Hidden Belgrade (19): Doppelgängers

Cities like to show their friendship by sharing the same monuments. New York and Paris share the Statue of Liberty (although the one in Paris is considerably smaller), while copies of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid are everywhere from Romania to Korea.

Belgrade is no exception and there are (at least) four monuments which tie it to other places. Their stories feature old friendships, sunken ships and lost homelands.


Unlucky fisherman (Jesuit square, Zagreb – Kalemegdan)

The scultpture that is the centrepiece of one of Belgrade’s prettiest fountains was made by Simeon Roksandić, one of the best Serbian sculptors of his generation. When it was first cast, it was met with great acclaim at exhibitions of Serbian art in Rome and London, and the fisherman’s struggle with the serpent was seen to represent the problems of the youngish Serbian state. Its symbolism made it a perfect addition to the newly designed Kalemegdan park, which lay at the site where Serbian autonomy was finally achieved when Ottomans handed over the keys to the Belgrade Fortress in 1867.

After the decision to buy it in 1907, there was a small problem. One of the ships carrying Serbian exhibits from a Balkan exhibition in London sank, and it was widely believed that the statue was lost. Thankfully, Roksandić was able to cast another copy, but after a while the original statue was found and then sold to the city of Zagreb, which was swept by pro-Yugoslav fervour back then. The Zagreb copy still stands at the Jesuit Square, close to Kamenita vrata.

Iverskaya chapel (Red Square, Moscow – New Cemetery)

After the Bolshevik Revolution about 10,000 White Russians found their refuge in Belgrade. They were warmly accepted by the Karađorđević dynasty and, given that many of them were highly educated, found their place at the top of Yugoslav professional circles. Although they integrated well in the Serbian society and contributed to making Belgrade a more cosmopolitain city, they retained their culture and tried to preserve the memory of their homeland.

Thus, when the Bolsheviks decided to blow up Iverskaya (Iberian) chapel and the Resurrection gate behind it in 1929 to allow tanks to enter the Red Square, so the Russian emigres in Belgarde decided to build a replica in their new home. The original Iverskaya chapel was built in 18th century and housed the miraculous icon of Virgin Mary which was thought to protect Moscow, and it was a custom for all who pass to the Red Square to prey in front of it. The copy was built in 1931 in the Russian part of Belgrade’s wonderful New Cemetery, close to the Monument to the Russian Solidiers in WWI and Tsar Nikolai II. In 1995, the chapel and Ressurecton gates were restored in Moscow.

Sebilj fountain (Baš Čaršija, Sarajevo – Skadarlija)

A copy of Sarajevo’s famous fountain was presented as a gift to Belgrade in 1989 and is now a favourite spot for hanging out of street urchins around Bajloni’s market. Sebilj’s name derives from the Arabic word for “road”, and it was one of the many fountains that were erected by wealthy merchants and politicians across the Ottoman empire to quench the thirst of  travellers and caravans.

The majestic original was built in 1753, and then restored after a fire by Alexander Wittek, the architect of Sarajevo’s famous City Hall. Unfortunately, only three years after the gift was given to Belgrade, Sarajevo was put under siege which its Sebilj damaged and the City Hall burnt to ground. Both were thankfully restored, and there is a another copy of the Sebilj which was given to Novi Pazar.

White fountain (Trebinje, Herceg Novi – Plateau in Gračanička)

When Belgrade decided to create a large pedestrian zone around Knez Mihailova in late 1980s, the task fell to Branislav Jovin. He was not only in charge of urbanism for the area, but also designed the street furniture as well as two fountains made in post-modern romantic style: one in front of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences and another at the intersection of Gračanička, Cara Lazara and Vuka Karadžića.

Because of the turmoil of 1980s and lack of underground system which the pedestrian zone presupposed, his plans were limited to Knez Mihailova. Nevertheless he used one his designs for a white marble fountain in his projects elsewhere. The first incarnation was built in Herceg Novi (Montenegro) in 2001 , while another was erected in nearby historic town of Trebinje (Bosnia and Herzegovina) in 2002 . When the plan for expansion of Belgrade’s pedestrian zone was re-launched a few years ago, Jovin’s fountain, only altered by an addition of a red rooster (a homage to an old cafe which stood nearby) appeared at its originally intended place in 2016. The new fountain was not an instant hit, some Belgraders were peeved with the re-heated design, while others thought that its snow-white stone was too out of place around gritty facades of the area.


Not a doppelganger: Millennium tower/Gardoš

An urban legend has it that there are three more copies of the Gardoš tower, as the one in Zemun was built in 1896 to mark the southernmost city in the Hungarian kingdom at the time of 1000th anniversary of Hungarian conquest of the Pannonian plains. This is false and there are no copies of the Zemun tower to mark the northernmost, eatrenmost and westernmost edge of the Hungarian kingdom. Instead of four, there were seven monuments built for this occasion all in different styles. Apart from Gardoš only two are still standing.



P.S. I would love to find out if there are more doppelgängers which I forgot, so comment away




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