Five Monuments in Belgrade You Should Not Miss!
These are some of the Most Beautiful Sculptural Achievements of the 19th and 20th Centuries in the Region!
The Victor Monument
The statue of the Victor, the symbol of Belgrade and one of the most photographed monuments of the capital, is the achievement of one of the most prominent Yugoslav sculptors, Ivan Mestrovic. It was built in 1928 on the plateau of the Upper Town of the Belgrade Fortress, in honor of the tenth anniversary of the breakthrough of the Salonika Front.
A bronze male figure with a very well-developed musculature was supposed to be a part of Terazije Fountain, but the idea was abandoned since it was considered distasteful for a statue of a naked man to be exhibited in the center of the capital. Monument was transferred to Kalemegdan Fortress, but once again, due to nudity, Victor was sentenced to turn his back to the observer and face the river. Even today, there is speculation that the statue is looking in the direction of Austria on purpose.
The sculpture is placed on a pedestal shaped as a Doric column with cannelures (groves running lengthwise) designed by architect Petar Bajalovic. Victor is presented with a sword in one hand and a bird in the other. The bird was mistakenly taken for a dove, even though the sculptor had in mind a falcon, an ancient Egyptian symbol of invincibility and freedom. The symbolical purpose of the falcon is to make sure that the defeated do not rebel, and the sword placed downwards indicates the readiness for new victories. The nudity of the figure alludes to the end of the dark Middle Ages and the awakening of the Renaissance.
Although known as the Victor, the monument has been accidentally shot as many as 30 times in its long history, as determined by 3D scanning.
Black Horses at Play
The bronze group displayed in 1939 at the very entrance to the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia is a masterpiece made by the Serbian sculptor Toma Rosandic.
The group consists of two masculine male figures attacked by reared stallions. The horses are supposed to be a symbol of untamed strength, and the human figures are characterized by contrast: one of them visibly resists and tries to retreat, and the other is already defeated and bends under the weight of hooves.
The artist never explained the symbolism of the sculpture, claiming that it was nothing but simple research of human and animal forms on the same monument. Therefore, speculations regarding the theme led to different conclusions: that the monument represents common men crushed by the government or that those are opposing personifications of resistance and oppression.
The location alludes to the Assembly as a symbol of democracy, law, and wit that controls unbridled strength.
Monument of Gratitude to France
This magnificent piece of Ivan Mestrovic is located at the end of the main alley of Kalemegdan Park. It was commissioned as a sign of gratitude and honor of cooperation between Serbia and France during the First World War. The bronze sculpture was placed on the current site in 1930.
The monumental female figure, more than 13 feet tall, represents the personification of France, which rushes to help Serbia in the heat of battle. The pedestal made of Brac marble is embellished with reliefs known as the Warriors and Sorbonne. The Warriors are associated with the alliance of Serbian and French soldiers on the Salonika front, and the Sorbonne is represented by a seated female figure who indicates the educational support for young people during and after the war.
The monument carries the engraved dedication “We love France as she loved us 1914-1918”.
Monument to the Unknown Hero
Another masterpiece by Ivan Mestrovic that adorns the capital was created in the period between 1934 and 1938.
The Monument to the Unknown Hero, a monumental mausoleum, was erected on top of the Avala mountain. It was created according to the request of King Alexander I Karadjordjevic, and until today it considers to be a symbolic place for honoring fallen warriors of the country. The monument was designed as a sarcophagus on a pedestal, above the grave of an unknown Serbian soldier.
The entrance to the mausoleum made of black, Jablanica marble is flanked by caryatids (statues of female figures serving as pillars), dressed in the folk costumes of the Yugoslavs, which express the idea of national unity. Caryatids symbolize the mothers of deceased warriors.
During the Second World War, the monument suffered damage that was only partially repaired in order to testify that even cannon grenades could not destroy it.
Monument to Prince Mihailo
Prince Mihailo Obrenovic was considered the liberator of the Serbian people from Turks, who, as a skilled diplomat, managed to regain many Serbian cities (Belgrade, Smederevo, Kladovo, Uzice, Sabac…). However, there were also those who wanted to put an end to his absolutism, which actually happened in 1868. The prince was assassinated by the conspirators, the Radovanovic brothers. The national mourning lasted for three days, and the idea of erecting a monument to the prince emerged soon after. As many as 17 artists, mostly foreigners, participated in the competition, and the conceptual design of the Italian sculptor Enrico Pazzi prevailed. The plateau near the National Theater in Belgrade was symbolically chosen as the place for the monument since the prince personally helped its construction.
The monument was cast in Munich, in the workshop of Ferdinand von Miller, and was ceremoniously unveiled in 1882 on the occasion of the proclamation of the Kingdom of Serbia.
The equestrian statue was a novelty for Serbia, inspired by similar statues in Florence. Bearing in mind that the prince was credited with freeing the country from Turks, Enrico’s idea was to represent him as a diplomat instead of a warrior. A raised hand alludes to a part of Serbia that had not yet been liberated with the idea that the prince, symbolically leaves the supervision of these areas to his descendants. The pedestal is decorated with reliefs according to the designs of the architect Konstantin Jovanovic. The rich relief frieze tells the story of the courage of the Serbian people and their progress under the Obrenovic family. The north side of the monument carries the dedication: To Prince Mihailo M. Obrenovic III, Grateful Serbia.
As soon as the statue was publicly unveiled, it turned out that there is a shortcoming that caused turmoil and numerous polemics. Namely, Prince Mihailo was presented bareheaded, which was an unacceptable choice for contemporaries. At that time, it was common to wear some kind of hat, and appearing without it was not considered decent. It was even debated that the sculptor committed suicide, but it turned out to be just one of the urban legends.
Enrico Pazzi is today considered the creator of the most significant Serbian monument of the 19th century.