Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Zavala, the architectural ensemble

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Status of monument -> National monument

Pursuant to Article V para. 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Article 39 para. 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, at a session held from 4 to 8 March the Commission adopted a






            The architectural ensemble of the church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Zavala, municipality Ravno, is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).           

            The National Monument consists of the church with its bell tower, the retaining wall with access tunnel and terrace, the new konak (lodgings, hostel), the well, the old school, and the cave (anchorite's cell).

            The National Monument is located on cadastral plot nos. 411, 413 and part of 414 extending eastwards from plots 411 and 413; the boundary of the protected zone runs at a right-angle from the north-east corner of plot 411 down to the Zavala-Ravno road, forming the eastern boundary of the protected zone; to the south-east the boundary of the protected zone runs at a right-angle from the south-east corner of plot 413 down to the Zavala-Ravno road; Land Register entry no. 59 (103/01), cadastral municipality Zavala, Federation of Bosnia and Municipality, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The provisions relating to protection measures set forth by the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of the Federation of  BiH nos. 2/02, 27/02 and 6/04) shall apply to the National Monument.




The Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall be duty  bound to ensure and provide the legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary to protect, conserve, display and rehabilitate the National Monument.

The Commission to Preserve National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall determine the technical requirements and secure the funds for preparing and setting up signboards with the basic data on the monument and the Decision to proclaim the property a National Monument.




For the purposes of ensuring the ongoing preservation of the property, the following protection zones are stipulated:

Protection Zone I consists of the area defiend in Clause 1 para. 3 of this Decision. The following protection measures shall apply to this zone:

  • all works are prohibited other than conservation and restoration works, to a design project approved by the Federal ministry responsible for regional planning (hereinafter: the relevant ministry) and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the heritage protection authority);
  • the rehabilitation of buildings damaged during the war is permitted subject to approval by the relevant ministry and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority;
  • works requiring the use of explosives are prohibited;
  • works representing a danger to the environment are prohibited;
  • the construction of buildings of more than two storeys (ground + 1) is prohibited.



            All executive and area development planning acts not in accordance with the provisions of this Decision are hereby revoked.




Everyone, and in particular the competent authorities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina/, the Canton, and urban and municipal authorities, shall refrain from any action that might damage the National Monument or jeopardize the preservation and rehabilitation thereof.




            The Government of the Federation, the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning, the Federation heritage protection authority, and the Municipal Authorities in charge of urban planning and land registry affairs, shall be notified of this Decision in order to carry out the measures stipulated in Articles II to V of this Decision, and the Authorized Municipal Court shall be notified for the purposes of registration in the Land Register.




            The elucidation and accompanying documentation form an integral part of this Decision, which may be viewed by interested parties on the premises or by accessing the website of the Commission (http://www.aneks8komisija.com.ba) 




Pursuant to Art. V para 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, decisions of the Commission are final.




On the date of adoption of this Decision, the National Monument shall be deleted from the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of BiH no. 33/02, Official Gazette of Republika Srpska no. 79/02, Official Gazette of the Federation of BiH no. 59/02, and Official Gazette of Brčko District BiH no. 4/03), where it featured under serial no. 489.




This Decision shall enter into force on the date of its adoption and shall be published in the Official Gazette of BiH


            This Decision has been adopted by the following members of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments: Zeynep Ahunbay, Amra Hadžimuhamedović, Dubravko Lovrenović,  Ljiljana Ševo and Tina Wik.


No.: 08.2-6-148/03-2

5 March 2003



Chair of the Commission

Dubravko Lovrenović


E l u c i d a t i o n




Pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a “National Monument” is an item of public property proclaimed by the Commission to Preserve National Monuments (hereinafter referred to as the Commission) to be a National Monument pursuant to Articles V and VI of Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter referred to as Annex 8) and as property entered on the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of  BiH no. 33/02) until the Commission reaches a final decision on its status, as to which there is no time limit and regardless of whether a petition for the property in question has been submitted or not.

The Commission to Preserve National Monuments issued a Decision to add the monastery church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Zavala to the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, numbered as 489.

Pursuant to the provisions of the law, the Commission proceeded to carry out the procedure for reaching a final decision to designate the Property as a National Monument, pursuant to Article V of Annex 8 and Article 35 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments.




In the procedure preceding the adoption of a final decision to proclaim the property a national monument, the following documentation was inspected:

  • documentation on the location and the current owner and user of the property (copy of cadastral plan and Land Register entry),
  • data on the current condition and use of the property, including a description and photographs, data on damage, data on restoration and other works carried out on the property, etc,
  • historical, architectural and other documentary material on the property, as set out in the bibliography forming part of this Decision. 

The findings based on the review of the above documentation are as follows:


1. Details of the property


The monastery church of the Presentation of the Virgin is located in Zavala in Popovo plain, 3 km east of Ravno, on the left bank of the river Trebišnjice, cadastral municipality Ravno, Federation of BiH, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

            The National Monument is located on cadastral plot nos. 411, 413 and part of 414 extending eastwards from plots 411 and 413; the boundary of the protected zone runs at a right-angle from the north-east corner of plot 411 down to the Zavala-Ravno road, forming the eastern boundary of the protected zone; to the south-east the boundary of the protected zone runs at a right-angle from the south-east corner of plot 413 down to the Zavala-Ravno road; Land Register entry no. 59 (103/01), cadastral municipality Zavala, Federation of Bosnia and Municipality, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Historical data

Folk tradition connects the origins of this church with the first Christian Emperor, Constantine, who allegedly put to shore in Slano and erected a large church there, before coming to Zavala where, seeing the great piety of the local inhabitants, he resolved to build another place of worship(1).  

The oldest written evidence of Zavala is a contract of sale of a vineyard to the monastery in 1514.  The name of the Prior is given in the contract – Serafion. 

It is evident that the monastery in Zavala already existed by the early sixteenth century at the latest, but it is not known why it was necessary to renovate the monastery church at the end of that century. A ferman (Ottoman imperial decree) for the renovation of the old church was issued in 1587, stipulating that the church must not be larger than before. Since the Zavala records give the names of the lineage of Hrabren – Miloradović, it can be assumed that Orthodox nobles from that family were the founders of the renovated monastery (Ševo, pp. 224,225). 

In the sixteenth century Zavala had a working scribe's workshop. Here, in 1566, archdeacon Mardarije transcribed an account of the Mother of  God to the order of monk Gregory.  In 1560 a menaion(2) for the month of February was transcribed in Zavala, and there are a further three damaged manuscripts dating from the sixteenth century – a panegyric(3), a menaion for January and a psalter(4)  with synaxis(5).  

Evidence of the favourable circumstances, sound financial standing and strong links with other Serbian Orthodox monasteries in the early decades of the sixteenth century is to be found in the fact that in 1619 the monks of Zavala engaged the best Serb painter of the day, Georgije Mitrofanović, to paint the church frescoes for them.

At the end of February 1600, the monastery bought much of the property in Orahov do, and in June 1618 it purchased the vineyard of Gruda. An inventory dated 1811 is further evidence of the extent of the Zavala monastery holdings, citing that the Zavala monastery owned land in almost all of Popovo polje.

The monastery suffered greatly during the Turkish-Venetian wars of the seventeenth century.  The Venetians occupied the whole of Popovo polje, and the monastery itself fell into their hands too. With the 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz, however, Popovo polje and the Zavala monastery once again came into the hands of the Turks.  When war broke out again in 1714 the Venetians were forced out of that part of Herzegovina, and in 1722 the monastery was demolished, apart from the church (Mihailović, p.136.).

Scribes continued their work throughout the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century, Zavala received a rich gift in the shape of books and other items. Thus Nikola Radonić gave the monastery a petohljebnica (a vessel used for consecrating premises, wheat, wine and oil) made in Sarajevo in 1732. Other gifts are also referred to, such as books, buckles, priest’s robes etc.

The Zavala Prior Isaija Šojić (1816-1839), a native of Gacko, re-roofed the church, walled in the courtyard, built ancillary premises, restored the cells and planted a vineyard in Orahov do (Ševo, p.228) A new konak was built in 1876, when other parts of the monastery such as the cells and the entrance quarters were restored. In 1886 a monastery school was opened. The entire collection of Zavala monastery was destroyed during World War II.

After World War II much of the monastery property was nationalized. The monastery in Zavala was damaged during the 1992-1996 war. The church of the Presentation of the Virgin did not suffer any major damage, but the konak and its outbuildings were burned down.


2. Description of the property           

The architectural ensemble of the monastery in Zavala consists of the church with its bell tower, the retaining wall with access tunnel and terrace, the new konak (lodgings, hostel), the well, the old school, and the cave (anchorite's cell).

The Zavala monastery church belongs to the group of vaulted churches of Herzegovina with lateral buttresses.

It is a single-naved church of rectangular ground plan, oriented lengthwise east-west and with a semicircular apse at the east end. A particular feature of this building is that the entire north side abuts onto a rock, so that the ground plan of the structure as conceived has suffered a degree of distortion.

The exterior length of the building including the apse is 11.95 metres. The parvis is 5.16 metres in length, the nave 6.80 metres, and the apse 2.15 metres. The interior width of the building varies from 3.40 metres on the west wall to 6.40 metres in the centre and 5.93 metres at the end nearest the apse. The apse itself has an inner radius of almost 3 metres.

The entire building is vaulted. The main part of the upper construction is formed of a longitudinally laid semicircular vault over the central space, the span of which is roughly equal to that of the apse. The main longitudinal vault rests on deep buttresses, so deep that they may rightly be regarded as lateral buttresses. In the centre of the building the lateral arches rest on elongated pilastres of various dimensions: 80/50, 53/57, 60/50 and 63/54 cm. To avoid creating closed-off lateral spaces these deep pilastres are relieved by openings, which at a superficial glance may lead to the conclusion that the building has a nave and two aisles. These are not aisles, however, but the consequence of the way the lower construction was carried out(6). The main vault of the church is reinforced by arches linked by pilasters supporting the lateral buttresses. 

At the west end of the church the vault is somewhat lower and ends level, since this is where the rock is. That part of the building has a lower and an upper storey. Above the vault is a small room formerly entered from the plateau of the present-day terrace to the west. The entrance to this room has been walled. There is also a secret entrance in the northwest part of the church, which had been closed by a frescoed stone slab. This passage is now hidden by an icon hanging above the opening and completely concealing it.

The entrance to the building is to the south, in the part that serves as a parvis. This part is separated from the central section by a large semicircular opening in the partition wall with two smaller entrances to the side, also ending in semicircles. A similar partition wall with two smaller side entrances separates the main body of the church from the altar region.

The altar region is spacious, since to the south is a large niche of hemispherical vaulted form. To the north is a somewhat smaller niche that is distorted, since this entire side abuts onto natural rock. To the north and south of the altar niche, in which there is a wide rectangular opening in the centre, is another rectangular but much smaller opening on each side. Above the hemispherical niche(7)  is a round window in the form of an oculus. On the south side there is yet another large window, as there is over the entrance door. The church is thus well lit, since light enters through the two large windows in the south wall and the three smaller windows and the oculus to the east.  The windows are set in stone surrounds, angled outwards.

The interior of the church is paved with 20 x 20 cm stone slabs laid diagonally with an ambo in the central area. During conservation and restoration works to the interior of the building, the original slabs were discovered beneath the existing flooring. The existing floor paving probably dates from the nineteenth century. The central area of the building is somewhat lower than the remainder of the church. The difference in levels between the apse and the central area is 7 cm.

The entrance door to the church is rectangular in shape, also with stone surrounds, but unlike the window frames the sill and lintel are level, not angled.

The walls of the church are of stone blocks measuring approximately 30 x 20 cm, somewhat more finely worked on the exterior and laid horizontally, while on the interior they are plastered with lime mortar. The walls vary in thickness from 43 cm in the parvis to 60 cm in the central area.The east walls and those of the apse are 70 cm thick.

There are five inscriptions on the walls of the Church of the Holy Presentation in Zavala.

The inscription on the south wall above the entrance to the church was fully deciphered in 1963 during the course of conservation works on the church. On that occasion a fragment of an inscription was discovered, built in to the left door jamb along with a stone in 1911 when the doors were widened and a window opening pierced above.

The inscription occupies two lines each 5 cm wide and 80 cm long, and recounts the month (May or June) when the frescoes of the church were completed, the name of the painter, Georgije, and that he was from Mount Athos

(Kajmaković, 1971, p. 202).

The next three inscriptions have the same content.  The inscription above the passage to the north choir reads:

meaning the founder of the paintings of the north choir was a monk (Skovran, 1959, p. 54).

This inscription is linked to a more extensive account of the year the church was frescoed (1619), and provides an approximate guide to dating the paintings by referring to the names of Patriarch Pajsi and the Herzegovinian Metropolitan Simeon. It occupies a somewhat larger surface area above the passage to the south choir:

(Skovran, 1959, p. 51).

Above the passage to the south choir there is also a fourth founder's inscription:

(Kajmaković, 1971, p. 205).

This inscription indicates that the funds for the frescoes of the south choir (300 aspra) were contributed by the goldsmith Nikola Marijašević.

The fifth founder's inscription is beneath the Mother of God in the hemispherical north apse. The inscription reads:

(Kajmaković, 1971, p. 206),

and indicates that the founder of the frescoes of the apse was jeromonah (a monk who can perform church rites) Josif.

Several founders are to be encountered in Zavala, which was the norm at that time (Lomnica, the Church of the Holy Trinity near Pljevlje and in Ježevica near Čačak  were frescoed in this way). No single founder could have raised the funds to fresco the entire church, but they were able to do so by pooling resources.

The frescoes of the church of the Holy Presentation in Zavala monastery are regarded as some of the finest artistic creations in Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Ottoman period. They were painted in 1619by Georgije Mitrofanović, a painter whose greatness is best evidenced by the fact that he was engaged by Patriarch Pajsi to paint the Patriarchy refectory and the church of St Demetrius in Peć, and that some years after painting the Zavala frescoes he painted the refectory of Hilandar monastery. These murals are Mitrofanović's finest work after the Hilander frescoes.

With the frescoes of the monastery church in Zavala, Mitrofanović instituted the basic content of the layout of frescoes for smaller churches in Herzegovina, which were later used by younger master-craftsmen.

Tabular layout of the frescoes in the church of the Holy Presentation in Zavala: (8)   

Frescoes on the east wall (north to south):

1.        Mother of God paying reverence to the Amnos with Christ at her breast and the      

           Archangels Michael and Gabriel (1)

2.        St John Chrysostom (2)

3.        St. John the Almsgiver (3)

4.        St. Cyril (4)

5.        St. Sava the Serb (5)

6.        damaged figure (153)

7.        St. Gregory (154)

8.        St. Athanasia (155)

9.        St. Vasilius (156)

          10.         Blossoming crucifix in the window apse. Painted 1833 (157)

          11.         Drapes on skirting (158)

Frescoes on the east wall (north to south):

1.         The denial by Peter (84)

2.         St. Barlaam (85)

3.         St. Joseph (86)

4.         Drapes on skirting (159)

Frescoes on the south wall (east to west):

 1.         The Annunciation (6)

 2.         The Descent of the Holy Spirit (7)

 3.         The Nativity (8)

 4.         St. Hypathia (9)

 5.         St. Ambrose (10)

 6.         St. Polycarp (11)

 7.         St. Prothasius (12)

 8.         Marbling (13)

 9.         Marbling (14)

10.        Breaking of the bread with the apostles (15)

11.        Christ serves bread and wine to the apostles (16)

12.        Serving wine to the apostles (17)

13.        St. Spiridon (18)

14.        St. Sylvester (19)

15.        St. Dionysius (20)

16.        St. Gregory (21)

17.        St. Teoten (22)

18.        St. Arsenius the Serb (23)

19.        bust of an angel (24)

20.        Damaged (25)

21.        St. Prothasius (26)

22.        Sun in medalliion (27)

23.        Prophet David (28)

24.        Prophet Daniel (29)

25.        St. Alimpius Stylites (30)

26.        Visitation of the Virgin (33)

27.        Baptism of Christ (34)

28.        Evangelist Matthew (35)

29.        Evangelist Mark (36)

30.        The Last Supper (37)

31.        Ornament (38)

32.        Jesus Navin (Joshua) (38b)

33.        The washing of the feet (39)

34.        St. Julita (40)

35.        St. Kirik (41)

36.        Prophet Sophonius (42)

37.        Prophet Zachariah (43)

38.        Christ Pantocrator (IC- XC) (44)

39.        St. John the Baptist (45)

40.        Unidentified martyr (46)

41.        Unidentified martyr (47)

42.        St. Theodore Stratelates (48)

43.        St. Theodore Tyro (49)

44.        St. Nestor (50)

45.        Inscription of the founder of the frescoes in the south choir (51)

46.        St. Anthony the Great (52)

47.        Medallion (53)

48.        Prophet Jeremiah (54)

49.        Prophet Ezekiel (55)

50.        St. David Stylites (56)

51.        St. Ephraim of Syria (57)

52.        The raising of Lazarus (60)

53.        Christ's entry into Jerusalem (61)

54.        St. Theophanus (62)

55.        Ornament (63)

56.        Prayer on the Mount of Olives (64)

57.        The mocking of Christ (65)

58.        Christ before Annas and Caiaphas (66)

59.        Archangel Gabriel (67)

60.        Inscription on the church frescoes (68)

61.        Angel in medallion (69)

62.        St. Eustachius (70)

63.        St. Manuel the Persian (71)

64.        St. Isavel the Persian (72)

65.        St. Ismail the Persian (73)

66.        Angel (74)

67.        St. Markian (75)

68.        Archangel Michael (76)

69.        Archangel Gabriel (77)

70.        Christ before Pilate (78)

71.        The scourging of Christ (79)

72.        Angel appearing to Pachomius (80)

73.        St. Pachomius (81)

74.        St. Melchizedek (82)

75.        St. Alexius (83)

76.        Ascension of the Mother of God (87)

Frescoes on the north wall (west to east):

  1.       Transfiguration of Christ (88)

  2.        Birth of the Virgin (89)

  3.        St. Cosma of Majum (90)

  4.        St. Joseph (91)

  5.        Ornament (92)

  6.        Christ is raised on the cross (93)

  7.        Crucifixion of Christ (94)

  8.        Christ taken down from the cross (95)

  9.        St. Cosma (96a)

10.        St. Damian (96b)

11.        St. Demetrius (97)

12.        St. George (98)

13.        Founder's inscription (99)

14.        Archangel Michael (100)

15.        Angel in medallion (101)

16.        Unidentified saint (102)

17.        Unidentified saint (103)

18.        St. Zacharius (104)

19.        St. Ananias (105)

20.        Prophet Isaiah (106)

21.        Prophet Avvakum (107)

22.        St. Daniel Stylites (108)

23.        St. Sava the Consecrated (109)

24.        Presentation of the Virgin (110)

25.        Presentation of the Virgin – espousal of the Virgin to Joseph by Prophet Zacharius (111)

26.        Evangelist Luke (112)

27.        Evangelist John (113)

28.        Ornament (114)

29.        Pieta (115)

30.        Christ is laid in the tomb (116)

31.        Resurrection of Christ (117)

32.        St. Jeftimije the Great (118)

33.        Illegible text (119)

34.        Unidentified saint (120)

35.        St.  Eugenius (121)

36.        St. Eustratius (122)

37.        St. Accentius (123)

38.        St. Mardarius (124)

39.        St. Orestes (125)

40.        St. Triphon (126)

41.        Text from hymn for Presentation of the Virgin (127)

42.        Mother of God the Advocate (128)

43.        Prophet Solomon (129)

44.        Prophet Jonah (130)

45.        St. Simon Stylites (131)

46.        Ascension of Christ (132)

47.        St. Andrew (133)

48.        St. Vukol (134)

49.        St. Parthenius (135)

50.        Unidentified saint (136)

51.        Marbling (137)

52.        Marbling (138)

53.        Sacrifice of Abraham (139)

54.        Christ in the tomb (140)

55.        Tabernacle of Testimony (141)

56.        St. Parmenius (142)

57.        Angel (143)

58.        St. James the Confessor (144)

59.        St. Cyril of Jerusalem (145)

60.        Vision of St Peter of Alexandria (146)

61.        Figure of the heretic Arian from scene of the Vision of St. Peter of Alexandria (147)

62.        St. Laurentius (148)

63.        St. Roman (149)

64.        St. Stephen (150)

65.        St. Nicanor (151)

66.        St. Prohor (152)

 Frescoes on the vault (east to west):

1.          Christ as the Elder of the days (31)

2.          Christos Pantocrator (IC-XC) (32)

3.          Christ Emmanuel (58)

4.          Christ the Angel of the Great Council (59)


The repertoire illustrated in Zavala is extremely rich. The selection of topics is very choice, and illustrates that the painter was well acquainted with iconography.

The cycle of the Passion of Christ is comprehensively represented with the illustration of certain scenes that were relatively infrequently shown in mediaeval Serbian painting, such as for example the scouring of Christ.

The scene of Christ's crucifixion is also iconographically interesting. The painting in Zavala shows the moment at which Christ's side is pierced by the spear.To the right and left of Christ stand groups of Jews, but neither the Mother of God nor John are present, which conforms to the text of the Gospel according to St John, which says that they were not present.

The subjects illustrated in the proscomidia, the Dead Saviour, the Tabernacle of Testimony, the Vision of St Peter of Alexandria and the sacrifice of Abraham, confirm that the painter was familiar with iconography and the liturgical interpretation of Christ's Passion. The composition of the Tabernacle of Testimony is identical in the way it is painted and designated in Zavala and in the refectory of Hilandar.

The series of scenes of these frescoes comprise an iconographic approach which is evidence that the painter has taken fourteenth century paintings as his model (Skovran, 1959, p. 58).

Investigations have revealed that the frescoes were painted on a base of three layers of plaster, the first about 5mm thick, the second about 15mm, and the third 5-6mm thick. The layers are poorly bonded and are becoming detached one from another. The painting is executed using the fresco technique, whereas the skin tones on the faces and certain details are executed on dry plaster.

The Zavala painter had precise, elegant draftsmanship. He used an almost arabesque finish to his lines, and was also a painter of icons. The skin tones are underpainted with dark colouring over which they are modelled in various shades of ochre and pink pigments. The treatment of the faces is characteristic: not very large eyes, with high-placed irises, so that the whites of the eyes are visible along the lower lashes; a long, thin nose; the mouth with the ends turned up; the chin somewhat receding; shadows around the lips; and two locks of hair on the forehead.

He paints complex poses of the figures freely and easily. He has a feeling for the treatment of drapery, which never clings to the body. He is a master of ornamentation, and an exceptional sense of space and composition. His painted architecture is realistic in proportion to the figures. He gives his architectural elements the most diverse of forms, and often paints drapery above their roofs. He paints landscapes with a good sense for space, in which his sense of colour also assists him; he makes excellent use of a rich, soft-toned palette (Skovran, 1959, p. 59).

The faces of Mitrofanović's figures are fairly often damaged, especially on the north wall, which has suffered gravely from the effects of damp. The cause of this is the chemical composition of the pigments used for the skin tones and the fresco technique of painting with al secco finish. In working up the details of the faces, the painter used a small brush to lay one layer of pigment over another. These layers were unable to bond with the base, and have become detached with the passage of time, bringing other layers away with them (Kajmaković, 1971, p. 216).

North-east of the church, on the rock, is a stone belltower of the «preslica» type, with three bells, built in 1899.

The access tunnel is to the north-east of the church. Before the construction of the steps, it was the only access to the church. It is entirely built of cut stone, with lime mortar as binder. The retainingn wall to the east is more than 5 metres in height. The tunnel is about 15 metres long, 1.70 metres wide and 1.80 metres high. The entrance to the tunnel is about 15 metres to the south of the church.

The konak (hostel) was built in 1876.  It is rectangular in ground plan, measuring approx. 11 x 7.50 m, and has two storeys (ground and first floor). It is entirely built of stone. The entrance to the ground floor is to the east, and the entrance to the first floor was to the north. The building was burned down in the 1992-1995 war.

The old school is below the access road to the church, at a distance of approx. 30 metres. It is rectangular in ground plan, measuring approx. 5.80 x 3.80 metres, and was built of stone. It is currently in ruins.

The cave (anchorite's cell) is some 10 metres to the west of the church.


3. Legal status to date          

Pursuant to a 1950 Ruling of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of the People's Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the building was entered on the register of immovable cultural monuments as no. 521.

            The 1980 Regional Plan for BiH listed the monastery in Zavala as a category I monument under serial no. 4.


4. Research and conservation and restoration works

Numerous works have been carried out on the Zavala monastery church, which have not affected its authentic appearance, but have been detrimental to the painted areas of the building.

Works carried out on the building since World War II, with the extensive use of modern building materials, have led to serious damage to the interior of the building and to the frescoes, which are perhaps its most valuable feature. The repointing of the joints between the stone blocks with cement mortar, and the use of the same material as infill between the stone roofing slabs, have led to extensive patches of damp, which in turn soon caused the frescoes to deteriorate.  Works of conservation and restoration were done at that time by the Federal Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments. It is also important to note that there used to be a stone iconostasis in the church, originating from the Austro-Hungarian period. The iconostasis was destroyed during the course of works carried out in 1960, given that it was not regarded as authentic – since it did not date from the time when the building itself originated – in terms of the approach to the conservation and restoration of monuments at that time.

Chronologically, the works carried out are as follows: 


1.         the walled-up area between the north wall of the church and the rock was opened up,

2.          minor repairs to the roof were carried out.


1.         the rock above the building was cleared of deposits of soil, cleaned and filled with quarry stone with a concrete base of 8cm thick and cement casing.  The walls around these depressions were pointed with cement mortar and guttering was installed to drain water to the terrace on the west of the building and from there, through channels, to the churchyard.

2.          about 30 m2 of the roofing was replaced

3.         the western covered part of the church was levelled, and set with paving in cement mortar,

4.          the apse was roofed with stone slabs,

5.         once the slabs had been replaced, they were given an “undercoat” of cement mortar,

6.          part of the collapsed arch in the crypt was repaired,

7.          the pavement alongside the south wall of the church was removed,

8.         the south wall was undercut and horizontal and vertical damp-proofing was carried out,

9.         the foundation wall of the apse was undercut, “repairs” were carried out, and the foundations were levelled and vertical damp-proofing carried out,

10.        following completion of the damp-proofing, a clay infill was laid and rammed,

11.       a stone-slab pavement was laid, cambered away from the building, with the joints pointed with cement mortar,

12.        insulation was installed along the west wall of the church,

13.        the stone iconostasis was removed as being a “later addition”,

14.       in the gap between part of the north wall and the rock the north wall was further built up and levelled, insulated with bitumen and a cement casing, with a camber to a natural channel in the rock,

15.        the crypt was repaired and supplemented with iron bars,

16.        cracks in the apse were filled in,

17.       the premises beneath the cave were repaired, and the roof covered with stone slabs and an “undercoat” of cement mortar,

18.       the old passage was cleared and restored to use by the construction of a stairway and repairs to the damaged vault,

19.        the anchorite’s cell alongside the church was repaired. 


1.        mortar and layers of whitewash were stripped off and joints pointed with cement mortar,

 2.         conservation works were carried out on the frescoes. 


Works were carried out to renovate the structure of the building, comprising the following:

1.        dismantling the stone slabs along the south wall of the church after first marking the pieces and setting them aside,

2.        archaeological excavations of the area alongside the church to the east and south of the building after first temporarily relocating the gravestones and mortal remains,

3.        removing the stone slabs from the interior of the building after first marking and recording the pieces,

4.        digging out the clay from the outer and interior sides of the building down to the lower batter of the building’s foundation wall to the south and east,

5.        work on renovation of the foundations of the building by the method of deep foundation and consolidation of foundation walls,

 6.         restoration of the building to its original state. 


1.         fixing the frescoes with jute cloth and adhesive to protect them from damage,

2.         preparation and removal of the frescoes where the plaster backing was damaged                     

- part in the apse and above the altar,

3.       making good the plaster backing to the painted area,

4.       dismantling the stone slabs of the church and analyzing the composition and     

          proportions of the hydraulic lime mortar,

5.       making good the vault in the apse,

6.       making good the arch and part of the vault above alongside the north wall of the       


7.       injecting cracks with a mix of hydraulic lime mortar,

8.       clearing the layers of cement mortar from the joints and repointing with lime mortar.


5. Current condition of the property

The Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of BiH inspected the building in 1998 and identified serious damage to the church as a result of the ground settling to the south east of the church and beneath the apse, where cracks of up to 5 cm wide and 30-40 cm long have appeared.

To the north and west the church is cut into the limestock rock, so that damp penetrates into the walls.The frescoes are better preserved on the west than on the north wall. The damage is principally to the ground-level zone and the skirting.

Works of conservation and restoration are currently being carried out with funding from the Swedish foundation CHwB and the involvement of the Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of BiH and the Institute for the Protection of the Cultural and Historical Heritage of Republika Srpska. The foundations, walls and roof have been renovated, and work is in hand on the restoration of the frescoes.




Applying the Criteria for the adoption of a decision on proclaiming an item of property a national monument (Official Gazette of BiH nos. 33/02 and 15/03), the Commission has enacted the Decision cited above.

The Decision was based on the following criteria:

A.  Time frame

B.  Historical value

C.  Artistic and aesthetic value

C. i. quality of workmanship

C.ii. quality of materials

C.iii. proportions

C.iv. composition

C. v. value of details

C.vi. value of construction

D. Clarity

D.iii. work of a major artist or builder

D. iv. evidence of a particular type, style or regional manner

E. Symbolic value

E.ii. religious value

E.iii. traditional value

E.iv. relation to rituals or ceremonies

E.v. significance for the identity of a group of people

F. Landscape value

F.i.  relation to other elements of the site

F.iii.  the building or group of buildings is part of a group or site

G. Authenticity

G.i. form and design

G.ii. material and content

G.iii. use and function

G.iv. traditions and techniques

G.v. location and setting

G.vi. spirit and feeling

H. Rarity and representativity

H.i. unique or rare example of a certain type or style

H.ii. outstanding work of art or architecture

H.iii. work of a prominent artist, architect or craftsman



During the procedure of designating the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Zavala as a national monument the following works were consulted:


1959    Zdravković, Ivan, Skovran, Anika, Manastir Zavala - Arhitektura i freske, (Zavala Monastery – Architecture and Frescoes), Naše starine, no. VI, Sarajevo 1959, pp. 37- 63.


1964    Sikimić, Rajko, Konzervatorski radovi na živopisu u manastiru Zavala, (Conservation Works on the Frescoes in Zavala Monastery), Naše starine, no. IX, Sarajevo, 1964, 69- 79.


1964    V. Korać-V. J. Đurić, Crkve sa prislonjenim lukovima u staroj Hercegovini i dubrovačko graditeljstvo XV-XVII vek (Churches with buttresses in old Herzegovinia and Dubrovnik architecture 15th to 17th century), Papers of the Faculty of Philosophy VIII, Belgrade, 1964, 579 - 581.


1971    Kajmaković, Zdravko, Zidno slikarstvo u Bosni i  Hercegovini (Wall paintings in Bosnia and Herzegovina), Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo, Sarajevo, 1971.


1977    Kajmaković, Zdravko, Georgije Mitrofanović, Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo, 1977.


1991    Šuput, Marica, Spomenici srpskog crkvenog graditeljstva XVI-XVII vek, (Monuments of Serb Ecclesiastical Architecture 16th to 17th C.), Belgrade-Novi Sad-Priština, 1991


2002    Ševo, Ljiljana, Pravoslavne crkve i manastiri u Bosni i Hercegovini do 1878. godine, (Orthodox Churches and Monasteries in Bosnia and Herzegovina to 1878), Glas srpski, City of Banja Luka, Banja Luka, 2002.


(1) The emperor left an icon of the Virgin on Petkovica hill, between the Vjetrenica cave and the site of the present-day monastery, intending that an edifice be erected to him there. The next morning the icon was found outside the cave against which the present church abuts. This miraculous change of position occurred again on the following two mornings, after which the Emperor Constantine supposedly realized that the edifice should be built on the site indicated by the icon (Čokorilo, Pamučina, Skenderova, pp. 84-85). There is also a tradition that the founder of Zavala was a Nemanja. This tradition also refers to the monastery seal, the inscription of which bore the date 1271, but this does not appear to be reliable evidence for dating the monastery of Zavala.

(2) A liturgical book containing the lives of the saints and the special hymns (stichera) for the feast-days of the Orthodox Saints. It is divided into twelve volumes, one for each month.

(3) Ceremonial speech

(4) Book of psalms

(5) Church assembly

(6) There are similar passageways in the lower part of the rebated pilasters in the monastery churches of Gominica, Piva, and Holy Trinity in Pljevlja (M. Šuput, Srpska arhitektura u doba turske vlasti 1459-1690, Beograd 1984, 60, 64.)

(7) in fact a quarter-sphere or semi-calotte

(8) Taken from details in the work by Z. Kajmaković





Zavala Monastery, the architectural ensemble Interior of the churchKonak buildingBell tower
Monastery church Monastery church, south facadeMonastery church, west sideConservation and restoration works on Zavala Monastery

BiH jezici 
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