- About Novi Sad
- Getting to Novi Sad
- Where to Stay
- What to see
Petrovaradin Fortress, which has long been known as the Gibraltar of the Danube, is perched on the right bank of the Danube river overlooking Novi Sad. It was built between 1692 and 1780 based on the system of fortification construction developed by Sébastian Le Pestre de Vauban’s, later known as the Marquis de Vauban. The fortress was erected during the reigns of the Austrian rulers Leopold I, Joseph I, Charles VI, Maria Theresa and Joseph II From 1702, a post of the Danube Military Frontier was located in the fortress.
The fortress is nestled on a river meander, on top of a promontory of diorite rock, and has a dominant geographical and strategic location in the region because of which many nations have fought for it over the centuries. Here there are traces of human inhabitation dating as far back as the late Stone Age, with the Celts, Romans, Huns, Avars, Byzantines, Hungarians, Serbs and Turks also settling in this area over the years. The Turks were driven out in 1687 by the Austrians who began building the current fortress five years later.
In Latin, petra means cliff, var is Hungarian for city, while in Turkish din means faith. Joining these words creates Petrovaradin which the local people have literally interpreted to mean “city on the rock that is strong as faith.”
Italian Count Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli (1659-1730), a Bologna-born military engineer of the Austrian army, takes a great deal of credit for the building the fortress. Construction began according to Vauban’s system which was based on there being several distinct parts to the fortress (Upper Fortress, Lower Fortress, Hornwork, Island Fortification and Bridgehead). The southwest outward projecting corner – Leopold’s Bastion – was the first structure to be built in the Upper Fortress. By the 1730s, in addition to Leopold’s Bastion, the Innocent, Joseph, Ludwig and Theresa Bastions were all complete, as well as the Bridgehead – Brückenschantz – on the left bank of the Danube, and the small Island Fortification – Inselschantze (the latter two no longer exist).
The final construction stage of buildings in the fortress began in the mid-18th century. In the Upper Fortress, the main buildings – the Long Barracks, the Simple Barracks and the Gunboat (also known as the Arsenal, and later called Mamula’s Barracks) – were built, a water supply was installed and the Clock Tower was erected on Ludwig's Bastion. The structures built in this period are today the fortress’s best-known tourist attractions.
The Clock Tower on Ludwig's Bastion is one of the most famous landmarks of both the fortress and the city of Novi Sad. This baroque tower is famous because the large hand indicates the hour while the small hand indicates the minute. This was done so people, in particular those navigating the river, could see what the time was from a long distance away. The clock is driven by the original mechanism which is wound daily. Another interesting trait of this clock is that in cold weather it runs slow while in warm weather it is fast.
The Gunboat is the most significant one-storey building in the Upper Fortress. This rectangular-shaped baroque building today houses the Novi Sad City Museum.
The Long Barracks forms the striking outline of Petrovaradin Fortress. It was an important building in the garrison complex because it served as accommodation for officers and soldiers, and also contained a series of workshops, quartermasters' stores and stables amongst other things. Today, the building is a hotel while below the ground there are many studios belonging to members of the Likovni Krug Association of Artists.
Between 1768 and 1776, the subterranean fortress, comprising the Catacombs, galleries and corridors over four levels, was built. The length of these tunnels and underground rooms adds up to a little over 16 km. This unique system also envisaged the laying of mine fields, had designated areas for army accommodation and weapons storage, as well as rows of arrow slits, of which there were 10,000 in total. This period also saw the building of the Joseph II Well and the completion and covering of the 3.5 m in diameter and 60 metres deep War Reserve Well. This particularly interesting structure, beneath a circular room, located under a dome-shaped roof, was important as it was the main reserve of water for the troops.
The fortress was built by a large workforce in stages, with shorter and longer interruptions, over a space of 90 years.
Petrovaradin Fortress has been visited by a great many historical personalities over the centuries. Of those with prominent historical roles, Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I, Aleksandar Karađorđević I, the first king of Yugoslavia, and Karađorđe Petrović, the leader of the First Serbian Uprising, deserve special mention. During the First World War, Josip Broz Tito too set foot in Petrovaradin Fortress, but as a prisoner.
Today, the fortress is one of the finest examples of 18th-century European military architecture. It is very well preserved and is the second largest fortress in Europe. Having played its defensive role so well in the past, Petrovaradin Fortress today is a first-class cultural and historical monument and tourist attraction. A hotel and a great many coffee shops and restaurants are today located in the fortress and EXIT, the largest music festival in this part of Europe, takes place here every summer in the first week of July. Besides EXIT, many other events are held throughout the year in the fortress, including Baby EXIT, Cultural Time Machine, Tunnels of Light, Wine Labyrinth and Night of Museums. Baby EXIT (at the end of May) is a festival which attracts children of all ages to its several stages featuring dance, play and song. Cultural Time Machine (in October) is an annual festival which aims to promote Serbia as a cultural destination to European business people through a series of meetings and forums. Tunnels of Light (New Year’s Eve) is an annual charity event which is held in the Catacombs underneath the fortress. Wine Labyrinth (in November) is centred on wine tasting and the promotion of the wine-making of the Fruška Gora vineyard region. And finally, as part of the traditional Night of Museums event (in May), visitors have the chance to visit the Novi Sad City Museum, the catacombs, the Observatory and the studios in the fortress.
The most outstanding tourist attractions on the fortress are the Novi Sad City Museum, which is located in the Gunboat building, the Observatory and the studios. The Novi Sad City Museum owns an important collection of historical items from the city and surrounding area, and also offers tours of the Catacombs and the underground military galleries. In addition to this, the Planetarium offers projections of the night sky and astronomy lectures. A large number of studios are located underneath the Long Barracks. They are open throughout the year and many artists find inspiration for their own works in them. It is possible to speak with artists in these studios, take a look at their work and even witness new works being created. All the artists in these studios are members of the Likovni Krug Association of Artists which commonly organises events in the fortress itself. Of these studios, Atelier 61 is of particular interest for its artistic tapestry-weaving, its workshops organised for people of all ages and for its permanent exhibition which is open to the public. The Academy of Arts and the Historical Archive of Novi Sad have also found their respective places in Petrovaradin Fortress.
Taking a walk around Petrovaradin Fortress is something that should not be missed – enjoy the fresh air, admire the great many statues made by various artists and take in the unforgettable view of Novi Sad, the Danube, Fruška Gora and the Pannonian Plain – a view of the world in every direction.