Cele kula Scull Tower Nis
Ćele kula – Scull Tower in town of Niš is one of the most important monuments of culture of Serbia. The history of establishment of the Ćele kula – the Scull Tower is at the same time extraordinary interesting and fully terrifying. After the Cegar battle in May 1809, when some 6000 Turkish soldiers and 4000 Serb rebellions were killed, the Ottomans performed the most brutal and the most cruel revenge against the Serbs. At the outskirts of Nis, on the elevation above the road which lead to Tzarigrad, Turks decided to erect the “tower” from the heads of beheaded Serb rebels !! Huršid pasha, the Turkish commander of Nis from 1809 – 1812 ordered the Serb tanners to tann the skin from heads and fill them with hay and cotton, and to forward those heads of the Serb victims to Tzarigrad to the Sultan, as the sign of the victory. Sultan paid 25 Groschen for every Serb head delivered to him. From the sculls of beheaded Serbs, the Cele kula – Scull Tower was erected, what in Tukish means “tower of human sculls”.
Ćele – kula /Scull Tower/ features rectangular shape and height of some 4 meters. Human sculls were turned towards outside, and were adhered with lime and sand to form a tower. Originally there were 952 human sculls built in 14 rows of the each side of the Ćele kula – the Scull Tower. For such a huge number of human sculls, this was terrifying sight for anyone who encounter it. To the Serb population of the town of Nis and surroundings, the Cele Kula brought the special dreadful and horrible impressions. During night, Christians of Nis were removing the sculls secretly from the Cele kula, to bury them on the nearby grave yards. Turks banned this process, but in time, some sober Turkish representatives influenced the new attitude about the Cele kula. During its reign of Nis, the Mithad pasha (1861 – 1866) who studied in Paris, wanted to distinguish this monument, which was prevented by Turks of Nis and made the Ćele kula survived until the present.
Until the liberation of Serbia from the Turkish yoke in 1878, the Cele kula remained in open, to be rebuilt and covered by donations of the locals and population of the whole Serbia. The chapel of the Cele kula is still there. The number of sculls of the Cele kula – the Scull tower significantly reduced in time, for numerous reasons, and for the bad weather conditions, so today only 58 sculls remain. Protection of the Ćele – kula was carried out in the first years after the liberation of the town, and were continued later on. For the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of Nis from the Turkish yoke, in 1937, an iron fence was erected around the Cele Kula. A year later, a monument with the bust of Stevan Sindjelic with the relief which commemorates the Cegar battle was built in front of the entrance to the Cele kula. The monument is work of the Serbian sculptor Slavko Miletic. For the 180th anniversary of the Cegar battle, on 31st May 1989, the chapel was restored and approaching road and surroundings were rearranged.
By erecting the Ćele – kula u town of Niš, which connects the Central Europe with the Southeast Europe and the Near East, the Turks wanted to leave the outrageous warning for the Balkan peoples – that all of them will experience the terrible dead if they dare to rise an Uprising against the Turkish reign. When in 1833 the French poet and academic Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) in Paris published his book „Tour to the East”, in special section of the „Notes about Serbia”, deeply distressed by the impressions of the Cele kula, among the other, he wrote : „With my eyes and heart I greeted the remains of those brave people, whose beheaded heads remained as the foundation of the independence of their homeland”.