Fortress Spanjola or Spanish fortress

Herceg Novi
(view on map)
One of the historical monuments of Montenegro is the fortress Španjola, which is located on one of the highest hills of Herceg Novi, at an altitude of about 170 meters above sea level. The hill, at the top of which the fortress was built, is called Bajer.
The fortress of Spagnola (Spanjola) in Herceg Novi, Montenegro.
The fortress is located to the northeast of the old town of Herceg Novi, not far from the main Jadranski put (the Adriatic highway), which runs along the coast and connects numerous settlements in Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia.

 Lifehack: people call the fortress "Spanjola", which literally means "Spanish fortress", but in official documents it is referred to as Gornji grad.

Outside the bastion of Spanjola looks very impressive and although almost nothing is intact inside it, it is worth a visit... In addition to the already mentioned elegant view of the surroundings, the fortress can offer a unique and amazing excursion to the past. Here you can still see the ancient barracks, loopholes and various farm buildings, touch the mighty walls and military structures that came into the power of nature (ivy, grass and trees) and disappear upon our eyes, but despite this, they retained the rebellious spirit of the past.

History of the fortress of Spanjola.

Despite the name of the fortress Španjola, which, as already mentioned, is word for saying "Spanish fortress", this defensive fortification refers more to the Turkish military-historical heritage. The thing is that the owners of the city for only one year (1538-1539), the Spaniards managed only to lay this fortress (in 1538) and begin to build it, and only the Ottoman Empire, ruling those days in the Balkans, led it to the final and impregnable form.

Interesting facts: Admiral of Spanish fleet Andrea Dori unexpectedly appeared in the harbor of Herceg Novi in June 1538, and next day the Turks surrendered the city. The Spaniards left a garrison of 6,000 men here, and understanding the importance of the defensive fortress, they immediately began building and repairing the walls of defensive fortifications. But only in 9 months, in 1539, Ottoman Admiral Hajrudin Babarosa with the huge Turkish fleet regained power over the city of Herceg Novi after a long and difficult siege.

Initially, the architecture of the fortress Spanjola was more like a church and bore the name "Fortress of Charles V". After the conquest of the city in 1539, the Turkish sultan Suleiman decided to change its appearance radically, further strengthening and making it even more impregnable. For this he surrounded the fortress with high walls with four round bastions protruding at the corners. This construction lasted from 1539 to 1548 and the fortress received a new name-the Upper Town (Gornji grad). This event is still described on the plaque over the entrance in the Arabic language. However, despite all this, the popular rumor, for some reason, fixed the name Spanjola behind the fortress.

Interesting facts: It is known that the Turks were very proud of the fortress built by them. In 1548, when all the work was completed, they hung a sign over the entrance with an inscription in Arabic, in which it was said that this building appeared thanks to Suleiman, the son of the great emir Seliman Khan, who erected it according to the decree of the Sultan. At the end there was a phrase that could be translated like this: "And the poets, whom the path will bring here, look at me, and exclaim enthusiastically: "And great it is a beautiful building!".
The fortress of Spanjola in Herceg Novi.
During the history of its existence, the bastion in Herceg Novi survived and changed many owners. Since 1687, the Spanjola fortress, together with half of the Boka-Kotor Bay, fell under the authority of the Venetian Republic and was part of its fortifications until 1797. On various maps and engravings of that time the fortress was designated as "Fortezza superiore", "F. di Gornigrad u Koronelija" and "Castello u Mortiera".

In 1806, the defense in the fortress was held jointly by Russian-Montenegrin troops fighting against the army of Napoleon.

Interesting facts: At that time, four thousand Russian soldiers, led by Dmitry Sinyavin, helped the Bokelians and Montenegrins to set free the bay from the invaders. From the fortress Spanjola troops placed fire on the French, who reached Gornji grad only in two days, but could not win.

In July 1807, according to the Treaties of Tilsit, the Russians still leave the fort and the Bay of Kotor to the French. Since 1814 onwards almost the entire 19th century, the fortress of Spanjola with the whole bay was in the hands of Austria-Hungary. In the second half of the 19th century, after the construction of such forts as Mamula, Arza, Prevlaka, and fortifications on Lustica, the Spanish fortress lost its exceptional strategic importance, which consisted not only of its high location - 170 meters above sea level, but also in strong and unapproachable walls along the entire perimeter. However, the fort continued to play a rather important role in the defense of the bay and the city of Herceg Novi due to its favorable location.

In the XX century, the fortress was part of the Kingdom of Slovenes, Serbs and Croats created after the end of the First World War, until it finally became the property of an independent Montenegrin state.

During the Second World War, the fortress was decided to use not as a military position, but as a prison. Nowadays, Spanjola is almost completely abandoned and given to the power of nature - now its walls and buildings are heavily overgrown with grass and ivy, bushes and trees, forming impassable thickets in some places and buildings.

Architecture of the fortress Spanjola.

The fortress Spanjola is built in the form of a regular geometric shape: in terms of it it is a square with four round bastions at the corners. The walls of the fortress have a slight slope away to the sea, and the main entrance to the fortress was located on the eastern side. Inside the fort there were various structures - arsenal, barracks, mosque (during the Turkish rule), some of which remained to this day.

Interesting facts: such a plan of the fort - a square with four wide towers in the corners, is also in the drawings of the famous Leonardo da Vinci.

In their day, every ruler, having seized this part of the land, built or changed something in the fortress... Venetians, for example, built a high semicircular wall between two bastions facing the sea, thus forming a patio. They also laid down the second staircase to the fortress walls, moved the entrance and remade the Turkish mosque to the officer barracks.

The Austrians also contributed to the strengthening of some changes, based on the requirements of the times and their needs, but mostly they were annexes next to the fortress. If you look at the fortress from the side of the mountains, then on the left a long wall is attached, connected with the uneven terrain and thus enclosing another large courtyard. Judging by the masonry, this wall is of later time, obviously, it was built by the Austrians. On the outside, to the right of the gate, a commemorative plaques hang on the wall, which appeared in Yugoslavian time. One of them reminds that on this place on 4.09.1914 the Austrians shot two fighters for the freedom of the people - sea captains Philip Hadjiyu and Milan Srzentich. The second one says that on the night of 13-14 February, 1942, the three partisans of the Orion battalion destroyed the spotlight of the Italian invaders in the fortress.
On the outside of the fortress of Španjola, to the right of the gate, there are memorial tablets on the wall.
Near the entrance to the artillery battery is a small structure under the armored dome, intended for the gunner-spotter.
Armored dome in the fortress of Spianola (Španjola) in Herceg Novi, Montenegro.
Also on the territory of the fortress there is a mobile communications tower, which local residents have been trying to remove for several years now. So far, unsuccessfully.

In those days the fortress was completely autonomous - there was also a source of water, a bakery, and other necessary life support systems. She was almost a small town.

Interesting facts: Between all three fortresses of Herceg Novi: Spagnola, Kanli-Kula and Forte Mare, there are underground passages. Currently, the tunnels have partially collapsed, but in the 70s of the last century, according to stories of local elderly residents, many of them got into them during childhood.

The construction of the underground passage is, perhaps, a very reasonable and strategically important decision for the defense of the city. In the old days, the threat to the town of Herceg-Novi might proceed only from the sea side and in case of loss of the lower fortress, the defenders could freely and without risking go to the fortress above and from there continue the defense of the city.

View from the fortress Spanjola to the Old Town of Herceg Novi. View ofKanli Kulato the right near the water there isForte Mare fortress.
View from the fortress of Spanjola (Spanjola) on the Old Town of Herceg Novi. Visible fortress Kanli Kula; To the right of the water - fortress Forte Mare.
View from the bastion of Spanjola on the Bay of Kotor, the bottleneck is the Strait of Cumbor.
View from the bastion of Spanjola (Spanjola) on the Boka Bay of Kotor, the bottleneck is the Strait of Kumbor.
How to get to the fortress Spanjola?

In Montenegro, to get to the town of Herceg Novi, specifically the fortress Spanjola is possible in several ways. It should be noted immediately that without a reliable guide (a person or an electronic assistant), it will be a little difficult to find a way to the fort, as only narrow streets and a staircase of 1000 steps lead to the fortress. But, having climbed them, a magnificent panoramic view of Herceg Novi, Igalo and the Bay of Kotor will burst upon your eye.
  • First, you can get there by bus or shuttle bus from almost any city in Montenegro, both from the coast (BudvaTivatKotorBar) and from the central part (PodgoricaNiksicCetinje). It is worth saying that this is the most budgetary way of traveling around Montenegro, not counting of course hitchhiking.
See the schedule of buses in Montenegro for every dayhere.
  • Secondly, you can get to the fort on your own or rented car. A rental company will be able to deliver your rented car immediately to the airport (Tivat or Podgorica) on your arrival or to your place of residence in Montenegro. The advantages of this method are obvious - you choose the route, the departure time, the cities to visit and the time of sightseeing and historical places during the trip.
When you drive along the Adriatic highway to Herceg Novi from Tivat, then after a steep climb, before reaching the bus station, there will be a right turn to the mountain (opposite Kanli Kula). There you will see the brown tourist sign Spanjola. Climb up the narrow road, winding between the houses before turning left, next to which will be a large ad board. Turn there, and in 200 m of steep ascent you’ll see the fortress. There you can park the car, and then go on foot to the fortress itself.

Lifehack: Always remember about the Kamenari-Lepetani ferry in Montenegro, which is an alternative and short road to Herceg Novi from other cities. Its price is about 5 euros per car, but the path takes much less time (the difference is about 1 hour).
  • Thirdly, you can take a taxi to the fortress. The only thing that can scare off is the price for the transfer. Before you order a taxi, see the approximate price of the trip or a fixed transfer price (depending on the city of departure) on our website page or in our free app "Way to Montenegro" on the Google Play.
The fortress Spanjola nowadays.

Few tourists are aware of Spanjola fortress in Herceg Novi nowadays, since it is located far from the city center, in the mountains. There are no excursion groups, and not every tourist can find it independently. But this shouldn’t be an obstacle for tourists, since from this historical monument an amazing and stunning view of the entire city and the Boka Bay burst upon the eye, and the whole architecture of the fortress gives an opportunity to enjoy exciting walks and allows you to plunge into the wonderful world of the Middle Ages.
Fortress of Spagnola in Herceg Novi, Montenegro.

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