|Ram, Veliko Gradište|
|Owner||Municipality of Veliko Gradište|
|Built by||Bayezid II (ordered by)|
The Ram Fortress (Serbian: Тврђава Рам / Tvrđava Ram) is a 15th century fort situated on a steep slope on the right bank of the Danube, in the village of Ram, municipality of Veliko Gradište, eastern Serbia. The fortress is located on a rock, which is from the northeast side tilted towards the Danube. It is assumed that the city was built on the opposite side from Haram fortress, which was located across the Danube and left no remnants. The remains of the city are in good condition.
The fortress is located on the bend of the Danube, right across the mouths of the Karaš and Nera rivers, at Danube's 1,075 km (668 mi). West of the fortress are lower (69 m (226 ft) high), marshy areas of the Danube's right bank, including the islands of Čibuklija and Ostrvo. East of Ram, the terrain elevates to 282 m (925 ft), at the Gorica Hill. Geographically, the area surrounding the fortress is the Ram-Golubac Sand, a 30 km (19 mi) long and 5 km (3.1 mi) long sand area. It is a southern extension of the much larger Deliblato Sand in the Banat region and two sand areas are divided by the Danube.
The widening of the Danube at the mouths of Karaš and Nera was known as a Ram Lake. When the hydroelectrical plant Đerdap I began to fill its reservoir in the late 1960s, due to the backwater of the Danube, the widening grew and flooded surrounding plains. The wetland, covering 50 km2 (19 sq mi), became known as Labudovo okno. Today, the habitat is protected by the IUCN Category IV and was declared a Ramsar wetland of international importance on 1 May 2006.
During the archaeological exploration of the fortress in the 2015-2018 period, it was discovered that the modern fortress was predated by the much older architectural elements. Though not mentioned in historical records, there were artifacts pointing out to the pre-Roman habitation of the Celts. An entire Roman mausoleum has been uncovered. The location was referenced for the first time during the reign of emperor Trajan, when it was mentioned as a settlement where the cavalry units were stationed. The Roman complex probably had a religious purpose, but also served as an orienteering point on the river.
The earliest record of the Ram Fortress dates back to 1128 AD, when the Byzantines army defeated the Hungarians in the area. After victories in this region, Byzantine army focused their activities on the Pannonian Basin.
In order to protect the right bank of the Danube Ottoman sultan Bayezid II (1480-1512) revised and strengthened the existing fortress for fighting firearms. Built in 1483, Ram Fortress is one of the oldest artillery forts in Serbia. It was also built in order to enhance the protection from the Hungarian excursions from the north, provided by the existing Smederevo and Golubac fortresses. The fortress lost its strategic importance in 1521 when the Ottomans defeated Hungarians and spread their territory across the Danube, thus leaving Ram Fortress in the hinterland of the Ottoman Empire.
According to the legend, while the sultan was inspecting his troops, he stopped to take a rest on a small hill from which it had an excellent view on the Danube and the Hungarian lands across the river. He fell asleep on ihram (carpet) and felt rejuvenated when he woke up, so he ordered for the fortress to be built on this spot. This also gave the original, Turkish name of the fortress, the Ihram Fortress. The fortress was especially built for the elite Ottoman units and the heavy artillery. Apart from defensive role against the Hungarians, it also controlled the traffic on the Danube and served as the starting point in Turkish excursions in the northern areas, and the occupation in 1521.
Concurrently with the fortress, a caravanserai was built in its vicinity. It had 24 rooms, each with its own fireplace, for the caravan travelers and voyagers. In time, it grew into the modern village of Ram. Modern Serbian Orthodox Church is located on this spot today and the former caravanserai serves as it churchyard. It is the only surviving caravanserai in Serbia.
During the 18th century and various Ottoman–Habsburg wars (1683-1699, 1716-1718, 1735-1739, 1788-1791), Ram partially regained its former importance. The interior of the fortress was demolished during the Serbian anti-Ottoman Koča's frontier rebellion in 1788. From then on, the life within the tower slowly withered, until the fortress was evacuated altogether by the Ottomans in the mid-19th century.
The majority of fortress, as it is today, originate from the 17th and 18th century, from the periods of frequent Ottoman–Habsburg wars. The fortress was damaged in both World Wars. The plans for the renovation of the fortress were proposed in the 1980s, but nothing has been done on its revitalization until the 2010s.
Is not known when the original city was built, but it certainly is one of the oldest forts in this region. Sultan Bayazid II built the present fortifications in the form of a regular pentagon with the maximum length of 34 m (112 ft) and width of 26 m (85 ft), designed to withstand cannon warfare. The city consists of 5 towers at four levels (three floors and the ground floor), three on the east and two on the western rampart. Apart from the place, where the fortress is entered, there are four corner towers. The side towards and fort are surrounded by a low wall and wide dry moat in front of it. City entrance is at the keep tower (donžon), which is located in the southwestern side of the fort. Masonry fireplaces, rare in the medieval buildings of this region, are preserved in them. Over city's moat lies a bridge which is located at the southeastern tower, and that leads to a space between the fortress and the low walls around it. On all the ramparts except the West one, the embrasures are placed at the same distance from the tower.
The five towers have a total of 36 cannon embrasures, which means it needed at least 100 soldiers to operate the artillery. The fortress, in general, has a different internal structure from other fortresses in this period. It also had a civilian purpose, and the remains of the fireplaces have been found on upper floors.
As of February 2018, the Ram Fortress is in very good condition. The towers are in good state, except for the Southeast (Tower II), whose front part is almost completely destroyed. Ramparts of the fortress are also in good condition, while the small bulwark is present in trace amounts. Inside the fort, along the western rampart, lies remains a building, with a base of proper octagon, with sides length of 3 m (9.8 ft). The whole area around the fortress was archaeologically examined during the 1980s. A plan for the reconstruction of Ram fortress was adopted in 2013.
Further exploration of the interior ensued in 2015, followed by the renovation. First, the fortress and its vicinity were thoroughly cleaned. After exploring almost 70% of the fortress, archaeologists reached the original floor. Several edifices from the 16th to the 18th century were discovered, from the period when Ram already wasn't functioning as a military camp anymore. Rifles from the 17th century, small arms, glass bombs, tools and antique vessels were also found. Some other artifacts point to the cultural function of the fortress, like glass and Chinese porcelain. After restoration, all the items will be exhibited in the fortress.
There is a ferry line which connects Ram with Stara Palanka across the Danube, in the Banat region. In order to boost the tourism, a pier on the Danube is also projected. Ministry of culture plans to adapt the entire village of Ram into the eco-museum.
Full reconstruction began in 2017. Restoration covered three towers and four walls. The towers IV and V were renovated while the Tower II, which is in worst shape, was partially reconstructed. Its foundations were repaired and it was rebuilt to the roof level, including the embrasures in the walls. By February 2018, several phases of archaeological works (phase IV) and renovation (phase I), or 60% of planned work, was done. Further works require more archaeological digging and a proposed design of the interior. It was planned that the restoration will be finished by July 2018, adaptation of the fortress by December 2019 while the renovation of the remains of the old caravanserai is planned, too.
First phase of the reconstruction was extended to November 2018, when the fortress should be reopened for visitors.
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