After the Battle of Blackbird's Field in 1389, Serbs began a slow drift to the north. Uprooted from their historic homeland by the Ottomans, they pushed into unfamiliar territory, creeping right to the edge of the great Mittel-European plains.
In the year 1428, after thirty years of instability, the Serb leader Đurađ Branković began work on a new capital and stronghold on the northern edge of what had ever been considered Serbian land, right up against the Danube. The fortress was his country’s last hope.
The Ottomans certainly knew how strong these walls are. It took them four attempts, huge batteries of canons, hundreds of thousands of men and years to take Smederevo.
The crenelations have begun to shift in some places, and some of the towers have adopted a drunken lean. The land underneath the foundations isn’t very firm, and the walls relied more on breadth than depth to “float” in the riverside earth, but inevitably some tipping has begun.
Amazingly, the entire fortress was built in just over two years. Branković and (in particular) his wife gained a tyrannical reputation, working and taxing their remaining subjects mercilessly to complete the project.
Smederevo withstood the initial assault, but three months of siege and starvation eventually made the defenders give in – a period of complicated negotiations involving the Hungarians returned the castle to Branković a year later, though. Mehmed II himself, fresh off his conquering of Istanbul, tried to recapture the fortress in 1453 and 1456, but was repelled both times, even though he had many more men than the Serbs.
Though the Sultan couldn't topple Branković's castle, the rest of Serbia was devastated by the raids, with over fifty thousand people killed or taken prisoner. At this point, Smederevo sat almost completely alone – all the other castles and fortresses of Serbia had fallen and the country existed only symbolically, reduced to nothing more than a tiny force in a big fort.