The “?” tavern

The oldest tavern in Belgrade

Exterior appearance - windows (1823) by Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute of BelgradeMinistry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

How it all began

It was built in 1823 by the doyen of the Merchants’ Guild, Naum Ičko, for Prince Miloš Obrenović. 

External appearance - lamp (1823) by Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute of BelgradeMinistry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

The Prince gave it to doctor Toma Kostić, for his merits in the Second Serbian Uprising. 

Inscription about the opening of a tavern (1823) by Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute of BelgradeMinistry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

Doctor Toma's Tavern: A 19th Century Balkan Gem

In 1926, doctor Toma, Naum Ičko’s son–in–law, opened a tavern which was then called “Doctor Toma’s tavern”. It is an exceptional example of the Balkan town house from the beginning of the nineteenth century. 

The tavern patio (1823) by Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute of BelgradeMinistry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

A Charming House Design

The house follows the street line, while the garden and the courtyard occupy the rest of the plot behind. There was a wooden oriel on the courtyard side, overlooking the garden and the well. The roof is covered in tiles, has deep eaves and high chimneys.

The roof is covered in tiles, has deep eaves and high chimneys.

Chandelier in the tavern (1823) by Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute of BelgradeMinistry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

It has timber frame construction, a cellar, ground floor and upper floor. The tavern changed owners and names several times. 

Until 1878 it was “Doctor Toma’s tavern”, but the new tenant, Bogosav Marjanović from Užice, changed its name to “At the Shepherd”. 

The interior of the tavern - a table (1823) by Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute of BelgradeMinistry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

History Unveiled

Several years later, the house acquired new owner, who bought it in 1885. Ivan Pavlović, who dealt in ecclesiastical artifacts, called it “At the Cathedral” in order to underline the vicinity of the Belgrade cathedral and the relation between the church and his trade. 

Window, table and chairs (1823) by Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute of BelgradeMinistry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

However, parish priest Novica Lazarević complained and threatened the owner with a lawsuit because the name of the tavern was not in compliance with eight the Regulation on taverns or the church.  

The signpost was taken down overnight, lest it should “abuse the house of God”.  

External appearance - lamp (1823) by Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute of BelgradeMinistry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia

The owner put the question mark as a temporary solution, waiting for the public to calm down. But people from Belgrade liked the new name and the unusual sign has survived to the present day.

Credits: Story

Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute of Belgrade

The narration was provided by Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute of Belgrade.

Credits: All media
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