Smederevo Castle (Cмeдepeвcκa твpђaвa)

Smederevo Castle



Location: Smederevo Map

Construction: 1428- 1480s


Description of Smederevo Castle

Smederevo Fortress is a fortress in Smederevo which was built at the confluence of the river Jezava and the Danube in the second quarter of the 15th century (from 1428) by the despot of Serbia Djuradj Brankovic (1427-1456), named after him Smederevo. The fortress is a classic water fortress in its type (surrounded by the Danube and Jezava, and from the south by an artificial moat that connects two rivers), which makes it unique in Serbian medieval architecture, and Constantinople and its ramparts were taken as a model during construction. According to its area of ​​10ha 41a 14m² (11.3272ha according to measurements from 1975) without the outer ramparts and towers, or 14.5ha with them, it is one of the largest fortresses in Europe and the largest of its kind. It has the base of a multi-legged triangle (550m x 502m x 400m) in the northern vertex of which is a smaller multi-legged triangle, which forms the Small Town, while the rest of the fortification is the Big Town. The strength of the Smederevo ramparts was shown during the Ottoman sieges.

1439 (when, after three months, famine forced the besieged to surrender)
1453 (when the attack of Mehmed II (1451—1482) which occupied Constantinople that year was repulsed)
1456 (when the attack was repulsed)
that the Ottomans finally conquered them by surrendering the city without a fight in 1459, which was the formal end of the Despotate of Serbia.

The great design of the fortification can be seen from the fact that since the end of Serbian construction in the mid-15th century and the Ottoman addition of four artillery towers in 1480, no alterations have been made until the end of its military use in the second half of the 19th century. , with several other fortifications, handed over to the Prince of Serbia Mihailo Obrenović in 1867 (1839—1842, 1860-1868). The fortress suffered significant destruction during the world wars from bombings and explosions, but it still retained its monumentality. Today, the Big City is mostly in ruins and exposed to the ravages of time, while conservation and restoration works have been carried out in the Small Town, which has somewhat restored its former appearance, and the entire fortress has been under state protection since 1946. The small town is often the scene of cultural and sports events, and during the Smederevo autumn it becomes the cultural capital of Smederevo and the venue for numerous performances and concerts.


1. Main entry gate
2. City gate II
3. City gate I
4. Ship gate
5. Jezava gate
6. Flag tower
7. Turkish inscription tower
8. Water tower
9. Outer water trench
10. Inner water trench
11. Bridge
12. Small town gate
13. Rectangular tower
14. Keep (Donžon kula, Donjon tower)
15. Jerina’s tower
16. Despot’s inscription tower (krstata kula)
17. Audience Hall/ Throne Hall
18. Palace
19. Bath remains
20. Church remains

Stages of fortress construction

The original idea that existed during the construction of the city of Smederevo was to build a fortified castle for the despot and his family along the border with the Kingdom of Hungary, from which they could easily take refuge in the safe space of their northern senior and neighbor. With such a plan, construction began in 1428 under the supervision of Toma Kantakuzin, but during the next half century the fortress was expanded, extended and rebuilt several times, and in 1480 it took on the shape it still has today. According to the research conducted and published by Leontije Pavlović, 4 different phases of Serbian and 1 phase of Ottoman construction can be distinguished at the Smederevo Fortress.

I phase of construction (1428—1439)
The first phase of construction includes the erection of a small town with internal buildings, mostly wooden structures. It was surrounded by a low rampart and a moat, ie rivers, and it had three gates, one towards the settlement and two towards the Danube, along the Donjon. Some authors present the thesis that in the first moment there was no gate to the settlement at all, but that before the construction of the low rampart and the water trench, the fortification was entered through the gates on the bank of the Danube.

After the erection of the Small Work, it became clear that it was not enough and its expansion was immediately started by adding long ramparts that would form the Big City. The fact that only the construction of the Small Town was originally planned is evidenced by the openings for the cannons in it, which are today directed at the ramparts, which were built later. It is not possible to determine with certainty how much and to what extent the Great City was built in 1439 when the Ottomans besieged Smederevo, but it is certain that it was in its final phase, because it seemed to the besiegers a wonder of the world, even though they met the Constantinople ramparts. which served as a kind of inspiration for the Smederevo. So it was most likely more or less completely finished (low + high rampart + moat), but the question was whether all the towers on the town and Jezava ramparts were completely finished. During this period, alterations were made to the tops of some towers, which were vaulted so that cannons could be placed on them, which acted on the enemy in 1439.

II phase of construction (1444—?)
After the renewal of the Serbian despotate with the Peace of Szeged in 1444, the reconstruction of the fortress began, the strengthening of some towers so that they could carry cannons and the replacement of wooden buildings in the Small Town with stone ones. During this period, the tower of the Nine Brothers and the Seven Brothers in the Small Town was added, which is lower than the others and which served as a granary.

Phase III construction
During the third phase of construction, which cannot be dated more closely due to the continuity of construction, reinforced ramparts were erected on the Danube side with one tower and the Jezava side with three towers.

IV phase of construction
The fourth phase of construction includes the addition of four towers on the Danube rampart facing the Kingdom of Hungary. Leontije believes that this was done at the Sultan's request because Despot Djuradj considered the Hungarians his allies, so he did not need to strengthen that side. However, there is a possibility that the despot did it on his own initiative, in order to protect himself, in case a Hungarian attack on Smederevo occurred due to a disagreement between him and the Hunyadi, which existed. There is a possibility that this may have been done after Djurdj's capture of Hunyadi, after the Second Battle of Kosovo in 1448.

Although the motives for their subsequent erection are not entirely clear, what can be concluded from the way they were built is that they were erected in peacetime, since unlike the others, which were erected from stone trpanca quickly, these four were made by precise stone stacking and red bricks thus achieving Byzantine meanders of red-gray colors.

V construction phase (1480)
The last phase in the development of the Smederevo fortress took place in 1480, after the battle on Godominsko polje in 1476. During it, the Ottomans built a low artillery tower at the confluence of the Jezava and the Danube from the material obtained by demolishing the former despot's Church of the Annunciation in the Great City. With the help of materials from other sides, two more such towers were built in the tops of the triangular base of the fortress, and finally another low artillery tower, which was the entrance to the city tower, which disappeared in an ammunition explosion in 1941.


The appearance of the fortress

The court of the despot Djurdj was located in the Small Town, with a residence for housing and a palace for receptions. It was built in 1428—1430. year as a specially fortified royal court surrounded on all sides by water, and that is why it is classified as a type of water fortifications, although there is no foundation in the water (Leontije Pavlović). The small town has a dungeon tower, in the central part a stone masonry well, and the entrance is from the southwest side, through a double system of gates.

It is separated from the Great City, which has 19 towers, by a moat. There are 6 towers in the Small Town, one of which has an inscription from which it is clear that the town was built by Djuradj Brankovic. The towers are about 11 m wide and about 20 m high. They are made of crushed stone in good lime mortar. The thickness of the walls reaches up to 4.5 m. The thickest walls are towards the mainland side of the Smederevo Fortress, which has an area of ​​about 11 ha.

In the Big City, there was a metropolitan complex with ancillary rooms and buildings for the population. The church was 19 m long, and 15.30 m wide in the plain of the choir. In the central part, there was a table of honor in the form of a masonry column, measuring 1.50 by 1.50 meters. The walls are poorly preserved, because the building was later demolished and upgraded. The choir wall and part of the north wall have been preserved. Only the foundation of the western part of the wall has been preserved. As for the appearance, the external facade was plastered, judging by the style of construction.

Basic information about the fortress
The city of Smederevo was one of the largest medieval fortresses in Europe. The core was the triangular Small Town, at the top of the Big, again triangular town. This larger part was built immediately after the Small Town, which was completed in 1430. The small town had 6, and the big city another 19 - a total of 25 large square towers.

The area of ​​the Small and Big Towns, according to the measurements from 1975, is 11.3272 hectares. It is sandwiched between the right bank of the Danube and the mouth of the Jezava in the shape of an irregular triangle. Since it also had a moat around the Great City, the Fortress belonged to the type of water fortifications, although it was not built so that the foundations were in the water.

The parallel side with the Danube is 550 m, the second with Jezava 400, and the third towards the city 502 m. It is actually a reduced image of the Constantinople fortification. This monumental colossus of Serbian military architecture, surrounded on all three sides by water, seemed invincible. Nevertheless, world events, strong incursions of the Turks accelerated the fall of Smederevo.

The small town served Despot Djurdj as a fortified castle, of which the only large halls remain to this day are four two-part windows on the city screen, and the space of the big city was needed to accommodate a large crew, numbering thousands of people, such as according to some data, the number of attackers was tens of thousands.

Heavy levies, many years of exhausting work on the construction of the city, left traces in the people's memory and tied the curse to the name of Jerina.

From a once small suburb, which was located along the banks of the Danube and away from the city walls, developed over the centuries, and especially after 1867, today's large town of Smederevo.



After the death of Stefan Lazarević, despot Đurđe Branković could not stay in Belgrade, which was taken over by the Hungarians, so he built a new capital in Smederevo. He chose the place as far away from the Turks as possible, relying on the Danube and the Hungarian border. There is a plain, and a water city was built, surrounded by the Danube and Jezava, and a trench with water was dug on the third side. It was built from 1428 to 1430, as can be seen from a large inscription made of bricks on a tower of the inner (small) town. Such inscriptions are rare, and this is the only example in the former Yugoslavia. There are still some in Byzantium, and a model for walls and towers was taken from that side, which is understandable when it is known that the works were led by the Byzantine Cantacuzino, the brother of Djurdj's wife Irina.

Although the 15th century is already a time of firearms, and these weapons are already widely used by Serbs, and especially Turks, the Smederevo Fortress is still conceived as a city built for fighting and defending with cold weapons and cold weapons. There are no cannon places, unless the cannons were placed only on the platforms of high towers - but they could only be smaller tools. After capturing it, the Turks reinforced it in 1480, adding a more modern low battery tower for defense in front of all three corners.

Recent history
During the First World War and the crossing of the Danube by the Austrians, the old town was bombed even with 42 cm cannons and severely damaged. In the fall of 1938, one million dinars were set aside for restoration. In the Second World War, it experienced new destruction due to the large explosion of ammunition that was stored there. Towards the end of the war, it was destroyed by British bombers. Today, the entire large complex is in ruins.

In 2012, archeological excavations found a grave with the remains of a woman in the northern part of the sacral complex. Gold earrings with the coat of arms of Nemanjić were found in the grave.

The restoration of the fortress began in 2010 and is planned to be completed in 2014, although it has not. During 2015, works on the restoration of the Jezavski rampart continued.