Serbian Cultural Heritage

Caričin Grad – Iustiniana Prima, archaeological site

The fortified settlement at Caričin Grad is located in south-east Serbia, on the slopes of Mount Radan, descending towards the Leskovac valley, away from any major roads, in the Pusta Reka valley.
The first archaeological excavations of Tsaritsin Grad began in 1912 and have been going on to the present day. Based upon the obtained results and historic sources, the first theories about the name of the settlement and the period of its existence have been made. 
It has been established that it is a town of Iustiniana Prima, built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (527-565) near the place he has been born. By the order of the emperor a new administrative and archbishopric seat of the Diocese of Dacia province was built, so as to strengthen the rule of Byzantium and help spread Christianity. The settlement was not to last long, and its disappearance is associated with the emperor Heraclius (610-641) and the invasions of Slavic tribes. 
The fortified city was built on the elongated and elevated rock foundation, bordered by the Caričina River to the east and Svinjarička River to the west. The urbanized area of the settlement includes three segments: the “Acropolis”, the Upper and Lower Town, surrounded by fortifications, extending below into a broad settlement, located outside the walls. 
The fortified area covers about 10 hectares. Around the town there was a settlement, defended by a large moat at its south end, while earthen bulwarks protected it at its north and east ends. The west end was protected by the natural, almost inaccessible, land contour.

The early Byzantine urban development at Caričin Grad reflects the approach of ancient Roman builders towards building plans and their implementation. It can be clearly seen how a selection of an appropriate location and a manner of planning and building can emphasize the importance and rank of some architectural units. The “Acropolis”, as the highest point, represents an ecclesiastical seat and is independently fortified. The Upper Town, as an administrative and commercial center, occupying the central section, includes and protects the “Acropolis”, being independently fortified. The Lower Town, of lower level administrative functions, was more loosely located in space. 
Throughout the area of Caričin Grad, the sacral activity is emphasized, deriving from a desire for Christianization of the Byzantine lands that were mostly under invasion from pagan tribes. In the town and in its immediate surroundings, eight churches were discovered, quite different in their construction design. Some of these churches, by their monumental size and lavish interior ornamentation, are representative examples of early Byzantine sacral architecture