Fortress Brod (Festung)

The Fortress, whose construction began in 1751, took almost sixty years to build. It was built upon impetus of Prince Eugene of Savoy as part of a system of fortifications in the north-eastern part of Croatia. Dating back to the same period are fortresses in Osijek, Stara Gradiška, Rača, and Petrovaradin. The Brod Fortress is unique in that it was used exclusively for accommodating military troops, while other fortresses in the region were used for fortifying civilian settlements. For this reason, its size is all the more impressive. The Fortress was designed for accommodating 5.000 soldiers, but it rarely housed more than two thousand. Huge moats, bastions, curtains, hornwork, the "Cavalier", and accompanying buildings stretched over an area of two square kilometres, far surpassing in size the town of Brod which was spreading to the east of the fortress.

The soldiers in the Fortress had complete autonomy, which means that they did not depend on their surroundings for anything and the fortress' supplies were kept up to the level needed to withstand a forty-five-day siege. Despite this, the Fortress never sustained any attacks and its soldiers never conducted an attack against the neighbouring Bosnia or the Ottoman Empire.

Nevertheless, during the 18th and the 19th centuries, the Fortress played a significant role in everyday life of the adjacent civilian settlement. Since the beginning of construction, the citizens of Brod came to feel all the hardships associated with constructing a fortress. Namely, the western part of the town had to be severed for the purpose of constructing the hornwork, and the citizens were not allowed to build on the land surrounding the Fortress. Apart from this, the citizens of Brod had to bear the heavy burden of construction work together with other inhabitants of the Slavonian Military Border.

Though the chronicles of the time record only the names of architects and engineers involved in the construction of the Fortress, the whole project would never have been possible without the Slavonian and Syrmian peasants and soldiers.

Excavation works, brick burning, procuring of timber and firewood was the so-called "fortress labour" non-paying work to which all men living in the wider surroundings of the fortress were obligated. To build the Fortress, entire forests had to be cut down, not only in the immediate vicinity of the Fortress, but in more remote parts of the Military Border.

Furthermore, the Fortress Construction Board had a decisive impact on the building of houses and the entire urban layout of the town of Brod. The citizens and the town government had to obey three principal limitations set by the Construction Board for erection of houses: firstly, the houses had to be built vertical to the fortress, secondly, all houses had to be ground-floor houses, and thirdly, the houses within the fire (or cannon) range had to be made of wood.

These three conditions were explained by the need for maximum effectiveness of artillery in the event of an attack. The aim of the vertical layout of houses was to prevent the attacking troops to take shelter in the streets from which to target the Fortress. At the same time, such layout provided an excellent view over the town activity from the fortress bastions.

Having been located on the border of this 600-meter line from the Fortress, The Franciscan monastery was the first building in Brod that was allowed to rise higher that the ground-floor houses. The threatening power of the Fortress was never tested in practice, and today it serves a whole new purpose of a cultural venue. Today the Brod Fortress houses the town government, a school of music, a grammar school, traditional craft shops, and the Ružić Art Gallery, the second most important contemporary art gallery in Croatia.