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Smederevo Fortress

Date of Submission: 15/04/2010
Criteria: (iv)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Serbia to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Danube Region
Coordinates: N44 40 09 E20 55 43
Ref.: 5538

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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 defence 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.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

(iv) to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history

The Smederevo town is one of the largest fortifications in the south-east Europe. As a defence system, it is an extraordinary example of a cold weapons defence fortification and the best creation in the mediaeval military architecture. Its special feature is reflected in a choice of this particular location. Unlike the steep, inaccessible land areas, which found its use in the Middle Ages, here a flat plateau along the river bank was chosen, so today, Smederevo is a synonym for a "flatland fortress" type.    

(v)  to be am outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;

It is a complex architectural ensemble, consisting of two parts: a fortified castle and an urban settlement. The castle with a ruler's court was built in the first phase, as an independent fortification. Unlike in the previous centuries, when rulers' residencies had not been fortified structures, from mid 14th century in Serbia, fortified courts were built because of general dangers at the time. The fortified area in front of the castle was meant for an urban settlement and is an important example of the development of mediaeval urban centres.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Smederevo Fortress is preserved in its integral form, including the castle - Small Town, and the urban settlement enclosed with ramparts and towers. A high level of preservation of both the towers and the walls enabled restoration of their upper sections, using the original materials, whereas the found structures of the court complex have been conserved. The area of the urban settlement has not been archaeologically investigated, so little information is available on its urban structure. Archaeological investigations of the site are to be conducted after the geo-magnetic survey is completed. The well preserved and authentic sections of the fortification provide a possibility to view their original shapes, defence elements and their overall values.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Smederevo Fortress defence system is based on the use of cold weapons, a result of adopting traditional solutions from the Byzantine military architecture. An undisputed influence on the Smederevo Fortress construction can be traced to the Constantinople fortification. Similarities are reflected in the choice of the location - the place surrounded by rivers; in the ground plane shape - adjustment to the land contour; implemented fortification solutions of multilevel defence system - the main rampart with the towers, the outer, lower wall, the moat and the counterscarp.