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Medieval monolithic tombstones known as stećci (sin. stećak) are unique for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the neighbouring countries. Stećci found on the territory of Bosnian-Podrinje Canton Goražde stand as silent witnesses of the rich history of this area. They are impressive evidence of the rising economic power of Bosnian feudal society in XIV century; mines were opening, urbanisation was intense and individuals were showing their status and might on tombstone exteriors. Compared to the monuments from other eras, stećci in Drina River Upper Valley represent the most impressive medieval cultural, artistic and economic heritage of this area. Their numbers in the upper part of Drina River basin indicate that a large community lived in this area during the Middle Ages. Besides the numerous necropolises that are known today, there are many others, still undiscovered, hidden on the mountains and hills with no good roads to reach them. Northwest from Ustikolina, on the Presjeka pass, there is a large necropolis of stećci, originating from XV and XVI century. On the territory of Goražde municipality there is a large number of stećci as well; the most relevant ones are those in Hrančići, Gošića polje and Kosače, Ilovača. On the territory of Pale-Prača municipality many a stećak was found at locations Komrani, Čemernice and Toplik.

Stećci, Hrančići – Gošića polje.

In 2010. the necropolis of stećci in Hrančići, near Gošića Polje, was registered with the Commission for Preservation of National Monuments in Bosnia and Herzegovina and proclaimed a national monument. Their number, arrangement, variety and the quality of mason work represent invaluable treasure and the very important physical evidence of the medieval life in this region. Stećci were photographed and enumerated; twenty of them are in danger of sliding away and possibly falling down the steep side of the hill.

The number of stećci and the size of the graveyard indicate that an important settlement thrived in the past in the area of Hrančići. Village Hrančići is 15 kilometres West from Goražde.

The necropolis consists of 325 tombstones. Most of them were built in the form of slabs and chests, while there are just a few gabled ones. The decorations are visible on only four (4) of them. In addition to the decorations, one gabled stećak has an inscription, which is not described in the literature. This necropolis requires protection because the number of these tombstones is decreasing. In 20th century, in the 60’s, professor Rasim Živojević wrote in his work “Goražde in the past and today” that there were 398 stećak at this location. Today, they are 355. Sadly, about 50 of them are damaged, indicating that the number of stećak in Gošić polje may further decrease in the future because of the neglect and disregard of the relevant authorities.

This necropolis was nominated for the UNESCO's Tentative list of world heritage in 2015, as part of serial transnational property.

In 2016, the World Heritage Committee Inscribed Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, on the World Heritage List.

 

Photo: tombstones in Hrančići, near Goražde.

 Stećak tombstones, Kosače, Ilovača.

The village of Kosače is situated on a hill above Osanica River, a left tributary of the Drina River. The historical area – stećak necropolis Kosače – is on the Provisional list of national monuments, under entry “Goražde – Medieval necropolis Kosače”. This stećak necropolis is situated on a slope that extends in direction North-South. There are four groups of stećci, total of 26 tombstones. The first two groups are situated on the pre-historical tumuli near individual dwellings and the other two are in Križevac (Ledine), near a contemporary Muslim cemetery. The first group has only one chest, without decorations, positioned in the yard of a house. The second group, composed of four tombstones is 40 meters South from the first, and they lie in direction West-East. The tombstones are of average dimensions, chipped and damaged and partially sunk into the ground. The third group of stećak consists of six specimens arranged in direction West-East. Ten meters Southwest from the third group stands the fourth group, made of 15 stećak tombstones, in direction Northwest-Southeast. The condition of medieval tombstones in Ledine was examined in 2005; they were covered in moss and various plants. Out of the four groups of stećak tombstones, registered by Š. Bešlagić, only two remained. Other two were devastated during the process of construction of housing units. From the first group, remained only one stećak, chest (out of four) and from the second group remained four (out of nine). In the second group, one stećak has sunk, one is covered in moss and two are covered in ivy. Next to groups 3 and 4, there is a contemporary Muslim cemetery.

Presjeka tombstones, Ustikolina

Many are the folk tales and many an archaeologist, historian and other researcher wrote about the origins and identity of the necropolis in Presjeka.

According to one of those folk tales, a long time ago, two wedding parties got petrified here after fighting each other and nobody survived. Next to the walled necropolis there is a large beech tree called “Sad Beech”, it stands there with its long hanging branches like a sad and silent witness of the folk tale.

Another legend is linked to this place, one that describes an ancient and decisive battle for Bosnia – the clash between Sultan's army and Bosnian army led by Stjepan Kosača. During a fierce battle the opposing forces cut through each other's ranks, thus the name – Presjeka (cut trough).

The science will start showing interest for this necropolis near the end of the 19th century and study the origins of the mosque in Ustikolina. The reason why for the latter is that founder of the mosque, Turhan Emin-Bey was buried in the necropolis: “When Sultan Fatih Mehmed arrived to Ustikolina, he set up a guard outpost there and appointed Turhan Emin as its commander, who, according to the accounts, built the Ustikolina mosque.” (M. Zarzycki: Varošica Ustikolina, GZM III/II, Sarajevo, 1891.)

The same text continues: “As soon as you arrive to the burial ground, on the left side you see a square piece of land surrounded by a trench, and the most beautiful tombstones are there. They say that Turhan Emin's family was buried there... there are no inscriptions, only engraved sabres, battle axes, maces, bows, arrows, banners etc.”

Folk tale narrates that Turhan ordered construction of the mosque in Ustikolina, the oldest in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 19th century, a metal plate was posted on the mosque indicating that Turhan Emin-Bey erected the building in 852 AH/1488 AD and that he died in the same year. Zarzycki in his work also mentioned a nišan tombstone with Turhan’s name and a claim made by a local man alleging that Turhan died in 869AH.

However, orientalist Mehmed Mujezinović argues: “...and the inscription on his tombstone reads that Turhan Emin-Bey died in 969 AH/1561/62 AD and therefore he could not be the one who built the mosque in 852 AH/1488 AD”. (M. Mujezinović: Islamska epigrafika BiH, Publishing, Sarajevo, 1998.)

Photo: sarcophagus in Presjeka, near Ustikolina.

Stećak tombstones in Komrani, Čemernica, Toplik-Prača

On the territory of Prača Municipality there are several locations with medieval tombstones of specific and important characteristics. Those locations are Komrani, Čemernica and Toplik. The first two host a large number of particular stećak tombstones. A stećak found in Toplik is allegedly the tallest stećak in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Besides medieval tombstones, near Prača there are remains of the medieval Pavlović Town.