16 Cultural And Natural Heritage To Visit In Serbia

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16 Cultural And Natural Heritage To Visit In Serbia

Date: Mar 20, 2023
Author: Collins.cidar 674 No Comments

It is true that all the countries in Central and Southeast Europe are marvelously wonderful, and worth visiting for tourism and adventure. But, truth is the fact Serbia is one of the leading countries.

Serbia, officially the Republic of Serbia, is a lovely country situated at the crossroads of the Pannonian plain and the Balkans. It is bordered on all sides by Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Kosovo. Its Capital is its largest city, Belgrade.

In this country is found numerous eye-pleasing artistic and architectural monuments, sites, and edifices, built since the Roman and early Byzantine Empires, which have been preserved and rebuilt into magnificent and magical complexes found only in a few countries on Earth. There is the Medieval Monuments in Kosovo, with its distinct style of wall painting. One of the monuments, the Patriarchate of Pec Monastery, a group of domed churches, features a series of wall paintings which shows the influence of the Balkan arts. Even more interesting and amazing is the Gamizgrad-Romuliana, Palace of Galerius, in the east of Serbia, established by the Emperor Valerius Galerius in the early 3rd and 4th centuries. The great fortifications, temples, palaces, hot baths, and basilicas on this site made it a wonder to behold.

Many other important sites to see in Serbia include the Medieval Monument in Kosovo, Stari Ras and Sopocani, Stecci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards, and Studenica Monastery.

Gamzigrad-Romuliana, Palace of Galerius

Gamzigrad-Romuliana, Palace of Galerius/Photographer: Katarina Stefanović/Flickr

Gamzigrad-Romuliana is a Late Roman palace and memorial complex built in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, commissioned by the Emperor Galerius Maximianus. The strong fortifications of the palace are an allusion to the fact that the Tetrarchy Emperors were all senior military leaders. The spatial and visual relationships between the palace and the memorial complex, where the mausoleums of the Emperor and his mother Romula are located, are unique.

Medieval Monuments in Kosovo

Medieval Monuments in Kosovo/Photographer: Robert Wright/Flickr

The four edifices of the site reflect the high points of the Byzantine-Romanesque ecclesiastical culture, with its distinct style of wall painting, which developed in the Balkans between the 13th and 17th centuries. The Dečani Monastery was built in the mid-14th century for the Serbian king Stefan Dečanski and is also his mausoleum. The Patriarchate of Peć Monastery is a group of four domed churches featuring series of wall paintings. The 13th-century frescoes of the Church of Holy Apostles are painted in a unique, monumental style. Early 14th-century frescoes in the church of the Holy Virgin of Ljevisa represent the appearance of the new so-called Palaiologian Renaissance style, combining the influences of the eastern Orthodox Byzantine and the Western Romanesque traditions. The style played a decisive role in subsequent Balkan art.

Stari Ras and Sopoćani

Stari Ras and Sopoćani/Photographer: enad/flickr

Stari Ras and Sopoćani is a serial property consisting of four separate components located in the Raška region of southern Serbia: Sopoćani Monastery, Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery, Holy Apostles St Peter and St Paul Church (St Peter’s Church), and the archaeological site of the Medieval Town of Ras. The impressive collection of three ecclesiastical monuments dating from the 10th to the 13th centuries eminently illustrates the birth of artistic activity in medieval Serbia, which attained the highest standards in the art and culture of the Byzantine Empire and the regions of Central and Southeastern Europe. The unique architectural complex formed by numerous structures in Stari Ras (Old Ras), situated at a crossroads of eastern and western influences,testifies to the period from 12th to the early 14th centuries when the ancient town was the first capital of the Serbian state.

The frescoes in the Sopoćani Monastery church, dating from about 1270-1276, are among the finest in Byzantine and Serbian medieval art. These exceptional paintings represent the work of the best artists of that period who were unable to work in the territory of the Byzantine Empire and found refuge at the court of the Serbian king. At Sopoćani these artists introduced a refined spirit of antiquity to the prevailing medieval conventions. St George’s Church in the Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery, founded in 1170-1171, is the earliest example of a distinctive new regional architecture that blended Romanesque and Byzantine styles. Known as the Raška School, this style came to dominate architecture in this area for almost a century and a half. The church also features two layers of preserved frescoes dating from 1175 and 1282-1283 that are among the finest from that period in the Balkans. The preserved frescoes in St Peter’s Church, built in the 10th century on the foundations of a 6thcentury baptistery and now the oldest surviving Christian church in the Balkans, also present evidence of the developments that took place in pictorial art between the 10th and 14th centuries.

Stari Ras is located along the mountainous setting near the confluence of the Raška and Sebečevo rivers, and it became the first capital of the Serbian independent state on the accession of the Nemanjić dynasty in 1159. It was the focal point of all the decisive events underlying the state’s birth, development and consolidation. Now an archaeological site, it contains the remains of structures built from about the 9th century onwards, including the hilltop fortress of Gradina and the lower town of Trgovište. The combination of historical, cultural, artistic and natural values gives this group of monuments its significance. Together, they represent a unique contribution of the Serbian nation to the culture of Slavonic and other nations during the Middle Ages.

Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards

Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards/Photographer: MissDaisy44/Flickr

The serial property of 28 component sites includes a selection of 4,000 medieval tombstones (stećci) on the territory of four states: Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia, Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia. These monolithic stone tombstones (stećci) were created in the period from the second half of the 12th century to the 16th century, although they were most intensively made during the 14th and 15th centuries. The stećci are exceptional testimony to the spiritual, artistic and historical aspects of the medieval cultures of southeastern Europe, an area where traditions and influences of the European west, east and south entwined with earlier traditions. The stećci are notable for their inter-confessionality, used for burial by all three medieval Christian communities, including the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church and the Church of Bosnia (which lasted for about three centuries until the second half of the 15th century). The characteristics that distinguish stećci from the overall corpus of Europe’s medieval heritage and sepulchral art, include the vast number of preserved monuments (over 70,000 located within over 3,300 sites), the diversity of forms and motifs, the richness of reliefs, epigraphy and the richness of the intangible cultural heritage. The selected components represent a range of graveyard scales and settings.

Studenica Monastery

Studenica Monastery/Photographer: Radmilo Djurovic/Flickr

Studenica Monastery, located in the Raška district of central Serbia, is the largest and richest of Serbia’s Orthodox monasteries. It was founded near Studenica river in the late 12th century by Stefan Nemanja, also known as Saint Simeon, who established the medieval Serbian state. His remains, as well as those of his wife Anastasia and of the first Serbian king, Stephen the First-Crowned, rest in this monastery. It is there that Stefan Nemanja’s youngest son, Saint Sava Nemanjić, initiated the independent Serbian Orthodox Church in 1219 and wrote the first literary work in the Serbian language. The complex’s two principal monuments, the Church of the Virgin and the King’s Church, enshrine priceless collections of 13th- and 14th-century Byzantine paintings. Studenica became the most important monastery in Serbia, and has remained so to the present day.

Studenica is an outstanding and well-preserved example of a Serbian Orthodox Church monastery. Enclosed by an almost circular wall strengthened with two fortified gates, it features an array of exceptional monuments, including the main church at the centre and monastic facilities along the encircling wall. Churches and hermitages are located in the area surrounding the monastery, as well as the quarries and vestiges of a settlement for the workers who mined and shaped the marble used to build the Church of the Virgin.

The Church of the Virgin, which served as a model for other monastic churches in the region, was built in the distinctive Raška School of eastern medieval church architecture that blended the Romanesque and Byzantine styles. The exterior of the domed single-nave church is reminiscent of Italian Romanesque cathedrals, while interior wall paintings in the naos and the sanctuary reflect trends of monumental paintings that emerged after the fall of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople to the Crusaders. Characterized by a new concept of space and a new expressiveness, these paintings represent a milestone in the histories of both Byzantine and Western art.

The modestly scaled King’s Church was founded in 1314 by King Milutin, who commissioned the renowned Salonican painters Michael and Eutychius to decorate the church’s interior with frescoes. At the King’s Church these court painters created the most perfect expression of their style. Their remarkable Cycle of the Life of the Virgin Mary is among the leading works of Byzantine art, its density of forms, volumetric rendering of faces as well as bright colors, shadows, and light being perfectly executed a secco.

Djerdap National Park

Djerdap National Park/Photographer: Galina Alekseeva/Flickr

The Djerdap National Park embraces part of the area of the Djerdap Canyon known as the Iron Gates in the central part of the Danube river course,and is divided by the international border running along the middle of the river into the southern – Yugoslav and the northern – Rumanian part. The total area of the National Park is 63.600 ha and the protection zone consists of another 93.968 ha.The morphological characteristics of the region which are the main source of attraction and constitute a natural phenomenon are determined by the 100 km. long Djerdap canyon forged by the Danube – the second largest river in Europe which flows through or forms the natural frontier of eight states. The morphological variety of the region is enhanced by the existence of a large number of gorge-like valleys formed by the Danube’s tributaries, karst reliefs on limestone plateaus and other phenomena. The geological history of this region is complex and interesting. There are locations where the succession of various geological periods over a span of tens of millions of years can clearly be traced.The Djerdap Canyon is the longest fissure in Europe and a rare natural phenomenon. There are sections where the vertical cliffs rise 300m above the level of the Danube and the measured depth of the so-called “cauldrons” goes up to 82 m. Thanks to the sheltered position of the Iron Gates more than 60 forest and shrub communities heve been preserved many of which are relics of previous, tertiary forest communities. Numerous plant varieties can be found including tertiary relicts and species whose range in Europe has been significantly reduced. More than 1000 plant varieties have been re~ stered in the Djerdap region which confirms its enormous significance in the taxonomic and ecological sense. It is important to note the presence of Corylus colurna, Acer intermedium, Celtis australis, Ilex aquifolium, ceterach officinarum, etc. Rare animal and bind species can also be found in the National Park including bear, lynx, wolf, jackal, gray eagle, short-eored owl, black stork etc. Testifyins to the importance of the Iron Gates section of the Danube in the past are traces of mants presence and the development of his material and spiritual culture from earliest times to the present. The three oldest archaeological localities i.e. Vlasac, Padina and, certainly the most significant internationally, Lepenski Vir, were formed and developed from 7000 – 5000 B.C. Lepenski Vir was the permanent abode of hunters and the religious and artistic centre to which the “first monumental works of art of Central and South-Eastern Europe can be traced as well as the oldest forms of organized social, economic and religious life in the Danube river basin”. The discovery of this site marked a new chapter in the study of European pre-history. Lepenski Vir is an impressive illustration of the link between man and nature, of the role and significance of the natural environment for husbandry and the organization of life and culture in general. The Roman Emperors Tiberios, Claudius, Domitian and Trajan cut a strategic road through the Djerdap Canyon and built bridges and fortifications along it in the period of 1st-2nd century A.D. remains of which still stand. The medieval fortresses which defended the entrance into and passage through the Canyon, the most important of which are Golubac and Fetislam from the Turkish period, also testify to constant clashes of various cultures and civilizations in these parts.In the early Middle Ages this region belonged to Byzantium ,then came Slav settlers, it was conquered by Bulgarian tribes and it changed hands repeatedly between the Hungars, Serbs and Turks. In spite of such a turbulent history, picturesque folk customs and traditional village life have been preserved as evidence of uninterrupted life in this region from pagan times to the present day.

The Deliblato Sands Special Natural Reserve

The Deliblato Sands Special Natural Reserve/ Photographer: Nenad/Flickr

The Deliblato Sands is a geo-morphological formation of eolian origin, of exceptional specific beauty and multiple scientific importance. It is of diluvial origin. It is an isolated complex of sand masses with a distinctly undulating dune relief on an area of over 380 sq. kilometres, of elongated ellipsoid shape, surrounded by the expanses of the cultured steppe of the Pannonian plain. The dunes of yellow and gray sand with maximum elevations of around 200 metres above sea level (Pluc – 192 m; Crni vrh – 189 m.) stretch in a straight southesst-northwest direction like the whole complex of the Sands.The physical properties of the sand and soil are behind this areats specific hydrology and meso-climate. There are no sueface watercourses and the only hydrological facilities are dug and drillad wells (some thirty of them), from 100-400 metres deep, and three permanent natural waterholes in smaller depressions in the south-eastern part. The masses of the windblown sand of what used to be the “European Sahara” are today mainly tied down by vegetation, restored by man in planned fashion during the past 170 years. About 16,000 ha is under forest – mainly cultivated pure stands of Scotch and black pine, black locust, poplar,etc., and somewhat less under mixed stands of linden, English and pubescent oak, poplar, flowering ash, and other species. In addition to the anthropogenic forests, in the Deliblato Sands there are smaller preserved remains of one time autochthonous forests of English oak with linden and Lily-of-the-valley (Convalaria majalis).The specific and extreme ecological conditions of these habitats.

Mt. Sara National Park

Mt. Sara National Park/Photographer : Sara/ Flickr

Biogeographically and ecologically, the Sara National Park represents one of the most important protected areas in the C. Balkans. More than 1500 vascular plant species, of which about 20% are endemic and relict Balkan species, are distributed in the Sara National Park. Vegetation and ecosystems are highly diversified; from sub-Mediterranean communities at the foothill of the mountain to the subalpine forests of endemic Balkan pine (Pinus heldfreichii and P. peuce) up to the highest mountain summits covered by various shrubby and grassland communities on siliceous, limestone and serpentine bedrock. Fauna also, especially ornithofauna, is the richest in numerous rare bird. on the whole Balkan peninsula. Biogeographical coordinates: Mt Sara belongs to the transitional zone between the Meaian, east Illyrian and Scardo-Pindian subregions of the Central European region. The high parts of the massif have transitional characteristics of the Alpine and oro-Mediterranean regions.

The Tara National Park with the Drina River Canyon

The Tara National Park with the Drina River Canyon/Photographer: Irene Becker/Flickr

The Tara National Park is in the westernmost part of Serbia and represents a mountainous area with exceptionally important geo-eorphological, hydrographic and ecological natural values.The total area of the National Park is 19,200 ha with a protective zone of 37,584 ha. The Tara National Park comprises the mountainous region located in a large elbow shaped curve of the Drina river formed by this river in the central section of its course. In morphological terms, the area of the National Park comprises a group of mountain elevations ( highest elevations about 1600 m.) and sharp relief intersected by deep cut river canyons. Among them the most prominent is the canyon of the Drina river which marks the Park’ s north and northwast borders. Towering limestone walls, tn places over 1000 metres high, form its valley. Much of the area is composed of carbonaceous rocks and abounds in karst morphology and hydrography (sink holes, smaller hollows, pits and caves, dry karst valleys and springs). What makes the Tara National Park especially valuable is the fact that this area is a mountain refugium where relict Tertiary flora and vegetation with complex forest phytocoenoses in which ende~ics and relicts doninate have been preserved to date. Habitat conditions on Tara have not significantly changed since the Tertiary to date. As the glacial and interglacial epochs went by, the climatic extremes in the Balkans were -to a large extent mitigated by a section of the large Paratethys – the Pannonian ssa, an arm of which penetrated as far as Mt. Tara via what today is the Drina river valley. Relict habitats on Tara, especially the gorges of the Derventa and Brusnica rivers as well as the Drina river canyon, were a refugium with variegated and diversified Tertiary vegetation. Thirty-five forest communities have been identified, of which four are relicts and were more widespread in the Tertiary era. It is important to point out that over 60% of the territory of the Tara National Park are well-preserved forest complexes of spruce, fir, beech or pine. Parts of these forests rank as the best preserved and highest quality forest complexes in Europe. The greatest value of Mt.Tara and of entire Europe is the conifer species Pancicts spruce ( Picea omorica Panc.), which has, since its discovecy in 1876, provoked grest interest in scientific cincles. The spruce is a relict species originating in the Tertiary when it was broadcast across extensive ranges in Europe and parts of Asia. Having survived glaciation, this species receded and at present covers only a small narrow strip in the region of the central flow of the Drina river, in the Balkan peninsula and Europe. In this sense the spruce is an endemic, with a very narrow range. Issues which have still not been clarified in connoction with this species are the question of its origin and the reasons of its confinement to such a saall range , as well as whether it is becoming biologically extinct or is receding under the influence of external factors and man.Conifers related to this spruce which appear in North America and Eastern Asia belong to other species. This spruce is considered the most beautiful conifer of Europe. In addition to Pancicts spruce, Tara also bossts Taxus baccata, Ilex aquifolium, Dafne blagoyana, species endangered in most of Europe.We shouid also point out that Pancic’s spruce on Tara is also encountered on a unique peat habitat which is a phenomenon as yet unrecorded for an endemo-relict species. The fauna of this region comprises a large number of species of which some are endangered: bear (Ursus arctos) chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) golden eagle (Aquila chryssetos),etc. It is assumed that before the Slavs came to this area the first inhabitants of the Balkan peninsula were Illyrian tribes while the Romans were not particularly interested in settling this region. There are some material remains in archaeological sites dating back to this period. There are also some medieval finds from 14th and 15th centuries as well as from the period of Turkish rule.

The Djavolja Varos (Devil’s Town) Natural Landmark

The Djavolja Varos (Devil’s Town) Natural Landmark/ Photographer: Djavolja Varos/ Flickr

The Djavolja Varos natural landmark is situatod on the south slopes of Mt. Radan, on the right bank of the tuta reka (Yellow river), in the central part of esstern Yugoslavia.Djavolja varos is a unique example of the action of erosion. It is a complex of stone pyramids located in the watershed between Djavolja jaruga and Paklena jaruga (Devil’s Gully and Hellts Gully). On an area of 4,300 sq.m. water erosion has shaped andesite material and volcanic tufa into over 200 pyramids – towers standing from 2 -15 m. tall, width at base 4 to 6 m. and at the summit 1 – 2 m. Most of these pyramids have caps or heads – andesite blocks protecting them from fast decey. The absolute height of the locality is 700-720 m. Stone pyramids are ephemeral forms, for they disintegrate relatively quickly (when they lose their protective “cap”), and are formed equally quickly through water erosion. Hence the name Djavolja Varos (Devil’s Town), because the locals believe that these changes occur as devils fight each other for power. These pyramids came into existence by water erosion, in heterogeneous material; the more massive block on the surface prevented the material beneath it from being destroyed and eroded away, resulting in the formation of the “towers” – pyramids. Two hydrological phenomena characterize the locality: one known as Devil’s Water ( a highly mineralized spring, the water of which is used in traditional medicine), and another called the Devil’s Well (a pressurized spring). The water is of a markedly red colour, while the area surrounding this natural phenomenon, the soil and the rocks, as well as the pyramids themselves, are of different colours giving a bizarre appearance to the entire scenery. This miraculous worid also features acoustic phenomena which justity the designation “Devil’s Town”: the wind which hums between the pyramids crestes strange murmurs, howling, sighs, squeaking, which has frightened the local population for centuries and is behind their superstitious lore. The remains of two old churches stand in the vicinity of this natural sculpture; the rich tradition and folk customs of this region are closely associated with this natural phenomenon. Throughout the centuries this area has seen an intertwining of natural phenomena and the life of man.

Fortified Manasija Monastery

Fortified Manasija Monastery/Photographer: Jaca Gabric/ Flickr

Manasija Monastery is located in the Resava river gorge, about 135km south-east of Belgrade. As an endowment of Despot Stefan Lazarević, the monastery was built in the hard times after the Battle at Kosovo (1389) and its construction lasted from 1406/7 to 1418. Its special feature is its fortification, capable of defending and protecting the monastery settlement.

The Manasija fortification has eleven towers and a specially defended section at its east end with the twelfth tower. In their defence and architectural features, the towers are identical to each other – all having the ground level, six storeys and the passageway with merlons. They are connected by defensive walls – the ramparts, also with merlon crenelation. Between the towers and the ramparts a connection is made through special passages on the fourth storey of each tower, allowing the defenders to move around all the time, as well as a good monastery defence. Only a donjon was not built in the same way.

The towers and the ramparts have machicolations – defensive galleries, quite rare in Serbian military architecture. Actually, it came indirectly into use in Serbia – as a result of Byzantine influence, whereas the crusading campaigns to the Holy Land brought them to Byzantium from the West.

In front of the main wall with the towers, there was a lower rampart with a sloping scarp, today mostly in ruins, and in one section there was a ditch with the counterscarp. Such a defence concept allowed two level of the monastery defence, and with the implemented solutions on the Belgrade fortifications, it became a model for constructing the Smederevo double ramparts in the later period.

The donjon had its special place in the monastery defence system, today recognised and the Despot’s Tower. It is the most massive and the only closed tower, with the ground level 11m elevated from the monastery yard level. The tower interior is partitioned with wooden structures between the five storeys. On the fifth level there are defensive galleries – machicolations, having a significant role in the safety of the donjon. The Despot’s Tower of Manasija is one of the most successful structures in the Serbian military architecture and can compared with the crusade fortifications along the Asia Minor coast, but also with the towers of the Mount Athos monasteries.

In its special and general architectural arrangement and its numerous details, the monastery church belongs to the Morava School style in the Serbian sacral architecture. It consists of two clearly separated sections – the nave and the narthex. The nave is of a rectangular cruciform ground plan, with five cupolas combined with a triconch. It was built of sandstone blocks and the exterior decoration is made by combining the Byzantine and Romanesque elements.

In the Manasija interior, about one third of the erstwhile in all exquisite frescoes have been preserved: from the materials used to an extraordinary prowess in presenting the chosen subjects. They are said to be a 15th century artistic high point in Byzantium and the lands under its influence. The Great Events cycle, Passion of Christ, the wonders and parables, scenes from the life of the Virgin, Eucharist subjects in the altar, the prophets in the main and the seraphs and cherubs in the small cupolas, from the evangelists in the pendentives to individual figures in the first zone, they all testify to a great wealth of subjects represented in the Mansija monastery. On the west nave wall, there is a composition with the ktetor: upon a divine investiture, receiving the emblems of authority from Christ himself and the angels, Despot Stefan Lazarević bestows a model of his endowment and the St Trinity Mausoleum to the church patron. The highlight of an artistic achievement is shown in the figures of Holy Warriors in the first section of the north and south conch, with gilt nimbi, parts of clothing and military equipment, on the azure blue  background. Above them on the conch sides, today quite damaged, there are Christ’s parables, including elements from the real life on the Serbian court of that time. There are some similarities between a predominantly “Renassance” atmosphere in this part of the Manasija frescoes and the paintings of Western Europe of that time, a phenomenon unparalleled in the Byzantine art.

From other structures that used to be part of the original monasterial settlement, a refectory is preserved for the most part – a monumental two-storey building and the “small quarters”.

Today, Manasija is a living monastery.

Negotinske Pivnice

Negotinske Pivnice/ Photographer: ZoranCvetkovic/Wikipedia

NEGOTINSKE PIVNICE are a rural compound (settlements consisting of wine cellars) which are located in the Negotin Frontier area, in the far eastern corner of Serbia, next to the Bulgarian border, some 300 km away from Belgrade.

In the area of the Negotin Frontier, famous for its vineyards dating from the ancient times, the village population, living off viticulture, used to establish secondary settlements – compounds  not far from their permanent homes. The settlements were named after the wine cellars called “pivnice” in this region. These cellars were used to process grapes into wine and brandy, as well as storage facilities. Out of the many settlements located to the north-west and south from Negotin only a few remained: the Rajačke, Rogljevske (Rogljevačke), Štubičke and parts of Smedovačke, Trnjanske, Sikolske and Bratujevačke. The rest of them, such as Badnjevske, Rečanske, Mokranjske and many others no longer exist.

The oldest documents on the Negotinske Pivnice date back to the mid 19th century. There are no reliable data on the time when they were first built in this region. Records on the year of their building can be found on many existing structures, while the time of building of other cellars can only be guessed: the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. It is assumed that before the present-day pivnice were created, structures made of much poorer quality material and construction had been built at these locations: They were partially dug-out structures, having just a roof covering (made of grass, hay and the like).

The significance of these secondary settlements and their structures for the Negotin Frontier population is reflected in the fact that these wine cellars were often built as more monumental and better quality structures than family houses were. Each family had one or even more such cellars, constituting an integral part of  the life of every villager in the region, which is mirrored in that that a cemetery was established in one of these cellar compounds, in Rajačke Pivnice, and not in the village where the people lived. These cellars and the wine were incorporated in many birth and burial rituals. Even today, an archaic and very interesting custom has been preserved – the last rites and funeral ceremony are performed with wine, and for those who have their cellars, the funeral ceremony is held in the cellars complex, while for others in the village. The ceremony goes like this: each head of the household takes the red wine from his cellar and when the procession passes by he pours the wine over the hearse wheels.

The two greatest celebrations of the Village Patron Saints’ Days, St Trifun and Holy Trinity, used to be in the cellar compound. Earlier, on the St Trifun’s Day, people used to go to the vineyards and pick three grape vine stalks and nettles so that the saint would help the grapes to be fruitful, after which the people gathered by the Sacred Tree and the common table – an assembly place where the feasting started. On the Holy Trinity Day, in front of the village church, a procession would assemble to go visiting all the sacred trees in the area. They would end up in the cellar compound, in the centre, at the Sacred Tree. On these occasions, all the cellars were open and everyone would be sitting at a feast table in front of their own cellars. Such customs, in somewhat modified forms, have been preserved to the present day.

The Štubičke Pivnice and the Rajac cemetery were declared cultural heritage in 1980 and the Rogljevske Pivnice in 1983 when they were all classified as an area cultural-historic ensemble of outstanding value in the Republic of Serbia. Štubičke Pivnice were registered in the Central Register of the Cultural Monuments of the Republic Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments / Belgrade,  as entry number 10 and the Rajačke and Rogljevske (or Rogljevačke) under numbers 14/1 and 14/2.

Rajačke Pivnice, a compund of wine cellars belonging to the village of Rajac, located 2 km to the west of the village, along the vineyards, on top of Beli Breg hill. The compound is densely clustered, built spontaneously, following the terrain. Its winding streets go along the irregular shaped cellars, often on both sides and even around them.

Records of the Negotinske Pivnice date back from the mid 19th century but there are no reliable information on the period of their construction. On many of those cellar structures there are inscriptions on the year of its building, which helps in assuming the period when the others were built – the second half of the 19th and first half of the 20th century. Also, we may guess that there used to be some earlier ones, built of wood. Some earlier literature mentions 270 or even 300 cellars. Today there are 166 structures with 196 cellars and 3 distilleries, of which 16 are in ruins and 57 cellars are still used for making wine, while 19 have adopted other functions: taverns, museum display space, exhibitions, etc.

There are several types of cellars, but two basic ones can be distinguished: the ground floor ones and the two storied ones. They are often clustered in a row or in blocks, both the ground floor ones and the stories ones, but there also the free-standing ones.

The lower floor ones are usually stone built of irregular rectangular ground plan. Normally, they are up to 1-1.2 m underground. Entrance to an individual cellar is usually on the side where the hillside slopes down, or if the structure is perpendicular to the land contours, the entrance is made in the long, side wall. If a household is not much well off, a cellar may have lower walls with a smaller size portal set in a rectangular wooden frame with double doors. On the other hand, if a household is well off, the walls may be very high, with monumental portals set in the decorated stone frame. In two-storey cellars, the lower floor was a dug-out wine cellar, while the upper floor was used as a dwelling for the owner or season workers who come to work in the vineyards or wine and brandy distilleries.

The two-storey cellars can be classified into two subtypes, depending on how steep the hillside is. If the slope is steeper, the cellars are often between two alleys. The lower level is mostly dug-out, so the wall at the entrance is about 1-1.2m high, while the one on the opposite side is completely dug into the ground. The upper level is entered from the side opposite to the cellar entrance, directly from the road level. The other subtype are those built on the not so steep slopes, so that the cellar is about 150cm dug into the ground, and the upper floor is accessed by a wooden or sometimes stone staircase. There are only about a dozen of those structures. They were mainly built at the major crossroads or around the central squares, and look like towers.

Along the south-west end of the compound there is a village cemetery and in its centre there is an old one with about 200 old tombstones dating from the 19th century, extraordinarily preserved, quite unique valuable and unique in Serbia. The cemetery tombstones on Beli Breg are in a shape of a monolith cross or a tall column-like stone capped with flat stones. These extraordinary headstones are of yellowish compact sandstone (bioclastic limestone) and almost all the surfaces are covered with relief ornaments. The most common bas-relief motif is a cross displayed in various, quite elaborate ways, combined with letters IS HS NI KA, as the image symbolises the Golgotha Cross, the Crucifixion. Often there are rosettes symbolising the Sun, then a circle, a swastika, serrated ribbons and zigzag lines, simplified and stylised branches, vines, broken lines and slanted cuts, spiral ribbons and shallow arched niches.

Rogljevske Pivnice are wine cellars in the village of Rogljevo, located on a hill north of the village of Rajac, built next to the vineyards. This secondary settlement is between 80 and 110m above the sea level. Its centre is most densely built around the sacred tree and the common table, the folk table and the well.

The compound was formed as if following the structures of a real settlement, so it was on a plateau and like a village has an elongated form. The structures were built along the two, almost parallel main roads that follow the land contour, with several side ones, connecting the main roads. Some of the structures were built in a row, two or more, although there are also the free-standing ones, following an imaginary line of alleys. The cellars could also be accessed from two sides, the main entrance façade, with a monumental portal – along the main road, and from the back, where there are openings for the grape pulp – along the side roads. However, these side roads for one row of structures is often a main road for the second row behind. For that reason, there is a tradition, a rule not to close the access to the openings for the pulp, even if they are not in use.

According to the local population, there used to be more than 300 cellars but many were destroyed in fires or just deteriorated, particularly after the WWII, when the owners left them to the elements. Today, there are about 122 structures, of which 40 are in use for wine making and about 8 have become taverns of exhibition spaces.

The earliest preserved cellars of Rogljevo were most probably built in the first half of the 19th century and one or two storey structures. Both types have the foundation or cellar walls made of broken stone, while the ground and upper level walls are made of wood, dressed planks using the corner saddle notch joints. The wooden part was covered with a mixture of mud and straw – cob, and the hipped roofs with extended eaves were covered with tiles of Mediterranean type. Such cellars were built until the mid 19th century, when the region saw an economic expansion, exporting wine to the West, since at that time phylloxera destroyed many vineyards, in France in particular.

The majority of cellars, 40 of them, were built between 1859 and 1890. Those were mostly large, even monumental structures of vast rectangular ground plan and of substantial height, built mostly of sandstone blocks (bioclastic limestone), with simply decorated but imposing arched portals. Here, in this compound, a great number of cellars are still in their original use.

Štubičke Pivnice – wine cellars of the village of Štubik are located some 5km north of Negotin, on the road to Donji Milanovac, while the main settlement is located 15km up north. This compound of cellars, today numbering only 28 of them, is different from the above described ones. The settlement is somewhat scattered and was built around the regional road cutting the compound in two. These are detached buildings on two hills, unlike the wine cellars in the described settlements which were built in a row. They are mostly of a ground level type with only a few storied ones. They were built on stone foundations with post and beam walls construction with timber frame filled and covered with mud mortar. Their hipped roofs and extended eaves are covered with roof tiles of Mediterranean style. These cellars are quite modest in size than those of Rogljevačke and Rajačke Pivnice. There are no more vineyards in this area so this compound has been deserted.

Smederevo Fortress

Smederevo Fortress/Photographer: Bayubadu/ Flickr

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.

Caričin Grad – Iustiniana Prima, archaeological site

Caričin Grad – Iustiniana Prima, archaeological site/Photographer: Nenad/Flickr

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 Illyricum 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.

Cultural landscape of Bač and its surroundings

Cultural landscape of Bač and its surroundings/Photographer: zebag2013/Flickr

Cultural landscape of Bač and its surroundings belongs to Danube regions in Serbia (the Vojvodina Province) and it is situated on the borders of the Pannonia plain.

Cultural landscape of Bač and its surroundings is containing numerous cultural and natural sites and monuments, which witnesses at least 8 millennium long cohabitation of man and nature. This territory is characterized  by water flows (the Danube river and its left tributary, the Mostonga river, but also other, smaller water flows), wetlands and loess plains which could be drained and therefore have been suitable for life and agriculture ever since prehistory to modern days. The floodplain includes alluvial forests, marshes, reed beds, freshwater habitats, alluvial wetlands, as well as flood-protected forests.

Thus, this area has seen and preserved traces of all changes and reforms in the history agriculture.  Natural heritage is verified as Bačko Podunavlje Biosphere Reserve, which is inscribed in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 2017. It could be described as one of organically evolved landscapes – since it is continuously developed cultural landscape which, even in contemporary society, has maintained its role narrowly tied to traditional way of living that is transforming. At the same time, it has preserved significant material evidences of its development trough time.  There are also archaeological sites, confirming the presence of man and the use of the marshy lands throughout the millennia. The preserved architectural heritage, built in the vast period from the 12th to the 19th century, under the influence of Western Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Barokue style, as well as Byzantine and Islamic art represents a definite testimony to the cultural diversity, interlacing and linking the cultures of the Balkans with the West and East. The combination of historical, cultural, artistic, and natural values gives this cultural landscape its significance.

Cultural landscape of Bač and its surroundings includes territorial parts of three municipalities – Bač, Bačka Palanka and Odžaci, covering the entire territory of 9 whole cadastral neighboring municipalities with 10 settlements with a population of around 25.000 inhabitants.

Landscape character assessment (identification and valorization) is becoming the activity of a public interest that brings a value to the territory which can significantly contribute in defining the sustainable development. The geomorphological processes in the Pannonian Plain and the fluvial system of  Danube River, and their influence on the cultivation processes of the territory and adaptability of the human settlements, the history of agricultural rationality and continuity of settling in the area are essentially the main subject of the “cultural landscape” interpretation.

Historical development 
It was the left bank of the Danube and its marshy lands and the Mostonga river banks which in the distant past provided refuge to numerous peoples (the Getae, Celts, Sarmatae, Lazyges, Romans, Huns, Slavs). The first mentioning of Bač was in a written document from 535. In the Middle Ages Bač becomes an important historic place, for the most period under the rule of Hungarian kings. Historical sources mention the place under the names: Bache, Baacs, Baach, Bács, Bach, Bath, Latin BachiaGreek Παγάτζιον. It was an administrative and religious centre and a favourite resort to many a European ruler. A Muslim geographer, Al-Idrisi, marked Bač in his “The Book of Roger” in 1154. wrote, “Bač is a famous place, ranking among other major cities. There are markets, merchants’ and craftsmen’ shops, Greek scholars… However, the wheat is inexpensive, as there is plenty of it” … “Bač and Kovin are major export-import towns with dense population. These are the major Hungarian towns, with most of the buildings, and there one can live in plenitude on large farming estates.” The period of progress under king Bela IV (1235-1270) was cut short by the destructive forces of the Mongols in 1241, who damaged the fortifications and the churches, and some of the structures.

Soon after the Battle of Maritsa in 1371 and after the Ottomans moved their capital to Edirne, accepting a vassal status of Byzantium, it was obvious that the Ottomans would continue their advance towards the western Europe. In 1443, there was a massive war campaign of joined Hungarian and Serbian forces against the Turks. The campaign was led by King Vladislaus, John Hunyadi, and Despot George Brankovic, and the armies were gathering in southern Hungary. In the decades to follow, the Danube was once again an important waterway, as well as its ferries and border towns.

Bač played an important role in the defence of Western Europe against Otoma invasions, especially after the fall of the Serbian medieval state in 1459. The Bač spacious military camp was the place where armies of several different states gathered with one purpose: to stop the Ottoman Empire from penetrating into the heart of Europe. However, from 1526 to 1686 these lands fell under the Ottoman rule. Then, the Austrians came to rule the region, as they were victorious in the war for freedom.

The eighteenth century started with an uprising of the Kuruc against the imperial army, led by Francis Rákóczi between 1703-1711. Rakoczi led the rebelled Hungarians who wanted restoration of the legal system prior to the Ottoman rule. The population of Bač and its architectural heritage suffered long-lasting consequences of the uprising. In 1703 and 1704, the fortress was mined several times and rendered useless for any purpose. The Orthodox Monastery of Bodjani was demolished, as well as the Franciscan Monastery. The 1715 census recorded only 29 taxpayers but already in 1719, it was a bustling market town, gaining a right to four fairs a year In the 18th century, Austria colonised the population, which is even today reflected in the structure of the population. Such rich diversity can be perceived in the folk tangible and intangible heritage, still nurtured by numerous cultural and art societies in the region. Such rich diversity can be perceived in the folk tangible and intangible heritage, still nurtured In the 19th century the population n Bač grew from 2,260 (1803) to 4,504 (1890). by numerous cultural and art societies in the region.

Furthermore, hydro-technical and industrial structures were built. In 1866, the Bogojevo-Vajska community built a large embankment as a protection against frequent floods. The main pumping station in Plavna, as a structure of the largest capacity, wasopened in 1912, just before WWI. Trade, crafts, and agriculture grow, followed by the development of workers’ colonies and the appropriate infrastructure. After the Great War, Bač became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Šokci / Croats and Slovenians. In the 1920s, there were some great floods in 1924 and 1926, which destroyed much of built structures, causing the population to move out. The end of the Second World War started a new wave of colonisation, however not the Germans but the Serbs coming from the areas devastated in the war (mostly the frontiersmen from today’s territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina). Bač retained its administrative significance as the seat of the local government. A considerable social and industrial development Bač experienced in the late 1950s and early 1960s was hindered when in 1965, once again, the Danube caused catastrophic floods. During the earthworks in the flooding area, the newly discovered archaeological sites located on the old, elevated Danube banks were damaged. However, owing to the excavations that ensued, new information about the continuous life in the region was unveiled. In addition, the focus now was on the river waters management that was expanded with the Danube-Tisa-Danube canal system, with a branch running through Bač. The flood defence system today includes the Pumping Station in Plavna, as a real example of living heritage still serving its purpose today. 

Monument Description
Among the rich and diverse built heritage that remains, three cultural properties have been and still are a key to understanding history and spirit of this cultural landscape: the Bač Fortress with surroundings, the Bodjani Orthodox Monastery and the Franciscan Monastery of Bač. They are cultural properties of outstanding value for the Republic of Serbia, also thay represent a symbol of the local identity – integrated in the Bač Municipality Logo.

Frontiers of the Roman Empire – The Danube Limes (Serbia)

Frontiers of the Roman Empire – The Danube Limes (Serbia)/Author: K. Leidorf
Copyright: © BLfD/ Unesco

The proposal envisages the nomination of more than 130 individual component parts on the territory of four countries (Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania). These include: 7 legionary fortresses: SingidunumViminaciumRatiariaOescusNovaeDurostorumTroesmis and nearly 120 auxiliary forts and smaller fortifications; civil settlements, cemeteries, production complexes, roads etc., all related to the functioning of the Roman frontier along the Danube.

The province of Moesia started off as a northward extension to that of Macedonia4. It received its own governor when Claudius added the Danubian Plain to its territory at the creation of the province of Dacia. By that time, Rome had already for over a century been interfering with regional affairs on both sides of the Lower Danube, but it seems that the Claudian rearrangement first led to the foundation of permanent military bases on the river. Nevertheless, military interventions across the Danube continued, at least as far as the Dnjestr river, over 100 km to the north of the Danube delta. It was only after Dacian incursions in 68/69 and 85/86 from across the Danube that the military infrastructure along the river was considerably extended. Following the latter invasion, the province was divided to Superior and Inferior parts. At the creation of the province of Dacia in 106, the military occupation of the bordering section along the Danube was reduced, whereas the lower course along the Dobrudja was strengthened following the inclusion of the eastern part of the Romanian Plain into the territory of Moesia, but this was soon given up. In the mid-3rd century, the Moesian frontier suffered from invasions of Goths and other peoples, and in 271 the Dacian province was evacuated. Following these events both the provincial structure and the frontier were reorganised. Although barbarian raids persisted, this line of defence survived collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. As part of the Eastern Roman Empire the Moesian frontier was restored in the first half of the 6th century but following invasions of Avars and Slavs heralded the end of the Danube frontier in the early 7th century.

The defensive system of the frontier consisted of a chain of fortifications along the Danube River right/south bank. The Danube itself was the primary line of defense. The Second line were several river fleets (classis Pannonica and classis Histrica). These were attached to the main strongholds along the frontier. The army units supported the fleets whenever it was possible. The river was, as still is, a major communication route for both the military and civilian transport and supply. The frontier road network was built by the Roman legions themselves.

The organization of the limes was highly influenced by the natural land configuration. The Limes road linked the individual military installations and other ancillary facilities. Quite often along a natural border, the frontier road runs well behind the course of the river, dictated by the terrain. The watchtowers and fortlets and sometimes forts, were connected to the supra-regional frontier road with the smaller ones. Besides the fortresses, forts and fortlets, there were civil settlements and cemeteries. The legionary forts (Singidunum and Viminacium) were located in a flat open area of central Serbia, suitable for large scale military operations. In the Iron Gates, the terrain narrows the area along the river to the level that the road had to be cut into the rock or be built over the river itself. This was a region that was garrisoned only by smaller units up to the rank of cohorts. Downstream from Kladovo, the valley widens up again and bigger auxiliary forts are located on strategic points.

The river crossings were of strategic importance for any kind of military operations or potential trade with the barbarians. One of the crossings was by Singidunum and Taurunum at the confluence of the Sava and the Danube rivers. The second strategic crossing was below the Lederata fort (present day Ram) over Sapaja Island. The best-known crossing was the Trajan’s bridge (Pons Traiani) near Kladovo at Kostol (Pontes fort – the “Bridges”).

Navigation along the river was of the utmost strategic importance. The river boats enabled fast transport of troops and goods, continuous supply of units and provided the first line of defense when confronting barbarian intrusions. The main ports were established in TaurunumSingidunumMargumViminaciumDianaAquae and Egeta and by the several smaller fortifications with mainly support and supply rolesFrom point of view of geography, the Easter sector of the Danube Limes includes the national segments (in geographic order from left to right) of Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. It starts from the point where the Serbian-Croatian border, which in that part runs along the Danube river, meets the Hungarian border. From that point till Vukovar (Croatia), the Danube flows from north to south5. At Vukovar, the river changes to the east due the mountain range Alma Mons/Fruška Gora north of Sirmium/Sremska Mitrovica. In that region the River Tisza, Drava and Sava flow into the Danube. At the confluence of the Sava at Singidunum (Belgrade) the outskirts of the southerly mountain ranges start closing in on the Danube. Some 100 km downstream the river flows into the narrow gorges of the Iron Gate. The mouth of the Sava and a westerly entrance to Dacia were occupied by legionary fortresses at Singidunum and Viminacium (Stari Kostolac) during Flavian period, as preparations for the upcoming Dacian Wars. The Iron Gate itself was supervised by mainly small posts distributed along the more accessible parts, some already installed under Tiberius and Claudius. From the exit of the Iron Gate the Danube took a winding course until Ratiaria (Archar). The dense series of military posts overlooking this stretch were mainly built in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Downstream from Ratiaria the Danube follows a relatively straight course until as far as Durostorum (Silistra), between the Wallachian/Romanian Plain to the north and the more elevated Danubian Plain to the south. For much of this c. 400 km long stretch the river has a wide and often twisting channel. The legionary fortresses of Oescus (Gigen), Novae (Svishtov) and Durostorum were built at rare spots where the river has a single, narrow bed. The intermediate military posts were often built in high positions with a clear view over the river and the plain beyond. Downstream from Durostorum the Danube takes a northerly course, developing many twisting channels in a wide zone, before bending to the east at Barbosi and creating a delta near Aegysus/Tulca. In this region the military installations were invariably built on the higher grounds along the most easterly river channel.

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