A unique monument in the world. Built as a memorial to the Serbian rebels in the early 19th century, made of their skulls. It is in Niš, on the erstwhile Constantinople Road to Sophia. The tower was built from the skulls of the Serbs slain in the Battle of Čеgar in 1809 – by the order of sultan Mahmud II, aimed at discouraging the Serbs for further revolts against the Turks. On the last day of May 1809, on Čеgаr Hill nearby Niš, the Serbian soldiers suffered the heaviest defeat in the First Uprising. Their advance towards Niš was stopped there. The battle ended when voivode Stеvаn Sinđеlić lit up the powder magazine, blowing up his men and himself, but also a great number of Turks.
The Turkish commander of Niš, Hurshid Pasha, supervised the construction of the tower which was supposed to be a warning to anyone who opposed the Ottoman Empire.
Kеlе in Turkish means, head. Ćеlе kulа is the tower made of heads, skulls.
A French traveller, Alphonse Lamartine, wrote about the Skull Tower in 1833:
May the Serbs keep this monument! It will always teach their children the value of the independence of a people, showing them the real price their fathers had to pay for it.
The Tower stood there under the open sky until the liberation of Niš in 1878. So many skulls got lost because of the work of the elements and because the people took them to give them a proper burial. Initially there were 952 skulls and today there are just over fifty of them.