The Skull Tower (Ćele Kula), in Niš, Serbia was built in 1809 by Turkish general Hurshi Pasha during the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire (1804-1813). The rebels were defeated but rather than run away or give themselves up, their commander Stevan Sinđelić fired a shot into a gunpowder keg in a fully stocked gun powder room, which not only finished the rebels off but also took a number of Turkish soldiers out as well.
A section of the Skull Tower
Turkish commander Hurshid Pasha was furious and believed he needed to teach the Serbian Nation a lesson. The bodies of the dead soldiers were mutilated and decapitated, then the skin was peeled off the heads, stuffed with straw and sent to Turkey. Meanwhile, the skulls were used as blocks for a tower built right outside the city, which was to serve as a horrific reminder to other Serbs of the fate that would befall those that rebelled against the Ottoman Empire.
Illustration of Skull Tower (1868)
The 15 foot high, 13 foot wide tower was made up of 952 skulls with the skull of Stevan Sinđelić placed at the top. Soon after it was biult, the Serbs would again rebel and in 1830 the Ottomans were driven from the country. Many of the skulls were removed from the walls by family members wanting to give their loved ones a proper burial and today there are 58 skulls remaining in the tower. In 1892 a chapel was built around Skull Tower by Serbian authorities in a bid to preserve the monument which had become a symbol of the bravery of those that fought for the country’s independence.