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A friendly ghost and its companion

September 17, 2021

Clock tower at Petrovaradin fortress: A friendly ghost and its companion  


Placed in an ideal position, the Clock at the Petrovaradin Fortress immediately became the Friendly Ghost, whose beats give an impulse to life to the city below it. What I didn’t know was that the Friendly Ghost has a best friend. Meet Lajoš Lukač.


Written by: Dragan Gmizić


Some buildings are like people. You’ve known them your whole life, but somehow you didn’t get to know each other well. The “Tower with the Clock” as the builders of the Petrovaradin Fortress called it, or the “Clock Tower” as its name became known over time, is one of such buildings for me. I have known what most people know about it – that it is the symbol of the Fortress and the city in its shadow, that it was built in 1702 on the medieval walls and got its present appearance in the middle of the 18th century. The clock from Alsace (France) as a gift from the almighty Empress Maria Theresa made the distant periphery get a baroque glow.


Placed in the ideal position, “Lepetit Francais” immediately became the Friendly Ghost, whose beats were giving the impulse to life to the city below. Its built-in “irregularity” that the big hand shows hours, and the small one shows minutes, have forever determined the local charm by which time is measured a little differently. This is approximately where my knowledge of the building I see almost every day ends. And then I got a chance to get to know it better. It turns out that the Friendly Ghost has its good friend. His name is Lajoš Lukač and he has the keys to the Clock Tower. Lukač has been visiting it every day for the last decades, because the Clock had to be wound manually.


Today there is an automatic mechanism, but the habit has remained. After all, everyone chooses friends according to themselves. Lukač was there when the Clock was having the most difficult time. Even more difficult than in 1941, when thunder struck and damaged the Clock Tower. At the very entrance he shows me a pendulum on which the years are engraved: 1702, 1790, 1837, 1941 and 1952. The first year indicates when the clock was made, the second and third show the years of great reconstruction of the Tower, as well as the entire Petrovaradin Fortress. In 1941, the Tower was struck by thunder, and in 1952, the army finally withdrew from the Fortress. I did not know that there was a bell tower at the top of the tower. The old bell was destroyed during a fire caused by a thunder strike, only to be renewed in the 1950s, and then completely reconstructed in 2018, as it was engraved on the bell itself. Lajoš Lukač or Lajčika, as people call him, is extremely proud of that bell, so I had the opportunity to listen to its chiming, although the hands did not show a full hour to the general surprise of a couple of visitors to the Fortress and local pigeons.


However, in addition to all the listed and entered years, another one was omitted. And that’s the year when the clock stopped. Namely, during the second half of the 20th century, the clock mechanism broke down and it seemed that no one cared. A Friendly Ghost did not work for several years and oblivion was always considered more difficult than death. It was as if a curse had come to it that clocks were killing time. Quite by accident, Lukač got the opportunity to fix it. No, the truth is that Lukač is a blacksmith who forges his own path. Nothing happens by accident, he says. He repaired the clock mechanism in the mid-1980s. With one blow, he restored life to the Friendly Ghost and forged their friendship to last to this day. “Everyone is a blacksmith of their own happiness; it’s just a question of the tool you use. If you take a big hammer, you can do everything with one blow. Small hammer, lots of punches. It may happen you continue hitting your whole life, but you will not forge out your happiness “, he tells me.