At the 45th kilometer downstream of the Danube from Belgrade, at the mouth of a small river Jezava, you can find one of the largest medieval fortresses in Europe. The Smederevo Fortress, the last capital of medieval Serbia and home to many legends of ancient times.
Built in record time in the 15th century, during the reign of Despot Djuradj Brankovic, the most distinguished representative of the Serbian ruling family. His wise and generous personality of the fatal destiny is remembered in history as “the Lord and sovereign of all Serbs “. The fort is spread at over 11 acres, with its 25 meters tall walls, it is one of the largest fortresses in Europe.
Made in the shape of a triangle, with 25 towers and surrounded by water on two sides, it is a fine representative of medieval architecture and strategical thinking about defense and protection. Although its foundations were not intended to be submerged, it is classed as a water fortress because its inner fort is completely surrounded by water. The splendid design of the fort can be seen from the fact that, since construction in the mid-15th century and the Ottoman addition of four artillery towers in 1480, no alteration was made until the end of its military use in the second half of the 19th century. Today, the fort is used as a city park, for celebrations and sporting events.
One of the towers of the Smederevo fortress known as the Cross tower have written in red bricks:
“To Christ God the faithful despot Djuraj, the lord of the Serbs and the navy of Zeta. By order of his, this city was built in the year 6938 (1430). ”
Year 6938 ?!?
Yeap, measured by one of the oldest calendars known to history. According to this calendar, the years were numbered since the Great Flood. “The birth of the world on September 1, 5508 before the birth of Jesus.”
This calendar was used by many peoples, most notably the Byzantines. It records the only date in the formation – year-month-day and has only two seasons – summer and winter (or by popular belief – Djurdjevdan and Mitrovdan).
There are numerous legends and stories about the construction of the Smederevo fortress. One of the legends says that the despot Djurdj Brankovic had a dream in which he was instructed to build a new city on a river. Also, the most popular legend of lost treasure, which had been buried somewhere in the fortress, never found by conquerors, still hunts numerous adventurists. This legend experienced a rebirth when a tomb of an unknown noblewoman with priceless jewelry has been discovered in 2012.
The explosion of ammunition at the Smederevo Fortress occurred during World War II, on June 5, 1941. The explosion was so severe that it made a crater 50 meters long and 9 meters deep, and tore nearly the entire city. The tremors of the earth were felt in settlements 40 km away. The official cause of the explosion was never declared, as well as the exact number of victims.
Independent estimates mention the death toll between 1,200 and 2,500 souls. Bearing in mind that the population of Smederevo was about 11,000 people during 1940-is, this tragedy is called ‘Serbian Hiroshima’ with a good reason.
I’ve spent most of my childhood near Smederevo Fortress. I grow up in the fields of this fort, I climbed its rocky towers, peeked into the closed and forbidden chambers beneath its walls. I sat countless times on its fortifications staring at the Danube. The Smederevo Fort will always be a place to come back to and the huge portion of my youth.