Cover photo © Credits to iStock/Mirjana Ristic
Cover photo © Credits to iStock/Mirjana Ristic

The infamous story of the medieval Smederevo Fortress

2 minutes to read

Exploring medieval fortresses can get a bit weary after a while, realizing that most of them have common elements and often look similar even across different countries and cultures. However, exploring 11 hectares of the medieval Smederevo Fortress on the Danube, gives another outlook on a provincial town that for a short time in history stood as the capital of Serbia and economic, cultural, and religious center. This story was unfortunately short-breathed and infamous, covered in a veil of terror and violence that used to take place within its walls. 

Picture © Credits to iStock/Mirjana Ristic
Picture © Credits to iStock/Mirjana Ristic

Historical background 

The construction of the fortress began in 1428, by order of the reputable Serbian despot of the time - Djuradj Brankovic. The fortress was destined to become the seat of Serbian secular authorities and cultural and economic center. The planned size of the fort required large quantities of stones to be brought here for construction from the other ancient sites: Viminacium, Margum, and Kulic. 

One of Europe’s largest and best-preserved lowland medieval fortresses was built to sustain attacks of cold steel weapons, but it was later adapted for the firearms warfare. Djuradj Brankovic planned to make Smederevo a modern capital city and not just a safe military haven. Unfortunately, the history had other plans, and after around 20 years, the power was shifted towards other cities and places, and Smederevo never really lived to its planned importance.

Picture © Credits to iStock/Mirjana Ristic
Picture © Credits to iStock/Mirjana Ristic

The legend of the damned despotess

The walls and bastions of Smederevo Fortress hide another story, not regarded with much appreciation by the locals. Namely, the construction is remembered and spoken off as a horrific process in which many people died of exhaustion, sickness, and hunger, due to the rush and inhumane working conditions. The main culprit for this amongst the people was young and ill-tempered despotess Jerina. The folk tales describe her as an unjust and cruel ruler, and she is known remembered in history as “The Damned Jerina”.

Smederevo Fortress
Smederevo Fortress
Смедерево, Србија

Of course, the stories of terror are usually accompanied by gold and glory, and it is no different in this case. The legend has it that The Damned Jerina hid tremendous amounts of gold within the fortress walls, never to be found by the enemies if they succeed in breaching the city. Even though the excavations and archaeological researches still take place in Smederevo Fortress, there has been no mention of any treasure finds yet.

The touristic options

Picture © Credits to iStock/Mirjana Ristic
Picture © Credits to iStock/Mirjana Ristic

For those not as interested in history, there are other options for enjoying the medieval Smederevo Fortress. During the spring and summer months, the fortress is hosting many cultural events, like theater plays, wine festivals, even concerts and parties. The infamous story may not tackle the treasure-hunter spirit in everyone, but it introduces this medieval architectural treasure in a dramatic way.


The author

Milena Mihajlovic

Milena Mihajlovic

I am Milena, and enjoy traveling, hiking and everything coffee-related. Through my writing, I want to inspire fellow travelers about Serbia, my dear country.

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