The Old Palace


The Old Palace, the Royal Palace of the Obrenović dynasty of Serbia, presently housing the City Assembly of Belgrade, is situated at the corner of Kralja Milana and Dragoslava Jovanovića streets. It was built between 1882 and 1884, according to the design of Aleksandar Bugarski, in the style of academism of the XIX century, with intention to surpass all existing residences of the Serbian rulers.

An English author Herbert Vivien, who visited the Old Palace by the end of the XIX century, described in detail its interior: "At the left side, there is a fine ball room, with walls of lemon-yellow colour, with huge white lusters of Venetian glass, glistening nicely during the state festivities, lit by electric light. After passing the large reception hall, you enter the banquet hall. Everything is glistening in that hall: starting from the floor up to the carved mahogany table. Some sixty guests may be seated around that table. Leather-upholstered chairs are of the colour of autumn leaves. What is most impressive, is the good taste characterizing all objects, both those for use and the adornments. The admiration is even more caused by the beautiful carved ceilings, inherited from the Turkish era and fashion..."

A number of important events from the time of the political power of the Obrenović dynasty are linked to the Old Palace: the Palace was built when Serbia was proclaimed a Kingdom; in that same building, King Milan abdicated in favor of his son, Aleksandar, on February 22, 1889. Between 1903 and 1914, the Old Palace was the residence of the Karadjordjević dynasty. In 1919 and 1920, meetings of the Provisional National Assembly took place there. Royal festivities and receptions of high foreign guests took place there until 1941.

The Palace was damaged twice: during World War I and during the bombing of Belgrade, on April 6, 1941. After World War I the Palace was repaired, while the first important restoration was done around 1930. The repair and re-arrangement of the Old Palace after World War II lasted until 1947. During that period, the architecture of the building was significantly changed. The two domes facing the garden were removed, while the facade facing the present Bulevar kralja Aleksandra was completely changed. Since that time, the building housed the Presidium of the National Assembly, then the Federal Government, and, since 1961, the City Assembly of Belgrade.

The Old Palace has almost square foundation of 40x40 sqm. Its design is classical, with central windowed inner hall. There used to be a greenhouse and richly ornamented oaken stairs added later, and leading onto the first floor (they were designed by a famous architect Jovan Ilkić). Those stairs were destroyed in World War I. Around this central space with columns and galleries there were other rooms of the Palace, the most important of them being the great hall for receptions and balls and the dining room. As parts of the Palace there were also a nicely arranged library and the Palace chapel, which faced the garden. The whole interior equipment of the Palace has been mostly imported from Vienna.

By its external architecture the building is one of the most beautiful achievements of academism in Serbia of the XIX century. The facade which faces the garden is most richly made, having projecting balconies which provided closer contact with the garden. The most characteristic motifs of this facade are the caryatids at the first-floor level which, above the balconies at each end of the facade support richly made tympanums of the ending windows. The caryatid are repeated on the facade facing the Kralja Milana street, and the line of Doric columns in beneath them. The Doric columns also appear on the facade against the garden, between richly decorated windows. The other two facades are somewhat simpler. The basement and the corners of the building are rustically designed. The balconies and the attic are balustraded. The three corners of the building used to have proportional domes.

Today, visitor meet the Old Palace which in time has changed its original interior and exterior look. Through the Central Hall (of 130 sqm), one can enter the Red Salon. In this room, the attention of the visitors will first be drawn to the "Portrait of a Girl", painted in 1862 by Đura Jakšić. There is also the painting "The Crossing of the Neretva River" by Ismet Mujezinović. In the same room, there are also gifts of foreign delegations: two porcelain vases with scenes from Saint Petersburg (gift of a Russian delegation) and a dish (gift of a Danish delegation). At the left side of the entrance into the Yellow Salon, there is the facsimile of a letter written by the Pope John VIII, of April 16. 878, - the oldest written document which mentions the Slavic name of the city - Beograd. This is, as a matter of fact, a part of the Register of the Pope John VIII, which is still being kept in the archives of the Vatican. Beside the facsimile, there is an artistic interpretation of that document, made by the well-known painter and graphic artist, Professor of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Branko Miljuš. To the right of the entrance, there is the Order of National Hero awarded to Belgrade on October 20, 1974.

In the next, Yellow Salon, there are several exceptional paintings. These are the paintings by Sava Šumanović, Jovan Bijelić, Petar Lubarda, Miodrag-Bata Mihajlović, Ljuba Lah, Jovan Zonjić, Peđa Milosavljević, Petar Omčikus and Vasa Pomorišac, as well as the wooden sculptures by Rista Stijović. In this Salon, there are also some gifts of foreign statesmen, delegations, associations and federations: a number of decorative plates, vases and sculptures.

The Yellow Salon leads to the Gala Hall, with an area of 260 sqm. The upper parts of the walls are adorned with stained glass windows which illustrate the people's liberation struggle and the working enthusiasm. At the consoles in front of the mirrors, immediately beside the entrance, to the left and to the right, there are brass chandeliers, 65 cm high, made in France, two standing ashtrays with decorative figures of three serpents (to the right), and two vases and porcelain chandelier (to the left). At the other end of the hall, there is a candy box with two angels, made in the same technique as the chandeliers and the porcelain vases. This hall gives access to the balcony.

The interior of the XIX Century Salon was arranged by the Museum of the City of Belgrade, in the style of the time of the construction of the Old Palace. A small commode, a secretaire, a vitrine, two consoles with mirrors, a table and two chairs, the Louis XV style, represent the original furniture, used by Queen Natalija Obrenović, wife of King Milan. In the vitrine, there are some parts of the porcelain set from the Queen's drawing room, imported from the West. There is also a porcelain plate with the crown and the royal initials. The black furniture set, the Napoleon III style, also belongs to that period, while the niche contains a Biedermeier drawing-room from the first half of the XIX century. The costumes show the way of clothing of the citizens of Belgrade in the first half of the XIX century. This drawing room contains also portraits of some distinguished citizens: Vule Bogdanović, merchant, and his wife, painted by Franja Grifinger. then the portrait of Stevan Knićanin, made by unknown author, the portrait of the poet Jovan Jovanović Zmaj, painted by Uroš Predić in 1938, the portraits of Jelisaveta Kocić and Đorđe Bimba by Arsenije Petrović. On the central wall, there is a large painting, "Merry Party in Front of the Inn", made by unknown author.

These representative rooms of the Old Palace are used for receptions of domestic and foreign delegations and distinguished guests from the country and the world, for award ceremonies of the City of Belgrade, parties, banquets, balls, concerts, book promotions and other cultural events. The other rooms are the offices of the President, vice-presidents and the Secretary of the City Assembly of Belgrade, as well as the President, vice-presidents and members of the Executive Board.