Fortress Stari grad - Travnik

tvrdjava travnik travnik

Old Fort is one of the most beautiful and best preserved medieval fortified buildings in Bosnia on which later historical periods left their distinctive characteristics. In so far known historiography sources, there is no record of the year and the duration of construction, or the builder. Historians agree that the castle was built in the second half of the 14th or the first half of the 15th century. By way of construction and other indications it is assumed that the original builder was King Tvrtko II Kotromanić, but King Stjepan Dabiša is also stated as a possible builder.

The present appearance of the walls and towers themselves are the result of intervention of Turkish builders of military fortifications. In 1953 the fort was placed under the patronage of the Museum of Travnik. Thanks to the director of the Museum Stipe Ložić the cleaning and redecorating of the fort began, with the archaeological and conservation work. Soon Stari grad became a center of cultural and artistic events in Travnik, which is seen by many tourists and visitors. The process of renewal and revitalization of the fortress was initiated in 1999. For Stari grad today has the status of a national monument in BIH.

Architectural layout of the fort

The long direction of the spread of Stari grad is a north-south axis, and the shorter east-west axis.

A.) The highest part of the fort, located on the most prominent part of the ridge is a bastion overshooting the lowest point in the city by 16 meters. The bastion is a Turkish construction on the site of a medieval donjon tower. South of the bastions is a smaller terrace, below which a stone vaulted cistern was built.

B.) To the south a rectangular courtyard further extends over a length of 28 m. In the place of the present tank and part of the garden remains of a medieval palace were found, destroyed by Turkish raids.

C.) The yard on the south side is closed off by a smaller building with strong walls, and a massive stone vaulted ceiling. There is just one room in the facility which was used as a casemate.

D.) Southward a smaller paddock extends (E1) with a hex decagon tower (height 11 m). The paddock further to the west ends in lower square terraces. The tower dates from the Ottoman period. It is assumed that in that place stood a medieval tower defense founded on the bedrock. With it a well-preserved vaulted cistern built of travertine and cement from Austro-Hungarian period was found. By the stone staircase, through a vaulted opening, you can reach the outer paddock (E3).

E.) A mosque was built in the area, from which the preserved minaret was embedded in the western wall of the city walls. The latest research suggests that the mosque was built in the name of Sultan Mehmed II Fatih, in the second half of the 15th century.

F.) South of the mosque are the remains of the building (sentry) from the Ottoman period, renewed during the Austro-Hungarian rule. Later, in the sixties during last century a restaurant (bistro) was located there.

G.) In the eastern part of the outer ward remains of residential property were found, which spread over two levels. The upper floor was placed on the outer bailey (E3) and the lower in the area of the garden (E2). The ground floor (storeroom) was reconstructed in 2003.

In the most spacious part of the city (E2) the remains of Cretans and two residential buildings were found, (I) and (J). The north wall with the staircase that connects the lower part of the city with the bastion is essentially medieval. The remains of the medieval walls were found along the south-eastern Turkish bastion in the area of the garden (E2), which indicates that the medieval fortification covered the present town area.

Mythical foundation

The Travnik fort in more than 500 years of its existence, has changed its name several times:
Garbun, a forgotten medieval name whose meaning we do not know exactly, it may have originated from the extinct language of the Illyrians, or maybe it was a Turkish word denoting a fort on the hill;
Travnik (Trawinc, Travnich, Travnic), for the Bosnian royal tax collector for livestock grazing, just like the city of Mostar was named after the bridge toll tax collectors;
the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy named the fort Kastel or Kaštel, fortress and it is marked so on their military maps;
by the people, it was simply called Grad, and after 1953 with the support of Stipe Lozić, director of the Museum of Travnik, and in order to put the fort into a tourist function it was called Stari grad. The fortress is now known by this name – Stari grad!

Neither archaeological research, nor various historiography literature written about the fort fully reveals its history, so that today there are many qualms that create this vision of the mythical establishment of the town of Travnik, that are the most distinguished parts of its urban mythology. Following Hegel’s thought that all that is known is not understood, regardless of how much we know about the fort, until this day we still do not know the exact year of construction, nor do we know who the Bosnian king-builder was; nor the number of architects that worked on it, and the numerous masons and servants; we do not know for how long its construction lasted; whether in 1463 the Turkish army won the fort by battle, surrender or betrayal of military troops; what the daily life of commanders and units of the fort was like - from the supposed Illyrian ruins, to the Bosnian medieval fortress and palace, during the Ottoman presence of 415 years, then the Austro-Hungarian period, the period of the Kingdom of SHS - Yugoslavia and World War II.

Some archaeologists and historians (like Dr. Jozo Petrović, who was born in Gornji Dolac near Travnik) believe that on the site of the present castle, even in the Neolithic, a settlement existed from which the prehistoric brine originated from, found on the north slope of the ridge on which the fort is situated.

Let our imaginative thinking permit us to think that the legendary Arduba was there, a fortress whose capture in the 9th century ended the Baton Illyrian tribes revolt against the best of the Roman legions led by the infamous warlords Tiberius and Germanicus, the fort from whose walls mothers carrying their children in their arms jumped from into the abyss (perhaps the dell of the creek Hendek beneath the fort), not willing to become slaves of the Roman patricians.

It is interesting that the famous Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi in 1660 wrote that Travnik was built by a Latin king named Dubrovnik, a completely unknown ruler in historiography.

Certainly the most important event in the varied history of the fort is the one which took place on the 3rd of June 1463, when the fort was captured by the Turkish army of Sultan Mehmed II Fatih.
The Turks fortified the castle, thus contributing to its original purpose, to be a strategically important military facility. It carried being such a facility until 1948 and for centuries military uniforms and insignia were rotated: medieval royal archers, the Turkish timarnik and ulufedžija, Austro-Hungarian soldiers, soldiers of the Yugoslav Kingdom, the Home Guard, Ustaše and Nazis, Tito's partisans and troops of FPRY.

In 18th and 19th century, the Travnik fort was known as a scaffold for the casemate and for the disobedient Bosnian bey and agha, as well as various other offenders.

Stari grad is one of the most beautiful and best preserved medieval fortified buildings in Bosnia on which later historical periods left their distinctive characteristics.
Its origin, function, and the events that went on within and around the walls, are described in different written and unwritten versions, sources and interpretations.


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