Serbian Cultural Heritage

Smederevo Fortress

Smederevo Fortress is the last great creation of the Serbian military construction, and one of the largest foritifications in the south-east Europe. It was built with great efforts in order to replace already lost Belgrade, which in 1427, after the death of Despot Stefan Lazarević it was handed over to the Hungarians. As a new centre of Serbia and a Despot Ðurađ Branković’s court, an uninhabited place on the confluence of the Jezava and the Danube rivers was chosen, which conditioned a triangular shape of the fortress ground plan. Unlike Belgrade, the new Smederevo Fortress covers a somewhat smaller defense area, with a simpler interior arrangement. During the first stage, between 1428 and 1430, a castle was erected with the ruler’s court, originally designed as an independent fortification. Soon after that, in the 1440’s, the ramparts were built around the area between the Jezava and the Danube rivers, covering an area of about 10ha, meant for an urban settlement.

Smederevo Fortress is of a triangular ground plan, surrounded by the powerful primary ramparts, with four towers towards the land side. One of them still preserves the name of Despot Ðurađ, shaped by inbuilt brick. The main tower is at its opposite end, towards the Jezava river confluence. In front of the primary rampart, there was a lower, outer one, with a series of embrasures, which were here quite an early structure not only in Serbian but in European military architecture. Court buildings in the castle interior are leaning on all three sides of the rampart, making a triangular courtyard with a well in its centre. The main and certainly the most representative structure had a large hall on an upper floor, but today only four bifora windows in the rampart remain. It was probably the sala audientiae, mentioned as the place where in 1434 a treatise was signed between the Serbian ruler and Venice. The residential quarters were in a big, stone built building, leaning on the main, southern rampart. There used to be another, most probably auxiliary structure along the Jezava rampart.

The area in front of the castle, the “Big Town”, was meant for an urban settlement, enclosed with the double ramparts towards east and south. The most important section of the defensive wall was the southern one, defending the town from the land access roads. The wall was reinforced with 11 strong towers, placed at even lengths, in front of which there is an outer rampart with embrasures and a wide moat filled with water. The wall towards the Jezava river is strengthened with three towers, while the rampart towards the Danube originally had only tower. Some time later, another four towers were added, decorated with brick course. Besides building for housing the military crew, this spacious fortified area was also enclosing the main town institutions. In its south-east corner, remains of a church have been discovered, which was turned into a mosque after the Turkish invasion. Within the town walls, there was also a big church devoted to Annunciation, an endowment and a tomb temple of Despot Ðurađ, but demolished already in the second half of the 15th century. Similarly to Belgrade, outside the town walls, there was a settlement, which was most probably defended with trenches and palisades.