Historical Highlights of Nis (part 2)

Tue 22.10.2019

The Battle of Čegar, also known as the Battle of Kamenica, was a battle in the First Serbian Uprising fought between the Serbian Revolutionaries and Ottoman forces on the 31st of May 1809. The battle ended up at the Ottoman victory. Stevan Sinđelić, the commander of the Serbian army, famously blew up the gunpowder magazine when the Ottomans overtook his trenches, killing everyone in it.

After the battle, the governor of the Rumelia Eyalet, Hurshid Pasha, ordered the heads of Sinđelić and his men to be skinned, stuffed and sent to the Ottoman sultan, Mahmud the Second. Upon being viewed by the sultan, the skulls were returned to Niš, where the Ottomans built the Skull Tower as a warning to non-Muslim residents contemplating rebellion. The structure was 4.5 meters (15 ft) high. It originally consisted of 952 skulls embedded on all four sides of the tower. The locals named it Ćele-kula, from the Turkish Kelle kulesi, which meant " the skull tower".

In the years following its construction, many skulls fell out from the tower walls, some were taken away for burial by relatives and family members, and some were taken by souvenir hunters. Midhat Pasha, the last Ottoman governor of Niš, ordered that the remaining skulls be removed from the tower in the early 1860s. He realized that the structure no longer served as an effective means of discouraging potential rebels and only fostered resentment against the Ottoman administration, reminding locals of the empire's past cruelty.

Today, the Skull Tower remains is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Serbia, attracting between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors annually.

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