Skull Tower in Nish

24. června 2007 v 16:32 |  Kosti v Srbsku
Skull Tower in Nish, Serbia - Unique World's Monument

The Skull Tower (Serbian: Ћеле Кула, or Ćele Kula) is a monument to 19th century Serbian fighters for freedom. It was built after the battle that took place at the hill Cegar on May 31, 1809, near the town of Nis (pronounced 'Nish'), by the right-hand side of the busy civil and military road to Istanbul. With these skulls, built in the sides of a cubical structure, the Turks wanted to frighten the Serbia and to prevent any other rebellion for national liberation and political independence. At the beginning of the 19th century, fighting against the Turks, the Serbs started a long and an uneven battle for liberation. Fights with the Turks became more and more frequent, and soon they turned into a general rebellion and an all-out uprising of the Serbs.

On May 31, 1809 on Cegar Hill a few kilometers northeast of Nish, Serbian insurrectionists suffered their greatest defeat in the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire (1804-1813). The insurrectionists' advance towards Nish was stopped here and, when the far stronger Turkish forces attacked, the battle was ended by the Serbian commander Stevan Sinđelic, who sacrificially fired at his gunpowder depot in order to avoid surrendering to the Turks, killing himself, the rest of his men, and the advancing Turks.
After the retreat of the Serbian rebel army, the Turkish commander of Nis, Hurshid Pasha, ordered that the heads of the killed Serbians were to be mounted on a tower to serve as a warning to any other would-be revolutionaries. In all, 952 skulls were included, with the skull of Sindjelić placed at the top. The scalps from the skulls were stuffed with cotton and sent to Constantinople (modern Istanbul) as proof for Sultan Mahmud II.
The tower stood in the open air until the liberation of Niš in 1878. By that time, much of the tower had deteriorated from weather conditions or from the removal of skulls for burial by relatives of killed rebels. In 1892, with donations gathered from all over Serbia, a graceful chapel designed by the Belgrade architect Dimitrije T. Leko was built to enclose what was left of the tower. Today, only 58 skulls remain, including Sindjelic's one.
In front of the chapel stands the monument to Sinđelic, and a small relief depicting the battle, both from 1937. The monument commemorating the battle in the form of a guard tower was built in 1927 on Cegar Hill by Julian Djupon. The lower part is made out of stone from the Nis fortress.

The skull tower in Nis has always been a 'reminder' of the sort of attrocities that men are capable of doing. Over the years, it has filled the Serbian's national conscience, a people in the South of Europe that so preciously treasure their freedom.

Here is gallery from that not a pleasant but interesting, creepy place (just click images to enlarge):


(Originally there was no chapel around the 3 meters high tower. Since the tower started falling apart due to rain and people taking skulls home as a souvenir, shelter was needed.)

Remaining skulls in a remaining wall:

(Originally 952 skulls were included, with the skull of Stevan Sindjelic placed at the top. Today, only 58 skulls remain, including Sindjelic's one. Notice the many empty holes in this wall.)
Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic, a contemporary of the battle, wrote about it as follows:
"The Turks rushed into the trenches of the soldiers from Resava who fought bravely. Some of the Turks fell in the battle and those who stayed alive rushed again over the bodies of the felled and the dying ones, and when the trenches were full of bodies they rushed again, and again, attacking the Serbian soldiers with guns, sabres, knives, and they fought back, even bare-handed, catching one another by their throats ..... All the soldiers from Resava, who were said to be about 3,000, were killed in the battle."

Skull of Stevan Sindjelic,
duke of Resava and commander of the Serbian troops that fought against the Ottomans in 1809.
Monument of Stevan Sindjelic

Quote from above:
"My eyes and my heart greeted the remains of those brave men whose cut off heads made the corner stone of the independence of their homeland. May the Serbs keep this monument! It will always teach their children the value of the independence of a people, showing them the real price their fathers had to pay for it."
(Lamartine, quoted by Judah, Tim, in The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, Yale University Press, 1997).

Some old images of Skull Tower:


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