Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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The late-antique villa of Mogorjelo, 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 5 to 11 November 2002 the Commission adopted a



            The archaeological site of the late-antique villa of Mogorjelo off Čapljina is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

            The site is located on cadastral plots 2275/1, 2275/2, 2276, 2278, 2262/1, 2261/1, 1615/1, 1615/2, 2269, 2270, 2272, 2271, 2274, 2265/1, 2264, Čapljina Municipality, Federation of 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 the Federation of  BiH nos. 2/02 and 27/02) shall apply to the National Monument specified in the preceding paragraph.


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 specified in Clause I of this Decision.

The Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall be duty bound to draw up a plan for and implement a Programme for the permanent protection of the archaeological site identified as the late-antique villa of Mogorjelo.

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.


            The clearance and removal of walls, the construction of new buildings, wood cutting, livestock grazing and other activities that may have the effect of altering the site are prohibited.  No construction of any kind or works of any kind other than those relating to the archaeological excavation or presentation of the site shall be permitted within a protected zone of a minimum of 100 m from the outer limits of the protected site.


            All legislation in force and area development planning acts not in accordance with the provisions of this Decision are to be revoked.


Everyone, and in particular the competent authorities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Canton, and urban and municipal services, shall refrain from any action that might damage the National Monument specified in Clause I of this Decision or jeopardize the protection and rehabilitation thereof.


            The Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federal Ministry of Urban Planning and the Environment, the Institute for Protection of National Monuments within the Federal Ministry of Culture and Sports, 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, III and IV 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 to Preserve National Monuments.


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


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

            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.

                                                                                              Chairman of the Commission

Dubravko Lovrenović

No.: 01-273/02

6 November 2002, Sarajevo

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.

            At a session held on 17 December 1997 the Commission issued a Decision to add the villa of Mogorjelo off Čapljina to the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, numbered as 184, and 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 of the property and its current owner and user (Čapljina Municipality, ownership certificate no. 1235/02, Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of BiH; copy of cadastral plan, and Ruling on the Legal Protection of the Cultural Monument dated 13 April 1962 and Supplementary Ruling dated 12 August 1969)

·          Data on the present condition and use of the site, including a description and photographs, data on war damage if any, data on restoration or other works on the property if any, etc.;

·          Historical, architectural and other documentary material on the property.

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

1.      Information on the site


            The walled villa, which dates from the early fourth century CE, is situated on a hill (which has been largely altered and levelled) off the Neretva branch, 5 km south of Čapljina, alongside the road to Gabela (former road to Metković).

Historical information

            An Italic settler had a private manor complex built for agricultural purposes on the Mogorjelo site in the mid first century CE.   He located the building designed for processing agricultural produce (villa rustica fructuaria) on a salient on the hill (the ground plan of the villa lies near the north or main gate of the walls of later date), and the residential building (villa rustica habitatoria) on the south slope exposed to the sun.  This building burned down in the third century.  In the early fourth century, a state-owned estate was constructed over the ruins, with a villa which now forms the major feature of the complex.   During the third century the property probably changed hands to become state-owned.  The villa at Mogorjelo supplied the town of Narone, the ruins of which lie in the village of  Vido near Metković.  The estate was destroyed in a major fire.  The latest coins discovered on this site, in a layer of soot, were minted by Honorius in 388, so that it may be assumed that Mogorjelo fell into enemy hands some time between 401 and 403 with the Visigoth invasion of these parts.  Life continued in these new circumstances.  In the mid fifth century, two basilicas were erected within the ruined perimeter walls in the north-eastern corner of the former villa, first one to the north and immediately thereafter the one to the south.  To judge from various conversion works within the buildings, it appears that they were converted to residential use.  Some items of Carolingian provenance, dating from the ninth century, have been found in the round tower and adjacent premises.  Burials took place all over the site and its surroundings from the period of construction of late antique churches to the nineteenth century.

Legal status to date

            Pursuant to the provisions of the law, and by ruling of the Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments, no. 56/50 dated 13 January 1950 in Sarajevo, the late antique villa of Mogorjelo near Čapljina was accorded protected status as a cultural monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina and entered in the Register of Monuments. A supplementary decision of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments Sarajevo was issued on 12 August 1969, extending the protected status of the site to the immediate surroundings of the building, as forming an integral part thereof.

            On 17 December 1997, it was entered on the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

2.      Description of the Site


            The group of buildings at Mogorjelo, situated on a partly flattened hilly area, has the form of a slightly extended quadrilateral the dimensions of which are 102 x 86 m.

            The angles and entrances of the large perimeter wall are guarded by protruding square towers, with the exception of the tower at the east corner, which is round and recessed, due to the proximity of the Neretva river. The south-west wall, which had a small gate, similar to the secret exit from a mediaeval fort, was reinforced with a single tower.  The remaining gates were wide, with two wings.  The north gate, Porta decumana, was decorated with two cippus-like orthostats (standing stones), one with acanthus leaves, the other with vine leaves.  In the same way as the sphinxes in the Palace of Diocletian, these orthostats formed a double row for those entering the villa.  The east and west gates (Porta principalis – dextra and sinistra) resemble the north gate in every respect except that they were nor adorned with orthostats.  By each gate, as well as at the north corner, stairs were constructed leading to the breastworks, since the villa was designed as a refugium (refuge).  Inside, against the perimeter walls, a row of spacious rooms was built to house workers and for storing tools and produce.  A large covered porch with brick-built columns ran along the front of these rooms.

            The commercial part of the first century village, along with its wine- and oil-presses, mill and bakery, was readily adaptable, with only minor changes, to the new structure.  All that remain today are the foundations of the eastern part of that villa, while the western part was cleared during the excavations conducted by K. Patsch.  Of the four large drainage channels, one leads to the river Neretva and the other three to the south-west, towards a meadow where there was a residential building in the first century, with a piscina (Roman water reservoir) and central heating. Most of this had also been cleared by 1903.

            The main building in Mogorjelo was a large palace located in the southern quarter.  It was not sited on the axis of the main complex, but was rather closer to the eastern perimeter wall.  It consisted of a row of rooms, extending into a portico to the north.  At either end of these rooms was a projecting wing with stairs from the ground floor to the upper floor.  The rooms on the upper floor were designed as luxury accommodation, with mosaic floors and walls decorated with artificial marble.  The upper floor portico had Corinthian columns of stone from Korčula, of which the capitals, with their sharp edges of acanthus leaves and jutting curls at the corners, along with the arrangement of the rooms, are evidence for dating the building to the reign of Emperor Diocletian (late third to early fourth century).  The influence of the oriental regions of the Empire is already to be felt.  The palace is in imitation of the type of villa that had porticos and projecting corner sections.  The portico on the façade of the main fourth century palace is typical of country villas, and fact that the master’s accommodation is on the upper floor within a walled palace is a reflection of turbulent and insecure times.  The same features can be seen in Diocletian’s palace in Split.  The Corinthian capitals bore the characteristics of the stonecutters’ workshops from the shores of the Sea of Marmora.  Similar capitals have been found in tetrarchs’ palaces in  Salonica, Piazza Armerini in Sicily, and in Spalato (Split).  In the sixth century works of repair, conversion and walling were still being carried out.

            Two churches were built inside the villa at almost the same time, in the mid fifth century; the northern church was the first to be built and was followed immediately by the one to the south, built on part of the foundations of the first century Roman residential building.  They lie parallel to one another, 1.6 m apart.  Their total length is 21.4 m.  The church to the north is more complex and rather wider, measuring 21.4 x 14 m.  It had a five-columned portico (A) on the west façade, a narthex (B), naos and presbytery (C), a room (D) with an open portico, a font with a cruciform piscina for adults (E), and areas E and F the use of which is still not known.  Three tombs were built against the east wall on the vault, and it appears that the sarcophagus that is now standing in the open previously stood here.  In the second half of the sixth century the sunken piscina was covered over and a standing font was built.  The southern church has only a narthex (H) and a naos with a presbytery (I).  It seems that some conversion works were carried out in the south-eastern round tower in the late eighth and early ninth century.  Some items of Carolingian provenance were also found here.  Conversion works were also carried out to the late antique churches, presumably for residential purposes.  The basilicas were the last to fall into ruin in this period.

            At first, burials took place around the churches, soon extending to the whole area of the former villa and where there is now a parking lot outside the entrance to the entire complex, where the road now runs, and beyond.  Graves have also been found in the area between the round tower and the banks of the Neretva.  Many have presumably been washed away by fluvial erosion.  Burials continued to take place on the entire site, within and around the walls, until the nineteenth century.

            Some graves dating from antiquity, lined with tegulae and imbrex (plain and interlocking tiles), and some vaulted graves (both dating from the fifth to sixth centuries), some earlier and later Slavic graves (ninth to sixteenth centuries) and graves from later periods, up to the nineteeth century, have also been found.

Construction technique

            Two methods of construction have been identified in the complex: opus incertum (20 cm thick layers of limestone), characteristic of late antiquity, and opus mixtum (layers of stone combined with brick), in which oriental influence is apparent.

Archeological finds

            Movable archeological finds: an antique sarcophagus from the fifth century with acroteria (measuring 2.23 x 6.99 x 1.11 m), stele, parts of architectural ornaments (sills, column bases, a stone lintel with vine leaf tendrils and a bird pecking grapes, imposti, columns and parts of the railing around the standing piscina), as well as various roughly shaped pieces of stone of undefined purpose dating from the fourth to the sixth century, small metal items, fibulas, coins dating from the antique and late antique periods, ceramics dating from the first to the tenth century, a sword, and a gilded belt set from the Carolingian era (turn of the eighth to the ninth century), and three stećaks.

3.      Research and works of conservation and restoration

1899 to 1903, archaeological works directed by K. Patsch.

1903 to 1904, following excavation, since Mogorjelo was well preserved, K. Patsch embarked on the conservation of the fourth century walls, when the stone slabs used for roofing in Herzegovina were dry-laid onto the cleared walls.  Cypresses were planted at this time, too.  The walls do not exceed 1.5 m in height for the most part, and only the most essential works were carried out on them.  At this time, too, the site was surrounded with Mediterranean vegetation for both practical and aesthetic reasons.  The cultivated flora of Mogorjelo has no deleterious effects whatsoever.

In 1947 a group of experts from the National Museum of BiH began excavations of the part of the graveyard lying to the northwest of Mogorjelo, across the Čapljina road, and also cleared the area inside the walls.  Much new material, particularly early mediaeval, was collected in the course of these works.

In 1951, work began on the second conservation of the Mogorjelo walls (following Patsch’s).  The stone slabs were relaid on a layer of lime cement mortar to avoid the need to relay them yet again.  Some minor works were carried out on the north-eastern section of the wall.

Between 1952 and 1955 works on the complex continued.  The north-eastern wall was partly rebuilt on the inner side using antique bricks, and the angles reinforced with antique limestone brick.  These repairs were carried out in the manner typical of the antique period, but are recognizable by experts.

In 1961 and 1962 conservation works continued, with a thorough restoration and part reconstruction of the north-western sectioin of the wall.

In 1963 the antique torkular (olive oil press) within the villa fructuaria was partly restored.

In 1964 the final reconstruction works on the antique torkular were carried out.

4.      Current condition of the site

The current condition of the site can be described as follows:

·          The area has suffered no war damage

·          The area is not exposed to any specific risks;

·          Conservation and restoration works have been completed; the site is being maintained in the condition determined during excavations in the early twentieth century; the condition of the churches is such as to reduce the potential for their visual presentation to the minimum; the font is physically unconnected with the northern church.

All the archaeological stone finds are housed in the Morgojelo lapidary, while the sarcophagus stands in the open.  The remaining items – jewellery, coins, weapons, ceramics – are housed in the National Museum in Sarajevo, in the Antique and Mediaeval Collection of the Archaeological Section.  The majority of the items are on permanent display.

The presentation of the site has been carried out (regular removal of self-sown weeds is needed to prevent their roots damaging the walls).


            The site is of considerable artistic and aesthetic value. According to Đ. Basler, the cultural and historical value of this monument “lies in the broader context consisting of time, place and the manner in which it arose”. As a site with all the characteristics of the new economic system in the Roman Empire, the villa at Mogorjelo precedes the culture of early Middle Ages.

Applying the Criteria for the adoption of a decision on proclaiming an item of property a national monument (Official Gazette of BiH no. 33/02), and with regard to historic value (B), artistic and aesthetic value (C), clarity (D), landscape value (F), and uniqueness and rarity (H.i), of the site in question, the Commission has enacted the Decision cited above.

            The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

-          Copy of land register entry and ownership certificate;

-          Photographs;

-          Technical documentation

The documentation annexed to the Decision is public and available for view by interested persons on written request to the Commission to Preserve National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


- Đ. Basler, Konzervatorski zahvat na Mogorjelu (Art-conservation works at Mogorjelo). NS I, 1953, pp.145-151; Bazilike na Mogorjelu (Basilicas at Mogorjelo). NS V, 1958, pp. 45-62; Mogorjelo – ljudi vremena i prostori (Mogorjelo - people, time frames and areas) Arhitektura i urbanizam 31, Belgrade 1965, pp. 10-11; Kulturna istorija Bosne i Hercegovine (Cultural history of Bosnia and Herzegovina) 1984, p.p. 319-325.

- I. Bojanovski, Antička uljara na Mogorjelu i rekonstrukcija njenog torkulara (Antique oil producer’s workshop and the reconstruction of its olive-oil press). NS XII, 1969, pp. 27-54.

- E. Dyggve - H. Vetters, Mogorjelo, ein spatantiker Herrensitz in Dalmatien. Schriften der Balkankommision XIII, Wien 1966, 62.

- I. Čermošnik, keramika iz rimskog nalazišta Mogorjela (Ceramics from the Roman site of Mogorjelo) GZM 1952, pp. 241-271.

- H. Kapidžić, Izvještaji dr Karla Pača o Mogorjelu (Reports of Dr. K. Patsch), Glasnik arhiva i Društva arhivskih radnika BiH VII, Sarajevo 1967, pp. 571-618.

- K. Maly, Eine floristische Skizze, Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja (Journal of the National Museum) 1927, pp. 85-110.

- K. Patsch, Bosna i Herzegovina u rimsko doba (B&H in Roman times), Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja (Journal of the National Museum) 1914, pp. 159-161.

- NS Naše starine (Our antiquities). Sarajevo. J. Werner, Ranokarolinška pojasna garnitura iz Mogorjela kod Čapljine (Early Carolingian belt set), Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja n.s. A, sv. XV-XVI, pp. 1960-1961.

The late-antique villa of Mogorjelo, interiorNorth entrance, detailNorth entrancePlan of the late-antique villa of Mogorjelo
Remains by north wallRemains in southeast partFragmentsSarcophagus

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