was destroyed. However, Kornar's solutions were already outdated at that time, and due to constant fights, they were never completely completed.

The Austrians occupied Belgrade in 1717, and in the period from 1723 to 1736, the Swiss Nikola Mores von Doxat carried out major alterations and additions to the fortress, which included the construction of additional fortifications on the left banks of the Sava and Danube that would be connected to the fortification. However, the fortress was returned to the Ottomans without a fight by the Belgrade Peace Treaty of 1739, and the Austrians were forced to demolish the newly built ramparts within three (bastion route around the town) or six (fortifications within the fortress) months. After the completion of these works, the city was handed over to the Ottomans in June 1740. Due to the need to preserve its northern borders, the Ottoman Empire had to rebuild and further fortify the Belgrade Fortress, but due to the poor financial situation in the empire, the renovation lasted over two decades and did not introduce anything new.

In October 1789, the Belgrade Fortress fell into Austrian hands again, but in 1791 it was returned to the Ottomans according to the provisions of the Peace of Svishtov.

Serbian insurgents under Karadjordj conquered the fortress in 1807 and it remained part of insurgent Serbia until the collapse of the First Serbian Uprising in 1813. According to the agreement on the Ottoman abandonment of Serbia, the keys to the Belgrade Fortress were symbolically handed over to Prince Mihailo Obrenović (1839—1842, 1860—1868) on April 19, 1867. Immediately after this, the fortification lost its military character, and from 1869, the entire area of ​​the former fortress and its surroundings began to turn into Kalemegdan Park.

The area of ​​the fortress was damaged during the bombing during the First World War, and on that occasion, almost all the buildings in its interior were destroyed, and the ramparts themselves suffered severe damage.

Before the construction of the Sava quay, the "first ramparts - completely on the shore" were removed in the summer of 1936, and the roundabout below the Lower Town was completed at the end of August. As part of the reconstruction of the fortress, a "five-storey tower" was built in the vicinity of the church of Ružica and bridges that year. At that time, the Zindan Gate was reconstructed and got its present appearance. The tavern between the Zoo and the Church of the Rosary was built in 1938 and opened in June 1939 (the tenant was soon convicted under the Suppression of Expensiveness Act). The Nebojsa Tower was also restored in 1938, the promenade on the Sava side was enlarged, and the collapsed walls of the terraces below "Pobednik" were repaired. Before the war, it was planned to build an Olympic stadium in the Lower Town.

During the Second World War, German occupation forces were stationed within the fortress. The lower town was regulated in 1941-43, old buildings and ruins were removed and the space was turned into a park. After the liberation of Belgrade on October 20, 1944, JNA troops settled in the fortress, which left it in 1946, when the entire area of ​​the fortress and the park was placed under state protection.

Significant years
Years of construction and demolition
6th or 11th - The first fortification of palisades and earthen ramparts
II century - Roman castrum
441 - The Huns conquer and destroy the fortress
before 535 - Justinian I built an early Byzantine fortress
VIII century - Aubrey destroys the fortress and it is abandoned
Mid-12th century - Manojlo I Komnin rebuilds the fortress and builds a castle with stones from the Zemun Fortress
1316-1319. - Milutin expands the fortification and lowers it towards the Sava (Western Suburbs)
1403-1407. - Despot Stefan is expanding the fortress
1427 - Additional reinforcements under Despot Stephen
first half of the 15th century - Hungarians strengthen the fortification
1688-1696. - Kornar turns the medieval into an artillery fortress
around 1690 - During the Ottoman attack, the entire Despot's City is blown up by an explosion
1717-1736. - Doxate strengthens the fortification
1739 - Doksat's reinforcements are demolished according to the Belgrade Peace
The second half of the 18th century - the Ottomans built the fortification as a simplified form of Doxat's fortifications
1869 - Most of the fortress begins to turn into Kalemegdan Park
1946 - The fortress is placed under state protection


Years of fighting change of government
441 - The Huns conquer and destroy the fortress
471 - Theodoric conquers the fort
489 - Ostrogoths leave town
VIII century - Aubrey destroys the fortress and it is abandoned
1112 - Hungarians conquer and demolish the fortress, and install the material in Zemun City
1183-1184. - The Hungarians are occupying the fort
1284 - Dragutin takes over Belgrade
1316 - After Dragutin's death, Milutin conquers Belgrade
1319 - Hungarians return the fort
1403 - Stefan Lazarević takes over Belgrade
1427 - After the death of Despot Stefan, the fortification is returned to the Hungarians
1440 - The first Ottoman siege of the city under Murat II
1456 - Second Ottoman siege of the city under Mehmed II
1521 - The Ottomans conquer the city under Suleiman the Magnificent
1688 - Austrians occupy the fortress
circa 1690 - The Ottomans conquer the fort
1717 - The Austrians occupy the fort
1739 - By the Peace of Belgrade, the fortress is returned to the Ottomans, and Doksat's expansion is destroyed
1789 - The Austrians conquer the fort
1791 - The fortress of Svishtov is returned to the Ottomans
1807 - Serbian insurgents liberate the fortress
1813 - The Ottomans take over the fortification after the collapse of the First Serbian Uprising
1867 - Ottomans surrender fortress to Serbs and leave Serbia
1868 - The Belgrade Penitentiary was founded on the territory of the Belgrade Fortress, which for decades was the central institution for serving a prison sentence in Serbia.
1914-1918. - The fortress was severely damaged during the First World War due to the bombing
first half of the 20th century - The last permanent peacetime military formation leaves the fortress
1941-1944. - German occupation troops were stationed in the fortress, they carried out archeological excavations in 1942-43.
1944—1946. - The JNA keeps its units within the fortifications

Belgrade Fortress today
Today, the Belgrade Fortress is a predominantly typical artillery fortification, like Petrovaradin, but the remains of previous epochs are visible in it. This difference is best seen in the building material:
The white parts represent Byzantine and later Serbian, ie. the medieval layer of construction after which the whole city was named
The red parts represent the Austrian and Ottoman, ie. artillery layer of construction

Today, the fortress is the property of the state of Serbia and is under its protection, and the PE "Belgrade Fortress" has direct management over it. It is constantly open to visitors, and includes:
Military museum
Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of the City of Belgrade
People's Observatory
Gallery of the Natural History Museum in Kalemegdan
Church of the Rosary
Chapel of St. Petka
The winner
Tomb of national heroes
Belgrade Zoo

Small archeological excavations, as well as conservation and reconstruction works are constantly being carried out within the fortress.

Remains of a Roman castrum
Traces of the Roman castrum can be seen today in the traces in the base of the northern and western ramparts of the Upper Town and they are made up of large regular carvings.

The remains of the Despot's city
The best-preserved part of the former Despot's Belgrade is the northeastern part of the Upper Town, which consists of:

The despot's gate with a tower next to which you can see the remains of the system of two ramparts that surrounded the Upper Town
Zindan gate with zwinger (barbican)
In addition, a significant remnant is the entire eastern rampart of the Upper and Lower Town with the remains of the Eastern Gate of the Lower Town, as well as the northern rampart of the Upper Town.

Not far from the Defterdar Gate, you can see the foundations of the entrance tower and the ramparts of the Despot's city with the supporting pillars of the bridge that used to enter it. On the slope between the northern ramparts of the Upper Town and the plateau of the Small Town, there are the remains of the metropolitan court within the church dedicated to the Assumption of the Mother of God, which housed the relics of St. Petka.

Istanbul Gate (external)
Istanbul Gate (internal)
Karadjordj's gate
Clock gate
Leopold's Gate
Zindan Gate
Despot's Gate or Dizdar's Gate
Defterder Gate
King's Gate or West Gate
Vidin gate
Dark gate
The Gate of Charles VI was mistakenly called the Gate of Eugene of Savoy
Kornar's Gate - A walled gate

Nebojsa Tower
Jakšić Tower
Mlinarica Tower
Despot's Tower
Clock tower