B A Č   F O R T R E S S


Address:Ulica bačke tvrđave, 21420 Bač

Location: Bač Fortress is a very important multi-layered historical site. The fortified castle complex with the suburbium is located on a sharp and deep former meander of the river Mostonga, on elevated ground that was once surrounded by water. The historical ambience today is significantly changed. Construction of the Danube-Tisa-Danube rectified the riverbed of the Mostonga and turned it into a canal, leaving the fortress and suburbium without a water mirror. The fort is now reached from the direction of Bač via a concrete pedestrian bridge, passing through the town gate and the Bačka fortress road, turning to the north at the last row of houses and across the earthen ramp, the site of the former drawbridge, found inside the fortified castle. Vehicular access to the fortress is from the Bač - Vajska road, where the mighty edifice of brick with its tower dominates the fertile plains of Bačka.

Legal status: Bač Fortress was placed under state protection based on the resolution of the Institute for Scientific Research and Cultural Heritage NRS br.1175/48 of 30.7.1948. Bač Fortress, with suburbium, is categorized as a cultural,and spatial unit of great importance ("Off. Gazette of RS" No. 16/90).

Brief history: The time of construction of the preserved buildings of the fortress has not been sufficiently clarified to this day . The terrain on which it is located is an important archaeological site. In the area of the visible foundation walls of the fortified castle , there was a settlement from the Late Neolithic period - six millennia agowhich remained through the Bronze and Early Iron Age and La Tčne , and there are indications of the presence of Celts in the period of late antiquity in the 3rd and 4th century . The first architectural phase refers to the period 1338 -1342 and the Hungarian King Charles Robert of Anjou . In the mid- 15th century intensive construction and adaptation of new military equipment began as part of strengthening the southern border against the Turkish invasion. From this period stand out personality Istvan Vardaij and Peter Varadi, whose bishop’s residences are located within the walls, and who were responsible for the construction and development of the complex. The Turks conquered the fort in 1529 and used it until the liberation in 1686 , as evidenced by the description of Evliya Çelebi . The fortress was blown up during the Rákóczi uprising at the beginning of the 18th century. The houses in the suburbium were built in the second half of the 18th century .

Summary: Based on the established traces the fortress was in the shape of an irregular pentagon with projecting towers at the corners, connected to each other by extensive rampart walls. There are three conserved angular towers with a circular base, while the North West and the entrancetowers, found during excavations, had quadrangular bases. The only free-standing building inside the fort is the donjon tower, square based, located in the eastern part of the fortress.

Although after blasting the masonry structure of a fortified castle, to a large extent, lost its physical integrity, the preserved elements point to the universal values of the architecture and testify to the application of advanced fortifications of the high Gothic school with elements of the early Italian Renaissance.

The Bаc Fortress investigations, conservation and rehabilitation started, or better still, continued in 2003 after a long period of inactivity. The observed problems and the acquired experience constituted the core for developing the Centuries of Bаc Project. Later on it served as a special research laboratory – how to preserve the heritage and how to use it in a sustainable way, without endangering its fundamental values.

The comprehensive investigations manifested their full significance and justification under circumstances of insufficient archival material and a high grade of deterioration and degradation of the materials used on building the Bаc Fortress. However, it has to be emphasised that the newly acquired knowledge did not affect the approach to the mediaeval structures conservation and presentation, which through history had lost more than 60% of their original body, thus justifying the museum presentation of the cultural property.

The actual research and its impact on the conservation activities will be shown in individual Fortress structures with an emphasis on the donjon tower – the keep. Also, some difference was made between the built structures that remained underground (and made visible) and the treatment of the overground remains. In the end, the complex rehabilitation activities were presented in the way that created conditions for the sustainable use of the Bаc Fortress.


D O N J O N    T O W E R


The donjon tower is the most dominant one and the only one among the Bаc Fortress structures that was restored. The tower clearly points to the erstwhile power of the Fortress, its monumental nature and its beauty. In its ground plan shape and size (about 10m x 10m) it is one of the rare square ground plan towers, without buttresses, belonging to the earliest residential tower types, deriving from the wooden towers shapes. The Bаc donjon is situated in the centre of the best defended area, erected independently from the ramparts, which used to be characteristic to the West European fortifications. It was the main tower, the keep, which was most probably used as a temporary residence in a case defence against imminent danger, for which it was completely equipped (a fireplace, food storage, a water well, toilets on each floor and machicolation on the top floor). Its height and the position allowed watching over a vast territory and the road network that led to Bаc.

The tower met the new millennium and new conservators without the floor structures between the storeys, which were destroyed in a fire in 1993. The remaining beams were severely damaged and the roof structure unsafe. Also, there were no information about the previous interventions, which required additional investigations and implementation of various documenting and mapping methods. Besides the roof shape, other shapes were researched as well, particularly those reconstructed in the 1960s. However, they did not point to any changes in the given shapes.


The conservation and restoration works on the Donjon tower started as an intervention as it was necessary to repair the roof structure. The shape of the roof was restored is it had been before, while the roof structure was strengthened with another series of rafters and diagonal beams and improved support zone. Cross-sections of the roof structure elements were increased, the building elements were hand hewn and the old wooden and metal forged brackets were, which all created a unique appearance of the attic. The roof was covered with old beaver tiles and on the very top was placed a metal banner.

Extensive conservation and restoration work were conducted in the interior, removing all the damages and issues that resulted from the fire, when the tower interior had been destroyed and old original materials damaged even more. The floor structures between the storeys were reconstructed according to the information found in situ. The beams and floors were made of oak wood.

In circumstances of authentic materials degradation, as well as of those used during the reconstruction, the knowledge about the original materials and a selection of new ones in conservation were crucial. Also, authentic mortar material in the interior and on the façade were tested.

The Centuries of Bac conservators' signature was also left in shaping the embrasure wooden shutters, the banner, the doors, the floors, the window niches with seats. The elements whose shapes and positions were unfounded, were made neutral in style and materials, like the entrance door to the tower on the yard level. The door was kept from practical reasons as it had been used for quite a long time. Nevertheless, there is some information that the main entrance had actually been on higher levels.

The special focus was placed on the safety interventions necessary for a structure open to the public. Carefully placed installations and fixtures did not jeopardise the tower authenticity and its historic ambience. Implementation of the old techniques and craftsmanship – masonry, smithcraft, stone masonry, carpentry – was a key point in this demanding enterprise, including the old crafts popularisation and occasional training. In this way, besides the published papers in technical and science magazines, the public had an opportunity to access knowledge and skills acquired during the conservation treatment of the Bac Fortress.

The Use

The works on the Donjon tower actually created conditions for its public use in a modern way and for its inclusion in the cultural and tourist offer of not only the Bac area, but of a much wider territory. 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. 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.

U N V E I L I N G   T H E    L A Y E R S   O F   T H E   P A S T

The overground built structures in the south section of the fortified castle were almost non-existent. This section had always been the focal point of armed conflicts and destruction, but also of those who, in peaceful times, devastated it in search of buried treasures. The locals used the original bricks for building their houses, the stone was used for lime mixing. In this way, all the information on architecture and the builders' creative results have been systematically destroyed. Owing to the Centuries of Bac, the built structures situated below the terrain elevation were gradually unveiled in archaeological excavations and then protected from further degradation, presented and finally came to life. The preserved overground structures were treated in accordance with the investigation results, information found in situ and the available funding.

The Cistern

The Fortified Castle Gate Tower

The South and South-West Ramparts

The remains of the foundation zone of a structure with a gate have been conserved and restored in order to preserve this defence element original structures, and to present them. Here, a symbolical entrance to the complex was placed with a wooden gateway. The issue of remedial and conservation treatment of the overground barbican remains is still unresolved and today they still stand as shapeless. The terrain has been lowered significantly relative to its original elevation, so parts of the foundation on the east side are overground. Investigations are certainly to be continued, as well as the technical protection of the area, even more so, given the Horvath's viewpoint that the barbican is the most interesting structure in the entire complex.

T R E A T M E N T   O F   B U I L T   S T R U C T U R E S

Today, the monumental nature of the Bac Fortress mediaeval structures, besides the Donjon Tower, can be observed by the visible remains of the Square Tower, the Chapel Tower and the Round Tower with stone corbels, as well as the ramparts that used to connect them all, providing a footpath. Those built structures used to belong to the extra defended north and north-east part of the complex. The complex also comprised a large assembly hall, a public room and a kitchen with its ancillary rooms – today preserved as earth covered archaeological remains. Bringing back the integrity to those structures, which had been in a ruined condition from 1704, was quite a complex task, as they had been exposed to the elements the entire time. In the 2009-2015 period, as part of the Centuries of Bac Project, comprehensive and extensive multidisciplinary investigations were conducted, which added substantially to the overall knowledge about the fortress individual structures, the chronology and the methods of their construction and the causes of the both structure and material degradation. The undertaken interventions included preventive conservation and restoration in order to consolidate the endangered zones so that the complex could be utilised in a safe way.

The Chapel Tower

The North Square Tower

The Round Tower with Corbels

East and North-East Rampart

Investigations aimed at treating the suburb complex and its architectural heritage. In order to do a Conservation Study of this cultural and historical complex, various filed investigations were conducted, including the background, origin of the population, dwelling and building culture. Leaflet questionnaires were made and the subjects had to fill them up while talking to the interviewers. Some highly valuable picture material was collected. All the homestead areas were surveyed – the ground plans and the house street façades. In some of the houses that had kept their authentic shape, the backyard façades were also recorded, as well as the cross-sections and characteristic details (façade decorations and the joinery), thus creating a database for (re)valorisation and setting the conservation requirements guidelines.

The idea of creating a Colour Plan came about as a result of experience sharing with the Italian partner – the Territorial Pact Alto Belice Corleonese from Sicily – about safeguarding and arranging the cultural and historic complexes. Simultaneously with the design of the Color Plan, the design of the preliminary project was carried out for one of the houses in Bac Fortress Street. The house No. 12 was chosen, which from 2006 had been owned by the Cultural and Historical Heritage Preservation Fund Centuries of Bac. The house was in a dilapidated state, abandoned for more than two decades, and an excellent example for launching the rehabilitation process of the suburb. Having conducted the research and understanding the role and needs for revitalizing this spatial cultural and historic complex, it was decided to build a new structure at the back of the site, a centre of various purposes. Foundation was made from wattle and daub for a traditional house replica, and its construction would be a chance for reviving the old crafts, for trainings and for popularisation of the environmental aspect in using the local raw materials.

T R E A T M E N T   O F  T H E   S U B U R B