Roman Well at Belgrade Fortress

Roman Well at Belgrade Fortress

Roman well is one of the jewels of the Belgrade’s fortress and certainly a place of great interest to tourists. Most of its mysteries have not been resolved even today, which is why this well attracts so many tourists each year. To some it may only look as an ordinary well, but after they have read its history and all of the stories that are associated to it, we are sure they will change their minds.

Roman Well is one of the great mysteries of Belgrade’s Fortress. Since Belgrade was on the border between the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire for centuries, it changed hands several times between these countries. According to the official history, the Roman Well was built by the Austrians after they have taken the city from the Turks (somewhere between 1717 and 1731). Having found Belgrade built in an Oriental style, they started projects of great scales in order to transform it into a European city of Baroque style buildings.
According to this version of events, Austrian engineers started digging a well in order to secure water supply to the city in case of a siege. They dug for a such a long time that they wanted to quit on several occasions. And actually, after they have reached the depth of 60 meters and a layer of impenetrable rocks (layer beneath the River Sava water levels) they quit the work altogether. After some time, the water started to appear in this well, most probably from the underground waters of the nearby terrain.

However, Roman Well in the Belgrade’s Fortress would not have caused so much confusion about its origin if this was the only version of the events. According to some documents, Roman Well in Belgrade was only reconstructed by Austrians, but actually constructed much earlier.
Even though there are no written documents that would testify the Roman origins of the well, it is argued by some that it is obvious that the Romans would have tried to dig a well within the walls of their castrum (a typical Roman fortification) in case of a siege.

Here are numerous historic events and stories that contradict the official version:
Biographer of Stefan Lazarevic mentioned a similar structure on the same spot used as food storage in the fourteenth century.
There is also a very interesting story about this well from 1494. At this period Belgrade was in the hands of Austrians. A large number of conspirators organized a plot to give the city to Turks, obviously for a large sum of money. However, their plot was discovered and their crime severely punished. These 37 conspirators were lowered to the well and left with no water or food. After sometime, after they were sure that conspirators became desperate, the guards threw a number of knifes, so that conspirators can kill and devour each other.
A Turkish writer Celebija also mentioned a similar structure which was used as a grain storage in 1660.

After substantial reconstruction works, Roman Well at Belgrade’s Fortress is now open to public. For security reasons only the upper part of the well can be visited. Keep in mind though that there are two stairways that lead down to the water. It has been projected so that one pair of stairs was used by water carriers with empty containers, who would use the second pair of stairs on their way back, in order to reduce confusion on the narrow stairways. Along the path there are also cavities projected to hold the torches as well as to serve as places to take a break from this tiring work.

Ticket prices for Roman Well at Belgrade’s Fortress
Regular ticket price is: 120RSD.
Reduced ticket price (senior citizens and students) is: 60RSD.
We advise you to check ticket prices and working hours before visiting – check the official website of the Roman Well at Belgrade’s Fortress.

Working hours of the Roman Well at Belgrade’s Fortress
From Monday to Sunday working hours are: 11:00-19:00h.

Interesting facts

  • One more conundrum of this well is that its water levels rise during dry periods when the water levels of the River Sava are falling. This fact is still a mystery to the scientific community.
  • During the Second World War, three German divers were sent into the well in order to explore it, because the ammunition storage was nearby and because there were stories that gold reserves of the occupied Kingdom of Yugoslavia were hidden here. No one returned alive from the well.
  • During 60s a group of divers explored the Roman well. Among numerous coins and other artifacts they have also discovered several animal and two human skeletons.
  • There was another gruesome incident at the Roman Well. In 1954, a jealous husband killed his wife and threw her body into the well. When the crime was discovered, a group of divers went into the well to search for the body. This expedition was unsuccessful having not resulted in recuperation of the body. The body of the unfortunate woman came up to the surface 10 days later, while divers could not explain how is it possible they had missed it in a relatively small well.
  • It is believed by some that the name Roman Well actually comes from the period of the reconstruction of Belgrade by the Austrians, who aspired to be the successors of the once great Roman Empire.
  • In 1882, during the coronation ceremony at Saborna Church, two female conspirators tried to assassinate the King Milan Obrenovic. The assassination attempt failed and one of the conspirators Lenka Knicanin was locked in the Roman Well. After some time both her and the guard were found dead.
  • Some would also go as far to claim that Orpheus (the character from Greek Mythology) on his way to Hades on the quest to save his beloved Eurydice used this well in order to reach the underworld.

The author of the article

N. Anđelić
BSc in demography
For any information regarding organized tourist tours of Belgrade do not hesitate to contact me.

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