Smederevo Fortress

Smederevo Fortress

Smederevo city is one of the largest fortified cities – fortresses not only in Serbia but in Europe which was the last capital of the Medieval Serbia, as the administrative, military, economic, cultural and religious seat of the Serbian Despotate. The Smederevo Forgress is located 45 kilometers southeast of Belgrade. The Smederevo fortress has been built in the 15th century /construction works carried out from 1428 till 1439/ on the confluence of the Jezava river with the Danube River, during the reign of Despot Djuradj Brankovic, the most distinguished represent of the Serbian ruling family, the wise and generous personality of fatal destiny who is remembered in the history as “the Lord and sovereign of all Serbs”. Djuradj Brankovic was married to Jerina /Irina/, a Greek princess from Peloponnese, whose origin was of the Cantacuzen royal family. The Smederevo fort built by Djuradj Brankovic was the last among the ruler’s fortified residences of the Serbian Medieval state.

Despot Djuradj Brankovic /1427-1456, George Brankovich/ was one of the last Serbian rulers before the final fall under Turkish yoke in 1459. His was the last attempt to defend Serbia against the aggressor. Despot Djuradj was known for his strong and decisive faith in God as well as for his faithfulness to the rich spiritual and national heritage. He refused to accept Union with the Roman Catholics /Councils of Ferrara and Florence 1438-1439/ who gave false promises of military assistance against the Ottomans. His significant answer to the Franciscan John Capistranus was as follows: “Ninety years of my life I have lived with this faith that had been poured into my soul by my ancestors and have, as a result, been considered a wise, although unfortunate, man by my people. Now you would like them to think, if I should change, that I have become senile of old age and, as the commoners say, infantile. I would rather agree to die than betray the faith of my ancestors”. Patriarchal See was moved from monasteries Pec and Zica to the last free bastion — to the fortress of Smederevo.

Understanding the soon decay of the Byzantine Empire and in fear that the Christian relics might come into possession of the Turks, despot Djuradj Branković had bought out the holy relics of Saint Luke for 30 thousands ducats, and on 12 January 1453 had transferred them from Epirus to Smederevo. In 1456 Djuradj Branković moved to his court in Kupinik due to the fear of plaque, but on 17 December 1456 was cunningly attacked by Michail Silagy – commander of Belgrade and brother in law of John Hunyadi. In this fierce battle depot Djuradj Brankovic lost two fingers on his hand and without option to heal his wounds – he dies in Smederevo on Friday, the Christmas of 1456. By approval of the Hungarian nobility the Bosnian king Tomaš made his son Stefan Tomasevic overtake rule over the Serbian Despotate. When Mehmed II third time made siege of unconquerable Smederevo fortress, Stefan Tomašević hands over it on 29 June 1459 without fight in return for rich goods and relics of Saint Luke that were later in ugly bargaining sold to Venetians. Hadži Milan Arsenović

The Smederevo Fortress is the unique plain-terrain fortification in Europe, which spreads on the surface of 10,5 hectares, with 25 towers, on three sides surrounded with water, and features the form of irregular triangle. The small town of the Smederevo fort has been built from 1428 till 1430 and was the residence of Despot Djuradj Brankovic, separated from the Large town by the water trench. The uniqueness of the Smederevo fortress architecture is evidenced in the Krstata kula tower, on whose walls there is the built in brick inscription of period of construction of the fortress. Dunavsko platno – Danube canvas belongs to the most impressive structures of the Medieval construction in Serbia. There are four stone carved windows with the Gothic and Romanesque arches – biforas. There were the Despot’s residences and the hall for reception of visitors, where the famous Trade contract between Venice and the Serbian Despotate was signed. The Don-jon tower was sanctuary where distinguished persons hided during Turkish attacks, with walls more than 4 meters thick. When the construction of the Small town of the Smederevo fort has been completed, they have continued the building of the Large town, about which there are many legends and folk songs. All the workers’ enormous efforts to built such a huge stronghold were attributed to Jerina, the wife of Despot Djuradj, who was proclaimed “the accursed Jerina”, as understood the ordering party of the works. Within the Large town, in the south-west part of the Smederevo fortress, there was a sacral structure whose remains are visible today. Upon existing finds and discoveries, it is not possible to attribute this structure certainly if it had belonged to the court, or that remains designates the Annunciation church, which is described by the modern researchers. It is assumed that there was another much larger sacral building within the Large town of Smederevo fortress that might be the Annunciation Church. This shrine was the place where the holy relics of one of four evangelists – the Saint Lucas were kept, who is today considered the protector of the town. When Smederevo fort was eventually seized by the Ottomans they have demolished this church, and some of its remains were walled in the hamam and the Water tower where the Jezava river joins the Danube River, when they have strengthened it in order to provide stronger defense of the town. “Firuz Agha, the head of the Sultan’s treasury between 1485 and 1490 erected the hammam with male and female rooms within the Smederevo fortress which was one of the most profitable facilities of its kind in the Ottoman Empire. The majority of buildings, both at the time of the despots and during a considerable period of the Ottoman rule, were built of wood and other light materials, which is why few traces of the old urban structures have remained in Smederevo. Firuz Agha was highly trusted and considered capable by the sultan Bayezid II and the Ottoman court and served as the chief of the Sultan’s internal treasury until June 1496, when he was appointed the sanjak-bey of the Scutari (Shkodër) sanjak, and later served as the sanjak-bey of Bosnia until his death in December 1512. From the Ottoman conquest in 1459 until the 1520s, Smederevo was the most important military stronghold in the European part of the Ottoman Empire.” Firuz Agha and his hammam in Smederevo, Srdjan Krstic, Aleksandar Krstic.

When the Smederevo fortification has been erected it became the administrative, military, economic, cultural and religious seat of the Serbian Despotate. From the Ottoman conquest in 1459 until the 1520s, Smederevo was the most important military stronghold in the European part of the Ottoman Empire. Over the following decades it retained its military, economic and urban importance. After the death of Despot Đuradj Brankovic /1456/ and fall of Smederevo to the Turks in 1459, the structures of new rulers were adopted along their needs. Then a hamam was built, within whose encircling walls, remains of the mosque were excavated. When the Ottomans had conquered Belgrade in 1521, the Smederevo fort lost its significance, as became the border fortification with Hungary. During the Austria-Turkish wars in the 17th and the 18th century, Austrians seized Smederevo several times. In the First World War Smederevo experienced artillery attacks from the Danube side, what caused severe destruction of the fortress. In the Second World War the German occupiers turned the Smederevo fort into the ammunition storage. Soon after the occupation, on 5th June 1941 the enormous detonation hit the Smederevo fort which severely demolished both the town and the stronghold. Then some parts of the walls and towers by the main entrance were destroyed as were in the center of explosion. The last destruction of the Smederevo fortress happened in the air attacks on cities and towns in the Allied bombing of Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1944.

Today the rich historical and cultural inheritance of the Smederevo fortress is well used for tourist purposes and venue for cultural events and various colorful manifestations. Smederevska Jesen Festival belongs to the oldest economic – tourist events in Serbia and for more than hundred years successfully represents the fruitful Smederevo region, with cultural and artistic performances and highly prized specialized producers of grapes, wine, fruits, rakia, natural juices…

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