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The natural and architectural ensemble of Stolac

Date of Submission: 11/12/2007
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Commision to Preserve National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina
State, Province or Region:
Stolac - Stolac municipality, Hercegovina-Neretva kanton (county)
Coordinates: N43 04 46 E17 57 30
Ref.: 5282

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Stolac is located in the area known as Herzegovina Humina, on the tourist route crossing Herzegovina linking the mountainous hinterland in Bosnia with the coastal regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dubrovnik and Montenegro.  This road, which runs from Sarajevo via Mostar, Stolac, Ljubinje and Trebinje, enables one to reach Dubrovnik in less than four hours.  Another route leads from Imotski and Ljubuški, Međugorje, Čapljina, Stolac, Berković and Bileća.

Thanks to its favourable natural conditions - geological composition, contours, climate, hydrographic and vegetation - Stolac and its environs have been settled since ancient times.  Its rich hunting-grounds and other natural benefits attracted prehistoric man, and later the Illyrians, Romans and Slavs, all of whom left behind them a wealth of evidence of their material culture.  

ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE (PALAEOLITHIC SITE) OF BADANJ IN BOROJEVIĆI NEAR STOLAC consists of a semi-cave or overhang recessed beneath a cliff that descends to the right bank of the river Bregava. Two chronologically distinct strata of palaeolithic settlement were identified beneath the surface layer. Of particular significance was the discovery of a drawing carved into the rock of the Badanj site, one of the oldest examples of art in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The drawing is cut into the diagonal surface of a large polished block of stone, and probably represents the figure of a horse seen from the offside flank that has been hit by arrows.  Only the rear half of the body survives, with flanks typical for a horse and part of the body; the rest of the drawing has been destroyed.  The Badanj carving includes figures of animals and symbols, as is typical of Mediterranean palaeolithic art.  The site is dated to the late Upper Palaeolithic, i.e. 1300 to 12000 BCE, and was discovered in 1976. The drawing was found beside the cave, the first of its kind on the eastern Adriatic coast, and is partly damaged.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF THE HELLENISTIC TOWN OF DAORSON, OŠANIĆI consists of three linked groups the disposition of which is dictated by the lie of the land. The central area is occupied by a dominant hill fort or acropolis below and to the south and south-west of which are terraces on the ridge, while to the east, on the Banje plateau, is the outer-acropolis area of residential and commercial, mainly artisanal and trade quarters of the settlement. The hill fort was built on a prehistoric fortified settlement which had been in existence there since the early (17/16th century BCE) to the end of the late Bronze Age (9/8th century BCE).  The date of the ransacking of the town of Daorson that finally put an end to human settlement there can be determined with fair accuracy as the mid or second half of the 1st century BCE from the details of the wars waged by the Roman Praetor Vatinius against the Delmati.  No permanent settlement ever arose on the ruins of the town of Daors. There is ample evidence of its advanced culture and civilization: it minted its own coins and produced complex artistically decorated buckles, there is graffiti on shards of pottery vessels, and parts of stone statues of human figures some 2 m in height were found.  A megalithic wall, erected following the lie of the land, has been dated to the 4th century BCE, when both towers were probably built following the construction of the wall.  The rest of the acropolis is of later date, through to the 1st century BCE.  One of the most important finds is a helmet with the Greek inscription ΠΙИ, probably the abbreviated Illyrian name of the owner PINNES; it was probably made in the 3rd century BCE.  The site is exposed to rapid deterioration as a result of lack of maintenance and failure to carry out even minimum protection measures.

HILLFORT IN VRSNIK NEAR STOLAC  The Vrsnik hill fort is surrounded by four walls, forming an oval with an area of 371 x 269 meters.  The inner stone rampart has survived to a height of 3 m. and 25 m across.  No movable archaeological finds have been discovered in Vrsnik.  The Illyrians had fortified structures of this type prior to the Roman occupation: Vrsnik, and Kičin above Bunica near Mostar.

HISTORIC SITE OF THE NECROPOLIS OF STEĆAK TOMBSTONES 1 & 2 OF BOLJUNI NEAR STOLAC is in the hamlet of Boljuni, 5 km south-west of Stolac.  It forms two groups, some 400 m. apart.  There are nearby survivals from the Illyrian period (hill fort and tumuli).  The necropolis in Boljuni numbers 274 stećak tombstones, 92 of which are decorated and 9 of which have epitaphs, making it one of the country's few large necropolises.  With its number and the forms of its stećaks, their decorations and symbols, and the relatively large number of epitaphs, the necropolis in Boljune provides valuable historical information.  The artistic originality of the diverse motifs is ascribed to the most prolific master-craftsman specializing in stećak decoration, Grubač, who is buried in the necropolis.  The stećak tombstones are set in rows, all facing west-east.  Original motifs found in Boljuni are a lion, a woman cradling a child in her arms, stylized rosettes, fabulous lizard-like beasts, and a round dance with the leader riding a deer. The majority of the stećaks in this necropolis date from the time when master-craftsman Grubač was active (roughly 1440-1460) and that of his apprentices in the second half of the 15th century.  There is a well, the Neveš well, known to the locals as the Greek well, 20 m. from the necropolis. The well is circular, with a diameter of 2 m.  Round wells were to be found in the Stolac and Hrasno region, and were still in use c. 1960.  Their date of origin in the region is unknown.

HISTORIC SITE OF THE NECROPOLIS OF STEĆAK TOMBSTONES OF RADIMLJA NEAR STOLAC is located in Vidovo polje, 3 km west of Stolac, on the Čapljina-Stolac road. The Radimlja necropolis is one of the most valuable monuments of the mediaeval period in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The majority of its stećak tombstones date from the 15th and 16th centuries, as evidenced by the epitaph on one of the tombstones - this was the period when the Hrabren Miloradović family lived in Ošanići.  Records from 1967 show that the necropolis then had a total of 133 tombstones.  When the Čapljina-Stolac road was built during the Austro-Hungarian period, it ran through the necropolis, leaving 11 tombstones to the north and all the rest to the south of the road.  Some twenty tombstones were probably destroyed in the process.  The monuments of this necropolis lie north-west/south-east.  A total of 63 are decorated, in bas relief, engraving or a combination of the two.  The finest decorated examples are gabled tombstones and tall chest-shaped tombstones. There are epitaphs on five tombstones referring to the Hrabren Miloradović family. The site is in jeopardy from the construction of buildings in the immediate vicinity.

HISTORIC SITE OF THE OLD FORT OF STOLAC stands on an elevation above the present-day centre of Stolac, and is a defensive structure, one of the largest forts in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The complex system of stone walls and towers suggests that it was built in several stages, which are difficult to differentiate.  In the prehistoric period the north-western part of the fortress, towards the settlement outside the walls, was probably the area that was inhabited.  On the site of present-day Stolac lay the antique-era municipium of Dilentum, with finds dating from the 1st to 2nd centuries CE, and fortifications dating from the late antique era.  The earliest reference to Vidoški fort is in a charter dated 1444, followed by a series of charters up to 1454, as the possession of Stjepan Vukčić Kosača. Stolac became part of the Ottoman sultanate following the Ottoman conquest in 1465.  After the 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz the fort was repaired and extended, with a garrison commanded by a dizdar.  The Stolac captaincy was established in about 1706.  In 1878 Austro-Hungarian rule was established.  The military authorities carried out thorough repairs to the old fort in 1883, and built a modern fortress in 1888, above the one that had been in existence during the Ottoman period.

ORTHODOX CHURCH OF SS. PETER AND PAUL IN OŠANIĆI near Stolac dates from the period when the feudal lords Hrabren-Miloradović ruled this part of Herzegovina.  The church was in existence in 1505.  Duke  Radoslav Hrabren died in 1505 and was buried outside the entrance to the church in Ošanići.  The stećak tombstone outside the entrance to the church bears an epitaph reading: "Here lies Duke Radoslav Hrabren April 24."  Two judges' seats dating from the 15th century, with a height of 2.50 m, stand outside the church, cut in stone.  Some people believe that Stolac acquired its name from these stone seats (stolica = seat).

NATURAL AND ARCHITECTURAL ENSEMBLE OF THE BREGAVA RIVER COURSE WITH MILLS, STAMPING MILLS AND BRIDGES IN STOLAC.  The river Bregava and its buildings - bridges, mills and stamping mills over the river - constitutes the backbone of the urban layout of  Stolac.  Bridges: the most important surviving bridges on the Bregava are 1) Ćuprija (Inat ćuprija), the oldest surviving bridge on the Bregava, assumed from the style of building to date from the mediaeval period; 2) Podgradska ćuprija, the second oldest bridge in Stolac Municipality, believed to have been built in the early 18th century; the bridge in Begovina, most recent of the three stone bridges in Stolac; the Sara Kašiković bridge, built according to its inscription in 1896.  This was a privately-owned bridge, and had gates to close it off; it is the largest privately-owned bridge; the bridge leading to Ada; the small bridge by the Šarić summer residence; and the bridge by the Ali pasha mosque.  Mills: these are of fairly uniform character, without major differences in the way they were built. In 1664 Evliya Çelebi wrote in his travelogue that there were ten watermills in Dol on the Bregava.  In the 18th century Memibegović recounts that the river Bigava runs through Stolac, with 180 waterwheels.  The oldest known vakufnama (deed of perpetual endowment) with details of mills was issued for a maintenance endowment dating from 1815, as a result of which the mills can be assumed to date from the early 19th century.  They are built of rough-cut stone and are plain and unadorned.  Their size is determined by their length, which in turn depends on the number of arches by which the building spans the two banks of the river.  The most important of the existing mills are the mill above the Sara Kašiković bridge, the Behmen mill, the Turković mill, and the mills with stamping mills.  Stamping mills: these feature mainly in combination with watermills.  As a rule, they constitute a small group of buildings, one of which is invariably the stamping mill office where deals were struck.  Another is the stamping mill itself, with the upper floor used for drying laundry in winter and used for other purposes in summer.  These plain, unadorned buildings are purely of a utilitarian nature.

ADA IN STOLAC. The Opijač house is an integral part of the Ada (eyot) residential area in Stolac, extending along the river Bregava in the centre of town, between the Carska (Imperial) and Mala (lesser) čaršija (commercial quarter), and is one of the most important historic groups in Stolac.  The Ada complex is particularly important for its residential complexes building from the 17th to the 19th century.  The Opijač house was built in the 17th century and was typologically of the "I" shaped house with open hayat (entrance porch) and a wing above the hayat.  The complex consisted of a courtyard, house and garden running down the steep hill below Veli dedo's mosque in the old fort.  It was one of a group of typical Stolac houses with gable ends abutting onto a semicircular courtyard wall, facing the street, thus reflecting the mediaeval residential heritage, also to be seen in the shape of stećak tombstones.  The Ada architectural ensemble is at risk from lack of maintenance, the continued deterioration of buildings damaged during the war, and inappropriate interventions on the surviving buildings.

ARCHITECTURAL ENSEMBLE OF THE ČARŠIJA MOSQUE AND ČARŠIJA OR COMMERCIAL QUARTER IN STOLAC.  In the early 16th century the still uninhabited area began to turn into a kasaba or small town.  Work began on building the Čaršija mosque by the old well, on the site of the old musalla (open prayer space). The architectural ensemble of the mosque with its harem (enclosed courtyard) and fountain, well and burial ground, the site of the former mejtef (primary school), musafirhana (hostel providing free accommodation), han (hostel, inn), 15 shops, a kiraethana (reading room), gusulhana (premises for washing and layout out the dead), and the large (old) Tepa quarter, stands in the centre of the town of Stolac. The mosque was built in 1519.  In the summer of 1993 the Čaršija mosque and the entire Stolac čaršija was destroyed.  On 22 August 2001 work began on the reconstruction of the mosque; the work was completed in 2004.

ARCHITECTURAL ENSEMBLE OF THE UZUNOVIĆKA MOSQUE (MOSQUE OF ISMAIL­KAPETAN ŠARIĆ) IN STOLAC was built in 1154 AH (1741 CE) by Ismail-kapetan Šarić, as recorded on the inscription incised on a plaque above the entrance door to the mosque. In 1990 the mosque was restored to its original use and research works were set in motion with the aim of restoring it.  The Uzinovićka mosque and the residential group around it were destroyed by incendiary ammunition packed with phosphorus in 1993.  Work on the restoration and reconstruction of the mosque is due to be completed by the end of 2004.  The majority of the houses constituting the architectural ensemble of the mahala (quarter) of the Uzunovička mosque, of considerable townscape value, have been restored.

REMAINS OF THE ARCHITECTURAL ENSEMBLE OF THE ĆUPRIJA (HAJJI ALIJA HADŽISALIHOVIC) MOSQUE IN STOLAC are located right by the downstream side of the Inat ćuprija (bridge) on the left bank of the Bregava. This is the third oldest mosque in Stolac, the endowment of Hajji Alija, son of Hasan, built prior to Shawwal 1148 AH (prior to 14 February 1736).  The tarih (chronogram) incised on a plaque above the entrance door records that it was extended in 1179 (1765/66) by one Hajji Muhamed.  The mosque was dynamited and destroyed in August 1993.

SITE AND REMAINS OF THE HISTORIC BUILDING OF THE PODGRADSKA MOSQUE IN STOLAC.  The first mosque to be built in the Podgradska mahala was erected in 1732/33 by Hajji Salih Buro of Mostar.  With time the mosque fell into a state of dilapidation, and in 1812/13 Ali-paša Rizvanbegović built a new one on the same site, as recorded on the second chronogram incised on a plaque above the entrance door.  A third inscription recounts that in 1890/91 Mehmed Ali-paša Rizvanbegović repaired the Podgradska mosque.  The entire building was divided into two levels, with a small bazaar on the ground floor and the prayer space of the mosque above.  The shops were part of the vakuf (perpetual endowment) of the mosque. The mosque was dynamited and destroyed in 1993.

BEGOVINA. With the abolition of the posts of dizdar and kapetan (captain) in 1835, the four Rizvanbegović brothers left the fortress and built themselves new manors in Begovina, surrounding them with a single wall with loopholes for defensive purposes.  On the left bank of the Bregava in Begovina is a complex of buildings of residential and commercial nature: three houses, three musafirhanas, and other commercial premises.  Between then is a large stableyard with a double entrance door.  The buildings are of stone, with hipped roofs clad with stone slabs.  All the buildings are joined by a wall.  A bridge over the river Bregava links the Begovina complex with its fourth structure on the right bank of the Bregava; this too consists of a house, musafirhana and commercial building.  This group later acquired the name Đulhanumina house.  The stableyard contains not only stabling, a barn, hayloft and musafirhana, but also a mekteb (primary school).  Other than a small area where the horses were shod, the spacious courtyard is cobbled, and leads into the individual courtyards of the three houses, kitchens, woodstores and privies.  The waters of the river Bregava is channelled through all the courtyards and capacious pools with fishponds.

ARCHITECTURAL ENSEMBLE OF THE ĐULHANUMINA HOUSE is on the right bank of the Bregava, opposite the Begovina complex in Stolac.  It was built in 1835 and is one of the most important examples of Ottoman residential architecture in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The ensemble consists of the main house (a three-storey building, which is rare in Ottoman residential architecture) and service buildings - a mutvak or kitchen and a konak or overnight accommodation.  The architectural ensemble of the Đulhanumina house was set on fire and destroyed in mid July 1993.

ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST was built in 1870.  A plaque reads: "His Majesty Sultan Abdul Aziz bestows on the church of Poljubi 1000 groschen for the construction of the said church."  In other words, Sultan Aziz made a financial contribution to the building of the church.  Among items of value, the 18th century iconostasis is worthy of mention.  The paintings are in three rows.  The iconostatis terminates in a large crucifix, the Madonna, St John and the symbols of the Evangelists.  The paintings are framed in wood made to imitate marble.  The doors, worked with floral ornaments, bear the figures of St John Chrysostom and St Gregory the Divine.

HISTORIC BUILDING OF THE MEKTEB IBTIDAIJA is in the very centre of Stolac, right by the architectural ensemble of the Čaršija mosque and Stolac Čaršija and the Stolac primary school.  The mekteb Ibtidaija in Stolac was built in full conformity to the design entitled Project fűr ein Reform-Mekteb in Stolac, drawn up in April 1900 in Mostar and signed by civil enginner Max (Maximilian) David.  The building is in the historicist style, an interpretation of the so-called oriental style with pseudo-oriental expression.

HISTORIC MONUMENT OF THE TOMB OF MOŠE DANON WITH SURROUNDING AREA AND HAVRA in Stolac is in a place called Krajšina 2 km from the centre of Stolac. The site of this monument is of major importance for the spiritual and material culture of the Jewish people, not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina but also beyond.  The tombstone marks the grave of the rabbi of Sarajevo Moše Danon.   It was executed in the shape of the Jewish tombstones typical of this part of the world known as "lion couchant."  The havra is 35 metres from the tomb, and has a bench and a niche inside - the latter to be used for sacred items.

CATHOLIC CHURCH IN STOLAC was built in 1902 in the Romanesque style with an admixture of the Gothic.  The belltower is a later addition. It is worth mentioning that it has an organ, one of the few churches in Herzegovina to have one.  The organ was built by local craftsmen and supplemented by two registers made in the workshop of the famous organ-buildeer Laukuff of western Germany. It was built and installed in 1965.

HAMMAM (BATHS) IN STOLAC, built in the late 16th or early 17th century by Silahdar Hu­sein-paša, probably a native of Stolac.  It remained in use until the end of the 19th century.  The baths were stone-built and lime-plastered, with walls 70-150 cm thick. Each of the rooms was domed; the domes were clad with lead.  It is of interest to note that this hammam has no windows on the domes and vaults, but only below them, in the walls.  The hammam is 16.90 m long and 6.90 wide, with the large dome 6.45 m in height. The water for the baths came from the Bregava.

CLOCK TOWER IN STOLAC, built in 1664, stood by the Careva (Imperial) mosque.  It was demolished between the two world wars.  It ceased to be in use in 1917, when the Austrian authorities removed the bell and melted it down to make cannon shells.  The muezzin was responsible for the clock. The tower was finally demolished at the end of World War II, and only the remains of its walls can be seen.

ŠARIĆ HOUSE in Stolac was built in 1734 of stone with a first-floor oriental window and windows with iron bars.  There is an inscription above the entrance door indicating the year it was built as 1734/35.  Here lived and died Smail-kapetan Sarić, an important figure of Stolac in the 18th century.  In 1963 the house was altered and the museum in memory of the artist Branko Šotra was installed there.

ARCHITECTURAL ENSEMBLE OF THE CHURCH OF ST NICHOLAS IN TRIJEBANJ was completely destroyed in 1993.  There is a large quantity of fragments on the site, at risk of continual deterioration.  The church is in the village of Trijebanj, 15 km from Stolac, and was built in 1534.  Archaeological excavations conducted close to the church uncovered the remains of a building (church) dating from the 13th or 14th century.  In 1815 the church ceased to be used.  It was renovated in the mid 19th century. In ground plan the church was a single nave with an elongated rectangular ground plan, semi-circular apse and choirs (chancels) to the north and south.  The frescoes of the church of St Nicholas in Trijebanj were some of the oldest in Herzegovina, and were painted by one of the finest craftsmen of that period.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Containing, in one small space, unique cultural-artistic and aesthetic values, Stolac's historic core is an example of a complex cultural-historical and natural environmental ensemble. It is an example of the organic link between human and natural architectures, which also witnesses that the beauty of the location was decisive at its planning and building - the principle often present in the development of mediaeval towns.

Nine historical layers constitute the architectural ensemble of Stolac: pre-history, Illyrian-Roman epoch, the early Middle Ages, developed and late Middle Ages, Ottoman epoch, Austro-Hungarian epoch, and first and second Yugoslavia. The most visible material part of evidence of the town's statement shows a multitude of various, influences on the architecture of town, in that encounter of contrasts and similarities, laws and paradoxes, planning and full spontaneity, lend this town a complex image of outstanding and universal value.

Due to its emphasised openness and easiness to survey, due to the non-everyday possibility and cultural privilege to grasp at a glance as many as four empires (Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian), three kingdoms (Bosnian, Hungarian and Yugoslav), three world's monotheistic religions - Christianity (Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism), Islam, and Judaism - the most versatile architectural styles and customs within the cultural circles defined as Mediterranean, Central-European, West-European, Byzantine, Balkan, and Ottoman, the historical core of Stolac is a coherent and harmonious cultural-historical monument with individual properties grown together into one ensemble. 

Comparison with other similar properties

Stolac presents one of few urban ensembles in Bosnia and Herzegovina preserved in their integrity to the present time developed through the several phases of the history.

Stolac can be compared with some of the world heritage sites as: Natural and historical ensemble of Jajce (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Museum-City of Gjirokastra (Albania) etc. The layout of Stolac, its architecture and use of materials put it into the group of Ottoman Mediterranean types of small settlements.