Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Rataje, the archaeological site

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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 7 to 11 October 2003 the Commission adopted a






            The archaeological site of Rataje in Rataje near Miljevina is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

            The National Monument is located on cadastral plot no. 1034, cadastral municipality Miljevina; Foča/Srbinje Municipality, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

            The provisions relating to protection and rehabilitation 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 Republika Srpska no. 9/02) shall apply to the National Monument.




            The Government of Republika Srpska shall be responsible for ensuring and providing the legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary to protect, conserve, display and rehabilitate the National Monument.

            The Government of Republika Srpska shall be responsible for providing the resources for drawing up and implementing the necessary technical  documentation for the protection and presentation of the National Monument.

            The Commission to Preserve National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the Commission) 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.




            To ensure the on-going protection of the National Monument, the following measures are hereby stipulated: 

            Protection Zone I consists of c.p. 1034 on which all the monuments are located, comprising: in the central part of the site, a rock into which a cell and sepulchre have been hewn, the ruins of a mosque alongside the rock to the east, and the remains of an older structure alongside the rock to the west.  To the south of the rock is an old burial ground of the Čengić family and the remains of a turbe, and to the north the foundations of an octagonal turbe and a building lying north-west/south-east.

            In this zone the following measures shall apply:

Ÿ          The conservation of the cell with its tomb and archaeological remains, the suitable presentation thereof, and the restoration of damaged and destroyed components of the property to the condition they were in in 1992;

Ÿ          no stones shall be removed from the site nor shall any further damage to the site be caused;

Ÿ          all works that could have the effect of altering the site are prohibited, with the exception of burials of members of the Čengić family in the family burial ground to the south of the rock;

Ÿ          the dumping of waste is prohibited

Ÿ          the National Monument may be used for scientific, research, cultural and educational purposes in such a way as shall not endanger the monument or cause any changes thereto.


            Protection Zone II consists of c.p. 1035, “Islamic burial ground”, Land Registry entry no.100, c.m.. Miljevina, owned by “Srpske šume” V.G. “Maglić”, comprising the area north of the site to the fence surrounding three sides of the entire area.  To the south, this plot borders the plot constituting Protection Zone I.

            In this zone the following measures shall apply:

Ÿ          all works of any kind that could have the effect of altering the site, including changes to the landscape, are prohibited;

Ÿ          no works to the infrastructure shall be permitted other than in exceptional cases, with a project of which an integral part must be a study of archaeological works and the conservation of potential finds approved by the relevant ministry and under the expert supervision of the Republika Srpska heritage protection authority;

Ÿ          the dumping of waste is prohibited.




            The removal from Bosnia and Herzegovina of the archaeological finds found on the site during excavations in 1997 and of any future archaeological finds (hereinafter: the archaeological finds) is prohibited.

            By way of exception to the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Clause, the temporary removal from Bosnia and Herzegovina of the archaeological finds for the purposes of display or conservation shall be permitted if it is established that conservation works cannot be carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

            Permission for their temporary removal from Bosnia and Herzegovina under the conditions stipulated in the preceding paragraph shall be issued by the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, if it is determined beyond doubt that it will not jeopardize the collection in any way.  In granting permission for the temporary removal of the collection, the Commission shall stipulate all the conditions under which the removal may take place, the date by which the collection shall be returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the responsibility of individual authorities and institutions for ensuring that these conditions are met, and shall notify the Government of Republika Srpska, the relevant security service, the customs authority of  Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the general public accordingly.

            An official request shall be submitted to the state authorities of Serbia & Montenegro to return to the relevant museum in Bosnia and Herzegovina all the archaeological finds removed from Bosnia and Herzegovina and taken to Belgrade following excavations in 1997.




            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 Republika Srpska 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 Republika Srpska, the Ministry responsible for regional planning in Republika Srpska and the heritage protection authority of Republika Srpska, 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 VI 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.




            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: Zeynep Ahunbay, Amra Hadžimuhamedović, Dubravko Lovrenović,  Ljiljana Ševo and Tina Wik.



Chair of the Commission

Amra Hadžimuhamedović

No: 06-6-746/03-6

7 October 2003



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 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  and 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.

On 28 November 2002 the Dabrobosanski Metropolitan Nikolaj Mrđa sent a petition to designate the “anchorite's cell and remains of the monastery church” in Rataje, referring to “an Orthodox Christian religious building, dating to the third/fourth or at the latest the sixth century”.  The section "Type of property" describes it as a monument, and its use was described as an "Orthodox Christian religious building".  The Serbian Orthodox Church/Srbinje Municipality were cited as the owner and occupier of the property.

            On 20 August 2003, Alija Pavica, chairman of the Citizens’ Association for the Return of Expellees, Refugees and Displaced Persons of  Rogatica, sent a petition to designate the “Tekke, mosque, burial ground, mekteb and ćutubhana [kutubkhana: library]" in Rataje.  The type of property was given as "ensemble", and the use as religious.  The owner of the property is the Islamic Community in BiH and the majlis in Foča, and  the occupier the Islamic Community of BiH.

            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:

Ÿ          Documentation on the location and current owner and user of the property (copy of cadastral plan and copy of land registry entry)

Ÿ          Data on the current condition and use of the property, including a description and photographs, details of war damage, data on restoration or other works on the property if any, etc.

Ÿ          Current condition of the property

Ÿ          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 and the condition of the site are as follows:


1. Information on the property


            The historic ensemble of a cell with grave cut into the rock, the remains of a mosque, turbe and burial ground and the walls claimed by some to be the remains of a harem and by others the remains of an early mediaeval church, in Rataje near Miljevina, Foča/Srbinje Municipality, is located on c.p. no. 1034, c.m. Miljevina, Land Registry entry no. 99; owner Municipal Assembly Foča – Srbinje.

            The village of Rataje is some 1.5 m west of Miljevina, on the right bank of the river Govza, about 0.5 km from its confluence with the river Bistrica.  At the top of the village, on an elevated prominence about 30 m across, is an isolated limestone rock projecting vertically from relatively level ground. To the south-east of the rock, are the remains of a mosque, south of the rock is the Muslim burial-ground, still in use, of the Čengić family, north are the remakins of a turbe and an unidentified building facing south-east.  A macadam road separates the complex from an Orthodox cemetery that is still in use.  About 150 m to the south-west is the Čengić-Ratajac tower house; this family, part of the great Čengić stock, moved into Rataje in the second half of the 16th century.

Historical information

            There is no historical data other than that concerning the Čengić lineage.  Apart from the material remains on the site, there is nothing but folk tradition to go on.  Major archaeological excavations and an analysis of the Ottoman period monuments would produce certain results.

            The Čengić family, which had branches in many areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Čengić’s of Rataje, Trešnje, Hotovac, Mrežica, Presjenica, the Čengić’s from Ustikolina and Jelešac, and those of Gacko), originated from the Turcoman tribe of Akkoyunlu (Black Sheep), which was divided into a number of clans.  One of these clans lived in the town of Egil on the western (upper) Euphrates, south-west of Arzinjan, and was headed by the forebears of the present-day beys (aristocrats) of the Čengić family. A surviving charter dating from 1498 issued by Abul-Muzaffer Qasim, ruler of the Akkoyunlu dynasty to malik (prince) Isfendiyyar-bey reveals that Isfendiyyar-bey was a noble and free vassal of the Akkoyunlu dynasty, the “strongest factor in the state” and probably the ruler’s son-in-law, and that the province and town both known as Egil was the manor and native region of the Čengić family (Bašagić, 1897, 441-443).  There was constant fighting for territory, during which the Persians conquered their lands, but were themselves conquered by Sultan Selim in 1518, as a result of which the province and town of Egil fell to Ottoman rule.

            The Sultan displaced from their homeland all the leading families in the newly-won territories, including the Čengić's.  They first acquired a ziyamet in Çankiri, near Ankara in Asia Minor, and later one of them came to Herzegovina, probably as governor of Bosnia.

            There is no historical information about the arrival of the Čengić family in Herzegovina, but Bašagić is of the view that the family tradition on the subject is authentic.  The Čengić's were named for their new homeland in the town of Çankiri, which gave the surname Čangrlići, later to become Čengić.  Tradition recounts that Kara-Osman bey, probably an imperial nephew, moved into tribal Zagorje in Borije, Bosnia, where he received a ziyamet and landed estate.  It is uncertain whether he is the same Kara-Osman bey who was governor of Bosnia from 1553 to 1556.  Kara-Osman had three sons: one remained in Borije in Zagorje, near Kalinovik, another moved to Ustikolina, and the third moved to Rataje.  At the end of the first half of the 17th century Ali-paša Čengić, sanžak-beg of Herzegovina, appeared on the scene.  He is known to have visited Zadar with the Herzegovinians in 1643.  Ismail-paša Čengić was governor of Bosnia in 1663.

            Three Čengić's are known to have fought in the battle of Ozije in southern Russia in 1637: Bećir-paša, who was killed there, Ahmed-paša (who died in captivity), and Kara-Osman beg, who was also captured.  The latter joined the Russian army with the rank of general.  It is said that Ahmed-paša and Bećir-paša built a nine-storey tower “in Rataje”.

            The best-known of the Gacko Čengić's is Smajil-aga, who was killed in Drobnjaci in 1850 (Bašagić, 1897, 446).


Legal status to date

            In the procedure proceeding the enactment of a final decision to designate the site as a national monument, an inspection of rulings on the protection of properties was conducted which ascertained that the site was not under protection.

            The Regional Plan of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina to 2002 did not assess the site.          


2. Description of the property

            The site is referred to in reference works as “Brdo”, and the people of the area call it “Pećina”, the Cave.  Various terms are used for the rock with the cell: turbe, tekke, cell, anchorite's cell, tomb. 

            The rock with its hollowed-out cell and the crypt within it is the main and central element of the entire complex.  The rock is 6.2(4) m height and of varying width, from 4.2 m on the east and 4.3 m on the north to 6.1 m on the west and 3.7 m on the south, with a circumference of 16.4 m.

            The cell is cut into the rock in the form of an irregular rectangular with the north-south sides about 2 m long and the west-east sides about 2.5 m.  It is entered from the south by three steps cut into the living rock.  The lower step is 15 (25) cm high, the middle one 42 cm, and the topmost one 19 cm; all are of the same depth of 25 cm.  The door is cut at a height of about 0.9 m, measured from the cut, levelled approach to the cell, and is about 1.9 m high and 0.9 m wide.  The entrance is round-arched and the door jambs, which are 0.25 m thick, are moulded; hollows can be seen in them for a door frame.  All that survived of the door were the iron cramps (Kajmaković, 1976,  4).  Above the door a lintel was cut, above which can be seen the marks of stonemason's tools, and Z. Kajmaković and Đ. Janković observed the traces of a former lean-to roof (Kajmaković, 1976, 6; Janković, 2003, 5).  There was an inscription above the eastern corner of the entrance, at roof height.

            The western and eastern sides of the cell are cut level, the southern is angled, and the northern has a rounded end. The cell is 2.05 m high, with a roof in the form of a quarter sphere with a slight fall towards the north.  The interior walls are roughly cut with visible chisel marks, and left rough.  Z. Kajmaković observed two layers of good quality plaster, with ample lime and little sand, on the walls.  The lower layer of plaster also had an admixture of straw, which suggests that the interior of the cell had been prepared for wall paintings, since no traces of pigment were found there (Kajmaković, 1976, 5). Đ. Janković merely observed that traces of whitewashing could be seen both in the chamber and on the outer sides of the rock.  There were also signs of fire in the interior (Janković, 2003, 5). The floor of the cell is the living rock. On the north wall of the cell is a bench, 0.4 m from floor level and with a depth of 0.6 m, ending in an oval on the west side.  Above the bench, a shallow, triangle niche 1.4 m high, 2.4 m wide and 0.15 m deep is carved into the north wall of the rock.

            The crypt is cut into the centre of the cell, into the living rock.  It lies west-east, with a minor deviation caused by the position of the rock itself. On the surface it is rectangular in shape, measuring 2.06 x 0.67 m, with a moulding on the upper edge into which the slab forming the lid fits.  This moulding is 0.25 m deep, and 0.05 m wide on the narrower sides.  The lid has been missing "for as long as anyone can remember" (Kajmaković, 1976, 4).  On the long sides, the space for fitting in the lid is of varying width, depending on the form of the carved-out grave (barely 5 cm at the head end, and as much as 30 cm at the feet).  The crypt is 1.96 m long, 0.61 m wide at the western end (for the upper part of the body) and 0.4 m at the eastern, with a depth of about 0.45 m.  The crypt is empty, and it is not known who was buried in it.  Until archaeological excavations were conducted in 1997, it was full of earth; it has now been cleared, and strewn with flowers.  When studying mediaeval monuments in the Drina valley area, Kajmaković and his team found several mediaeval stone sarcophagi in this area, as well as a crypt cut into the rock in Kuti, about 2.5 km downstream from Miljevina, in the late mediaeval fort of Prilep, which had until then remained undiscovered, and which is referred to in documents dating from 1392 and 1466 (Ninković, 1976, 17-18).  Stone sarcophagi hollowed out into the form of a human body are known in Bosnia and Herzegovina from Jajce, through central Bosnia, the Lašva valley, Zenica and Sarajevo to Foča (Žeravica, 1982, 189-190).  Burial in a crypt, in addition to mausoleum churches and buildings, is merely a more perfect form of burial.

            The inscription carved to the east of the roof is in semi-cursive Cyrillic lettering.  It has been interpreted in different ways by M. Vego, Z. Kajmakovića, V. Palavestre and Đ. Jankovića.    

1. M. Vego's reading

In transcription the two-line inscription reads:

A SE PISA 1492. L[ET]A

RAD[O] ? (written summer 1492, Radoja or Radonja ?)

Vego noted that the inscription, too, had at some time been coated with lime mortar.  The sign of the cross in front of the year designates a more recent form of writing used from the fourteenth century on.  Vego concluded that the inscription was written "at the time the cell was made, and certainly not at the time the anonymous deceased was buried" (Vego 1964, 203; ibid, 1964,a, no. 188).

2. Z. Kajmaković's reading

Kajmaković deciphered the following on the inscription: ASE GR RADOSLAVA A

D D A .... 

In his view this, when reconstructed, would have read:

ASE GR(OB) RADOSLAVA A (Here is the tomb of Radoslav)

Kajmaković says that "the second line of the inscription might have read: B(OG) DA (GA PROSTI)" (May God [forgive him].  The inscription dates from the first half of the fourteenth century (Kajmaković, 1976, 5-6).

3. V. Palavestra's reading

Palavestra deciphered the beginning of the inscription as: A  SE PISA RADOSLA.  He identified the letters M TU in the continuation of the first line, but as he says, "it is impossible to reconstruct the meaning of the entire remains of the text."   Palavestra admits to having failed to transcribe the seven symbols in the second line in any satisfactory manner.  He dates the inscription at the earliest to the second half of the fifteenth century or first decade of the sixteenth.  The inscription itself is 45 cm wide.  He is of the view that when the cell was entered from the mosque the inscription, like the whole of the interior of the cell, was coated with lime milk.  Later, exposure to the elements led to the formation of a calcified layer of lime and miljevina limestone that partly covered the inscription (Palavestra, 1977, 59-60).

4. Đ. Janković's reading



In Janković's view, "the gaps in the inscription could be filled in a variety of ways, but there can be no doubt that it refers to a župan [district prefect] and dida-djed=bishop".  From the form of the letters a, v, the inscription cannot be earlier than the late fourteenth century, or "probably the inscription should be dated more precisely to the first quarter of the fifteenth century ", that is, in the light of the fact that it refers to a župan and a djed, a bishop of the Bosnian church, to before 1465 when the Drina valley area came under Ottoman rule.   In his view, the inscription was cut after the cell was made, since it "is evidence of a visitor or of the relics of a podvižnik buried there.  It is impossible to tell from the inscription when the cell was cut, it could have been in the fourth to sixth century or as late as the fourteenth." (Janković, 2003, 5,9).


            Right alongside the southern side of the rock are the foundations of two buildings.  The information given by those who conducted the excavations of the buildings differs in the detail, but also in their conclusions, which is the result of the absence of historical data and reliance on folk tradition and accounts by the inhabitants of Rataje, and of the as yet insufficient (Janković), or insufficiently expert (Kajmaković, Palavestra) study of the site.

            First to write about the site was J. Čokić (Čokić, 1889, 75-77).  Despite some inaccuracies, these observations of his are important:

Ÿ          that the cell was cut well before the erection of the mosque, which was built onto the rock;

Ÿ          that the "Muhammedans, and particularly the beys of Rataje", say that Vasilije Ostroški lived in the cell;

Ÿ          that the Orthodox inhabitants of Rataje and the environs believe this account, and add that there used to be a monastery alongside the cave, which the beys pulled down, using the stone to build a mosque, and that there was an inscription on the rock that the beys destroyed, and which Čokić did not see, nor did he see the ruins of a monastery;

Ÿ          a drawing accompanies the article, showing the open entry into the rock and the mosque lying north-south.  At the time the drawing was made, near the end of the nineteenth century, the walls were standing in parts to the height of the roof frame, which had already been destroyed.  On the south and west walls of the mosque partly preserved windows were visible.  The area to the west of the rock was considerably larger than today.


            The next information dates from 1976 and comes from Z. Kajmaković, who did not conduct excavations, but sets out his observations.  On the south the foundations can be seen of "some substantial architectural building at least 16m long.  The entrance to the building was on the west side.  Here a doorstep was cut partly into the living rock.  The north wall of the building, running right alongside the Cave, also rested on a base cut into the bedroom, and an artificial hollow above the entrance to the Cave is evidence that wooden beams of this structure were set there." (Kajmaković, 1976, 4-7).


            In his report, Palavestra gave the accounts of the Čengić beys.

1. Bećir-beg Čengić, who was born in 1891, said in 1976-1977 that he remembered the collapsed walls of the mosque standing alongside the southern side of the rock; the north wall, with windows, was particularly well preserved.  The "cell-turbe", as Bećir-beg called the rock chamber, was entered from the mosque.  As he recalled, the mosque was square in ground plan, with the entrance on the west side (which is not visible on Čokić's drawing).  The entrance to the turbe had an iron door, which was kept locked, so that not everyone could enter the "turbe".  The mosque was pulled down in 1875 for the Herzegovinian insurrection (Palavestra, 1977, 60-61).

2. Zija-beg Čengić, born in 1904, recounted his father's recollection of some burned roof beams in the mosque and the entirely burned out roof.  Alongside the mosque, to the right of the entrance, was a wooden minaret, and to the south of that a wooden "ćutub-hana", in which the mosque books were kept and which served as a mejtef (school).  The entire complex was surrounded by a wall about 1 metre high, including the "turbe", ćutub-hana and the entire area to the north of the rock.


            The local Serbs moved into Rataje mainly in the early years following World War I.  They do not remember the mosque.  To them, the "rock-cell", as they call it, is a saint's grave or shrine, while for the Bosniacs, who call the rock-tomb a turbe, it was the burial place of a "good man" "Isa-pejgamberov ashab" (one of Prophet Jesus's companions).  According to this tradition, the very orientation of the tomb, lying west-east, is evidence of its great age. Common features of the traditions of all the inhabitants concerning the crypt, although the accounts are disputable, are not their historical accuracy, "but are to be sought in other areas of traditional accounts and folk beliefs of religious origin" (Palavestra 1977, 60-62).

            Based on these traditions, the excavations around the "rock-cell" that took place from 12 to 19 July 1977 were intended to check the veracity of the Muslim folk tradition in Rataje of the existence of a mosque and to determine if there were any earlier material remains pre-dating the mosque in the form of the postulated religious structure that was closely related, perhaps even chronologically, with the cell and its origins.

            The excavations took in the area west of the mosque, i.e. the western access plateau outside the rock.  To the north the area was bounded by the living rock in which a bench was carved, uncovered during these excavations.  This bench is 7.9 m long from the western end to the "left end" (west of the entrance pillar into the building outside the cell).  On the south side, according to Palavestra, part of the harem wall was also excavated.

            The excavations by the entrance to the cell were undertaken to establish, if possible, the floor area of the building that Bosniac folk tradition in Rataje said was a mosque, and to ascertain if there had been some earlier structure beneath it which, as local tradition claimed, reported by Čokić, was a monastery.  The rubble from the ruined building was excavated to a depth of 0.8-1m, and found to include some wrought iron nails.  At this level there appeared the floor paving of the mosque, and a stone pedestal, which "probably served as the base of a pillar holding up the roof structure" (Palavestra, 1977, 58).  A trial dig on the same side revealed that what lay beneath the floor paving was a sterile layer of rammed earth, with no signs of any older building activity.  The eastern wall and north-eastern inside corner of the mosque were also excavated.

Trial digs were also made alongside the south wall of the mosque where, according to Palavestra, part of a wall was found that "buttressed the mosque like a retaining wall."  The mosque was built on land sloping away to the south, so that the south wall had to be buttressed.  The retaining wall was built at two levels, a narrower northern and wider southern level.  It appeared to Palavestra that this retaining wall was "the remains of a former low wall" that, folk tradition recounted, surrounded the entire mosque complex, "and there is nothing to support the claims of a so-called monastery building" (Palavestra, 1977, 58).

            The excavated foundations and above-ground parts of the mosque walls, about 0.8 m thick, are built of precisely dressed blocks of local milja limestone (average size 36 x 40 x 30 cm), with visible signs of a serrated hammer.

            The nearby Čengić tower house was built of the same stone, also dressed with a serrated hammer like the mosque, so it may be assumed that both are of the same date, as folk tradition also confirms.  The tradition is that the tower house was built by Čengić-Ratajac beys, brothers Ahmed-paša and Osman-paša, who lived at the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth century.  The family was then at the peak of its powers, with many of its members occupying high positions, particularly in the Ottoman army (Bašagić, 1907, 445; Kreševljaković, 1954, 82).

            Movable finds in the layer of building rubble within the mosque down to floor level include "several dozen" hand-forged iron nails, a piece of blue transparent glass "probably from a fairly recent lamp", and an unusual circular object with a hole in the centre made of unbaked grey clay, the purpose of which is uncertain, but which Palavestra assumed could have served as a primitive candle-holder.  The architectural features discovered were two moulded stones that, to judge from the place where they were found, could have belonged to the decorated door jambs or lintel of the entrance to the mosque (Palavestra 1977, 59), the door jambs of the mosque, and an arched lintel (p. 38).

            The purpose of Đ. Janković's excavations was "fully to study the church assumed to lie alongside the cell with crypt (older building), to ascertain its date and what type of building it was – a monastery, or merely an anchorite site.” (Janković, 2003, 2).  Three years' works were projected, of which only the first stage of excavations was conducted in 1997, following which excavations were suspended with the change of government.  In his report, Janković distinguishes the outlines of two buildings, an “older building” and the mosque.

            An area of 28 x 10 m was excavated south of the cell, down to the level of the floor cut into the bedrock on the southern edge of the older building (Palavestra's view is that this was the entrance to the mosque harem).  According to Đ. Janković's report, the outline of an older building of approximately the same size extended over the entire excavated area.  The dimensions of the drawing in Annex 4, "Ground plan of building to the south of the cell," do not match the dimensions quoted above.  The entire length of the structure together with the mosque is 25.15 m, and according to the sketch the optimal width of the building, taking the outside measurements of the south wall of the older building and the east wall of the mosque, is 9.5 m.  The north wall of the building consists of the living rock ending in the rock-cell.  Janković is of the view that the eastern part of the older building was covered by the mosque.  The rock with its cell, in his view, was part of that older building, as was the mosque subsequently.  The eastern wall of the building was not fully investigated.  The foundations  of the south wall were observed on the slope, but the excavations did not reach the base, although the information is given that the wall was 2 m deep in the eastern part.

            In the layer of ruins of the older building, three tombs were uncovered.  Tomb no. 1, opposite the entrance to the cell, contained the remains of part of the trunk of a young person, the head of whom was destroyed by the foundations of the west wall of the mosque.  The arms of the skeleton were crossed over the belly.

Tomb no. 2, beneath the foundations of the mosque vestibule, contained a child's skeleton with arms crossed over the belly.

Tomb no. 3, alongside the exterior south-west corner of the mosque portico, contained the skeleton of an older child.   The legs were destroyed by the foundations of the mosque portico.

            The skeletons lay west-east and all had their arms crossed over the belly.  Janković identified them as Christian burials of the sixteenth to seventeenth century, which is corroborated by a Dubrovnik coin that was found, probably from one of the burials.

            To the east of the older building the foundations of the mosque were observed, measuring 9 x 9 m, which does not correspond with the sketch in Annex 4, where foundations measuring 9.20 x 7.7 m are indicated, approximately the same as on Palavestra's plan (1977, annex 26).  Within the mosque, the 1997 excavations were dug in the same place as those of Palavestra in 1977.  Outside the entrance to the rock were found two bases for wooden pillars, which presumably carried the mahfil.

            Janković writes in his report that the mosque floor was of wood on a rubble base of mortar and small stones.  Palavestra writes of a stone-paved floor, beneath which was only sterile rammed earth.  Part of the mosque foundations were not identified, since the dig went only approximately as deep as the floor level of the mosque.  The south wall of the mosque was further in than the wall of the older building (Palavestra regards these walls as the retaining wall and the wall that surrounded the complex; annex 29).

            In the rubble above the floor level of the “older building“, about 1 m deep, iron items were found, along with silver Dubrovnik coinage of the sixteenth and seventeenth century and the tip of an iron arrow.  In addition, scraps of frescoes, pieces of window glass, a “Turkish“ pipe and nineteenth century coins were found in the ruins.  The most recent coin dated from 1914.  Here the items found were mainly of the nineteenth century.

            Since the finds were not discovered in intact archaeological strata, which is typical of the entire site, Đ. Janković identified the individual finds chronologically.  He hypothesized that a small piece of the green glass rim of a rectangular window might belong to the sixth century.  He dated the arrow tip with spike firmly to the mid fifteenth century.  The scraps of frescoes also belong to the mediaeval period but, in Janković's view, it is hard to say whether they are of the early Byzantine period or later, from the twelfth to the fourteenth century.  The silver Dubrovnik coins can be dated to the sixteenth and seventeenth century.

            The blades of folding knives, tinder boxes, flints and so on were used both in the mediaeval and the Ottoman period, but these would date from before the nineteenth century, along with the items of that period that were found, such as seven clay pipes and two Turkish coins, pieces of white window glass, iron nails and door fittings, and shards of pottery dishes.  The most recent items are a bullet casing  and a 10-para (100 para = 1 dinar) silver Montenegrin coin dating from 1914 (Janković, 2003, 6-7). 

            Janković is of the view that “although the investigations were not completed, the nature of this archaeological site can reliably be ascertained: it is a shrine of the prehistoric (Old Testament) age north of the rock, and of the Christian era. “(Janković, 2003, 8).

            Although the site has not been adequately studied, Janković assumes the cell and crypt to date from late antiquity, fourth to sixth century, basing this hypothesis on the following arguments:

Ÿ          the cell is entirely cut into the rock.  At the base of the cell is a crypt.  The tools used to cut the stone were a cross-shaped axe or cramp and pick, tools that were used at that time;

Ÿ          the open site of the rock – a stolpa (small building on pillars) on top of which there rose some kind of pediment.  As Janković concludes, “as a result, the Rataje cell could be from the fourth to sixth century“ (Janković, 2003, 8).  He also observes that the only item datable to late antiquity is part of a black paste bracelet, which was found in structure j1 alongside the northern edge of the rock, where there is no archaeological stratum.

            He regards the older building outside the cell as a later-built church, and called that part of the site Crkvište (place of a church).  The church faced east, with its western and northern sides cut into the rock.  He is of the view that the bench cut into the north side is common in churches of the ninth to twelfth centuries.  In conclusion, he states: “One may therefore safely take the view, although the eastern part has yet to be excavated, that this is an older mediaeval church. “  He supplements this with the further argument of the finds of small fragments of frescoes that cannot be dated, along with more recent finds.  In his view, the church was demolished when the Ottomans conquered the region – the Drina valley was conquered in 1465 (Janković, 2003, 9).  Christian burials were made in the rubble of the church prior to the erection of the mosque.

            Đ. Janković dates the inscription to the late mediaeval period, late fourteenth or first half of the fifteenth century.  He dates the erection of the mosque to the nineteenth century, saying that it had glazed windows, a mahfil on the west wall, and a vestibule to the west.

            Kajmaković assumes that there was a Christian religious building 16 m long to the west of the mosque, with the entrance on the rocky ground to the west.  In his view, the building terminated east of the rock.

            Palavestra regards the area to the west of the mosque as the mosque harem, and the two walls alongside the south wall of the mosque as the retaining wall and surrounding wall of the complex, part of which he also found west of the mosque (annex 26, where he notes “southern harem wall“, and annex 29, where he gives a reconstruction of the mosque). He found no evidence of any other, earlier building beneath the mosque floor, in the area south of the entrance to the cell.  Both authors date the hollowed-out chamber in the rock and the crypt within it to the late mediaeval period (fourteenth to fifteenth century).

            Janković is of the view that there was an early mediaeval church (ninth to twelfth century) on the area outside the rock, the eastern part of which was overlaid by a (nineteenth century) mosque.  He dates the cell and crypt to late antiquity, fourth to sixth century.


            The burial ground to the south is some 20 to 25 m from the rock.  During investigations of the site in 1976 and 1977, a team of experts identified the remains of an abandoned Muslim burial ground surrounded by a stone-coursed wall, known as the Ibrahim-beg burial ground.  The locals recall that the wall was about 1.5 m high and that there was an entrance gate on the west, with stone jambs and an arched stone lintel.  There are probably the remains of an octagonal turbe in the underbrush, as well as the scattered remains of broken nišan tombstones.  Folk tradition recounts that members of the Čengić-Ratajac family were buried in the graveyard and that the wife of Bećir-paša Čengić was buried in the turbe; it is said that he and his brother Ahmed-paša built a nine-storey tower house in Rataje, which was still in “reasonably good condition“ at the turn of the nineteenth/twentieth century.  Bećir-paša was killed in battle in southern Russia in 1737 (Bašagić, 1897, 445-446; Palavestra, 1977, 56).

            During a visit in 2003 it was ascertained that in the meantime seven new graves have been added to the site, all lying south-east/north-west and with concrete surrounds on which there are recognizable traces of facing.  The tombstones are in the shape of slabs terminating in an ogee arch or triangle, and have been knocked over to the middle of the graves, probably during the devastation of the 1992-1995 war.  Alongside them, close to the mosque, are the remains of a smashed tomb lying west-east, with surrounding slabs, identical to the tomb in the northern area of the site.  This was probably the tomb in the turbe the remains of which Palavestra refers to, and which the people connect with the wife of Bećir-beg Čengić.  The remains of the turbe could not be seen through the grassy cover over the site.  Here and there are the scattered or broken nišan tombstones of the older burial ground.

            To the north of the rock the foundations of two structures are visible: the one discovered  in 1997, and an octagonal turbe.  Janković says that local people say there was a shop there (Janković, 2003, 4), whereas Palavestra says that to the north “the wall can be seen which surrounded the rock and crypt on the northern side.“ Janković also refers to the remains of an old surrounding wall.  Folk tradition is that the wall took in several small buildings (“kahva“, mejtef and so on) that formerly belonged to the “cell“ complex (Palavestra, 1977, 57).

             Building 1: the foundations of a building set diagonally, and measuring 7.2 x 6.7 m.  The depth of the excavations varied from 0.4 to 0.8 metres, depending on the bedrock, full of earth-filled cracks.  The foundations of the building have survived in part to a height of 0.3 to 0.5 m.  It was in the southern part of building 1 that prehistoric material was found. D. Jacanović, who dealt with the material, is of the view that these were the remains of a fortified settlement from the Cetinje culture, dating from the transitional period of the Copper to Early Bronze Age in the Adriatic-Western Balkans area (D. Jacanović, 1998, 88).  Janković is of the view that this was a shrine (Janković, 2003, 8).  Both note that the pottery shards were very small.  Jacanović observes that by force of circumstances, only a small area was investigated, that the soil was of karst nature and much eroded, and that the archaeological stratum had been damaged by construction during historical periods.  This being so, no archaeological complexes were found such as the foundations of houses, for example (Jacanović, 1998, 88, note 6). Janković bases his concluses on other arguments: that the area of the site was too small for a fortified settlement, that there are no signs of daily life such as animal bones, and that no signs of a fortified surrounding wall were found.  The pottery is badly broken up and cannot be linked, as Janković claims, along with the previous arguments, to their being finds of the scattered parts of dishes broken as part of a religious rite (Janković, 2003, 8).

            In his report, Đ. Janković says that four tombs were discovered in the southern corner of building 1, lying along/in between the cracks in the rocky ground and lying west-east with minor deviation.

Tomb 1 – adult, tomb covered with a large stone slab.

Tomb 2 was stone-built with slabs laid in the form of a gable roof.  The bones of the skeleton had been much disarranged.  Above the tomb, in the rubble, part of a vitrified paste bracelet was found.

Tomb 4 – child, the tomb covered with a small stone slab.

            Outside the foundations of the building, parts of two skulls were found.  The bones of the deceased in all the tombs were more or less disarranged.  The impression was that two of the deceased had had their arms extended alongside the body and one crossed over the belly. The tombs had no grave goods and appeared to have been looted, which makes it harder to date them.  As a result, Janković hesitates between attributing the grave above which the bracelet was found to the early Byzantine period or, which is more likely, attributing all of them to the late mediaeval period and to burials beneath stećak tombstones that could have been here and subsequently destroyed. (Janković, 2003, 6,9).


            Palavestra briefly described the ruins of an octagonal turbe with a tomb in the centre, but gives no details of its size. He refers to a ruined tomb in the turbe “with open, badly damaged “kabur“ tomb of precision-cut, moulded stone slabs, side pieces and headstone.  Local tradition links the turbe with Bećir-paša of the first half of the eighteenth century, claiming that “one of his children“ was buried there.  Around the turbe he found scattered nišan headstones, perhaps from other tombstones on the site.  These were found all around the rock, since this was where the burial ground was (Palavestra, 1977, 50).  Janković's report makes no mention of either the turbe or the nišan tombstones.

            During a visit to the site in 2003 it was ascertained that the octagonal turbe stands about 15-20 m north of the rock.  Its outer diameter is 7 m and inner 6 m. The thickness of the remains of the walls is about 0.5 m.  The tomb is set in the centre of the turbe.  At the bottom of the tomb the crypt can be seen, made of light-coloured local stone, like the mosque.  The crypt is 0.35 m deep and the same width as the sarcophagus above ground.  The sarcophagus slabs are 0.6 m high and about 0.15 m thick.  The side slabs are about 1.80 m long and decorated on all four sides.  The head and foot slabs are 1 m wide and decorated along the longitudinal upper and lower edge with a similarly moulded decoration.  The nišan head- and foot-stones were formerly attached to the centre of the narrower slabs.  Today finely cut rectangular holes can be seen there.  There are holes at the ends of the upper edges of the narrower slabs for joining the slabs.

            The movable finds from the 1997 excavation were taken to Belgrade to be studied.


3. Research and conservation and restoration works 

Ÿ         1976-1977: the site was excavated by Zdravko Kajmaković and Vlajko Palavestra as part of the inter-republic multidisciplinary project “Drina in the Kosača period”.

Ÿ         1997: as part of the project to renovate the Orthodox heritage in the Dabrobosanski eparchy, proposed by the Academy for Art and Conservation of the Serbian Orthodox Church and approved by the Ministry for Education, Science and Culture of Republika Srpska, which also funded the project, Đorđe Janković conducted investigations of the site.


4. Current condition of the property

            An on-site inspection carried out in September 2003 ascertained the following:

            The central group of monuments, consisting of the rock with hollowed out chamber or cell and grave, are in good condition.  The interior of the chamber and grave have been cleared and are obviously well maintained.  The other parts of the site, consisting of all the structures listed and the burial ground, are completely devastated, and the damage has been exacerbated by trial digs left unfilled in following archaeological excavations. The devastation and neglect of the site are referred to as early as 1977 by Palavestra.



            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

                        D.  Clarity

                                    D.ii. evidence of historical change

                                    D. v. evidence of a typical way of life at a specific period

                        E. Symbolic value

                                    E.i. ontological 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. Townscape/ Landscape value

                                    F.ii. meaning in the townscape

                        G. Authenticity

                                    G.i. form and design

                                    G.ii. material and content

                                    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


            The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

-         Copy of cadastral plan

-         Copy of land register entry;

-         Photodocumentation;

-         Drawings



            During the procedure to designate the monument as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina the following works were consulted:


Bašagić, beg Safvet, Najstariji ferman begova Čengića.(Oldest firman of the Čengić’s) Journal of the National Museum IX, Sarajevo, 1907, 433-446


Čokić, Jovo, Ćelija u selu Rataji. (Cell in Rataje village), Journal of the Nationla Museum in Sarajevo I, Sarajevo, 1889, 75-77


Jacanović, Dragan, Rataja, Miljevina, naselje iz ranog bronzanog doba. (Rataja, Miljevina, an early Bronze Age settlement) Journal of the Serbian Archaeological Society XIV, Belgrade 1998, 87-89


Janković, Đorđe, Rataja u Miljevini. (Rataja in Miljevina) Archaeological excavations 1997, Faculty of Theology, Academy for Art and Conservation, Belgrade, 2003


Kajmaković, Zdravko, Likovnoarheološka istraživanja. a. Rataj, mauzolej. (Art and archaeological investigations: a. Rataj, Mausoleum): In “Gornje Podrinje u doba Kosača”, Upper Drina valley in the Kosača period), Inter republic multidisciplinary project, Vol.III. Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of BiH, Sarajevo 1976, 4-7


Kreševljaković, Hamdija, Kule i odžaci u Bosni i Hercegovini. (Towers and manors in BiH) Naše starine II, Republic Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of BiH, Sarajevo, 1954, 71-86.   


Minić, Dušica, Pojava i rasprostranjenost narukvica od staklene paste na srednjovekovnim nalazištima u Jugoslaviji.  (Occurrence and distribution of vitrified paste bracelets in mediaeval sites in Yugoslavia), in: Srednjovekovno staklo na Balkanu(V-XV vek) (Mediaeval glass in the Balkans [C5-15]), Serbian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Balkan Studies, special ed., vol. 3, collected papers from international colloquium held from 22 to 24 April 1974 in Belgrade, Belgrade 1975, 71-78


Mulaomerović, Jasminko “O svetom bosanskom podzemlju” (On the sacred Bosnian underground) Our karst, Bulletin of the Speleological Society, no.30, Sarajevo, 1997, p.61


Ninković, Aleksandar, Stari grad na desnoj obali Bistrice /Prilep?/. (Old fort on right bank of the Bistrica/Prilep?) in “Gornje Podrinje u doba Kosača” (Upper Drina valley in the Kosača period), Inter republic multidisciplinary project, Vol.III. Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of BiH, Sarajevo 1976, 14-19


Palavestra, Vlajko, Ćelija u Rataju. (Cell in Rataj) in “Gornje Podrinje u doba Kosača”, Upper drina valley in the Kosača period), Inter republic multidisciplinary project, Vol.IV. Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of BiH, Sarajevo 1977, 55-65


Redžić, Šebić, Azra, Staro muslimansko groblje na Presjeci. (Old Muslim burial ground in Presjeca) Inter republic multidisciplinary project, Vol.IV. Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of BiH, Sarajevo 1977,


Vego, Marko, Novi i revidirani natpisi iz Hercegovine (nastavak). (New and revized inscriptions from Herzegovina [ cont]), Journal of the National Museum in Sarajevo, Archaeology, new series, vol. XIX, Sarajevo, 1964, 173-211


Vego, Marko (a), Rataj u Miljevini. (Rataj in Miljevina) Collection of mediaeval inscriptions of BiH III, National Museum of BiH, Sarajevi, 1964, 52-53, no. 188


Žeravica, Lidija,  Grobovi ispod stećaka na Pavlovcu. (Graves beneath stećak tombstones in Pavlovac), Journal of the National Museum of BiH in Sarajevo, Archaeology, new series, vol. 36/1982, Sarajevo, 1982, 179-204




Site in rataje near Miljevina in 1875, drawingSite in Rataje, photo from 2003Čengić tower in Rataje, photos from 2003 and 1901Tomb in the rock
The rock with cell and tomb in Rataje, photo from 2003The rock with cell and tomb Bench carved into the rockGrave and remains of octagonal turbe

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