February 20, 2013

The Smederevo Fortress

40km south-east from Belgrade lays Smederevo a town of about 100'000 inhabitants and its Byzantine Monumental Complex: the Smederevo Fortress.
I like the setting of this fortress on the banks of the Danube.

Smederevo was the residence of Serbian prince Đurađ Branković and the capital of Serbia from 1430 until 1439, when it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire after a siege lasting two months.

The Smederevo Fortress was modeled after the Constantinople fortress. It's classed as a water fortress and after the fortress' completion, there was a decline in its military importance and few structural changes were made. As a result, the original architectural style has been preserved to this day.

Strategically the fortress is located on the right bank of the Danube river on the triangular plain formed by the confluence of the Danube and Jezava rivers, only 72 meters above sea level. This location allowed the Serbian capital to remain near the Christian Kingdom of Hungary, while also satisfying Sultan Murad II of the Ottoman Empire by eliminating the uncontrolled passage of the Hungarians into the Morava valley.

 The fortress' position connecting the Balkans and Central Europe has made it an important religious and commercial center for centuries.

During NATO agression against Serbia the "Jugopetrol" oil storage depot near Smederevo was bombed several times. Even though the facility is not located in the protected town zone, the force of the detonations and the burning of highly inflammable substances not only endangered the body of monuments in the town center but the strong detonations induced by the bombing caused shaking of the walls of the old town and the Fortress.

The fortress is currently used as a city park, and occasionally hosts cultural events. To the southeast, the previously open space along the Jezava now boasts a harbor. Unrestricted visits by tourists, inadequate protection, no maintenance and lack of strategy and financial resources contribute to the deterioration of the fortress.

The fortress is encircled by 1.5 kilometers of crenelated walls over 2 meters thick, and 25 towers which are each approximately 25 meters tall. 

The throne hall, where Branković received his visitors, was built with four double-arched windows, fashioned in a mixed Gothic/Romanesque style. 
The Donžon kula was intended to be the final line of defense. It was constructed with walls over 4 meters thick, and housed the nobility during Turkish attacks. Hidden doors were built into the Jezava wall, allowing for passage towards Hungary.
In the suburb, a sacral complex was built in phases from the 15th century onwards, and a Turkish bath was added by the Ottomans in the 17th century.
Between 1460–1480, while held by the Ottoman Empire, a larger defensive system was built, including escarpments, low walls, and more towers. During the first half of the 18th century, fortified trenches were added.

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. Inner city gate, 13. Rectangular tower, 14. Keep (Donžon kula, Donjon tower), 15. Jerina's tower , 16. Despot's inscription tower (krstata kula), 17. Audience/Throne hall, 18. Palace, 19. Bath remains, 20. Church remains