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System of Fortifications at the Confluence of the Rivers Danube and Váh in Komárno - Komárom

Date of Submission: 12/01/2007
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iv)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Hungarian Ministry of Cultural Heritage Secretariat of the Hungarian Committee of the World Heritage
Coordinates: N47 7 E18 1
Ref.: 1498
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Description

The site the area of the "twin towns" of Komarom (H) and Komarno (SK) situated on the facing banks of the Danube - has since ancient times been an important cross point on the Danube. The Roman fortresses and towns Brigetio and Celamantia of the Pannonian Roman Limes were flourishing and active between the 1st and the 4th centuries AD, (partly excavated ruins are situated nearby, in the buffer zone). Emperor Marcus Aurelius passed nearby or took part in battles, emperor Valentinianus died here on 17th November 375 AD after a victorious battle with Celtic tribes.

Starting from the 10th century, the mediaeval town of Komarom was developed into one of the major cities of the region and its famous Old Fortress - strengthened after the Mongol Invasion in 1424 - became an important defensive element protecting the international fluvial (Danube), east-west (Wien-Lvov) and north-south (Baltic Sea - Adriatic Sea) public, military and commercial crossroads.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Old Fortress was serving as one of the most important element of the European defensive system against the attacks of the Ottoman Empire. For one and half centuries Komarom and its fortress were continuously in war on the border of the Ottoman and Austrian Empires, but it never had been conquered in siege. Forced by the attacks of the United European Army lead by Eugene de Savoy, the Ottoman army withdraw its troops from Hungary (1682 - 99), and Komarom lost its military importance for the next one and half century. But it got again a symbolically significant role during the Revolution and War of Independence in 1848 - 49, as the only one fortress defended by the revolutionary troops till the end of the war. Suffering several sieges during the centuries, the Komarom fortresses had never been conquered by enemy, so the inscription on its wall - "NEC ARTE, NEC MARTE", "neither by force, nor by tricks" - became the motto of this "Gibraltar of the Danube" (as poets and writers in the romantic period called it), and since ages the fortresses were and are till today important symbols of pride of all Central European nations participating in these historic wars and revolutions.

In 1850, based on a larger political consideration, the Austrian Empire decided to build up the most up-to-date defensive line on the Danube, with the aim to protect Wien from "any kind of enemy" coming from the east. Based on the "Montalambert principles" of Italian planners, 3 great forts had been erected in parallel: Komarom-Komarno (now: Hungary and Slovakia), Przemysl (now: Poland) and Petervarad (now: Serbia), these are actually starting to rebuild cultural and tourist contacts based on their common historical values.

During the second half of the 19th century, on the south bank of the river Danube, in Komarom 3 big, new, co-operating fortresses were erected around the town - partly using the existing pre- and post-Napoleonic elements. The biggest is Fort Monostor (or Fort Sandberg, 1850-72), but Fort Csillag (1870-75) and Fort Igmandi (1871-77) are also equally important elements of the defensive system. Together with the renewed Old Fortress and the Palatinus Line (with 16 large bastions and interconnecting walls) in Komarno (Slovakia), on the other side of the Danube, the system of "independent" forts formed a complete circle of defensive building elements, which in case of war was able to shelter over 250.000 people.

HISTORIC FORTS IN KOMAROM

Completed around 1890, the whole ensemble lost its military importance, partly for technical reasons (due to the effects of the new ballistic guns), partly due to its new logistical position (situated in the middle of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). The new ensemble of forts has never been attacked in war, so it kept its structure unchanged. Though it was continuously used for different "auxiliary" military purposes: it served as training base for the Hungarian Army (1869-1943), during WW II was serving as transitional camp for Polish and French refugees (1939-42), after the occupation of Hungary by the German troops (1944) as temporary prison for deportees of the Jewish and Gypsy holocaust (on their way to German camps).

Between 1946-1990 the ensemble became the biggest "secret" ammunition magazine of the Soviet Army (no civil person was allowed to enter and the forts disappeared even from the maps). Strongly live "legends" say the Soviets built a tunnel under the Danube and atomic missiles had been put in the underground shelters, but these are not yet proved by scientific research.

The Soviet tropes didn't destroy any built element of the forts, just added new buildings in the buffer zone (outside the walls) and, during the last months of their staying here, removed and sell out all movable parts (windows, floors). Many inscriptions on the walls keep the memory of the tragic life period of young people forced to come from all nations of the former Soviet Union and serving here for years, completely isolated from the local civil life. The motto of the new Building Preservation Trust is taken from one of the soviet soldier's inscription, saying: "HE, WHO WAS NOT HERE, CAN'T IMAGINE, HE, WHO WAS HERE, WILL NEVER FORGET IT."

The forts were "re-discovered" after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops. In 1992 they were listed as National Monument, grade I. ("M"), and after being cleaned from rests of weapons and mines - in 1994 public - in damaged state - were partly reopened for the general public.

Brief description of the 3 forts (on the South Bank of the Danube):
Fort Monostor

The huge complex of Fort Monostor (or Fort Sandberg) covers 70 ha, with covered buildings on 32.000 m2 surface. Its system is built up of three huge gun bastions - the biggest one looking on to the Danube - and the fortified entrance gate, all connected with corridors, gun shelters, rooms and ateliers, all covered with earth. The whole system has a sophisticated outer "firing" corridor built on the exterior line of the foss. Regarding its age and type, its size, its peculiarities and architectural values, the Fort Sandberg is a unique example of military architecture in Central Europe.

Fort Csillag

Built parallel and in coordination with Fort Monostor, in bricks, between 1852-1970, on the site of former St Peter's Fort dating from the 17th century. See: plans in annex.

Fort Igmandi

Built parallel with Fort Monostor in cyclop-stoneworks, between 1871?77. It is the last element completed of the system. See: plans in annex.