Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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60th session - Decisions

Harem of the Grabska (Hajji Begzada) mosque with česma fountain in Grab, the historic 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 6 to 11 December 2003 the Commission adopted a






            The historic site of the harem of the Grabska (Hajji Begzade) mosque with česma fountain in Grab in Banja Luka are hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

            The National Monument consists of the harem of the mosque with nišan tombstones, šadrvan fountain, burial ground and česma fountain in Grab.

            The National Monument is located on cadastral plot no. 441 and 496, new survey, c.m. Banja Luka III-8, Municipality Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

            The building being built on the site of the Hajji Begzade mosque demolished in 1992 is not subject to protection since it is not being built to match the condition of the building prior to destruction and is not being rehabilitated in compliance with the Law on the Implementation of 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) and other current regulations, standards and protection principles, and thus does not meet the Criteria for the designation of property as national monuments (Official Gazette of BiH nos. 33/02 and 15/03). 

            The provisions relating to protection and rehabilitation measures set forth by the Law referred to in para. 4of this Clause 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 Commission to Preserve National Monuments (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.




            The following measures to protect the National Monument shall be implemented:

ـ       the original use of the protected site shall not be altered;

ـ       the harem of the mosque shall be surrounded with a wooden fence as originally done, using the principle of analogy;

ـ       the epigraphic material of the mezaristan and harem of the mosque shall be documented, the mezaristan and harem of the mosque shall be set in order, and damaged nišan tombstones shall be repaired;

ـ       the covered channels through which the česma fountains are supplied with water shall be cleaned;

ـ       the access to the česma fountain shall be paved with stone to the model of the existing paving;

ـ       the plateau in front of the česma fountain shall be landscaped using indigenous plants and greenery.




            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 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 (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.


No: 07-6-1077/03

6 December 2003



Chair of the Commission

Ljiljana Ševo


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.

            The Commission received a petition from the Islamic Community of BiH, Majlis of Banja Luka, on 27 August 2002.

            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:

ـ       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, etc.;

ـ       The current condition of the property;

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

ـ       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 current condition of the site are as follows:


1. Details of the property


            The architectural ensemble of the Hajji Begzade(1) mosque with harem with nišan tombstones, mezaristan burial ground, šadrvan fountain and česma fountains is in Grab mahala, on the left bank of the Vrbas in Gornji Šeher, in Banja Luka. Grab mahala was the last part of Banja Luka on the old road to Mrkonjić Grad and Jajce (Bejtić: 1953, p. 94).

Historical information

            In addition to the existing mahalas of Sultan Sulejman (also known as Hunćarija, Careva or Emperor’s mahala, Čaršijska or Atik), Sofi-Mehmed pasha, Kubat, Osman Šah, and Ilidža, by the 1580s another four had developed in Gornji Šeher: Džafer-aga, Hadži-beg-zade, Kalendarija and Sitarija (Kreševljaković: 1991, pp. 294-295).

            Grab mahala with the Ibrahim masjid and 54 houses is referred to in 1604 in the census of mahalas(2) of the Banja Luka nahija, from which it may be deduced that the area was already inhabited in the early Ottoman period. Later historical sources refer to two mosques, the Džaferaga mosque (demolished in 1928; had a wooden minaret(3)) and the Hajji Begzade mosque (in existence until destroyed in 1993), it is impossible to say which of these two mosques the said Ibrahim founded – mosques sometimes acquired their name from the person who repaired them, and the name of the founder was forgotten. There are no specific historical data about the founder of the Hajji Begzade mosque; the earliest reference to it by this name is in the census of mahalas for 1851, with 31 houses and 2790 groschen of tax stipulated for the inhabitants of the mahala (Bejtić: 1953, p. 115). Alongside the mosque was a harem, which was already in existence in the 17th century, since the oldest nišan tombstones can be dated to that period by their form. It is quite difficult to identify them because of the level of damage suffered and the fact that they have sunk into the ground. The harem had a spatial significance as the central area of the former mahala around the mosque, which lost its authentic appearance in 1969; as a result, the appearance of the harem itself was what preserved the spirit of the place. Another important feature in the environmental ensemble was the česma fountains, and also the houses with their doksats (oriel windows) and kamerijas (first floor balconies), as well as a row of a number of shops below the houses, thus forming a kind of small čaršija. All the shops were demolished after World War II.


2. Description of the property

            The Hajji Begzade mosque was built to the typology of mosques with a hipped roof, wooden minaret and open sofas. It had two rows of windows on the façades. The roof was clad with plain tiles.

            The mahfil was reached from the sofas via a wooden staircase. In 1909 the entrance sofas were walled in. As revealed by available photographs(4), the minaret was wooden, emerging from the roof, and had a covered gallery. The appearance of the gallery is corroborated by references in written sources to the effect that almost all mosques with wooden minarets in Banja Luka had a more recent minaret with very small apertures on the gallery (so called “blind” minarets). All were octagonal in shape and about 8 m high (measured from the floor of the attic space to the alem of the minaret). The gallery was somewhat wider (about 10cm) than the body of the minaret. The minaret was plain and unadorned, and had moulded uprights laid across the joints of the vertical planks cladding the body of the minaret, which articulated it visually(5).

            After the 1969 earthquake the old building was completely demolished and a new one built with a concrete minaret and concrete arched open sofas(6). 

            The harem with nišan tombstones has survived. Most of these tombstones were of soft stone with the typical turban form, and some were of considerable artistic value. There were also fine quality steles with calligraphy, and monumental pillars made of tuff, with no decoration. Burials ceased here in the mid 20th century. The small harem has ten or so nišans with no epitaph and a large number of more recent nišans.

Nišan no. 1

            A tufa nišan of octagonal cross-section, circumference 51.5 cm, height 37 cm.

Nišan no. 2

            A man's tufa nišan with turban, square in cross-section, 21 x 21 cm, height 77 cm.

Nišan no. 3

            A man's tufa nišan with turban, square in cross-section, 13 x 13 cm, height 57 cm.

Nišan no. 4

            A man's tufa nišan with turban, completed sunken into the ground.

Nišan no. 5

            A man's tufa nišan, circular in cross-section, circumference 81 cm, height 65 cm.

Nišan no. 6

            A man's tufa nišan with turban, rectangular in cross-section, 15 x 14 cm, height 45 cm.

Nišan no. 7

            A stone slab erected as a nišan, measuring 40 x 10 x 60 cm.

Nišan no. 8

            A man's tufa nišan with turban, rectangular in cross-section, 16 x 15 cm, height 77 cm.

Nišan no. 9

            A stone slab erected as a nišan, measuring 28 x 26 x 34 cm.

Nišan no. 10

            A man's tufa nišan with turban, rectangular in cross-section, 16.5 x 15.5 cm, height 62 cm.

Nišan no. 11

            A stone slab erected as a nišan, measuring 19 x 9 x 70 cm.


            There are another ten or so stone slabs protruding from the ground in the harem.

            The česma fountains are now the most valuable feature of the architectural ensemble because of their atypical treatment. Two were installed side by side in a single stone wall, about 180 cm apart(7). Another unusual features distinguishing these česmas from others in other places in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the way they are fed with spring water. The springs that feed them are about 4 kilometres from the česmas(8). The water was not led along pipes, but through masonry vaulted channels about 1.40 m high, leading to a terezija (reservoir) in different directions to the right and left of the česma. The right hand channel is 10.35 metres long and the left 3.0 metres, and the height to the top of the vault is 1.40 metres (enabling a man to enter the channels when repairs were needed) (9). The česmas were built in two stages(10), with the older, right hand česma dating from the late 16th century and the other built in the same style, probably in the 17th century. Over the left-hand česma was a tarih (chronogram) on the construction of the česma, but it is barely legible(11).

            The česmas are raised above the level of the road and are set in a wall 6.75 m long and about 1.90 m high. The frontal cornice projects somewhat, as with almost all old česmas, and the outpipe is emphasized by two pointed arches. The pipes are of more recent date and are made of iron. On the later česma (17th century) there was a plaque with an inscription, but no surviving trace of the year of construction or repair. On the left-hand česma, below the plaque with the inscription, are three stone decorations in the form of half pommels(12). The treatment of the stone, the execution of the stone construction of the water channels and the precise execution of the two pointed arches emphasizing the outpipes indicate that the česma fountains date from the period when Ottoman architecture in this part of the world had reached a peak of achievement, in the 16th or at the latest the first half of the 17th century.


3. Legal status to date

            The Hajji Begzade mosque was not under protection.

            The česma fountains enjoyed the status of protected cultural and historical heritage structures, by Ruling of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of NR BiH, Sarajevo, old Ruling no. 63/523 of 31 January 1951 and new Ruling no 02-699-3 of 18.04.1962.


4. Research and conservation and restoration works

            No research or conservation and restoration works have been conducted on the mosque building.

            All interventions on the building have been carried out by the congregation without the supervision of the heritage protection authority.

            In 1909 the sofas were walled in and there were probably alterations to the interior, though no details are available.

            Following the 1969 earthquake the mosque was demolished and a new one with a concrete minaret and concrete sofas was built(13).

            In 1989 the Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Banja Luka carried out repairs to the česmas. The stone surfaces were cleaned, damaged parts were replaced, the pointing was replaced, damp proofing carried out, and the site cleared of vegetation; the channels were also cleaned(14).


5. Current condition of the property

            The Hajji Begzade mosque was dynamited and totally destroyed on 4 July 1993(15) during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the rubble was removed. The tombstones in the harem of the mosque were damaged and abandoned. The česma fountains were quite badly damaged from lack of maintenance.

            On the date of an on site inspection, 8 March 2003, it was found that concrete foundations and a reinforced concrete slab had been laid on the site of the demolished mosque.

            During a further visit to the site on 28 November 2003, the rough works on the new building on the site of the destroyed mosque had been completed. The new building, measuring approx. 80.5 x 12.45 metres, is built of brick blocks, with reinforced concrete horizontal and vertical ring beams, window frames and door frames, walls approx. 25 cm thick, and a new spatial layout for the mosque.        Within the building, the structure of a reinforced concrete mahfil has been erected. The new mosque has a single hipped roof, with grooved tiles, and all the guttering and downpipes are of galvanized iron.




            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.

A.         Time frame

B.         Historical value

C.         Artistic and aesthetic value

C.iii.     proportions (česma fountains)

C.v.      value of details (česma fountains)

D.         Clarity

D.vi.     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

F.         Townscape value

Fii.       meaning in the townscape

G.        Authenticity (česma fountains)

G.i.       form and design

G.ii.      material and content

G.iii.     use and function

G.v.      location and setting


            The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

ـ       Photodocumentation

ـ       Drawings



            During the procedure to designate the harem of the Grabska mosque in Banja Luka as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina the following works were consulted:


Bećirbegović, Madžida, Džamije s drvenom munarom u Bosni i Hercegovini (Mosques with wooden minarets in BiH) 2nd ed, Sarajevo, 1999


Bejtić, Alija, "Banja Luka pod turskom vladavinom", "Arhitektura i teritorijalni razvitak grada u 16. i 17. vijeku", (Banja Luka under Turkish rule, Architecture and territorial development of the town in the 16th and 17th centuries), Naše starine I (Annual of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SR BiH), Sarajevo, 1953


Džaja, Mato, Banja Luka u putopisima i zapisima (Banja Luka in travelogues and reports), NP Glas, Banja Luka, 1962


Husedžinović, Sabira, Džamije Banja Luke u planovima austrijskih ratnih karata iz XVIII stoljeća (Mosques of Banja Luka in the plans of 18th c. Austrian war maps), Contributions to Oriental Philology 47-48, Oriental Institute, Sarajevo, 1999


Husedžinović, Sabira, study of the Grabska mosque and fountains drawn up for the Commission to Preserve National Monuments on the basis of the material in the m/s of the unpublished work: «Dokumenti opstanka, džamije in Banja Luka» (Documents on the survival of the mosque in Banja Luka), 2003


Kreševljaković, Hamdija, Izabrana djela II, "Esnafi i obrti u Bosni i Hercegovini" (1463-1878) (Selected works II, Guilds and crafts in BiH 1463-1878), Sarajevo, 1991


Mujezinović, Mehmed, Islamska epigrafika Bosne i Hercegovina, kn. 2, Istočna i centralna Bosna, (Islamic epigraphics of BiH, vol. 2, eastern and central  Bosnia), 3rd ed, Sarajevo, 1998


Architectural documentation originating from prior to 1995 (source: drawings from Dr Sabira Husedžnović)


Report by the Banja Luka Mufti’s office on the condition of the Islamic Community, religious and cultural buildings and vakuf property, Banja Luka, April 2000


(1) Details of cadastral plot no.. 441, c.m.. Banja Luka-III-8, in which the Hajji Begzade mosque was built, taken from map (Republic Geodetic Authority of BiH, Cadastral municipality Banja Luka III-8, sheet 151, scale: 1:1000, 1978) and from the Report by the Banja Luka Mufti’s office on the condition of the Islamic Community, religious and cultural buildings and vakuf property, Banja Luka, April 2000, p. 14, and details of cadastral plot no. 496, c.m. Banja Luka III-8, on which the Hajji Begzade mezaristan stands, taken from the same map (Cadastral municipality Banja Luka III-8, sheet 151)

(2) “...Grab Mahala, also known as Ibrahim masjid: houses: imam 1, married 54, bachelor 14.” General census of the Bosnian sandžak for 1604, Vol. III (Original title: Defter-i-mufassal-i liva-i Bosna cild salis, Ankara, Tapu Kadastro, Kuyûd-1 Kadîme Arşivi TD 479), Sarajevo: Bosniac Institute Zűrich, Sarajevo Branch: Oriental Institute, 2000, p. 421

(3) Husedžinović, Sabira, Vakufname-značajni istorijski izvori za upoznavanje urbane topografije Banjaluke XVI-XIX vijeka, (Vakufnamas – important historical sources for determining the urban topography of Banja Luka in the 16th-19th centuries) pp. 95-115 (data from Archive of the Board of the Islamic Community of Banja Luka)

(4) source: photograph, Museum of the Bosnian Krajina, Banja Luka, Inv. No FIT 18, Oct. 1967.)

(5) as fn 7.

(6) as fn. 5

(7) reference is to the distance between the iron outlet pipes (Bejtić: 1953, p. 94) and drawing of the česma fountains in Grab following repairs in 1989, taken from Dr Sabira Husedžinović

(8) Kreševljaković: 1991, p. 332

(9) Bejtić: 1953, p. 94

(10) the vertical dilatation (vertical connection extending in a straight line up the entire height of the front wall), between the left and right česmas clearly indicates that the česmas were not installed at the same time. 

(11) this stone plaque had an inscription on the year of construction, but by the 1950s it had already become so worn away that none of the letters could be distinguished.  In the early 20th century (according to an article Franjo Cipra in Školskom viestniku XIII, 1960), the first two numerals (1 and 2) of some year of the 13th century AH (1786-1882) had already been worn away; this denoted the year when the česmas were repaired (Bejtić: 1953,p. 94)

(12) a very common motif on old nišan tombstones

(13) as fn. 5

(14) drawing of the česmas in Graba after repairs in 1989, drawing taken from Dr Sabira Husedžinović

(15) Report by the Banja Luka Mufti’s office on the condition of the Islamic Community, religious and cultural buildings and vakuf property, Banja Luka, April 2000


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