The Belgrade Fortress was built during the 2nd and 18th century as a protective structure on a hill overlooking the union of the two rivers Sava and Danube. Today the castle serves as a unique museum of the history of Belgrade. The complex consists of the Belgrade Fortress, divided into the Upper Town Gornji and the Lower Town Donji Grad, as well as the Kalemegdan Park.
It was strategically important to build this fortification – a Roman castrum – here in the 2nd century AD to create a long-lasting military camp for the Fourth Flavian Legion. After having been groundlessly demolished by the Goths and the Huns, the fortress had been rebuilt in the first decades of the 6th century. Less than one century later it was wiped out again completely by the Avars and the Slavs.
Surrounding the castle on this elevation over the union of the Sava and Danube rivers, the ancient settlement of Singidunum was established, which later became Slavic Belgrade. The Belgrade Fortress has been demolished and rebuilt numerous times, as above the Roman walls stood Serbian fortresses and above those the Turkish and the Austrian fortresses. In the 12th century a new castle was erected on the Roman ruins under the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus. During the first decades of the 14th century this small fortress on the hill-top was extended as far as the river banks.
Change of shape over time
Under the reign of byzantine emperor Stefan Lazarević, Belgrade became the new capital of Serbia, reinforced by the huge fortifications to the Upper and Lower town. An advanced medieval city developed as the emperor's palace was set up in the old castle, and a military harbour was added on the Sava river. Then, with the Austro-Turkish war, a new era began. As a key fortification at the heart of the armed conflicts of the 18th century, the castle was rebuilt three times.
Under the Austrian occupation from 1717 to 1739, and after constructing new modern fortifications, the Belgrade fortress was one of the most powerful military defense places in Europe. It was built according to plans drawn up by Swiss Colonel Nicolas Doxat de Démoret, who served in the Austrian army. Before the Turks returned to Belgrade in 1740 all the newly constructed fortifications were extinguished. By the end of the 18th century the Belgrade Fortress had taken on its final form.
Kalemegdan is today Belgrade’s most beautiful and largest park. During the time when the fortress was Belgrade’s main military stronghold, it was used to observe and await the enemy in battle. Consequently, the name Kalemegdan derives from the two Turkish words 'kale' meaning ‘fort’ and 'meydan' meaning ‘square’ or ‘field’. The Turks also called Kalemegdan 'Fikir-bayır' meaning ‘hill for contemplation’.
In Kalemegdan you can find the key parts of the Belgrade Fortress memorial: the Monument of Gratitude to France, the Cvijeta Zuzorić Art Pavilion, the Music Pavilion, the Great Steps (Veliko Stepenište), the zoo, a children’s fun fair, and a number of other monuments, sculptures, sports facilities, restaurants and cafés.
Belgrade Fortress is today a cultural property of great importance, and a venue for frequent cultural, artistic and entertainment events.