Historical place of Bač and its Surroundings

Date of Submission: 15/04/2010
Criteria: (iv)(v)(vi)(ix)
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Serbia to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Autonomous Province of Vojvodina
Coordinates: N45 23 31 E19 52 57
Ref.: 5540
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Description

On the borders of the Pannonia plain and Danube regions, in the Vojvodina Province, there is the town of Bač which lent its name to the whole region between the Danube and Tisa rivers - Bačka. The flatlands bordered by rivers were once a marshy land with ponds and forests, but with time, man was staring to win battles with water, balancing the ratio between land and water. The area around Bač, with the Mostonga river meanders and its confluence with the Danube, testifies to the geomorphologic changes of the terrain, as well as on how it used to look in the distant past, before the waters started to be regulated and the land irrigated. All around Bač there are forests, ponds and marshes, listed as special natural reservations, with their specific forest ecosystems, habitats to natural rarities and to the globally endangered species. There are also archaeological sites, confirming the presence of man and the use of the marshy lands throughout the millennia. The preserved architectural heritage, built in the vast period from the 12th to the 19th century, under the influence of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Byzantine and Islamic art and the baroque represent a definite testimony to the cultural diversity, interlacing and linking the cultures of the Balkans with the West. 

Bač is 62 km away from Novi Sad and 140 km from Belgrade. To the west, the municipality borders with the Republic of Croatia (opposite the town of Vukovar) along a 43 km long bank of the Danube River. The population of about 17,000 is extremely multiethnic (Serbs, Slovaks, Croats, Hungarians, Rumanians, Roma..), who live of farming and animal husbandry. The natural and cultural heritage is an important resource for the underdeveloped local communities, as it provides an only real potential for an accelerated resolution of numerous problems. At the same time, the initiated activities and the obtained results within the frame of the Development Integrative Protection Project "Centuries of Bač", an example of good practice is provided, creating the nucleus to the heritage management, but also to the development and collaboration with the neighbouring municipalities of the Danube region  and to accepting the European standards and manners of planning.                                                                    

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT

It was the left bank of the Danube and its marshy lands and the Mostonga river banks which in the distant past provided refuge to numerous peoples (the Getae, Celts, Sarmatae, Lazyges, Romans, Huns, Slavs). The first mentioning of Bač was in a written document from 535. In the Middle Ages Bač becomes an important historic place, for the most period under the rule of Hungarian kings. Historical sources mention the place under the names: Bache, Baacs, Baach, Bács, Bach, Bath, Latin Bachia, Greek  Παγάτζιον. It was an administrative and religious centre and a favourite resort to many a European ruler. A Muslim geographer, Al-Idrisi, marked Bač in his "The Book of Roger" in 1154. In his Geography, a book accompanying the maps, he wrote, "Bač is a famous place, ranking among other major cities. There are markets, merchants' and craftsmen' shops, Greek scholars... However, the wheat is inexpensive, as there is plenty of it" ... "Bač and Kovin are major export-import towns with dense population. These are the major Hungarian towns, with most of the buildings, and there one can live in plenitude on large farming estates."

Bač played an important role in the defence of Western Europe against Turkish invasions, especially after the fall of the Serbian Principality in 1459. The Bač spacious military camp was the place where armies of several different states gathered with one purpose: to stop the Ottoman Empire from penetrating into the heart of Europe. However, from 1526 to 1686 these lands fell under the Turkish rule. Then, the Austrians came to rule the region, as they were victorious in the war for freedom. In the 18th century, Austria colonised the population, which is even today reflected in the structure of the population. Such rich diversity can be perceived in the folk tangible and intangible heritage, still nurtured by numerous cultural and art societies in the region.

MONUMENT DESCRIPTION

The focal point of valorisation and interpretation is on the heritage, classified as heritage of outstanding value. In the overall heritage valorisation and the development perspective, segments of diverse types of heritage are presented as parts of a body of a cultural landscape.

The Bač Fortress (of outstanding significance for the Republic of Serbia)

The Bač Fortress is classified as a "water town", with a defence system adapted to marshy land. It consists of a fortified castle and suburb, located on the river Mostonga meander. A plane where the fortress is located is a significant archaeological site. Under the foundations of visible walls there had been a settlement from the Neolithic period - six millenniums ago and that existed also through the Bronze Age and the older Iron Age. There are also Celtic traces and traces of  life in the Classical period during III and IV centuries. The first building phase goes back to the period between 1338-1342 and the Hungarian King Charles Robert of Anjou. From the mid 15th century, intensive building activities start, adapting to new warfare techniques and reinforcing the southern boundary against the Turkish invasions. In 1529 the Turks conquered the fortress and were using it until the year of liberation, 1686. In 1704, during the Rakoczy rising, the fortress was blasted, never to be restored again.

Although its physical integrity is substantially lost, the preserved elements indicate a sophisticated fortification school of High Gothic style, with elements of early Italian Renaissance.

Religious heritage:

Franciscan Monastery of Bač (of outstanding significance for the Republic of Serbia)

The monastery in the centre of Bač, integrated with its mediaeval urban layout. The complex consists of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Church and the square shaped monasterial buildings with an inner court. It started to be built in the second half of 12th century, when the members of the Equestrians of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem built a small one-nave Romanesque church. In the 14th century, the Franciscans restored it in Gothic style, building the monastery and a tall, massive bell tower at the side. When Bač fell under the Turkish rule, the church was turned into a mosque (a mihrab niche in the southern wall) until the year of liberation in 1686. In 1688, the Franciscans from Bosnia take over the monastery. Baroque renewal included the church and the monastery, when the characteristic square inner court was created between 1724 and 1770.

Among numerous works of art, there is a painting the Last Supper from 1737, an icon Virgin of Tenderness (glykophilousa) of Italo-Cretan school, work of a master Dima (1684) and many hand written and printed books from 17th and 18th centuries, the so-called Biblioteca Slavica (Croatica), as well as some sculptures and service garments.

The Serbian Orthodox Monastery of Bodjani (of outstanding significance for the Republic of Serbia)

It is 15 km to the south of Bač, towards the Danube. The complex consists of a church, residential quarters built in the 'U' shape and the accompanying farm houses.

It was demolished and restored several times. The first monastery was built in 1478 by a Serbian merchant Bogdan of Dalmatia, as a token of gratitude to the Virgin for healing his eyes. The present monastery church, the fourth one to be built, is devoted to the Presentation of the Virgin and was built in 1722 by Mihail Tamisvarlija. It is of a cruciform ground plan, with dome, 5.5 m in diameter, rising above the main nave and transept cross. The present quarters were built after a fire, between 1786 and 1810. The sections at the north and south ends have a storey, while the one at the west end is a ground floor structure.

The interior walls are covered with frescoes (app. 600m2), painted by by Hristifor Zefarovic, a printer and a painter. The Bodjani paintings, dating from 1737, displaying both Byzantine and baroque artistic tendencies, represent a crucial point in Serbian art and some of the most valuable frescoes in the first half of the 18th century in south-east Europe. The iconostasis screen is also an outstanding object of art, the work of Kyiv painters with Jov Vasiliyevič and Vasily Romanovič.  There is also a miracle-working icon of the Virgin of Bodjani.

St Antun the Hermit Chapel in the Guvniste woods - great value

The Chapel is in the vicinity of Bač, on the road to Mladenovo, in the Guvniste woods. There is an inscription that says that it was renewed in 1817 on a cult place founded before 1526. It is a one-nave building of harmonious proportions, with polygonal altar space in the east section, a sacristy at the north wall and a wooden campanile in the west side. Façades are reinforced with five built buttresses, two placed diagonally at the east angles. Above the main entrance there are two trifora windows, like the gothic ones. In the chapel interior there is a gallery built where a small organ is placed, donated in 1864.

St Paul's Roman Catholic Church of Bač - great value

The church was built between 1773 and 1780 and then extensively renewed in 1838. It is of harmonious proportions, built in the baroque style. It is of a one-nave structure with a semicircular altar apse lower than the nave and in its north side a sacristy was built. The three short columns, decorated by pilasters with Ionian capitals, divide the interior into three bays. Façade decorations are simplified, more representative at the west side, with a tall two-storey bell tower.

A convent of nuns of the Notre Dame of Bač- great value

In 1876, along the north wall of the St Paul's church, a nunnery was built for the Notre Dame order. Ljudevit Heinold, an archbishop and later a cardinal, supervised the construction. A representative portrait of him in his cardinal gown was painted in 1878 by Loschinger and is kept today in the nunnery. The two storey building is of an elongated ground plan and is built in a classicistic style. The west façade is divided into two areas by a string course and the floor windows are shaped in the neo Romanesque style.

Other buildings and sites:

Remains of a Turkish bath, hammam - great value

Hammam in the centre of Bač is valuable testimony to the times of the Ottoman rule in Vojvodina. It was most probably built after 1578, and Evli Çelebi mentioned on his visit to Bač in 1665. According to the archaeological finds, there were six rooms in the hammam (halvat - a waiting room with a cloakroom; sadirvan - a bathroom: hazna - a water tank; kulhan - a boiler/furnace room). It is partially demolished, but a section of the dome over the central rooms has been preserved.

Celtic Oppidum near Plavna, arceological site

Also, significant number of individual structures of cultural interest:

- Vernacular architecture / representative examples of houses in all the settlements (Bač, Bođani, Plavna, Bačko Novo Selo and Selenča), where ethno houses are arranged with museum displays and the necessary services

- Industrial architecture  / a pumping station in Plavna, dating from 1912, with preserved machines

- Over 50 archaeological sites

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

(iv) The Fortress of Bač is of a special value as part of the cultural heritage, a unique example of a "water town" built on the marshy left bank of the Danube, having a fortified castle, reflecting Gothic and Renaissance influences. 

(v) From his first prehistoric dwelling places, man has been continuously using this swampy terrain, which resulted in founding specific settlements. Bač was founded on an alluvial terrace surrounded with water, with a natural defence system. The Mostonga river creates a connection with the Danube, the main European waterway. Very early, its position and natural conditions made it possible to become a military, administrative, commercial and religious centre of a much larger region. Additional research is needed in order to find out all the old roads, bridges, ports and embankments and the connections with the right Danube bank. The investigations conducted thus far have helped in better knowing and understanding the cultural diversity of this border Danube region and of the coexistence of communities between the East and West Christian world.

(vi) Bač was a prominent place in the Middle Ages - as a seat of the Bač County and the Bač Archbishopric (in 1149 to be joined with the Kalocsa Bishopric). Its architectural heritage of that period is reflected in the Franciscan Monastery (12th century), the Fortress of Bač (14th century) and the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of Bodjani (15th century).

A Arab geographer, Al-Idrisi, marked Bač in his world maps in the"Book of Roger" in 1154, describing it as a famous and large settlement. All the Hungarian kings used to stay in Bač and even some from the The Árpáds Dynasty were crowned in Bač ( Ulászló I, Stephen IV, Béla  III). Some of the kings were engaged here on strengthening and defending the Lower Regions (Partes Inferiores), like Louis I Robert of Anjou or Matthias Corvinus.

Historical sources mention that numerous outstanding historic figures stayed in Bač, like Manuel I Comnenos and Giovanni da Capistrano ...

In the late 15th century, the residential palace of the Bač Fortress housed an extraordinary and valuable library, containing books in several languages, belonging to a humanist and archibishop Peter Varadi.

(ix) The area of the municipality of Bač also embrace forests, ponds and marshy land, all protected as special natural reservations (Vranjak and Ristovača). Those specific ecosystems are the habitat to rare birds (Aythya nyroca..) and other animals and plants. The natural heritage testifies to an erstwhile environment of man, quite characteristic to vast flatlands and swamps, but which could be destroyed because of uncontrolled exploitation.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Considering the outstanding value and the diversity of the cultural heritage, its links with the preserved natural environment, as well as the link with the world great history, there is an imposing conclusion that the region is authentic, featuring universal values.

The natural and cultural heritage of the region is a significant factor for the development of the local community, and the management, as well as the interpretation of the cultural landscape would allow the region to be preserved for posterity.

Comparison with other similar properties

So far, there is no other location recognised or acknowledged with a similar combination of both the natural and cultural heritage, since this is a specific area under particular historic conditions stretching along an unexplored strip of the left bank of the Danube river.