Ram Fortress

One of the oldest artillery fortifications in Serbia.

By Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

Towers 3 and 4 from the outside, Ram Fortress (2020-03-03) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

The Ram Fortress is situated on the right bank of the Danube, on the edge of the slopes of Homolje mountains, the watershed rising between the valleys of the rivers Mlava and Pek. It sits squarely on the spot where the course of the Danube takes a turn to the north, creating a large bend to bypass a rocky cliff, almost 20 metres high.  

Tower 1 and a circular structure, Ram Fortress (2020-03-03) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

As the surrounding area makes an ideal natural river crossing point, it has attracted humans since prehistoric times to erect their settlements and fortifications here in order to control and exploit its key strategic position.  Virtually at the heart of the  modern-day settlement of Ram, on a rock towering above the Danube, Turkish Sultan Bayezid II built a fortress in 1483, in order to protect what was then the northern border of the Ottoman Empire from joint attacks of Serbian and Hungarian troups.

Its importance waned after the Battle of Mohács in 1526, as the border shifter towards Buda and Vienna. It was last used during the period of Koča’s frontier rebellion (1788), when most of Tower No. 2 was razed. As it was never rebuilt, life at the Fortress was probably gradually ebbing away, leaving it completely deserted in the mid-19th Century, at the time of renewal of the Serbian state, when the Turkish army permanently withdrew from all fortified towns.   

Ram Fortress. Tower 4. (2018-09-19) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

The Fortress has an irregular pentangular shape. While smaller in size (25 х 35 metres at the base), it is a compact and well-defended fort thanks to its situation and the unity of its fortification elements. A cliff shields it from the west, while the remaining three sides are protected by a deep dry moat and double ramparts. 

Layout of walkway and tower 5, Ram Fortress (2018-09-19) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

A hidden walkway ran between the main rampart and the external one, probably along the entire perimeter of the Fortress. In addition to its favourable situation, its main defensive strength were its five cannon towers of different shapes. The ground sections of towers 1, 3, 4 and 5 had a separate entrance, while the upper storeys would have been accessed either via a separate external stairwell or through posterns, separate gates in the ramparts which enabled communication along the walkway on the ramparts.

Towers 4 and 5 and a circular structure, Ram Fortress (2020-03-03) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

The keep was separate from this system and was not connected to the walkway along the rampart, which afforded it an additional level of protection. The Fortress had two very well protected and hidden entrances in the western rampart. The main one was at the ground floor of the keep, facing westwards, while the auxiliary one was near Tower 5, forming a part of the western rampart.

Circular structure, Ram Fortress (2020-03-03) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

A number of drystone buildings with stone foundations and bundwerk walls was discovered inside the fortification. These buildings, recognisable for their ovens tiled and edged with bricks built inside the stone walls, occupied much of the internal space and were used for housing the military crew. 

Tower 1, Ram Fortress (2020-03-03) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

At least two stratigraphic horizons have been identified, belonging to the period of the Austro-Turkish Wars in the late 17th and the early 18th Centuries, when the military crew was not housed at the towers, which was common in the early stages in the  fortification’s use, in the late 15th Century and throughout the 16th Century.

Ram Fortress from the Danube. Towers 1, 5 and 4., Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2018-03-30, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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In those days, the military crew was mainly housed at the towers, as witnessed by the hearths formed of bricks in the upper storeys of all towers except Tower 2, which was for the most part torn down.  Another discovery is a system of drainage channels (four of them) with stormwater outlets in the ramparts. It is very likely that two outlets on the northern side would have also been used as sewage outlets. 

Ram Fortress, layout from the Danube., Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2018-03-30, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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Underneath the layer of stone building was a thick levelled surface from the time of construction of the fortification, made of stone and mortar of an older wall – a rampart (?) that has only partially been uncovered this year. The layers and, to an extent, the buildings were damaged in World War I, when the fortress was shelled, as witnessed by multiple bomb and shrapnel craters that have been discovered. 

Ram Fortress, Layout of tower 3 before conservation work (2016-04-05) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

Inside the Fortress, a dominant spot is occupied by a large building with a round base, built alongside the western rampart and polygonal in shape in its upper section.  

Tower 1 and circular building before conservation work, Ram Fort (2016-04-05) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

The round-shaped building had two stages of construction and two levels. The older stage, found at the lower level, had a round base, without an entrance and with a 3.3 metres thick wall, while the newer stage (upper level) has been partly preserved in  the southern half of the structure.

Ram Fortress, tower 1 and circular building before conservation work (2016-04-05) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

It had a regular polygonal (dodecagonal) base with a 0.6 metres thick wall. The function of this building has not yet been reliably determined.

Ram fortress. Layout of towers 3 and 4 before conservation work. (2016-09-29) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

The Ram Fortress is a specific fear of military architecture which, although distinctly designed for artillery purposes, with three-storey towers, each featuring three cannon holes at each storey and one on each exterior wall surface,  nevertheless incorporates numerous Byzantine architectural features.    

Ram Fortress, tower 1 and circular building before conservation work. (2016-04-05) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

These facts are crucial for examining its role in the development of military architecture in the Balkans.    

Ram fortress. Layout of towers 3 and 4 before conservation work., Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2016-09-29, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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Layout of towers 3 and 4. Ram Fortress, Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2018-10-02, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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All known facts seem to indicate that the Ram Fortress had an exclusively military purpose, while the civilian population lived outside of the Fortress, in the lower town which had sprung on the mild slopes to the east and the south of the fortification. This area has not been researched and the only visible building are a well-preserved caravanserai to the south and a Turkish bath at the eastern foothill underneath the Fortress.

Credits: Story

Regional Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments in Smederevo. 

The narration was provided by Dejan Radovanović, archaeological advisor, acting director.  

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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