Bač Fortress

Slavica Vujovic

Chief, Architectural Sector, Provincial Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments, Petrovaradin

Provincial Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments, Petrovaradin

Bač, Serbia 

EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2018

 

Integrated Approach to Heritage Conservation

 

 

How to preserve and use cultural heritage is a question that all the professionals, property owners, local communities, competent institutions and many others put every day. In the early 21st century, the Provincial Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments Petrovaradin, one of 13 institutions of protection of immovable cultural properties in the Republic of Serbia, has put a focus on protecting the Bac Fortress that was in a devastated condition.

The Bač Fortress is an authentic "water town / burg", designed as a defence system adapted to marshy land, quite unique among the fortifications on the left side of the Danube River. The Bac Fortress consists of a fortified castle with a barbican and an area where the mediaeval suburb used to be, now only a mediaeval Gate Tower remains. The fortified castle began construction in the 14th-century with additions made in the 15th- and 16th-centuries. In the early 18th century the Bac Fortress suffered severe destructions when the castle lost irretrievably more than half of its built structures.

Reconstruction and research of this whole complex have been done in continuity since 1958, though with shorter or longer interruptions. The great historic and architectural importance of this fortress obliged generations of conservationists to search for the best ways and means of reconstruction, having in mind the complexity of the problems that encompass the degree of the unexplored sites and locations, historic data at hand and the state of the ruins. Two periods of higher concern can be noted: 1957-1962 and 1980-1985, when both archeological research and conservation was in progress. However, since it was not assigned any use, the Donjon  tower– the keep continued to degrade, and such a negative trend culminated when a fire broke out in the 1990s.

 

 

 

A new conservation campaign started in 2003 with remedial interventions on the Donjon and the archaeological excavations were resumed once again. From 2006, the Bac Fortress along with other heritage properties and the wider Bac area investigations and usage became a part of a Development Project of Integrated Protection of the Municipality of Bac Heritage “Centuries of Bac”, initiated by the Provincial Institute (author S. Vujović). The goal was to to research and increase knowledge; to implement key conservation principles in its preservation; to find a sustainable use for the site; and to raise awareness of its value among the community.

In 2018 the “Centuries of Bac” Project approach implemented on the Bac Fortress along with the results obtained during a period of more than a decade were highly rewarded with the Grand Prix the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards in the category of conservation.

When evaluating the achieved results, the significance of partnership between the Provincial Institute, as a project leader, and the key partners: the Fund for Preserving Cultural and Historical Heritage “Centuries of Bač”, the University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Technology and the Museum of Vojvodina, was highlighted, with their important roles in investigations and museum activities. Then a wide range of  financial support was underscored, as it was provided from regional, national and international sources, including the EU funding.

Those efforts were particularly noticed by the Jury “This project is an exceptional example of heritage preservation based on interdisciplinary collaboration. To achieve this, the project leaders have made use of European resources to research and carry out necessary preliminary investigations, which in turn has led to the implementation of a correct management strategy. A sustained effort has been made to maintain the aspect of the ruin through careful conservation. In addition there is a strong educational component relevant to the entire region”.

 

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Broad scope of researches were carried out in feald of: archeology, architecture, chronology and the methods of their construction and the causes of the both structure and material degradation;  technology of producing construction materials: bricks, mortar, stone;  possibilities of technology improvement of applied materials for the future conservation - especially through the European research project HEROMAT.

Conservation and restoration works were conducted in the interior of the Donjon tower. Implementation of the old techniques and craftsmanship was a key point in this demanding enterprise. Carefully placed installations and fixtures did not jeopardise the tower authenticity and its historic ambience. Different procedures and combined technical protection measures of the Fortress structures were done on built structures that remained underground (and made visible): the Cistern, the Fortified Castle Gate Tower,  and on the overground remains:  the South and South-west ramparts, the Square Tower, the Chapel Tower and the Round Tower with stone corbels.

Introducing the purpose and various aspects of use for this cultural property was valued highly in overall results evaluation. The project has successfully integrated the Bač Fortress into the life of the local community and has found a sustainable use to ensure its future. It has been restored, its archaeological remains preserved and its interior transformed into a visitor centre and exhibition space which helps visitors to interpret the wider cultural landscape of Bač. It has also become a centre where professional knowledge about heritage conservation and management is gained, enhanced and shared. For the past 15 years the Fortress has also been the regional central point for the European Heritage Days, an initiative of the Council of Europe. Due to the success of this project the Bač Fortress was listed on UNESCO’s Tentative List in 2010, as a part of the “Historical place of Bač and its surroundings”.

Today, the Donjon tower is available for use for various activities, has its permanent exhibition of the archaeological material on two levels: the second level exhibits stone fragments and terracotta, whilst the fourth level displays ceramics, metal and glass objects. Furthermore, the basement holds all the archaeological material from the dig (author N.Stanojev). The room with a fireplace is of a particular interest and numerous meetings of professionals and students from both this country and abroad have been held there (workshops, seminars, promotions, exhibitions), as well as heritage programmes. An exciting point for visitors is an observation deck below an impressive roof structure, which allows a wide view of the plains. The tower has also become a destination for film crews and tourists. Here, the cultural, historical, and socio-economic values of the tower as a cultural heritage are interlaced in the best possible way.

Besides the results obtained on the Bac Fortress, the value of other Bac and cultural landscape monuments was emphasised. “The town of Bač shows influences of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Byzantine, Islamic and Baroque styles, along with examples of vernacular architecture. The built heritage pays testimony to the cultural diversity of the area, linking the Balkans with Central and Western Europe. Some of its most iconic structures are now listed as national monuments: namely the Bač Fortress, the Bodjani Orthodox Monastery and the Franciscan Monastery of Bač. The Fortress is located in close proximity to the Danube, a river which has provided a link between many European countries”, the jury noted.

The lessons learned were communicated to the public through a publication Cultural Heritage – How to Preserve and Use: Centuries of Bac Contribution and the exhibitions bearing the same name, along with various conferences and workshops. We offered some answers...

 

 


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