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Stećak, treasure of Bosnia and Herzegovina

UNESCO tombstone heritage and the remote villages of Hrančići and Kosače

The  most remarkable features of the stećak (tombstone) are the amazing decorative motifs, epitaphs and epigraphs many of which remain enigmatic to this day.

Bosnia as “De Administrando Imperio”

The oldest document that was found, where Bosnia is mentioned, is “De Administrando Imperio”. The document was written by Constantine VII “Porphyrogenitus”, the Byzantin emperor. It is a document where he describes the states of the Balkans, written around 950. Therefore, we can say that the oldest document about Bosnian state dates from the 10th century. 

First known ban of Bosnia was Ban Borić (12th century), but the best known ban of Bosnia was Ban Kulin (12th century). Because Ban Kulin’s times are known as times of prosperity and peace, even nowadays among the people you can hear an old folk proverb with significant meaning. The proverb states: “Od Kulina bana i dobrijeh dana” (Eng. Since Kulin Ban and those good days). The Banat of Bosnia lasted from 1154. – 1377., after which it was reorganized into the Kingdom of Bosnia.

East Bosnia
The “Golden Lily” is the historic symbol of Bosnia. “Lilium Bosniacum” is the endemic flower native to Bosnia & Herzegovina. The symbol was used for the first time by the Bosnian King, Tvrtko I, and it's still present as the Bosnian - Herzegovinian symbol. In the top - right corner is the lily symbol of the Bosnian Kingdom.

The Charter of Kulin Ban is a trading agreement between Banate of Bosnia and Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik Republic). In that way the trade rights were regulated so the Ragusan Republic could freely trade in the Banate of Bosnia. This trading agreement is one of the most important written documents of the Bosnian medieval history.

The Bosnian state lasted until 1463. when the last king, Stjepan Tomašević, was executed in the fortress of Jajce. During the period of the Bosnian state people used to belong to three branches of Christianty, those were the Catholics, Orthodox Christians and the followers of the Bosnian Church. Therefore, Bosnia is for 1000 years a place where diversity was something completely normal. 

Eccentric Duke from Eastern Bosnia - Herceg Stjepan Vukčić Kosača

Herceg Stjepan Kosača was a son of a Bosnian nobleman and nephew of a Grand Duke of Bosnia. Therefore, he had so much power after he became involved in politics in 1435. Stjepan Vukčić Kosača became the Grand Duke of Bosnia (1435. – 1448.) after his uncle Sandalj Hranić passed away. The duke Kosača was following the Church of Bosnia, with a conspicuous attitude. That is one of the reasons why he started a civil war after the new king Stjepan Tomaš converted to Catholicism and recognized the pope. Stjepan Vukčić Kosača supported Radivoj, brother of the new king, because he stayed faithful to the Church of Bosnia. During that period he also made alliance with the Ottomans, because they were a big threat to his land. 

East Bosnia
Church of St. Georgija in Sopotnica in the municipality of Novo Goražde, is a Christian church and the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The founder of the church is Duke Stjepan Vukčić Kosača. It has been declared a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Being in a very tuff position Stjepan Kosača also became a Grand Duke of Saint Sava, trying in that way to stay close with the papacy and Orthodox Church. It is not so unusual that he did that, because the medieval Bosnians were pretty much flexible with the religion, especially the followers of the Bosnian Church. After that move he built an Orthodox Church in Goražde and allowed the Catholic priests from Italy to come to his land as missionaries. This was the only way to save the followers of the Bosnian Church. Stjepan Kosača had against himself the Bosnian King Tomaš, and the Eastern and Western Church. With these moves he managed to save about 40000 to 60000 followers of the Bosnian Church from forced conversion and mass executions. Therefore, for his life he had two advisers, Radin and priest David. Radin was the priest of the Bosnian Church and David the priest of the Orthodox Church. 

The Game of Titles

The title “herzog” he got in 1448. by marrying the Bavarian princess Cecilia. In that way he renounced the title of the Grand Duke of Bosnia and took the title of “herzog”. In 1449. Stjepan Kosača got the title of Saint Sava, to obtain the Eastern and Western Church. 

The conflict with the King Tomaš ended in the way that the king married Stjepan’s daughter, Katarina. But Katarina needed to convert to Catholicism as she did. The Tomaš / Kosača conflict was renewed because the Ottomans didn’t like his move to make peace with the Bosnian King. Therefore, Stjepan Kosača made alliance with the Serbian despot Đurađ to fight against the king Tomaš. The conflict ended when Tomaš died in 1461. and his son, Stjepan Kosača’s nephew, succeeded to the crown. In the end the Ottomans invaded Hercegovina and took his son as hostage to Istanbul. 

East Bosnia
Blagaj Fortress locally known as Stjepan grad, is a town-fortress complex near the town of Blagaj, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is positioned above the source of the river Buna.

Herceg Stjepan Kosača died in 1466., after which his son Vladislav succeeded. But from 1463., after Ottoman occupation, they were ruling the territories under Ottoman supervision. His youngest son named after him, became a muslim, Ahmed Pasha Hercegović and he married the sultan’s sister in the end. Being in that way the second strongest figure in the Ottoman Empire. Ahmed Pasha died in nowadays Turkey, where he had his land, about 100 km to the southeast from Istanbul. The place was named Hersek, after his homeland Hercegovina. Ahmed Pasha made a mosque there and he was known as a Pasha who was giving money for the hamams, roads, bridges, schools and many others. 

The UNESCO protected Tombstones from the Times of Medieval Bosnian Kingdom

Stećci (Eng. tombstones), are monumental medieval tombstones that lie scattered across the landscape of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The tombstones are nowadays UNESCO heritage and the national monuments of Bosnia & Herzegovina. They are one of the country’s most legendary symbols. The Bosnians who lived between 11th and 15th century made the tombstones, while refusing to swear allegiance to any kingdom but their own or to be swayed by any influence. Therefore, many of them are scattered around the Bosnian mountains while hiding from the influence of the Western or Eastern Church. The medieval Bosnians were mostly followers of the Bosnian Church, while they were considered heretics by mentioned churches. Instead they stayed true to themselves and to what they could find only within themselves and in Bosnia. The  most remarkable features of the tombstones are their decorative motifs, many of which remain enigmatic to this day. As well, epitaphs and epigraphs are another remarkable decorations on the Bosnian medieval tombstones. The written alphabet on the tombstones was “Bosanćica” (Bosnian version of cirylic alphabet).  

Stolac
Most recognizable mark of Stolac and Bosnian medieval history - Stećci, Radimlja necropolis

Medieval Necropolis Tombstones in the villages of Hrančići and Kosače

The villages Hrančići and Kosače are situated in Eastern Bosnia, municipality of Goražde, and are very close to the agricultural holding “Okusi Prirode”. Mountain biking trail is crossing the village Hrančići and Kosače, therefore you can do a biking trail while having a history lesson on open. Agricultural holding “Okusi Prirode” is 15 minutes drive from the necropolis. There you can relax, try eco products and even stay for a sleepover. The proud Hasanspahić family can teach you how they make their eco products, how they live the rural life, teach you cardboard art, ride a horse and many others. 

The necropolis tombstones in the village of Hrančići were made with great precision in semicircular rows that are wider than the top to the bottom. Distance between the tombstones is almost identical, made in a planned set. The tombstones are decorated with the lilies (historic Bosnian national symbol), red deer, scythes, stars and many others. There is also a standing tombstone with an inscription. The total number of tombstones in the location of Hrančići village is 355. The necropolis was made during the XIII. – XV. century. The tombstones were well carved because the Kingdom at that time was really advanced.

 

Stecak
The necropolis of Kosaca stecak is in the muncipality of Gorazde, Bosnia and Herzegovina and it is a testimony to spiritual, artistic and historical aspect of medieval Bosnian state.

The village Kosače is named after the duke Herceg Stjepan Kosača and on this location there are 26 tombstones. The tombstones were made in four groups, mostly different just by the way of orientation. Still today people are living in this village, therefore we can say it is inhabited for centuries. Interesting is that the tombstones are still today in the gardens of local people. The village Kosače is famous because of the medieval generals of the Bosnian Kingdom.

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