Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ćele Kula

Ćele Kula (Skull Tower), one of the main historical sights in Niš, is adjacent to Trosarina and whether by foot or bus I see it at least twice a day.



Stevan Sinđelić was a commander of the First Serbian Uprising in May of 1809. He's a George Patton-type for Serbs. During this battle between the Serbs and Ottoman Empire (Turks) the Serbs were the underdog so when the Turks began to advance into Niš, Stevan decided that it was best just to annihilate as many as them as possible even if it meant his and his mens' lives. He opened the trench gate, let the Turks fill the trenches, and allegedly declared "Save yourselves brothers, who wants and who can, who stays will die!" Then he fired at the gunpowder container which triggered a huge explosion that killed all of his men and a great number of the Turks.

The Turkish commander was furious so he ordered his remaining men to cut off the heads of all the dead Serbs and to mount them on a tower to serve as a warning for all others who tried to cross the Turks. There were 952 skulls in total and Stevan's skull was placed on the top.

Now there are only 58 skulls embalmed in this structure, and though now there's a chapel protecting it from weathering there wasn't for nearly 75 years. I found it odd they encased it in a chapel since it's such a morbid monument not associated with religion. I'm actually more surprised a movie hasn't been produced, well except for the fact that it's only a big deal in Serbia which means it's insignificant for the rest of the world. Still, I see potential.

And here's a quote from a frenchman who later ran across the tower:
My eyes and my heart greeted the remains of those brave men whose cut-off heads made the cornerstone 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.
Alphonse de Lamartine, Journey to the East, 1833

A bit of Serbian history to complete your day!

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