Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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60th session - Decisions

Selimija (Sultan Selim II) mosque in Knežina near Sokolac, the site and remains of the historic building

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Status of monument -> National monument

Pursuant to Article V para. 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Article 39 para. 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, at a session held from 4 to 10 May 2004 the Commission adopted a







The site and remains of the historical building of the Selimija (Sultan Selim II) mosque in Knežina near Sokolac is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 1/41 (old survey), title deed no. 785, land registry entry no. 350, c.m. Knežina 1, Municipality Sokolac, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The measures relating to protection 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 the Republika Srpska shall be responsible for ensuring the legal, scientific, technical, administrative, and financial measures necessary to protect and rehabilitate the National Monument.

The Government of the Republika Srpska shall be responsible to secure the financial funds for development and implementation of the necessary technical documentation for 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 financial 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 protection measures are hereby stipulated to ensure:

  • the Selimija mosque in Knežina near Sokolac shall be reconstructed on its original site, in its original form, using original materials or materials of the same type and original building methods wherever possible, on the basis of information on its earlier appearance which forms an integral part of this Decision, with the approval of the ministry responsible for regional planning in Republika Srpska and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority of Republika Srpska;
  • all original fragments of the destroyed building that have been found and brought together on the site or in some other place to which they were taken after the building was destroyed, shall be registered, photographed, and reintegrated into the building. Until such time as they are so reintegrated they shall be properly protected;
  • those pieces which are too badly damaged to be reintegrated shall be appropriately conservated and displayed within the edifice of the mosque;

To ensure the conditions for the mosque to be rehabilitated, the following are hereby stipulated:

  • the surface layers of soil shall be removed to uncover the original foundation walls;
  • a technical survey of the original parts of the foundations so discovered shall be conducted;
  • research works and a structural analysis of the foundations of the mosque that remain following the destruction of the building shall be conducted in order to determine their stability and load-bearing capacity during rehabilitation of the building. The method by which the building shall be rehabilitated shall be decided on the basis of the results of these analyses;
  • the plot shall be surrounded by a temporary protective fence, which shall be 2 metres high and so installed that the building site shall be physically protected to prevent unauthorized entry to the protected site.

On the adjoining plots to the plot on which the National Monument is located, the only constructed permitted is of housing units with a maximum height of 6.5 m to the base of the roof, i.e. ground and one upper floor, and maximum dimensions of 10 x 10 metres.

Newly erected buildings (built since 1992) which are detrimental to the townscape ensemble must be adapted in size and number of storeys in line with the technical conditions stipulated in the preceding paragraph.




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




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




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




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




Pursuant to Article V paragraph 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the 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.




Chairman of the Commission

Dubravko Lovrenović

No: 06.2-2-55/04-6                                                                         

4 May 2004




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, 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 17 March 2003 the Commission received a petition from Mr. Izet Berkovac, the secretary of the Board for the reconstruction of the Selimija mosque in Knežina.

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
  • Details of legal protection of the property to date
  • 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.
  • 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 village of Knežina is located 12 km west of Sokolac, in the Rogatica Kladanj road.  The Selimija mosque is in the centre of the village of Knežina, on a plot designated as c.p. 1/41, title deed no. 785, land registry entry no. 350, c.m. Knežina 1, Municipality Sokolac, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

            There was no harem or any other edifice associated with the mosque.

Historical information

          In and around the village of Knežina are many hillforts, and it is assumed that the area had been inhabited from the time of the Illyrians. The existence of a large number of burial grounds with tombstones indicates that Knežina and its environs were densely populated in the Middle Ages. (Mujezinović, 1988, p. 106).

          During the Ottoman period in Bosnia and Herzegovina there were settlements which evolved into typical urban settlements, only later to be de-urbanized and lose the attributes of a town. One settlement with such a past is Knežina, now a village on the river Bioštica in Municipality Sokolac, on the road joining the village to Sokolac (12 km) and Olovo (26 km) (Bejtić, 1978 pp. 43-77). During the 15th and 16th centuries Knežina was in the Pavla vilayet, in the Olovo nahija. At the end of the 16th century substantial changes in the administrative organization of this area took place. A new kadiluk, Birač (Vlasenica), was established, of which the kasaba of Knežina and its environs formed part. H. Kreševljaković and H. Kapidžić were the first to claim that the seat of the Birač kadiluk was at first in Knežina, and this claim was taken up by H. Šabanović as well. (Šabanović, pp.135 and 201). As Ottoman authority was consolidated in eastern Bosnia by 1462, sometime after 1516 Knežina evolved into a kasaba. This status did not result from an increase in population, but primarily from the specific internal composition of the settlement and pursuant to a formal and legal enactment proclaimed by the sultan. Such principles were applied in the process of formation of any kasaba in the Ottoman Empire, and thus also applied in the case of Knežina. To gain the status of a kasaba, Knežina would have had to ensure that the spiritual and religious needs of the Muslim population as a community were met, as well as providing primary education for the Muslim youth, in addition to organizing craftsmanship and the exchange of economic goods with the countryside and providing accommodation for business travellers who came to the settlement. The buildings needed for these purposes were principally a mosque and a čaršija of craftsmen and artisans (regardless of its size), then a mekteb, a livestock and agricultural produce market, as well as a han (hostel) or caravansarai. All these are typical components of any urban agglomeration of Oriental-Islamic type. Only if a settlement included such features could an imperial hukum (approval) be requested and approved, signifying that the settlement could be referred to as a kasaba and that the inhabitants of these kasabas could enjoy certain tax privileges associated with the status of kasaba.

The process of construction of these public buildings and spaces must have been complete by 1563 at the latest, since this is the date of the earliest surviving document in which Knežina is designated as a kasaba. The čaršija in Knežina could have come into existence in the second half of the 16th century.

As a kasaba, Knežina also had a hamam, which as a building (a stone-built domed edifice) must also have been a valuable element of the public architecture of the place. The name Podhamam (“below the hamam”) of one plot of land in the vicinity of the Selimija mosque and the Ilidža spring suggests the existence of a hamam at that location. Hamdija Kreševljaković included Knežina in his list of places in Bosnia and Herzegovina that had a hamam.

A report to the Holy See by the Bosnian Bishop Mavarić in 1655 provides some information on Knežina. It was a place with roughly 300 houses and four mosques. Taking into account the date of this report, Mavarić’s information provides an important indication that Knežina was at the peak of development at that time. This illustration of the level of development of Knežina indicates that it was an open urban settlement (kasaba) with about 300 houses and 1500 inhabitants. It had public buildings and an urban economy. The public buildings were four mosques, one or two mektebs, a hamam and a court which was the seat of the kadija, and also a turbe and a han. The economic structure consisted of the čaršija with eleven 11 craftsmen’s workshops, along with two dunđers (general craftsmen, “jacks-of-all-trades”), a market, three tabhanas (tanneries), stamping-mills, 11 water mills (four of them on the river Bioštica), and at least four vakufs. The residential part of the town consisted of a number of urban residential quarters or mahalas (Bejtić, 1978, pp. 43-77).

Knežina survived in this form for a few more decades, and then a drastic turn of events took place which reduced the kasaba to the level of a mere village. Some sources say that this took place between 1692/93 and 1711. However, the information provided in the work of H. Krevljaković and H. Kapidžić entitled Sudsko-administrativna podjela Bosne i Hercegovine početkom 19. stoljeća (The judicial and administrative division of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the beginning of the 19th century), is that Knežina was razed by a fire in about 1765, and that this conflagration marked the end of Knežina as a kasaba. According to other sources, accounts by the local people, Knežina was destroyed as a kasaba because it “gorjela i bila kugom morena” (was burnt and tormented by the plague).

The events that took place in the 1783-1699 war between Vienna and the Turks, when according to the little information available pillage and fires wrought havoc upon almost all urban settlements in Bosnia and Hercegovina, also laid Knežina waste. There is a third version of the destruction of Knežina, that it was torched to the ground by hajduks (brigands) from Montenegro, with their leader harambaša Vuk Crnogorac (Bejtić, 1978). After these events, living conditions in Knežina were extremely difficult, and still further exacerbated by an outbreak of the plague in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1689 which lasted until 1691, and also affected the Knežina area. To make the tragedy even worse, a severe drought occurred at this time, which caused unprecedented famine. (Travelogue of fra Nikola Lašvanin).

From the beginning of the 18th century Knežina had the features of a village, which it still remained at the end of the Ottoman rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The official population census of 1885 shows that at the time of Austro-Hungarian rule Knežina still had the status of a village with a total of 45 houses and 199 inhabitants.

Not a single edifice of public architecture of the former Knežina as a kasaba has survived to this day.

The Selimija mosque, the most monumental building in Knežina, survived the longest, but it too was destroyed in the summer of 1992.


2. Description of the property

           The Selimija mosque was built either during the reign of Selim II (1566-1574) or, much more likely, the reign of Selim I (1512-1520). The inscription over the entrance to the mosque, written in ordinary red ink, has survived. The inscription reads that the mosque was erected by Gazi Selim-han in the year 955 AH (1548). In 1322 AH (1906) the mosque was renovated with contributions from the ehlija (Ar. ahl, the people) and the vakuf The year given on the inscription, 1548, does not fall within the reign of either Selim I (1512-1520) or  Selim II (1566-1547). The conclusion suggested by M. Mujezinović is that the year on the inscription was an arbitrary choice. This mosque is among the more important domed mosques of Ottoman architecture in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

When studying 16th century monumental Islamic art in the former Yugoslavia, Andrej Andrejević established that the type of single-space domed mosque dating back to Turkoman period (12th-14th century), can be regarded as the standard and normal choice for single-space domed mosques in Yugoslavia, in the light of the number of buildings of this type. All these buildings have as their primary characteristic an absolute clarity and strict regularity of architectural solution, as well as symmetrical proportional relations between the individual elements. The exterior contour highlights this geometrical clarity through the contrast between the massive cube of the prayer space, the hemispherical dome, and the lance-shaped minaret. According to Andrejević, the mosques in Bosnia and Herzegovina  representative of this type are the Aladža mosque in Foča, as the most interesting and typical example, the Karađoz-beg mosque in Mostar, the Ali-pasha and the Ferhadija mosques in Sarajevo, the Hadži Alija or Šišman Ibrahim-pasha mosque in Počitelj, the Sinan-beg mosque in Čajniče and the Kalaun Jusuf-pasha (Kuršumlija) mosque in Maglaj, as well as the mosque of Sultan Selim II in Knežina near Sokolac (A. Andrejević, p. 48).

Architecturally, the Selimija mosque in Knežina near Sokolac belongs to the same type of single-space domed mosque with an enclosed entrance portico and a stone minaret. The portico of the mosque was of wooden construction with a pent roof, which is uncommon for this type of mosque.

The interior enclosed space had a square ground plan measuring approximately 8.25 x 8.25 metres, while the exterior dimensions without the portico were 10.30 x 10.30 m. The dimensions of the covered portico were 3.96 m in width and 10.39 m in length. The mosque had solid stone walls roughly 105-111 cm thick, made of finely dressed stone with lime mortar as binder. The walls were plastered and whitewashed inside and out.

The central area was vaulted by a dome with the crown at a height of 16 m from the floor of the mosque. This large dome, 8.20 m in diameter, rests on an octagonal drum. The transition from the square base of the central part into the octagonal drum was achieved by squinches (trompes) at the angles of the walls.

            Alija Bejtić writes that the dome was initially clad with lead, and the local people say that “the dome of the mosque was covered with lead and this lead was stripped off and melted down into lead bullets for war purposes on the order of some pasha”. Bejtić’s view is that this must have been done by one of the pashas for war purposes either during the campaign against Vienna in 1683 or later. According to the same source, the dome of the mosque stood bare for approximately seventy years, when the wooden structure and shingles were laid by one Šahinpašić at his own expense

At the time when the dome was clad with shingles it had a completely different, domed form.

Restoration works on the Selimija mosque were carried out by the Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1969 to 1971, when the dome was clad with sheet lead..

On the entrance side, extending over the entire length of the outer wall of the mosque, there was an enclosed portico with sofas and a pent roof. On either side of the mosque door were wooden sofas with a height of 0.40 m. The size of the sofa to the left of the entrance is 3.96 x 3.62 m, and of the sofa to the right of the entrance 3.94 x 3.65 m. The wooden structure of the portico consisted of four wooden pillars on each side and with ten pillars to the front. These pillars supported the wooden roof structure of the pent roof clad with shingles. The south-east side of the portico had six wooden pillars, three on each side of the portal, and the door was 1.14 m wide. The portico had windows on all three sides. The outside of the zone of transition from the cube into the drum was clad with shingles, and there were four small shingled roofs at the corners.

             The minaret stood by the right-hand exterior wall of the mosque and formed a well-proportioned composition with the building itself. It merits attention for its construction, architectural form, and treatment of the stone. The height of the stone minaret up to the šerefa was 20 m, making it one of the taller minarets in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The minaret was made of cut stone, which was left unplastered. The base of the minaret is a square approximately 2.05 m which subsequently merges into a polygon. The minaret was entered from the right-hand corner of the prayer space, and narrow semi-circular stairs were used to climb to the top. The carved stone decoration below the šerefa was in the form of stalactites, giving the entire edifice a distinctive artistic expression. The workmanship of the stone decoration was so finely detailed that it gave the impression of exquisite stone lace. Above the šerefa was a section of the minaret made of wood with a pyramidal roof bearing a general resemblance to old wooden minarets. The gallery was slightly wider than the minaret and above it, very close the the top and immediately below the roof, are semi-circular openings of medium size.

           The windows on the façade of the mosque are set in four horizontal rows.

           The interior of the mosque was lit by 26 windows - five on the mihrab façade and five on each side façade, three on the entrance façade, and one on each side of the octagonal drum.

In the first horizontal row, each side of the façade has two rectangular 87 cm wide windows. All the windows had wrought iron bars decorated with iron pommels at the intersections of the bars. On the outside, as well as on the inside, were pointed arches above the line of the first row of windows. In the interior, the relieving arch, which was set back from the wall surface, was set in the rectangular area above the windows.

The windows of the second horizontal row were set in the same vertical axis as the windows of the first row, and terminate in a round arch (note that there were no windows in the second row of the entrance, north-west, façade).

            The windows of the third row were located in the upper zone of the mosque, one in each central axis of the wall. Like the windows of the second row, these windows also terminated in a round arch.

The windows of the fourth horizontal row were set in the axis of each side of the drum. They too were round-arched.

The door portal was 1.17 cm wide.  The particularly distinctive stone doorjambs and segmental arches were made of a combination of grey limestone and green andesite tufa. The door itself was of high-quality solid wood with a carved mosaic relief, and was of artistic value (Bejtić, 1978).

The interior of the mosque contained several elements of particular artistic value in addition to their structural role. The conventional system of the structural transition of the walls from the square from into an octagonal was achieved by means of squinches. The stone stalactite decorations were especially prominent at the point of origin of the squinches.

All the interior walls of the mosque were plastered and whitewashed without decorations on the walls.

The mahfil, measuring 8.25 x 2.70 m, was located above the entrance area of the mosque. The wooden structure of the mahfil rested on four pillars set against the side walls of the building (two on each side), and four pillars in the central section of the mahfil. The entrance to the mahfil was through a wooden staircase to the right of the entrance.

The mihrab area, 2.14 m in width and approximately 4.00 m in height, projected outwards from the wall surface by 35 cm. The mihrab niche was vaulted and decorated with stalactite decoration in the upper part. 

The wooden curs stood out in the quality of material and the workmanship of the railing. The railing was of carved wood, with one side consisting of interlinked circles and the other of a system of six-pointed stars, with the entire arrangement pierced to resemble a spider’s net.


3. Legal status to date

            The Regional Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina to 2002 lists the Selimija mosque in Knežina as a category II monument.

            Pursuant to the law, and by Ruling of the National Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments and Natural Sites of the PR of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, no. 1308/50 of 1950, the Selimija mosque in Knežina near Sokolac was placed under state protection.

            Pursuant to the law, and by Ruling of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of PR BiH in Sarajevo, no: 02-883-3 of 1962, the Selimija mosque in Knežina near Sokolac was entered in the Register of real property monuments under no. 201/51.


4. Research and conservation and restoration works

Alija Bejtić writes that the dome was initially clad with lead, and the accounts of the locals are that “the dome of the mosque was clad with lead and this lead was stripped off and melted down into lead bullets for war purposes to the order of some pasha”. Bejtić’s view is that this must have been done by some pasha for war purposes either during the campaign against Vienna in 1683 or in later years. According to the same source, the dome of the mosque stood bare for approximately seventy years, when the wooden structure and shingles were installed by one Šahinpašić at his own expense (Bejtić, 1978, pp. 43-77).

According to the inscription in Arabic script, written directly on the plaster of the wall above the mosque portal, in 1322 AH, i.e.1906, substantial renovation works were performed on the mosque financed by contributions from the people and with financial assistance from the vakuf itself (Bejtić, 1978, pp. 43-77).

Restoration works were also performed by the Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1969 to 1971. On this occasion, the drum was reinforced by a reinforced concrete ring beam, and the shingle cladding on the dome was replaced by sheet lead. The wooden window casements were also replaced and a wire grid was mounted over the drum windows. There were also plans to perform restoration works on the upper part of the minaret, but these were not carried out (Bejtić, 1978, pp. 43-77).


5. Current condition of the building

The Selimija mosque in Knežina near Sokolac was completely destroyed in the summer of 1992. All the rubble was removed from the location and taken to an unknown site.

During an on-site inspection in April 2004, it was established that the site of the mosque has been fenced off and that the old foundations have been excavated, so that the structural engineers who are working on the development of the project documentation could determine the conditions of the foundations.

The drafting of the project documentation by the Institute for the Protection of Monuments of the Federation Ministry of Culture and Sport is currently under way. 




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 (documentary, scientific, educational value)

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

            D.v. Evidence of a typical lifestyle in a particular time period

E. Symbolic value

E.ii. Sacral value

E.iii. Traditional value,

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


The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

-     copy of the cadastral plan,

-     proof of title,

-     photo documentation,

-     graphic supplements.



During the procedure to designate the site and the remains of the architectural ensemble of the Selimija mosque in Knežina near Sokolac as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the following works were consulted:


1978.  Bejtić, Alija, Knežina i Knežinska nahija u historiji i likovnom stvaralaštvu (Knežina and nahija of Knežina in the historical and fine arts opus), Oriental Institute in Sarajevo, Contributions to oriental philology, XXVI/1976, Sarajevo 1978


1980.  Institute for architecture, urban planning, and physical planning of the Architectural Faculty in Sarajevo, the Regional Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina; Phase “B” – valorization of natural and cultural and historical values, Sarajevo, 1980


1984. Andrejević, Andrej, Islamska monumantalna umetnost XVI veka u Jugoslaviji – kupolne džamije (16th century Islamic monumental art in Yugoslavia – domed mosques), ed. Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, Institute for History and Art, Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, The Balkanological Institut, Belgrade, 1984


1996  Çelebi, Evliya, Putopis (Travelogue), Sarajevo Publishing, 1996


1998  Mujezinović, Mehmed, Islamska epigrafika Bosne i Hercegovine (Islamic Epigraphics of Bosnia and Herzegovina) vol 2, ed. 3, Cultural Heritage Series, Sarajevo Publishing, Sarajevo, 1998


Documentation of the Instiutute for Protection of Cultural Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina


2000  Ayverdi Dr. Ekrem Hakki, Avrupa'da Osmanli Mimari Eserlera Yugoslavya II, 3. Kitap, Istanbul, 2000


2003  Collected papers from a seminar on Zemlja Pavlovića, srednji vijek i period turske vladavine (Pavlović land, mediaeval and Turkish periods)

Selimija mosque in Knežina, photo from 1963Site of the Selimija mosque in KnežinaRemains of the Selimija mosque - Foundation wallsFoundation wall
Fragments of the Selimija mosque   

BiH jezici 
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