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Prokuplje, Serbia

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A city on a hill

Around 250 kilometers southeast of Belgrade, and 30 kilometers southwest of Nis, in a gentle valley of the river Toplica to whom the whole district is named, lies the town of Prokuplje. It is named after the Holy Procopius, a follower of Christ from the third century. City Prokuplje is administrative, economic and cultural center of the Municipality and the Toplica District, which includes another municipality Kuršumlija, Blace and Žitorađa. According to the census of 2002, 27.673 inhabitants live in the town itself and the entire municipality, with 108 settlements, has 48.501 residents.

 

Prokuplje is very well connected with the rest of Serbia. The main road from Niš to Priština passes through Prokuplje, as well as the railroad. Prokuplje has developed on and around the banks of the river Toplica, in its middle course, surrounded by the hills called Hisar, Borovnjak, Računkovo ​​ brdo, Sokolica and Guba. River Toplica in its natural course seems like it’s almost completely hugging the hill Hisar near Prokuplje, making the turn in its course of 270 degrees. Around the north side of Hisar, it begins to flow upstream and uphill, making a natural phenomenon. Following east of Prokuplje, there is a broad fertile plain called Dobrič and west of it is the tame valley of river Toplica surrounded by mountains Jastrebac, Kopaonik, Radan, Vidojevica and Pasjača. Prokuplje lies at an altitude of about 300 meters and has a temperate continental climate with warm summers and moderately cold winters.

 

Areas around Toplica were inhabited as far back as prehistory.  Archaeological sites in the vicinity of Prokuplje provide evidence for the existence of human settlements in seventh millennium BC. Toplica was inhabited by many different people, form Dardanians and the Celts, the Romans, to the Slavs. At the site of today city of Prokuplje in the 1st century AD there was a Roman town called Hameum, who at the time of Byzantium was called Komplos. At the end of the twelfth century, these areas became part of the Serbian medieval state ruled by Nemanjić dynasty. The first written note of Prokuplje is found in the Charter of Princess Milica Hrebeljanović from 1395 in which she gives vineyards and other goods around the town, “svjatago Prokopija ” or Saint Procopius to the monastery of Saint Panteleimon on Mount Athos. The name of the place began to be used after the transfer of the relics of St. Procopius from Niš in 1386.

 

Local tradition and folk tales say that the Serbian town of Prokuplje belonged to a medieval nobleman and the legendary hero of the Kosovo battle, the old Jug Bogdan. After the capture of Serbian territory, the Turks renamed Prokuplje into Urćub. The settlement experiences big boom in the 16th  and 17th century during the developed trade with the Republic of Venice, when it gained its status. Prokuplje and the whole Toplica region were liberated from the Turkish rule and returned to Serbia in 1878. There are so many interesting things about this city like the fact it was famous for its vineyards and its famous grapes “Prokupac” and those things further prove it is a city upon a hill.

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