Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History

Explore the extraordinary past of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through the pages of the book 'Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History.' Uncover political events, economic development, and cultural heritage of these Banat towns through richly documented stories. Follow the evolution from the earliest days to the present, delving into the intricate threads of political intrigues, economic transformations, and cultural ascensions. Experience the past through the eyes of the author as the pages of the book unfold before you, providing a unique perspective on the life and legacy of these significant locales.

Novi Bečej Fortress

Novi Bečej Fortress

A historian, Rudolf Šmit, provided quite exhaustive data on the Novi Bečej Fortress in his study - "The Town of Bečej" - published in the Journal of the Historical Society in 1939. For this work, Šmit primarily utilized archival materials from the Kriegsarchiv in Vienna, among other historical sources. Within this archive lies a drawing (plan) of the Bečej Fortress along with all relevant information, which was crafted by engineering captain Johan Christian de Kolet just before the demolition of the Bečej Fortress in March 1701.

According to these records, the fortress was a typical medieval water town, built "at the most favorable point - on an island." All parts of the fortress were constructed simultaneously, and its layout gives the impression that it was primarily built for defense, as the town was not artistically adorned and did not serve as a display of luxury and wealth. It was constructed very robustly and solidly, with no buttresses attached to its walls. Bricks were used for its construction, with only the edges of the main town tower covered in stone. Its main defense was the Tisa River, and the entire fortress was surrounded by a moat about thirty meters wide and three meters deep.

The layout of the fortress was "clear and simple." One entered the outer town through a movable bridge, bordered by palisades, which was once reinforced with a roundel called a barbican; from there, one reached the first town gate, which was protected on the side by a semicircle. Through the town gate with a vaulted arch, one entered the first town courtyard with an ascent. Here stood the main town tower, behind which, leaning against the outer wall, was likely the commander's residence of the fortress.

The town itself, without the outer fortification, had an area of ​​2,231 square meters, of which 440 square meters were built, and 1,981 square meters were unbuilt. The diameter of the fortress was 48.5 meters, and the length of the walls and towers was 280 meters. It is presumed that the fortress was built between 1300-1320. The strong and high walls confirm that it was built before the discovery of gunpowder.

Some experts dispute the accuracy of the sketch (plan) found in the Kriegsarchiv in Vienna, according to which the fortress had an almost regular quadrangular shape with towers at the ends, straight walls slightly curved towards the middle of each wall. Đurđe Bošković believes that this sketch does not match the remains of the walls, whose traces on the terrain are much less regular than depicted on the sketch; "the wall near the southeastern tower even abruptly curves in a circular line, which is nowhere to be seen in the 1701 plan."

The claim that the fortress was built on an island in the Tisa River is also not reliable. Not only is this not evident from the drawing published by Šmit in his study, but also Evliya Çelebi in his description of the beautiful town of Bečej emphasizes that the fortress was on the banks of the Tisa River. Sentklarai categorically denies that the fortress was built on an island. He does say that Bečej, like the fortress, could have been on one of the islands due to sedimentation and flooding of the Tisa River, but this position depended on the flooding of the Tisa. During such moments, not only the fortress but also the settlement of Bečej would have been on an island, and that "island lay nowhere else but on the same land where the town of Bečej lies today, where the remains of the ancient fortress protrude from the Tisa..."

In addition to the presented data, Šmit fairly comprehensively portrayed the role of the fortress in the economic and political life throughout history and its rulers, so it is entirely justified to present a larger part of it here. Perhaps even more, as the fortress and its history are, in fact, part of the history of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo.

In addition to Šmit's study, we will also utilize the valuable material prepared and published in the Novi Sad newspaper "Dnevnik" by our fellow citizen, a historian by profession, Master Aleksandar Kasaš.

Šmit attempts to explain the origin and name of Bečej, stating: "Bečej is first mentioned in a document in 1238 when King Bela IV re-grants to the crusader convent in Stony Beograd the village of Bečej (villa Wechey), which once belonged to the royal command of the fortress of Bač, along with the toll and fair rights of the Saracen bridge at Čurug (Churlach)."

The Crusader Convent, according to him, built the town of Bečej on the most favorable point on the Tisa Island to secure its possession in Bečej and for lucrative transport on the Tisa. The town (fortress) was built in the first quarter of the fourteenth century (between 1300-1320). As evidence for this claim, Šmit uses a document from 1342 mentioning the castellan of Bečej ("de Beche"). However, this information does not indicate that the fortress was built by the crusaders from Székesfehérvár (this town is called Stony Belgrade by Serbs) between 1300-1320; it only suggests that it already existed at that time. This means it could have been built a hundred years earlier or more, especially considering that remnants of an old Roman fortress and Roman coins were found in its ruins, indicating its existence or presence even in Roman times. Whether it was subsequently destroyed and to what extent is unknown.

In the remains (ruins) of the fortress at the beginning of this century, a sword dating back to the eleventh and early twelfth century was found, so it cannot be conclusively stated that the fortress was built by the crusaders from Székesfehérvár (this town is called Stony Belgrade by Serbs) between 1300-1320.

The deed from 1238, emphasizing "re-given," suggests that it had been previously granted to them once. Perhaps greater attention should be paid to the words of the deed: "which once belonged to the king, the command of the Bač fortress, along with the toll and fair rights of the Saracen place Čurug (Churlach)." Can't we conclude from this that the fortress already existed at that time? What connection would the command of such a distant fortress (from Bač to Bečej is about a hundred kilometers) have with a village unless there was a fortification with a certain garrison in it? When determining the origin of the fortress, perhaps the assumption of Sentklarai should also be considered that the Bečej fortress was renovated or built by 1419-1422, or a few years earlier, by Stefan Lazarević.

For quite some time after 1342, nothing is heard about the fortress. Only in 1386, future Hungarian King Sigismund, as Margrave of Brandenburg, granted it to the brothers Ladislav and István Lošonci.

Šmit claims that it is not known when and under what circumstances the town of Bečej came under the rule of Stefan Lazarević, but it was in the hands of Despot Stefan at the end of the fourteenth century. After Stefan Lazarević, in 1419, the fortress passed into the inheritance of his nephew Đorđe Branković. Đorđe's commander of the fortress since 1440 was Ladislav Gesti, when Bečej is mentioned as an important customs point. In the following year, 1441, Despot Branković granted Bečej with its surroundings (which included ten villages and four towns) to his cousin Pavle Bárány from Verona. In Bečej, in 1442, assemblies of the Torontal County were held.

According to some sources, the Bečej fortress was for a certain period under the rule of King Matthias (Matthias Corvinus), and after his death, it passed into the possession of the Gereb family from Vingárt.

Even during the unrest under Doža Đerđ in 1514, the Bečej fortress is mentioned because it was occupied by insurgents.

The Turkish army under the command of Mehmed Pasha Sokolović conquered the Bečej fortress on September 19, 1551. The Turks repaired the fortress, but very little is known about it during Turkish rule.

About the Turkish garrison from the second half of the sixteenth century (1579-80), it is mentioned that "the Muslim community of the fortress numbered twenty-one men. Among them were the castle keeper, the imam, and the preacher."

The travel writer Evliya Çelebi provided valuable information about Bečej and the fortress around 1665 in his work titled "The Beautiful Town of Bečej."

During the wars for the liberation of these regions from the Turks between 1683-1699, the fortress did not have a military role. At the behest of Prince Eugene of Savoy, it was converted into a warehouse in 1697.

According to the decisions of the Treaty of Karlowitz, all fortifications on the Tisa were demolished. Thus, in 1701, the Bečej fortress disappeared. However much its demolition was postponed, at the insistence of the Temesvár Pasha, the demolition of the Bečej fortress began in March 1701.

The demolition was completed on May 5, 1701 - unfortunately - it was carried out to the foundations. Thus disappeared the Bečej fortress, which even today, with its insignificant remains, is a relic worthy of respect - as Sentklarai says - of the noblest patriotism and lofty civic virtues of ancestors. But even such foundation remains allegedly obstructed navigation, so they were further destroyed by mines in 1911.

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