The site has for centuries been a crossroads of the routes leading from the interior of the continent to the Mediterranean. The entire complex with the fortress, town ramparts and towers lies on the southern slope of a large rocky pyramid, enclosed to the south-west by the bed of the river Pliva and to the southeast and east by the river Vrbas. The perimeter of the mediaeval town of Jajce is about 1300 m, with an area of 112,000 sq.m.
The system of the fortress and defensive walls was built in a number of stages. The first stage was the erection of the citadel on the summit of the hill. During the second stage, the bailey to the east of the fortress was built Stage three began, roughly from the mid 15th century to 1463. The walls now ran down to the natural barrier of the travertine shores of the rivers. This created a new centre in the valley, on the main road through the town, between the Travnik and Banja Luka Gatehouses. Stage four took place during the period of Hungarian rule, i.e. the period of the Jajce banate, from 1464 to 1527. The entire defensive system of the town was repaired rather than added to. During Stage five, during the Ottoman Imperial period (1528-1878), the town acquired its final form. Within the fortress, the towers were turned into bastions, and embankments were raised within the mediaeval walls. It was at this time that a powder magazine and masjid were built within the fortress. Velika tabija (Large bastion), the tower on Dlikovac, and the Sabic bastion were built alongside the north perimeter rampart. St Mary's church with St Luke's tower were turned into the Suleyman II mosque. The perimeter walls were reinforced to a thickness of two to five metres. The way the stones were laid is noticeably more regular, and lime with coarse gravel extracted from the Vrbas was used as binder. There is little reliable information on the mediaeval layout of Jajce, but on the basis of the present condition three zones with different features may be distinguished:
• The first and highest zone is that of the citadel, as the main fortification with a narrow residential area beneath forming an ‘amphitheatre’ surrounded by a rampart. This was part of the feudal and royal court, which had some public functions as well as residential. Here fragments of the mature architectural achievements of Dalmatian and Danube valley or central European influence have been found.
• The second zone was on the south-western part of the plateau, with the church and belltower of St Luke, burial ground and catacombs, and a separate tower for their defence. In the early days this zone was outside the town ramparts.
• The third zone is the area outside the ramparts, where houses were built around a market by peasants skilled in crafts or trade, mainly for the purpose of serving the feudals.
The prime concern in the layout of the town, then, was strategic needs. Houses were largely of timber, and as a result of frequent fires evidence of their existence or of features from which certain assumptions could be made have vanished. The layout of the town and the area outside the ramparts is typical for the mediaeval period in this part of the world, where Jajce was one of the largest and most highly developed urban conglomerations.
The different functions were clearly differentiated by zone in the town. Instead of the mediaeval market, a crafts and trade carsija grew up with a row of wooden shops known as cepenak from their horizontally opening front shutters, and with substantial public buildings gradually rising in volume towards the accent points of the domes and minarets of mosques. The slopes were used for housing, where micro-regions or mahalas took shape. In the composition of free-form roofs rising one above the other, the accent was again the vertical wooden minaret of the masjid, a small mosque where the normal daily prayers were performed.
Public buildings were built to the established layout, with the appropriate type chosen depending on the importance of the town and the carsija, in an exclusively oriental architecture which was carried out by Turkish master craftsmen in the case of every major building. Particularly in the case of residential architecture, where the concept was that each family would build its own separate building, the oriental influence was so strong that it became part of the day to day life and habits of the inhabitants.
In Jajce, too, a carsija grew up on the site of the mediaeval market, with its rows of wooden shops used by the craftsmen and merchants, at first between the town gates and then gradually overflowing outside the north wall and taking in the crossroads outside the Banja Luka gatehouse.
The roads network, too, was taken over from mediaeval Jajce. The main skeleton was the road between the Travnik and Banja Luka gatehouses, which continued on towards Travnik, Banja Luka and Kljuc over the Pliva and Vrbas bridges and the fork by the left bank of the Vrbas. At the midpoint of this street, in the centre of the town beneath the ramparts, it was joined by another, which had led in the mediaeval period to the church and burial ground of St Luke, later a mosque. The carsija was linked to the citadel by a road running up the steep slopes through the residential area. Other side roads were also laid, of a size to ensure access to every building.
The roads network came into being along the only possible and logical lines, and still survives, still in use, to this day as they were in the past. They were not the product of following a particular example nor of the influence of mature urbanization, but the spontaneous result of the utilitarian needs of the mediaeval and later inhabitants. Crossroads in the area outside the ramparts became prominent urban centres.
Jajce is one of the places where public needs were met with only the minimum of new buildings, and where existing ones were adapted to use for the remaining urban functions. St Mary's church was turned into the central mosque, and another into the hamam. The hamam was destroyed by fire 200 years ago, but its foundations were identified when a four-storey building was erected in the Jajce carsija. As a result, the Jajce carsija did not show the mature and sophisticated composition graduating from the low eaves of the cepenka, to a human scale, via public buildings with more than one storey and their small domes to the main accent, the dome of the mosque with its minaret.
From the mediaeval period to the start of Austro-Hungarian rule, Jajce evolved like the majority of other towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina within unchanging boundaries. After the Austro-Hungarian occupation the so-called industrial zone arose, on the right bank of the river Pliva and left bank of the river Vrbas, which made its own contribution to the new appearance of the town and introduced certain new features into the urbanization of Jajce.
Present-day Jajce is developing primarily in the natural amphitheatre-like hollows downstream along the left bank of the Vrbas and to the west of the historic centre, on the right and left banks of the Pliva. The mainstay of the town is the old road running between the town gates and on to the north beyond the town walls. Here the present-day trade and cultural centre is still to be found on the site of the old carsija, whereas the administrative centre has shifted to the north, outside the historic centre. In housing, too, there is a tendency to go beyond the town ramparts, particularly to the north. The dilapidated houses of the historic centre, lacking hygienic conditions and space, are an encumbrance to the impoverished population, and a great many buildings are gradually being abandoned or crude interventions are being carried out on them.
The individual structures of monumental or environmental value within the historic urban area are:
The Mithraic Temple, the historic monument of the Catacombs, the church of St Mary with St Luke's bell tower, the site and remains of the Esma Sultana mosque, the historic monument of the Sinan-bey or Okic mosque, the historic monument of the Dizdar's or Women's mosque, the architectural ensemble of the Ibrahim beg or Pijavice mosque, the historic monument of the Samic mosque, the site and remains of the architectural ensemble of the parish church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Franciscan monastery, the site of the Jewish synagogue, the site and remains of the architectural ensemble of the Orthodox church of the Most Holy Mother of God.
The Jajce fortress with the Clock Tower, northern perimeter ramparts (from the northeast corner of the fortress to Mracna kapija - Velika tabija (gatehouse and bastion), Mracna kapija, Velika tabija, the wall from Velika tabija to the tower at Dzikovac, the Tower at Dzikovac, the wall between the tower at Dzikovac and Papaz tower, Papaz-tower, the Banja Luka gatehouse, the wall between the Banja Luka gatehouse (Papaz gatehouse) and Samic tabije, Samic tabija, the wall between the Vrbas and Qamik tabija, the western perimeter rampart (the wall from the fortress to Medvjed tower, Medvjed tower, the wall South of Medvjed tower to the Pliva), the east and south sides of the perimeter walls (Travnik gatehouse).
The iron bridge over the river Pliva
Memorials, burial grounds and mausolea
The site of the cemetery in Varosnice
The historic building of the Omerbeg house, the site and remains of the historic building of the Buric house, the site and remains of the historic monument of the house of the Krslak family I and the remains of the historic monument of the house of the Krslak family II, the site and remains of the historic building of the Dizdar's house, the site of the historic monument of the Mulalic house, a house in Gornja Mahala, and an architectural ensemble dating from the Austro-Hungarian building consisting of the Sarac house or Sarenica, Building I of the primary school and the Finance House.
World War II memorials
The National Bank building, the Emanuel Lihtner building, the Elektrobosna factory Shelter, the site and remains of the ZAVNOBiH villa
Other buildings and sites
The site of the Musafirhana in Jajce, the historic monument of the Hafizadica cesma drinking fountain, the cesma outside the Sinan beg mosque, the mills, the remains of the hamam in the carsija, the building of the first pharmacy or Celebic house, the historic monument of the AVNOJ Centre (Soko Centre).