Skull Tower

cele kula

The Skull Tower (Serbian: Ćele-kula, Ћеле-Кула, pronounced [tɕel̩e kula]) is a tower composed largely of human skulls located in the city of Niš, Serbia. During the 1809 Battle of Čegar, fought during the First Serbian Uprising, Serbian revolutionaries led by commander Stevan Sinđelić were attacked by Turkish forces on Čegar Hill, near Niš. Rather than be captured by the Turks and executed by impalement, Sinđelić fired his pistol into a powder magazine, killing himself and all Serbian rebels and Turkish soldiers in the vicinity. Afterward, Hurshid Pasha, the Turkish Grand Vizier of Niš, ordered that a tower be made from the skulls of the killed Serbian revolutionaries. Once complete, the ten-foot high Skull Tower contained 952 Serbian skulls embedded on four sides in fourteen rows.

After the Serbian re-capture of Niš in 1878, the tower was roofed over, and in 1892 a chapel was built around it. In 1937, the chapel was renovated. A bust of Sinđelić was added the following year. In 1948, Skull Tower and the chapel enclosing it were declared Cultural Monuments of Exceptional Importance and came under the protection of the Socialist Republic of Serbia. Further renovation of the chapel occurred again in 1989. As of 2013, 54 skulls remain on the tower, with one, said to be that of Sinđelić, enclosed in a glass container. Considered a symbol of independence by ethnic Serbs, the tower has been mentioned in the writings of French Romantic poet Alphonse de Lamartine and English travel writer Alexander W. Kinglake. In the two centuries following its construction, it has become a popular tourist attraction, visited by 30,000–50,000 people annually.

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