The fortress Kalemegdan has a very long history, going back at least to the castrum of Roman times; destroyed several times by successive waves of invaders, was rebuilt as a castle by the Byzantines in the 12th century. Under the Serb Despot Stefan Lazarević , son of the king Lazar , Belgrade became the capital of the Serbian kingdom; the fortress was strengthened, and the Despot’s palace was built within the old castle. A medieval town grew up within the walls of the lower fort (a model is on display on one of the upper terraces).
In 1912, Meštrović designed a monumental fountain on the theme of the liberation of Serbia from the Turks which was to have stood at Terazije square. The center of the fountain’s basin would have contained a five-stepped column representing five centuries of slavery under the Turks and it was intended that the “Victor” should stand on top of this. After the end of World War I the project was given up, so that in 1928 the “Victor” was placed on a column in Kalemegdan as part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the breach of the Thessaloniki Front. This monument is often used as a symbol of Belgrade.
Kalemegdan is the most beautiful and biggest park in Belgrade, which is also the most important cultural and historical complex, in which the Belgrade Fortress stands high above the Sava and Danube confluence. The name Kalemegdan applies only to the spacious plateau surrounding the Fortress, which was turned into a park in the eighties of the XIX century. When the Fortress served as Belgrade’s chief military stronghold, the plateau was a place from which the enemy was kept under observation and where preparations were made for combats. Its name derives from the Turkish words kale (field) and megdan (battle). The Turks also called it Fichir-bair, which means “the contemplation hill”.
The planned development of Kalemegdan began in 1890, when the military authorities handed the park over to the Belgrade civilian authorities. The mayor of Belgrade at that time, Nikola Pašić, approved the first credit amounting to 10,000 dinars for the regulation of Kalemegdan. In 1905, the park was expanded with the development of Mali (small) Kalemegdan, which spreads from the Cvijeta Zuzorić Art Pavilion to the Zoo.
Before the First World War, Kalemegdan spread to the now still existing stone stairway (leading to the lower terrace). The ground beyond this stairway remained completely untouched and overgrown with weeds until 1929. In 1931, the park expanded also to Upper Town. Monuments to many famous cultural and public persons were erected in the park. Kalemegdan now includes the Military Museum, Cvijeta Zuzorić Art Pavilion, City Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments, Zoo, a children’s amusement park, a large number of sports fields, restaurants and so on.
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