The project of reconstructing and conserving the Fortress in Bač that is under UNESCO protection was awarded the EU award for cultural heritage Europa Nostra 2018. During the decade and a half of the restoration of this fortress, the European funds, through various projects, provided around 700,000 EUR.
The fortress in Bač has been deserted and almost forgotten for almost three centuries, ever since it was mined by Hungarian insurgents in 1704. Over the centuries, the remains of it became scattered by the looters of art treasure and there was also negligence that made the condition of it even worse. It has been only during the last 15-odd years that the endeavors to protect and present this cultural heritage through the project “The Centuries of Bač” (“Vekovi Bača”) have been intensified. The high value of the entire heritage of this part of Serbia lies in the layers-artifacts that are eight millenniums old, the material proof of the presence of many nations throughout history, as well as in the connection with other parts of Europe through the Danube.
The medieval Fortress Bač from the 14th century, along with the fortified castle and the suburbium, the Orthodox monastery Bođani from the 15th century, the Franciscan friary from the 12th century as well as the remains of the Turkish bath from the 16th century, the traditional national construction, industrial and hydro-technical heritage along with the rich natural and non-material heritage all represent high potential for the development of cultural, ecological and religious tourism.
Extensive research of the Donžon tower was done during the first five years of the project duration. There was also the technical support through the programme of the Europe Council and international cooperation with the Republic of Italy within the project I. Ne. P.S. Ancient Bač with the surroundings (I.Ne.P.S. Drevni Bač sa okruženjem) entered into the Preliminary list of world heritage in March 2010.
The second phase of the duration of this project, from 2011 to 2015, began with finding the remains of the fresco The Crucifixion of Christ with the Madonna and St. John from the 13th century in the Franciscan friary. This finding, apart from arousing public interest, resulted, in 2013, in a new Serbian-Italian project of restoring endangered Bođani fresco-paintings.
In the suburbium of the fortress, there arose the Educational center in which, since 2014, the headquarters of the fund “The Centuries of Bač” has been situated. The EU donation provided the means to rehabilitate the Franciscan friary, while the partnership participation in the international research project “HEROMAT” (2012-2015) contributed to acquiring new knowledge in the field of material research and cultural heritage protection.
What is currently underway is the realization of the third five-year period of this project, in the course of which there has been planned to finish rehabilitating the Franciscan friary in Bač and to include it into the tourist and educational offer, nomination for entering the UNESCO list of world cultural and natural heritage as the “Historical place Bač with its surroundings”, finishing the conservation and restoration of the all fresco-paintings in the monastery Bođani and further rehabilitation of the fortress.
Also, a part of the Bač Fortress rehabilitation has been financed through the programme of cross-border cooperation between Hungary and Serbia, through the project FRESCO, amounting to more than 300,000 EUR. The participants in this project were municipality Bač, on the Serbian side and Bacsborsod, on the Hungarian side. This close cooperation significantly improved the functionality and attractiveness of this cultural heritage monument on the tourist map of the offer of this region.
The Beginnings of the Fortress
The fortress in Bač came into existence in the period from 1338 to 1342, when the king Charles Robert of Anjou fortified the borders of his kingdom. This was the time of the rise of tzar Dušan and the time of Serbian-Hungarian conflicts, which Charles stated in one of his letters as one of the reasons to work on the fortress. The additional work on building and fortifying the fortress, as well as adapting it to the new military-engineering requirements lasted a little less than two centuries and it was led by archbishops, who were often the county heads as well. The last reconstruction work before the fortress fell into Turkish hands was performed in the time of Fr. Paul Timory 1523-1526, when the defense system was finished.
On the naturally raised terrain, built by the meandering of the Mostonga river, there stood the palisade-fenced in suburbium spreading out from the east to the west, entered into over the bridge or through the entrance tower with the gate. In the north-west part of the meander, on the island, there stood the fortified castle, which could be reached through the separate barbican surrounded by water on all sides. The dimensions of the plateau on which the fortress was built are relatively small, its surface area being 8,700 m2. The foundation of the fortress, whose surface area is 5,600 m2, is in the shape of a trapezoid and it is adjusted to the terrain. On the corners there stood five protruding defense towers, interconnected by the fortress wall whose width is 2.5 m and height around 12 m, with shooting lanes. The shapes and dimensions of the towers vary. Three corner towers have a circular foundation and are opened to the inner space, while the north-west tower and the one with the entrance gate have quadrilateral foundations. The eastern part of the fortress was best defended as there is located the guard – Donžon tower and the residential palace, along with the well and cistern. At the inner side of the fortress wall there were multi-purpose objects – palaces, economical objects and a range of grain-pits. All objects were made of brick with the application of stone for decorative elements.
The Fortress of Bač
The fortress of Bač is the best preserved medieval fortress in Vojvodina. It is located near the town of Bač, after which the entire fertile plain between the Danube and the Tisa river was named – Bačka. It was erected on a former island between the Mostonga river and one of its backwaters. The fortress was surrounded by water on all sides and it was entered over the bascule bridge.
Bač was first mentioned in 535, when the emperor Justinian mentioned it in his letter. In 837, Bač was the Avar fortress and during the rule of the Arpad dynasty it was the royal town and the headquarters of the diocese. The Mongols devastated the town in 1241 and after that the fortress in Bač became the military fortress of the powerful Hungarian rulers. The construction of the fortress lasted almost two centuries and it did not assume its final shape until the 15th century. At the beginning of the 16th century, after the Battle of Mohacs in 1526, the town and the fortress fell into Turkish hands. According to the writings of the travel writer Evliya Çelebi, the town was widely surrounded by trenches filled with water. Judging by the documents and old engravings, the town was not significantly destroyed during the liberation from the Turkish rule in 1686. During the Rakoczi uprising (1703-1711), Bač suffered great losses, the fortress was destroyed and burned many times and after the mining in 1704 it was completely abandoned.
During the 1960s, due to the channels trickling through, the area around the fortress was left with no water trenches.
The fortress in Bač gained the status of a cultural monument in 1948, which put an end to its further deterioration and looting and it opened the door to the organized care for its preservation.