Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Azizija mosque with harem in Brezovo Polje, the site and remains of 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 7 to 11 October 2003 the Commission adopted a






            The site and remains of the architectural ensemble of the Azizija mosque with harem in  Brezovo Polje, Brčko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

            The National Monument is located on cadastral plot no. 1322, cadastral municipality Brezovo Polje, Brčko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: Brčko District).

            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 Brčko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina, no. 2/02) shall apply to the National Monument.




            The Government of Brčko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the Government of Brčko District) 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 Brčko District shall be responsible for providing the resources for drawing up and implementing the necessary technical documentation for the rehabilitation 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:

  • the building of the Azizija mosque in Brezovo polje shall be reconstructed on its original site, in its original form, using the original or the same type of materials and original building methods, based on information on its previous appearance which forms an integral part of this Decision
  • all original fragments of the demolished building found on the site shall be registered, recorded and reintegrated into the reconstructed building.  Until such time as they are so reintegrated they shall be properly preserved;
  • fragments that are too badly damaged to be reintegrated shall be conserved and preserved appropriately within the building;
  • the harem shall be surveyed epigraphically, landscaped and damaged nišan tombstones repaired;
  • the Government of Brčko District is responsible as a matter of urgency for providing the financial, scientific and technical measures for the protection and consolidation of the parts of the building that survived demolition (dug out wall foundations, fragments of the building etc.) and for finding and restoring to the site fragments that were removed to dumps;
  • on plots c.p. 1323,1321,1319,1318,1317, which border on c.p. 1322, the restoration, reconstruction and adaptation of existing buildings and the construction of new residential buildings of a maximum of two storeys (6.50 m to the base of the roof) with pitched roofs is permitted.  The construction of manufacturing and catering facilities on these plots is not permitted.




            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 Brčko District, shall refrain from any action that might damage the National Monument specified in Clause I of this Decision or jeopardize the preservation and rehabilitation thereof.




            The Government of Brčko District, the authority responsible for regional planning in Brčko District and the heritage protection authority of Brčko District 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.




            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


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  (hereinafter: Annex 8) 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.

            At a session held on 14 July 2000 the Commission issued a Decision to add the Azizija Mosque to the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, numbered as 155.

            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 current owner and user of the property (copy of cadastral plan and copy of land registry entry)
  • Current condition of the property
  • Data on the current condition and use of the property, including a description and photographs, data of war damage, data on restoration or other works on the property if any, 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 and the condition of the site are as follows:


1.  Details of the property


            The Azizija mosque is situated some 14 km east of Brčko, on the Brčko – Bijeljina road, in the settlement of Brezovo Polje, in Savska street.  It is on a site comprising c.p. 1322, land registry entry no. 328, in the sole ownership of the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brezovo Polje 84, Brčko; c.m. Brezovo Polje, Brčko District, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

            Access to the harem is from the south, from Savska street.  The northern border of the harem is formed by the Sava river.

            The main axis of the mosque lies north-west/south-east.  The entrance is on the north-west.  The mihrab wall is to the south-west       

            In addition to the mosque, the cadastral plot in question also contains a burial ground (to the south-east, east and north of the mosque), a house with accommodation for an imam and jamaat offices, and an outbuilding alongside the house (west of the mosque)..

Historical data

            Brezovo Polje in its present form developed rapidly as a settlement from 1862 on, when 295 Muslim households of refugees from Serbia were settled there (116 from Užice, 148 from Šabac and 31 from Soko).  The part of the settlement dating from that time, which forms the greater part of present-day Brezovo Polje, is known as Novo (New) Brezovo Polje (Imamović, 1997, 330). Many refugees from Serbia stayed in Bosnia, most of them in the region along the south bank of the Sava (Brčko, Orašje, Bijeljina, Bosanski Šamac, Bosanski Brod, Bosanska Kostajnica, etc.).  Since this led to increased numbers of Muslims in these towns, there was a growing need to build certain facilities, including religious buildings.  This is why it was only in the northern regions of Bosnia that the construction of religious buildings reached a peak not in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but at a time when the Ottoman Empire was in deep crisis. At a time when Bosnia and Herzegovina was facing uprisings and insurrections and the struggle for autonomy, which significantly impoverished the country, the construction of mosques, particularly monumental ones such as the Azizija in Brezovo Polje, was distinctly unusual.  The Azizija mosque is one of the largest buildings dating from the declining years of Ottoman rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It was erected in 1862 with funds from the imperial coffers.  It took its name from the ruler of the day, Sultan Abdul Aziz, the son of Murat V, who ruled from 1861 to 1876.  During his reign, state funds were used to build three mosques (the Azizija in Brezovo Polje, 1862; the Azizija in Orašje, 1863; and the Azizija in Bosanska Kostajnica, 1862), as well as to rebuild the Čaršija mosque in Zenica, originally erected during the reign of Sultan Ahmed.  In some settlements the refugees themselves, among whom were many very wealthy people, erected new mosques.

            The construction of the Azizija mosque was the result of events in Serbia during the reign of Miloš and Mihajl Obrenović (1858-1867), when the Serbian authorities were trying to make the issue of the Muslim population in Serbia the focus of international interest.

            An incident in Belgrade on 3 June 1862, when a fight broke out by the Čukur fountain in which a Serb youth was killed, was used as the pretext for «anti-Turk» demonstrations, and the local Muslim inhabitants were forced to take cover in the fortress under the protection of the Ottoman garrison.  The town of Belgrade was then shelled from the fortress. The entire incident was the immediate cause of an international conference in Kanlica (a small town on the Asia Minor shore of the Bosphorus), at which it was decided, on 22 September 1862, that the Muslim population must leave Serbia.  At the end of 1862 there began organized departures of the Muslims from Užice and Soko for Bosnia, where the Ottoman authorities built two new settlements for them on the Sava, Gornja (Upper) and Donja (Lower) Azizija (named for Sultan Abdul Aziz), now known as Bosanski Šamac and Orašje. Although Muslims had left Serbia and settled in Brezovo Polje in the previous year, it was in 1862 that the new mosque, the largest in the entire region, was erected.


2. Description of the property

            The Azizija mosque was of the centrally domed type of mosque with covered sofas and stone minaret.  It was perfectly symmetrical in form.

            The mosque was a substantial building in the centre of a small settlement, a fairly rare feature. 

            The Azizija mosque was the only mosque in BiH with very distinct features deriving from the influence of the baroque on Ottoman architecture.

            The mosque was entered through open sofas.  At each of the four corners of the right and left hand sofas was a group of three cylindrical columns with simple capitals.  These eight groups of three columns were linked by arches with a span of 2.5 m on the entrance facade and of 1.5 m on the lateral facades.  The sofas had a pent roof, originally clad with quarry stone slabs.

            The Azizija mosque measured 14.50 x 18.50 m with the sofas; the central area measured 14.50 x 14.50 m.  The walls were of solid stone, with a thickness of from 1.40 to 2.0 m, and were plastered.

            The interior of the mosque was basically circular in form, with four semi-circular niches projecting towards the south, north, east and west. The diameter of the main area of the mosque was 11.05 m and of the semicircular niches 1.25 m.

            There was a dome over the central area, resting on an octagonal drum, with the thrust transferred to structural arches via pendentives.  There were eight windows in the drum. The height of the building from the floor of the mosque to the top of the dome was about 17 m.

            The windows in the central section of the mosque were unusually high (1 m wide and 3 m high), set in a single row only, with three on the lateral and two each on the entrance and mihrab walls.

            The stone minaret was located to the right of the entrance to the mosque, alongside the south-west wall.  It was built of sandstone from one of the northern Bosnian quarries.  Following a petrographic analysis as part of the rehabilitation project, it will be possible to determine its nature and origin.  It was not plastered.  The entrance to the mosque was from the central prayer space of the mosque.

            The base of the minaret was octagonal, and the barrel was sixteen-sided.  The minaret was 30 m high without the alem.  The šerefe (balcony, gallery) was at a height of 19.5 m.  The balustrade of the octagonal šerefe was made of wrought iron decorated with geometric motifs.  The height of the minaret to the base of the steeple was 24.60 m.

            The portal of the mosque was simple, 1.62 m wide, terminating in a round arch.

            The mihrab, which was in line with the portal, was set between structural pillars with richly moulded capitals, thereby occupying an entire field of the arch widthwise.  The mihrab niche was surrounded by a double row of mouldings.  The upper part of the surround was decorated with a crown with stylized buds set in a single row.  The interior surface of the niche was divided into four parts by horizontal mouldings. The upper part of the mihrab niche consisted of a semicircular arch.

            The wooden mimber was highly ornate and its proportions were in harmony with the space.  The mimber consisted of an entrance section, steps and baldaquin. 

            To the left of the mihrab was a simply decorated ćurs.

            The interior of the mosque was paved with regular dressed stone slabs, measuring 32 x 32 cm, set at an angle of 45° to the main axis of the mosque (portal – mihrab).  Details of the stone paving and photographs are to be found in the documentation of Prof. Husref Redžić, but since no trace of the paving slabs has yet been found since the demolition of the mosque, the type of stone cannot be stated, although it may be assumed, on the basis of analogy, to have been the same type of sandstone as that used to build the minaret.

            The wooden mahfil extended along the entire inner side of the north-east wall, with a width of about 2.5 m.  It was reached via the staircase to the minaret.  The central part of the mahfil (the place for the muezzin) was set above the entrance to the mosque and was four steps higher than the left and right sections of the mahfil.

            The Azizija mosque is the only mosque in BiH built in the baroque style.  It features not only the Turkish baroque (which lasted in the Ottoman empire from 1757 to 1808) but also the belated influence of the baroque from Austria and Hungary.  The influence of the baroque on the construction of the Azizija mosque, and indeed the influence of the baroque on the architecture of BiH as a whole, requires further analysis.

Harem of the mosque:

            Alongside the Azizija mosque is a graveyard with a considerable number of nišan tombstones dating from various periods from the late nineteenth century on. One that stands out in size and treatment is the tombstone of Mustaf-aga Hadžegrić, a refugee from Šabac,  dated 26 September 1902, surrounded with an iron railing. (Mujezinović, 1998, p. 164)


3. Legal status to date

            By Ruling of the National Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments and Natural Rarities of NRBiH no: 725/54 the building was placed under the protection of the state. 

            The regional plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina to 2002 listed the Azizija mosque in  Brezovo Polje under serial no. 58 as a Category II building.

            The Azizija mosque is listed under serial no. 155 on the Provisional List of National Monuments of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments.


4. Research and conservation and restoratio works

             During World War II the mosque was damaged by cannon fire, when half of the minaret was knocked down and there was major damage to the portico and dome.

            After World War II the building was placed under the protection of the state.

            Repairs to the mosque lasted some ten years (1964-1974).  The works were carried out by local people following instructions from the Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is no documentation on the renovation of the building.  It can be seen from written evidence in the possession of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina that experts from the Institute supervised the renovation works on the mosques, providing instructions and drawings.  According to their reports, the renovation works were carried out using original material, other than the minaret steps which were made of concrete.  In addition, a reinforced concrete ring was added, according to the person in charge of restoration, so as to repair the portico, which was quite badly damaged.  The stone slabs in the porch were covered with concrete, all the interior decoration on the wall plaster, which was presumably of rich baroque nature, was removed, and the restoration was carried out fairly inexpertly.

            The Azizija mosque was reopened on 8 September 1974, since when there have been no further works on the building.


4. Current condition of the property

            The Azizija mosque was dynamited and razed to the ground in summer 1992.  Almost all the fragments were removed from the site to an unknown destination.

            Local people from Brezovo Polje have launched an initiative to rehabilitate the building. The site has been cleared, the original foundations excavated, the material found has been sorted on the site of the mosque, and the few fragments of the minaret that were recovered have been recorded.

            The mosque graveyard is damaged.




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

E. Symbolic value

            E.ii. religious value

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

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 and proof of title;

-           Photodocumentation;

-           Drawings



            During the procedure to designate the Azizija mosque in Brezovo Polje as a national monument of  Bosnia and Herzegovina, the following works were consulted:


            Bećirbegović, Madžida, Džamije sa drvenom munarom u Bosni i Hercegovini (Mosques with wooden minarets in BiH), Sarajevo Publishing, 1999, pp. 39,52,


            Enciklopedija likovnih umjetnosti, (Encyclopaedia of the Fine Arts), publ. Lexicographic Institute of FNRJ, Zagreb, 1962, vol. II, p. 159,


            Imamović, Mustafa, Historija Bošnjaka, (History of the Bosniacs) publ. Preporod Bosniac Cultural Society publishing co, Sarajevo, 1997, p. 330,


            Journal of the Supreme Islamic Council in SFRJ, XXVI/1963, no.: 7-8, pp. 308-311, 1997.


            Mujezinović, Mehmed, Islamska epigrafika Bosne i Hercegovine, (Islamic Epigraphics of BiH) Vol II, 3rd ed., Cultural Heritage Series, Sarajevo Publishing, 1998, p. 164,


            Prelog, Miroslav, Povijest Bosne u doba Osmanlijske vlade, period 1739 – 1878 (History of  Bosnia under the Ottomans, 1739-1878), Vol. II, Foundation J. Studničke & Co, 1890, p. 101.


            Documentation of the Institute for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage of BiH







Azizija mosque after reconstruction in 1974Azizija mosque after destruction of the minaret in 1943View from the harem at the Azizija mosque, eighties of XX centuryThe site of the Azizija mosque, photo from 2003
Foundations of the Azizija mosque, photo from 2003Porch and the fragments of the Azizija mosqueRemains of the minaret of the Azizija mosque, photo from 2003 

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