Serbia has always stood at the meeting point of two worlds, East and West. Throughout the centuries, these worlds were often in conflict, and each has left a deep mark. Traveling through the country often referred to as “the Gate of Europe,” we will observe the extensive influence of both the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Both empires left behind a vivid architectural heritage, presented in this chapter. We will also take a look at some authentic elements of Serbian culture.
Belgrade in the New Era
At the time of transition from the Middle Ages into the New era, Belgrade was in the hands of the Kingdom of Hungary. It became an important point for the Ottomans in their conquests. The first Turkish attack on Belgrade took place in 1440. Sultan Murad II gathered around 20,000 soldiers, and it is assumed they had artillery as well. However, the fortress, left by Despot Stefan Lazarević, was still in good condition, and the city was one of the best-fortified European cities. Although the Kingdom of Hungary was in chaos, and the defenders did not receive any help from the outside, they successfully defended Belgrade after several months of siege and bombardment. Over the next 350 years, the city repeatedly passed from hand to hand. In 1688, the city was occupied by the Austrians, with the Ottomans taking it back in 1690. Belgrade was destroyed and looted, and the Turks punished the Christian population for their two-year collaboration with the Austrians. Belgrade was then struck by plague, and the development of the city significantly stagnated. Eugene of Savoy took it again in 1717, and during this period, the Austrians built a completely new fortress along modern lines, since the old one was completely destroyed. They reorganized the city in the Central European style, but this Austrian interlude did not last long, as in 1739, Belgrade was again taken by the Turks, who destroyed Austrian buildings, converted churches into mosques, and reintroduced oriental outlines. The Turks did try to restore and complete the Austrian works on the fortress, but the lack of funding prolonged this restoration over several decades. Serbian rebels conquered the fortress in 1807, but after the fail of the uprising in 1813, the Turkish army entered it again. Finally, on 6 April 1867, the Turks left Belgrade and ceremonially surrendered the city keys to Prince Mihailo. From that point forward, the fortress lost its military importance and was eventually turned into a city park and museum, reminding successive generations of Belgrade’s turbulent history and numerous destructions.
Turkish Legacy in Today’s Belgrade
The Turks have left many traces during their several centuries of rule in Belgrade. Bajrakli Mosque, built around 1575, is located near the fortress. Not far from the mosque, a passerby will encounter Shaikh Mustafa’s tomb, while on the plateau of the Upper Town of the fortress lies Damat Ali Pasha tomb. Many toponyms in contemporary Belgrade originate from the Turkish language. The name of the park that now includes the remains of the fortress, Kalemegdan, originates from the Turkish words kale - fortress and meydan - open space, square. Part of the city along the banks of the Danube River was named Dorćol (tur. dört – four and yol - path, road), as it was the city’s main intersection in Turkish times. There are also Tašmajdan, Karaburma, Rospi Bridge, Terazije, Topčider, Bulbulder, Čubura, and many others.
The Ram Fortress
On the right bank of the Danube River, between Kostolac and Veliko Gradište, lies the Ram Fortress, erected in its preserved form in 1483 on the orders of Sultan Bayezid II. There was a fortress there even before the Turkish reconstruction. The fortress has an irregular pentagon basis of a length of 34 meters, and a width of 26 meters. The walls are reinforced with five towers, each located at the apex of one pentagon. The towers were three-level, with three niches for cannons on each level separately. The keep is located at the entrance to the city on the southwest side of the fortress. There was a lower outer fortification wall around the fortress, as well as a moat filled with water which could only be crossed to the entrance to the fortress via drawbridge on the Danube side. A civil settlement was developed in the vicinity of the fortress, which can be concluded from the discovered remains of Turkish baths and caravanserai. The fortress lost and gained its importance over the centuries, depending on the movement of the Turkish-Hungarian border in the north-south direction. It is one of the first artillery forts built in the territory of Serbia. The main innovation is the cannon niches within the fortification walls and towers, which indicate the intensive use of artillery even during the construction of the fort.
Chronology of Famous Personalities
There are sources that claim that Attila the Hun leader spent some time in Ram. John II Komnenos performed a river assault on the other side of the Danube from this fortress towards the Hungarian fortress Haram, and completely defeated the Hungarian army. Bayezid II, according to legend, sat on a hill near the destroyed old fortress to rest, during a visit of his army, when he set out to march against Hungary. Legend has it that he fell asleep, and when he woke up, he had a vision to renew the old fort. Detailed descriptions of the Ram Fortress were provided by the Turkish travel writer of the 17th century, Evliya Çelebi. It was also visited by the Turkish geographer Mustafa Haji Khalifa, known as Kâtip Çelebi. The first diplomatic mission of the modern Serbian state set off from Ram in 1804, when Prota Matija Nenadović went to Russia to seek help for the rebels. Karađorđe Petrović, Serbian obor-knez and leader of the First Serbian Uprising, returned from exile in 1817 through Ram, in an attempt to start a new uprising in Serbia. The great reformer of the Serbian language, Vuk Karadžić, worked for a period of time as a supervisor at the customs office in Ram. There are several letters written by Karadžić from Ram to Serbian Prince Miloš, then ruler of Serbia.
The Niš Fortress
In the area of the ancient Naissus lies the Niš Fortress, that has been destroyed and rebuilt for centuries, only to receive today’s form in the 18th century. Sultan Ahmed III ordered in 1719 by decree the building in Niš of a completely new, bastion artillery fortress according to the Vauban system. The Turks wanted to fortify the border of the empire with Austria after Požarevac Peace was concluded a year earlier. The fortress was completed in 1723, with ceremonies organized for the occasion, and an inscription related to the event was placed on the Stambol Gate. The fortress has a polygonal base, with bastion fronts towards an accessible northern side. It was entered through four large gates. On the outside, it was surrounded by a moat filled with water, whose northern part has been preserved. In addition to well-preserved massive stone walls, the Stambol Gate on the southern side and the Belgrade Gate on the western side have been preserved as well. Inside the fortress lies Bali-Bey Mosque, on the left side of the main road leading from the entrance. It was first mentioned in the Turkish defter listing, a tax register and land cadaster, from 1521 to 1523, when it was built. It was listed as a masjid (small Turkish place of worship minus a minaret), the endowment of Bali Bey Malkoçoğlu, a high-ranking Turkish official of Serbian origin.
Malkoçoğlu or Maljković
Malkoçoğlu was from a famous family of Ottoman military and political nobility who for two centuries had various significant roles in the empire, especially during its expansion into the Balkans. They were one of several families who traditionally led akinji – Turkish light cavalry, which were a headache for opponents. The founder of the family was Malkoç-Bey, a Serbian knight Malković or Maljković, who converted to Islam in 1372, after the horrible defeat of the Serbian army at the Battle of Marica. He participated in the military campaigns of Sultan Murad I and Bayezid I. His descendant Bali Bey Malkoçoğlu, after the conquest of Belgrade in 1521, became sanjak-bey of the Smederevo sanjak, and later he became sanjak-bey of Belgrade, beyler-bey of Bosnia and Buda, and one of the viziers of the Divan. The only preserved mosque in the Niš Fortress is his endowment. The last known member of the Malkoçoğlu family, Yavuz Pasha, received the highest honours of the Ottoman Empire, becoming Grand Vizier in 1603. This way, he sort of closed a circle of this memorable noble family, dying in Belgrade in 1604 during the invasion of Hungary.
The Fetislam Fortress is located on the banks of the Danube River at the edge of the present day town of Kladovo in eastern Serbia. It consists of two parts, a small fortification (Mali grad – Small Town), built in 1524, and the Great Fortress (Veliki grad – Large Town) built in the third and fourth decade of the 18th century during the period of Sultan Mahmud I. The complex got its final look in 1818, when the palisades connecting the bastions were replaced by brick walls. Mali grad is rectangular, with dimensions of 90 x 60 meters. The walls were reinforced with four-meter-high circular towers and triangular and rectangular bastions. The inner content was of a purely military nature and the powder magazine, probably built later, has been preserved. A moat filled with water was built around the fortress. Citadel is an integral part of the fortification walls of the Big Fortress, which with its full dimensions occupies a long space of 480 meters wide by 260 meters. It represents a polygonal, bastion fortress with six polygonal tower bastions connected by walls. The fortress was reached by drawbridges that were in front of all three main gates: the Danube, Orospi, and Varoš Gate. During the last renovation and reconstruction, the time when the fortress got its current look, inscriptions glorifying the Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839) were placed on it.
Gate of Peace
It is interesting that Fetislam means “gate of peace” in Turkish, but this place, since its construction until it was abandoned after the surrender to Prince Mihailo in 1867, was the scene of constant conflict and wars. The Gate of Peace often passed from one enemy to another, and it was also the target of raids. For example, at the end of the 16th century alone, four attacks were recorded, in which the fortress and the town were destroyed. The Vlach duke Michael the Brave won the fortress in 1591, pillaged it and destroyed it, and the city was deserted. He repeated the attack two years later, but this time he failed to win the fortress, and only robbed and burned the city. Austrian documents mention a new attack on the city in 1596. Finally, in 1598, in a new attack, Michael attacked Kladovo again, but again he failed to take the fortress. It is interesting that Michael’s army included a large number of Serbs. The most famous of these is the legendary captain Starina Novak, who has entered folk mythology from Bosnia to Transylvania. Both Belgrade and Bucharest have a street named after him. Despite its turbulent history, Fetislam was during all this time an important Turkish border town with a complex administration and significant military garrison, strengthened with the latest artillery of the time, although the fortress was not prominent for the strength of its fortifications.
According to Dr Andrija Andrejević, a renowned Serbian art historian, Altun-Alem Mosque is one of the most beautiful in the region of Southeast Europe. The mosque, located in Novi Pazar, was built in the early 16th century by Muslihedin Abdul Gani, a famous architect of the time, known to have built the hamam, mosque, and Kurshumli Han in Skopje, the masjid and caravanserai near Zvečan, as well as numerous buildings in Novi Pazar. According to the Turkish registers, the Altun-Alem Mosque was built between 1516 and 1528, although there is no precise data. The register from 1516 does not mention the mosque, but eight years later, the second register does. The Altun-Alem Mosque is a masterpiece of Islamic architecture in the region. It is a domed, single-space mosque with prominent internal decorative elements, most notable of which is the mihrab. It was built in the Bursa style, with finely developed elements of an early Constantinople style of finely hewed stone, with four windows in two rows each on the outer walls, while the portal wall has one window and an external mihrab. The Altun-alem Mosque stands out from other buildings by its vestibule, which has only two arches, as opposed to the “standard type” of mosques in this region, which have three or more arches.
Three Sisters Beauties
The Altun-Alem Mosque got its name from Turkish words meaning “golden jewel.” There is a local legend of the origin of the name that is worth mentioning: “Altuna, Hadžira and Halima were the Pasha’s three daughters, beautiful as the dzenet hurie, born and educated in Novi Pazar. For their beauty and richness, and for the reputation of their father, none dared propose marriage. The word was that they “were born only for Stambol”, for the royal sarays, and not for Novi Pazar. Time passed and all three of the pasha’s daughters, three beauties, remained single. In the years prior to their passing, they agreed to leave all their wealth, inherited by their father, to charity. Altuna donated to the construction of the mosque that would bear her name, Altun-Alem Mosque. Hadžira donated land to the city graveyard in the south-west part of town, an area still known as Hadžet. The youngest of the sisters, Halima, funded the construction of the town fountain, still in use today, called Halimača (located in Lug).
The Tomb of Sultan Murad
The tomb of Sultan Murad or Mausoleum of Sultan Murad is the tomb of the Turkish Sultan Murad, who was killed at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. It is located five kilometres from Priština. According to many sources, the tomb was built immediately after the battle, at the very place where the Turkish command was stationed; i.e. where the Serbian knight Miloš Obilić killed Sultan Murad. His insides were buried in the tomb, while the embalmed body was returned to Turkey and buried in Bursa. The tomb is rectangular with a lead dome. It is a unique example of Turkish baroque architecture, which is recognized by the stylistic forms of the window frames, corner pilasters, and inscriptions on the portal. The tomb got its present look during the 19th and 20th century.
Тhe Death of Sultan Murad I the Just
According to the Serbian mythology, Murad was killed by Serbian knight Miloš Obilić. He and his companions approached the Sultan’s camp, presenting their arrival as an act of surrender. When he was allowed by the Turks to come near enough, Obilić pulled a knife and killed the sultan. On the other hand, for a hundred years Turkish sources attributed Murad’s death to an ordinary Serbian soldier who played dead after the battle, and then used the opportune moment to attack and kill Murad. Only in 1484 did Turkish chroniclers, describing how Padishah Murad became a shahid, mention the infidel and accursed Serbian knight Miloš Kobila. There are claims that Miloš Obilić could actually be Nikola Vratković, a historical figure, brother of Princess Milica and descendant of Stefan Nemanja. It is particularly interesting that in 1935, a few kilometres from Murad’s tomb, the remains of a church were found, which was called Miloš’s Church by local Albanians. According to this theory, the killer of the sultan could not be identified by the Turks because he removed his insignia when he went to surrender and the body was mutilated. The Serbian side, out of fear of reprisals, and because of political circumstances after the battle, intentionally hid the identity of the hero.
Terzijski Bridge (Tailors’ Bridge)
On the Đakovica-Prizren route, only ten kilometres from the centre of Đakovica, there lies the Terzijski Bridge, 3.5 meters wide and 190 meters long across the Erenik River. This bridge is located on the former caravan route, and was most likely built in the late 15th century. It was extended numerous times due to changes in river flow, and got its present-day look in the 18th century, evidenced by the Turkish inscription on the bridge. The bridge was built of hewed stone, with a high central arch. The other ten arches were relieved by deep, properly built niches between. The great width of the bridge tells us that it was very important in its time. It is one of the most representative monuments of bridge building in Serbia.
Tailors’ (Terzije) Guild
According to a Turkish inscription on the bridge from the 18th century, the then reconstruction was conducted at the expense of the tailors’ guild from Đakovica. Terzije were tailors of traditional garments. They used fine materials for their time – baize, velvet, satin, and were skilled in decorating cloth with braids, metal thread, sequins, and other decorative elements. Based on the cut, material, and method of decoration, they differ from other types of contemporaneous tailors – abadžije – who used a coarse woollen cloth, aba, and made clothes mainly for the rural population. The guild was an association of craftsmen who engaged in the same trade. Such associations were established in order to protect the common interests of craftsmen, and to represent their members before the then authorities, and regulate rules related to the trade.
The Petrovaradin Fortress
The Petrovaradin Fortress was built by Austrian military architects in the period from 1692 to 1780, in a spot previously occupied by a medieval building. At the beginning of the 16th century, Archbishop Petrus de Varda managed to renovate the fortress. On July 13, 1526, 40,000 Turkish troops, led by Grand Vizier Ibrahim, arrived at its walls. After a two-week siege, they managed to win Petrovaradin, which, together with a large part of the Hungarian state, remained under Turkish rule until the Great Vienna War (1683-1699), when the Turks conducted a unsuccessful assault on Vienna. Afterwards, they fell back, leaving behind a number of previously occupied cities, and Petrovaradin as well. The Austrians started building their own fortress during the 18th century with the financial support of the Pope, using the system of a famous military engineer, Vauban, with the idea of stopping any future invasions by the Turks. When it was completed, Petrovaradin was the largest fortress in the Habsburg monarchy, and so was named “Gibraltar on the Danube”. Until 1948, the fortress was used solely as a military facility. Beneath the 112-hectare surface of the fortress, there is a network of tunnels in several levels, with depths reaching up to 40 meters underground. There are also underground military galleries with a total length of over 16 kilometres, which today represent an attraction for many visitors and researchers. The Petrovaradin fortifications are among the greatest achievements of European military architecture of the 18th century.
Famous Prisoners and the Man Who Saved the Fortress
The Petrovaradin Fortress was the centre of numerous historical curiosities. Josip Broz Tito was imprisoned in it at the time when he was an Austrian sergeant, because he walked away from his unit without permission. Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andrić was also briefly imprisoned in the fortress during World War I for his political views. After the collapse of the First Serbian Uprising, Vožd Karađorđe was interned here as well. In the era of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, many such fortresses lost their strategic importance, and the army decided to destroy them. The Petrovaradin Fortress was on that list as well. However, Colonel Dragoš Đelošević prevented this, saying that “it was too pretty to be destroyed,” something which cost him his military career.
Sremski Karlovci is famous for its long history and unique architecture. This picturesque town has approximately ten thousand inhabitants and is located just a few kilometres away from Novi Sad. It was first mentioned in 1308 as a fortress named Karom, built on foundations originating from the Roman period. After the First Migration of Serbs led by Arsenije III Čarnojević, Karlovci became one of the ecclesiastical centres of the Serbian people. In 1714, the city became the seat of Serbian Metropolitan. The Metropolitanate of Karlovci was an independent ecclesiastical area in the Habsburg Monarchy and in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenеs, until it became part of the Serbian Patriarchate. The most important period in the history of the city began with the arrival of Metropolitan Pavle Nenadović in 1749. He renovated schools, opened a printing office, built the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, and renovated the court. One of the biggest attractions of the city is the Karlovac Gymnasium. It is the oldest Serbian gymnasium, founded in 1791 at the initiative of Metropolitan Stevan Stratimirović, and with the financial support of merchant Dimitrije Atanasijević Sabov. The present gymnasium building was built in 1891, and thereafter considered the most representative Serbian building in Vojvodina. It was attended by notable alumni, such as Branko Radičević and Jovan Sterija Popović. Today, a philological gymnasium is located in this building, with a library of great importance to the history of Serbs in Hungary, hosting a collection of nearly 18,000 books. Also worth mentioning is the fact that in 1848, the May Assembly was held here, when Serbian Vojvodina was established, and whose capital was initially Karlovci, but then Zemun, Veliki Bečkerek (Zrenjanin), and finally Timisoara. Among the numerous sights in the city, there is the City Hall, the 18th century Roman Catholic Church, the Patriarch’s Palace, the Four Lions Fountain at Brankо Radičević Square, and the Chapel of Peace. In addition to the impressive architecture, the city is also famous for its wine cellars.
Round Table and the Treaty of Karlowitz
The Chapel of Peace in Sremski Karlovci was built on the place where one of the key events related to the relations of Europe and the Ottoman Empire happened - the signing of the Treaty of Karlowitz. After the Great Vienna War, the defeated Ottomans had to accept peace negotiations. In late October 1698, Austrian imperial representatives, Venetian, Polish, and Russian deputies, and deputies of mediator forces – the Kingdom of England and the Dutch Republic – and, of course, Turkish negotiators met in Karlovci. The negotiations lasted 72 days and the Treaty of Karlowitz was signed on 26 January 1699. An interesting fact is that this was the first place in the history of world diplomacy where a round table was used for negotiations.
The Skull Tower
A unique monument in the history of mankind, the Skull Tower was built in 1809. It is located near Niš, and represents the memory of the Battle of Čegar in the First Serbian Uprising. The tower is four and a half meters high and four meters wide on both sides. It is entirely built of human skulls cemented with lime mortar. In each of the 56 rows, 17 skulls were placed, which means that a total of 952 were used for this horrific monument. The tower was built by the Turkish administrator of Niš, Khurshid Ahmed Pasha, after defeating the Serbian army near Niš. He ordered the heads from killed Serbian soldiers to be cut, skinned, stuffed with cotton and sent to Istanbul, and the skulls to be used for the construction of the Skull Tower. The tower was built in order to cause fear among the Serbian population, but the effect was exactly the opposite. Shortly after its construction, local Serbs started removing skulls during the night and burying them secretly. Eventually, the tower became a symbol of resistance and the soldiers who died at the Battle of Čegar were regarded as heroes. After the liberation of Niš, a chapel, which still exists today, was built around the tower.
Stevan Sinđelić - Heroic Death and Eternal Glory
Stevan Rakić was born in 1770 into the family of prominent craftsman Radovan Rakić. His father died very young, so Stevan was named Sinđelić after mother Sinđelija. At the beginning of the First Serbian Uprising, Sinđelić proved to be a capable leader and good soldier. Karađorđe recognized this and appointed him as Resava Duke. With his Resava unit, he liberated several towns along the Morava, such as Ćuprija, Paraćin, and Ražanj. By the time the Battle of Čegar took place in 1809 near Niš, he was already famous for his courage and military skills. The Serbian army, in order to liberate Niš, set its trenches near the city and prepared for a siege. However, misunderstandings related to command and rivalry among the rebels caused the withdrawal of the Serbian cavalry under the command of Petar Dobrnjac from its position, an opportunity the Turks exploited, resulting in the defeat of the Serbian army. At the moment when the Turks invaded the trench of the Serbian army, however, Sinđelić warned his soldiers of what he intended to do, afterwards blowing up a hall filled with gunpowder with a gunshot. When, after the explosion, dust and smoke settled on the battlefield, neither Serbian nor Turkish army was left around that trench, so that although the Turks won the battle, their losses were much greater than the Serbian. The duke passed into legend with his bravery, and future generations had the Skull Tower as the testament to his heroic act.
Krajputaši are specific works of Serbian rural builders, monuments erected to fallen warriors or those whose exact place of death is not known. This custom developed in Serbia in the 19th century after the Uprising, and especially after World War I. Monuments were erected in villages, in the churchyards, on crossroads, near roads - hence the name krajputaši (roadside monuments). In addition to rural architecture, krajputaši, with their emotional texts and ornaments, represent a sort of war testimony: “stone books” with little known historical data. A krajputaš has a special aesthetic. It is usually a monolithic stone, cuboid, with a height of one to one and a half meters. It usually has poetically carved heroic - but at the same time somewhat grotesque - characters, who sport a hidden smile on their face, painted with bright colours, with an intense blue prevailing. They represent soldiers, peasants, rebels, passengers. Epitaphs with humorous or sad messages and sayings, often in verse, can be seen. In the inspired language of the common people, verses speak of their causes of death, war, love, profession, and character of the deceased. Some of the most representative roadside monuments are located near Ivanjica, in Dragačevo, and in Radoševo near Arilje.
Popular Beliefs about the Souls of the Deceased
The explanation why krajputaši are often found outside the cemetery can be found in the popular belief about the deceased who died a violent death. More precisely, a special fear has survived in the Serbian culture from ancient times of souls who died in unnatural or violent ways, such as suicide, drowning, or those killed by lightning, and women who died during childbirth.
Probably the most famous village in Serbia is located in the municipality of Čajetina in the Zlatibor District, on the eastern slopes of Zlatibor Mountain. It developed around the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, built in 1821, which was placed under state protection together with the monumental complex. Sirogojno has an open air museum, called “Old Village”. The museum features the architecture, interior design of the houses, spiritual heritage, handicrafts and family life of the people of the mountainous landscapes of the Dinara region. On five hectares, which is the area the museum occupies under an open sky, there are 47 facilities and approximately 2,000 exhibits. Sirogojno is visited by more than 100,000 tourists every year.
The Trademark of the Village – Sheep-Wool Sweaters
The tradition of hand-knit woollen clothing has been cultivated in this village for centuries. Sirogojno knitters are famous, with their sheep-wool sweaters decorated with recognizable Zlatibor motifs, being sold in prestigious boutiques throughout Europe and the world.
Castles in Vojvodina
Castles and summer villas throughout Vojvodina were built during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century. They are characterized by a rich architectural, historical, and cultural heritage and belong to the transitional period from Baroque to Classicism. As part of the identity of nations that inhabited this area, they are deeply woven into the history, culture, and traditions of Vojvodina. These beautiful buildings are related to many legends that speak to the mystical life of noble families. There are four castles in Vojvodina that have been declared a cultural heritage of extreme importance; twenty-one declared a cultural monument of great importance; three an important cultural heritage; and twenty registered only as cultural property. The famous Fantast Castle near Bečej was built by a landowner, member of the Parliament, and benefactor Bogdan Dunđerski. The tower and four corner towers were built in the neo-Gothic style, and the reception room and both entrances in the Neoclassical style. The castle was inherited by Matica Srpska, by the wish of Bogdan Dunđerski. Another important castle was that owned by the Dunđerski family, located in Čelarevo. It was built in the second half of the 18th century, and was originally inhabited by nobleman Nikola Bezeredi, who lived there with his family. He later decided to build the new Great castle, which was built between 1834 and 1837 according to the plans of an unknown Viennese architect. Although the building itself was declared a castle, it was used only as a summer villa by Nikola Bezeredi, who also owned houses in Vienna and Budapest. The complex was sold to Lazar Dunđerski in 1882. It was a meeting place for prominent and important personalities such as Nikola Tesla, Paja Jovanović, Stevan Todorović, Aleksandar Karađorđević, and Laza Kostić.
Bohemianism of Bogdan Dunđerski and Poem by Laza Kostić
Bogdan Dunđerski had three great passions: women, horses, and wine. In the Fantast Castle, which gives evidence to his great fortune, Dunđerski organized impressive balls visited by “all the women of Serbian Vojvodina”, only one of which managed to win his heart. It was Mara Binjaški, the wife of his blacksmith. When he decided to raise the chapel of St. George on his property, after he found out that a church used to lie there, he entrusted his friend Uroš Predić to paint the iconostasis. He had only one condition, though: the Virgin Mary gets Mara’s face. The Serbian writer Laza Kostić met the beautiful daughter of Lazar Dunđerski in the castle in Čelarevo. Lenka, who was the pride of the family, knew several languages, played the piano, and loved to travel. Alas she suddenly died of typhoid fever at the age of 25. In her honour, Laza Kostic wrote a famous love poem, “Santa Maria della Salute”.
Cathedral of Saint Gerhard in Vršac
The largest Roman Catholic church in Serbia, the Cathedral of St. Gerhard of Sagredo, is located in the Banat town of Vršac. This church, built in the style of neo-Gothic architecture, is among the most beautiful Catholic churches in the Balkans, but many mistakenly refer to it as a cathedral, even though it was never the seat of the diocese. Vršac was under Ottoman rule until 1716, when they were expelled by the Austrian general and statesman Eugene of Savoy. Then a new era began for the city, with it becoming the seat of the newly established Vršac District. With the departure of the Turks, colonization by ethnic Germans from the Moselle Valley began. They were known for their grape growing, and the Viennese government built three street blocks for them, from which the settlement of German Vršac developed. While the houses were being built, the German families lived with the Serbs. The German and Serbian parts were independent municipalities but developed in parallel until unification came in the late 18th century and Vršac became the economic, administrative, and cultural centre of the region. After 135 years, the German Catholic population had the necessity for a larger church. Its construction began in 1860 and was finished three years later. The church was built on the foundations of a smaller Roman Catholic church, which was in turn converted into an Orthodox church. Apparently, there was even a mosque at this place, built on the foundations of the Serbian church. Today, the Cathedral of St. Gerhard Sagredo is the pride of Vršac.
The History of the Pipe Organ in the Cathedral of Saint Gerhard
This church regularly echoes the sound of a powerful pipe organ exceptional for its characteristics. According to legend, the first Vršac pipe organ originated from the Church of the Virgin Mary. Another, smaller organ, was brought from Vienna in the 19th century. Today’s pneumatic organ was built in 1913 by Karl and Lipot Wittgenstein from Timisoara. This two-hand organ has 35 registers and 2,810 pipes, which give a very strong and distinct sound during masses held in the church.
Šlajz, the old ship lock near Bečej, is a unique monument of technical culture built in the period from 1895 to 1899. It is an integral part of the system of the Great Bačka Canal, designed by the Hungarian nobleman and engineer Joseph Kish. When built, the canal became the first waterway in Europe, and at the same time it served for land development too. It is a precursor of today’s Danube-Tisa-Danube hydro-system. The lock was built after the decision of the Hungarian government to move the mouth of the canal, which had until then been at Bačko Gradište. The door of the lock and the starting mechanism are of a metal structure, representing for that time a very innovative, imaginative and aesthetically harmonious solution that fitted perfectly into the natural surroundings. The designer was a young engineer, Heinz Albert, hired by István Türr, a company owner in charge of organizing and financing the construction of canals and locks in Bačka. The lock is not in operating state anymore, because after the World War II, a new one was built in the neighbourhood.
An Engineering Miracle of the 19th Century
Initially, the gates of the lock were driven manually, but then a turbine power station for DC power was built near the lock. It was the first such construction in Europe and many engineers from Europe came to study it. There is even evidence that the Japanese sent one of their experts in Bečej to study this magnificent object.
The Subotica Synagogue is a magnificent temple built in 1902 in the Art Nouveau style, designed by Budapest architects Marcell Komor and Dezső Jakab. Jakab was a collaborator with the famous architect Ödön Lechner, the creator of the Hungarian Art Nouveau School. The construction of this religious facility was funded by the Reform Jewish community in order to replace the older, smaller synagogue built in 1817 by Orthodox Jews. The ornaments on the synagogue were inspired by Hungarian folk motifs, and it is also decorated with stained glass from the studio of Miksa Roth and pottery from the Zsolnay ceramic factory in Pécs. Excellent spatial conception and construction of the building is defined by eight steel pillars under an octagonal dome, whose monumental beauty is breathtaking. The synagogue represents a kind of avant-garde for the beginning of the 20th century, in both the construction and artistic sense. Geometric motifs on the dome of the synagogue, from skilfully interwoven tiles of green, ochre, and blue, make for a recognizable part of the panorama of the city. The vaults and arches in the interior are painted with floral motifs of fire colours, and stained glass of vivid colours creates a special magic in the synagogue. The extraordinary brightness and feeling is provided by four rosettes with twisted vines, leaves and hearts, carnations, lilies and tulips of gentle tones of green, light purple, red, yellow, and blue. Floral ornaments of stained glass spread over the walls, completing the harmonious appearance of a space. The Subotica Synagogue is one of the most beautiful buildings of religious architecture in the Art Nouveau style, and is one of only a few preserved synagogues in Serbia.
A Unique Religious Building in the World
This remarkable religious building is the only surviving Jewish place of worship in the world built in Hungarian version of the Art Nouveau style. It is an expression of the dual Hungarian/ Jewish identity of its builders, as well as the citizens of this multi-ethnic city, the third largest in the Kingdom of Hungary and the tenth largest in the Habsburg monarchy.
Тhe Raichle Palace
The Raichle Palace in Subotica, built in 1904, represents one of the most striking achievements of Hungarian Art Nouveau, the lifework of architect Ferenc Raichle. The original design for the Raichle Palace was made in 1903, but was rejected by the Commission for Beautification of the City with the explanation that the building with the high first ground floor is not suitable for this elite place. Raichle then modified the design, according to which a storey building was constructed; but four years later he went bankrupt. His family’s palace, with all the furniture and works of art, was sold at auction. The press urged the Senate of the City to host the Museum at Raichle, but the proposal was not accepted. Some of the subsequent owners of the building were industrialist Rafael Hartman, then pharmacist Emil Schossberger until the mid-20th century, when the Subotica Museum was finally moved there. Since 1970, the Art Encounters Gallery of Modern Art has been located in the Raichle Palace.
Life and Inspiration of the Author
Architect Ferenc Raichle chose one of the most beautiful locations in Subotica for his future home and design office. A palace with amazing decorations and an unusual colour scheme is the first thing visitors see when they arrive in the city by train. The author was inspired by the folk art of Transylvania, its rural homes painted in vibrant colours, carved wooden gates, garden flowers and especially stylized hearts motifs. Raichle loved enjoying life and the love of his family. He spent a lot of money on travelling, art objects, and valuable materials for his palace, which is why he went bankrupt. However, he recovered from bankruptcy and lived to an old age in Budapest.
Тhe City Hall in Subotica
The City Hall is a building in the style of Hungarian Art Nouveau, which dominates the centre of Subotica. It was built according to the design of the architectural duo of Marcell Komor and Dezső Jakab in the period from 1908 to 1910. The interior was decorated for two more years after its construction; numerous motifs of decoration and ornaments (tulip flowers, leaves, hearts, peacock feathers, floral tapes) are inspired by the traditional elements of the Hungarian folk art. The distinctive roof of the City Hall is covered with multi-coloured pepper tiles produced in the Zsolnay ceramic factory in Pécs, famous for its innovative products. A ceremonial staircase that leads to the Great Hall is made of white stone, while the walls of the staircase are lined with dark green tiles, also from the Zsolnay factory. The windows of the Great Hall are enriched with the impressive stained glass of Sándor Nagy, Hungary’s most prominent painter of Art Nouveau. With its height of 76 meters and an area of almost 6,000 square meters, the City Hall represents an impressive combination of art and craftsmanship.
A competition for the construction of the City Hall was announced in 1907 by the enthusiastic mayor of Subotica Károly Bíró, with the goal of replacing the old and decrepit town hall with a new, more beautiful building that would be a symbol of the city. He sold two thousand acres of urban land, sand, and pastures around the nearby village of Tavankut, to await the start of construction with ready money. On his initiative, also, the first modern swimming pool with representative facilities was built in Palić in the early 20th century.