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Stećci

The 'Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards' are 30 medieval cemeteries in south-eastern Europe.

The decoration and inscriptions on the mostly limestone monolithic tombstones represent a specific tradition of the area. They include Christian religious symbols, dancing and hunting scenes, geometric shapes and Cyrillic inscriptions.

The inscribed tombstones have been selected from the surviving 70,000 or so still standing in the region and date from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The singular ‘Stećak’ (plural: Stećci) means ‘tall, standing thing'.

Map

Visit May 2013

The Stecaks or Stecci will be a transboundary and serial nomination for 2015, and I think it has a good chance to get inscribed. It's kind of ironic that former enemies Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro have joined hands to submit a series of cemeteries and tombstones. As if there aren't enough modern cemeteries around (especially in Mostar) to remind of the 1990's war.

Stecaks are monolithic tombstones, dating from the late Middle Ages. I visited the same site as Assif (see his review below): the Radimlja necropolis in Stolac. This site is one of the largest and most important among the 22 Bosnian parts of the serial nomination. At first sight it is just a collection of white stones in a field. But when I came up close, I noticed all the different decorative carvings that cover most of the tombs. There are crosses of course, and a kind of flowers or trees. But also men on horseback with bow and arrows. And the most enigmatic ones: knights holding up their right hand as if to wave hello.

I spent about half an hour at the site, looking at each tomb from the back and front. I was really enjoying this visit more than I had expected. Sometimes you'd only see the carvings when you're right in front of it. I had arrived by bus from Mostar, some 35 kms and 45 minutes away. The site is signposted, both 5km before and when you're there. It's a field at the right side of the road, bordered by pine trees and the shiny white of the tombstones stands out. You cannot miss it. There's no security at the site, no entrance fee and just a small information panel.

Getting back proved to be more difficult. There's no real bus stop near the site. And the schedule of the buses is unclear. The LP guide writes that there is a bus once an hour, but I doubt that (more like once every 2 hours). I waited for awhile at the kiosk across the road, where the young guy behind the counter took it as his goal to get me back to Mostar. First he planted two chairs and an umbrella beside the road, so we could watch the traffic for any buses and wave them down. When that wasn't a success, he phoned his mother if she wanted to find out from the bus station at what time the bus would leave. Moments later a truck driver stopped for a hamburger and a drink. The boy asked if he had to go to Mostar, and would he take me? The answer was Yes, and so I made my way back in the front cabin of a large truck (for the first time in my life as far as I remember).

Community Reviews


Juha Sjoeblom - September 2016

Site visited July 2016. I visited two newly inscribed stećci sites in Serbia, Mramorje – Rastište and Mramorje – Perućac. Both sites are quite near each other in the vicinity of the border town Bajina Bašta which is also a good hub for visiting Tara national park (tentative site).

Mramorje in Rastište site actually consists of two separate graveyards in the areas of Gajevi and Uroševine that are located 500 meters of each other on the slopes of mount Tara. Finding these places was a bit of an adventure itself but I like challenges when searching for the world heritage sites. I left my hotel early in the morning and took a taxi towards Rastište church which is 22 kilometers from Bajina Bašta. It was a hot day so I had to take lots of water with me. The first graveyard was quite easy to find using Google Earth as my reference. From the church I walked the serpentine road uphill about one kilometer. Then I turned right to a path that is heading to a small farm. The Gajevi area graveyard is just along the path. In this graveyard there are 35 tombstones. The stones are placed next to each other in three or four long rows of east-west orientation. There is very little spacing between the stones. It was difficult to take photos because the white polished tombstones shined so brightly in direct sunlight. I didn’t find any decorations although there should be crescent reliefs on three tombstones. Nearby the graveyard there is a quarry where the stone blocks used to be taken from.

The second graveyard in the Uroševine area was much more difficult to find despite of being near the first graveyard. At first I chose two wrong paths before I found the right one. Actually these detours were quite nice because there were beautiful views to a mountainous farming landscape with haystacks, sheep herds, farm houses and plum trees. I kept on searching and a finally I found the right way that was a small grassy path under the trees. I followed the path downhill and there was the graveyard surrounded by thick forest. In Uroševine graveyard there are 33 tombstones. Some of the stones have typical east-west orientation but surprisingly some of them have north-south orientation. I noticed that the tombstones in Uroševine area are in bad condition. Some of them had crumbled in small pieces. So that wasn’t very spectacular sight. After I have visited Uroševine graveyard I realised that it is just 100 meters from the Rastište church so the best way to visit it is to walk small path uphill from the church. After I have visited both these Rastište graveyards I walked nine kilometers downhill to the Perućac village.

Mramorje in Perućac is very easy place to visit because it is located in the center of the village of Perućac just beside the main road to Bajina Bašta. There are 88 tombstones at the graveyard. Most of them are in a good condition but none of them are decorated so you can't find any specific details. While the graveyards in Rastište are quite unspectacular, I found Mramorje in Perućac quite imposing and pleasing place to visit.

I think these two stećci graveyards in Serbia doesn’t show the best that this nomination could offer. These Serbian sites seemed to be more of a curiosity compared to some other examples. So I look forward to see some of the better graveyards especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Assif - April 2013

Radimilja is a small cemetery near the road leading to Stolac. It is the most famous Mediaeval cemetery in Herzegovina and has some nice tombstones. It often features on touristic prospectuses of the area. The graves belonged to the Bosnian church, a branch of the Orthodox church which died out when Herzegovina became predominantly Muslim with the Ottoman conquest. Nonetheless, local Bosniaks still relate to this church as a symbol of their national (or better ethnic) identity.

The cemetery is easily accissible by car. It is, however, very small and you can finish seeing all of it in about 15 minutes. Nearby Stolac is also on the T-list and atop the hill you can visit the Illyrian town of Daorson.


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Site Info

Full name: Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards

Site History

Locations

The site has 26 locations. Show all

  • 'Bare Žugića, Žabljak
  • 'Bečani, Šekovići
  • 'Bijača, Ljubuški
  • 'Boljuni, Stolac
  • 'Borak in the village of Burati, Rogatica
  • 'Čengića Bara, Kalinovik
  • 'Dolovi in the village of Umoljani, Trnovo
  • 'Dugo polje at Blidinje, Jablanica
  • 'Grčka glavica in the village of Biskup, Konjic
  • 'Grčko groblje, Plužine
  • 'Grčko groblje, Žabljak
  • 'Grebnice, Radmilovića Dubrava, Baljci, Bileća
  • 'Gvozno, Kalinovik
  • 'Kalufi in Krekovi, Nevesinje
  • 'Kučarin in Hrančići, Goražde
  • 'Luburića polje, Sokolac
  • 'Maculje, Novi Travnik
  • 'Mramor in Musići, Olovo
  • 'Mramor in Vrbica, Foča
  • 'Mramorje, Perućac, Bajina Bašta
  • 'Olovci, Kladanj
  • 'Potkuk in Bitunja, Berkovići
  • 'Radimlja, Stolac
  • 'Ravanjska vrata, Kupres
  • 'St. Barbara, Dubravka, Konavle
  • 'Velika and Mala Crljivica, Cista Velika

Connections

The site has 6 connections.

Constructions

Timeline

  • Built in the 12th century ... were created in the period from the second half of the 12th century to the 16th century (AB ev)

Trivia

WHS Hotspots

World Heritage Process