Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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St John’s Cemetery, 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 6 to 10 July 2004 the Commission adopted a






The archaeological site of St John’s Cemetery in Livno is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

The National Monument consists of a historic site with the remains of a late antique church and vaulted tomb, part of a mediaeval Franciscan monastery dedicated to St John, mediaeval and more recent graves, and the archaeological material housed in the Gorica Franciscan museum and gallery in Livno.

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 1196/2, 1196/3, and 1197/1 (new survey), corresponding to c.p. 12/72 (old survey), Land Registry entry no. 496, cadastral municipality Kablići, Municipality Livno, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The provisions relating to protection 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, 27/02 and 6/04) shall apply to the National Monument.




The Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the Government of the Federation) shall be responsible for ensuring and providing the legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary to protect, conserve and display the National Monument.

The Government of the Federation shall be responsible for providing the resources needed to draw up and implement the necessary technical documentation for the rehabilitation of 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.




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

Protection Zone I consists of the area defined in Clause 1 para. 3 of this Decision.  The following protection measures shall apply in this zone:

  • all works on are prohibited other than research and conservation and restoration works, including those designed to display the monument, with the approval of the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning (hereinafter: the relevant ministry) and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the heritage protection authority),
  • the dumping of waste is prohibited.

Protection Zone II consists of a protective zone extending from the borders of Zone  I as follows:

  • to the north-west, to a width of 50 m;
  • to the south-east, to the footpath by the  Bistrica;
  • to the south-west, to the road running parallel with this side of the site;
  • to the north-east, to the fence forming the boundary with the hospital grounds.

In this zone the following protection measures shall apply:

  • all construction and works that could have the effect of altering the site or the ambient are prohibited;
  • infrastructure works are prohibited unless with the approval and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority,
  • the dumping of waste is prohibited.



The removal of the archaeological material referred to in Clause 1 para. 2 of this Decision (hereinafter: the movable heritage) from Bosnia and Herzegovina is prohibited.

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

Permission for the temporary removal of the movable heritage from Bosnia and Herzegovina under the conditions stipulated in the preceding paragraph shall be issued by the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, if it is determined beyond doubt that it will not jeopardize the items in any way. 

In granting permission for the temporary removal of the movable heritage from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Commission shall stipulate all the conditions under which the removal may take place, the date by which the items shall be returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the responsibility of individual authorities and institutions for ensuring that these conditions are met, and shall notify the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the relevant security service, the customs authority of  Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the general public accordingly.




            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 Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Canton, 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 Federation, the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning, the Federal ministry responsible for culture, the heritage 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 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.



6 July 2004


Chair of the Commission 

Dubravko Lovrenović


E l u c i d a t i o n




Pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a “National Monument” is an item of public property proclaimed by the Commission to Preserve National Monuments to be a National Monument pursuant to Articles V and VI of Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina  and property entered on the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of  BiH no. 33/02) until the Commission reaches a final decision on its status, as to which there is no time limit and regardless of whether a petition for the property in question has been submitted or not.

On 14 January 2003 the director of the Franciscan museum and gallery in Livno, Josip Gelo, submitted a proposal/petition to designate the archaeological site of St John’s Cemetery in Livno as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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)
  • 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 site of St John's cemetery is on level ground by the right bank of the Bistrica river, in the centre of Livno.  A fence separates it from the hospital grounds to the north of the site.

            There is a tradition that there was once a monastery dedicated to St John the Baptist on this site, and that it was burned down during the Ottoman period.  On 24 June, St John the Baptist's day, the faithful of all three faiths used to gather on the site to make vows and to pray (Vrdoljak, 1994, 115).  It is difficult now to verify the truth of this tradition from reliable sources (Glavaš, 1994, 105).

Historical information

According to historical sources dating from the late 9th century to 1326, the župa (county) of Livno was in the hands of Croatian rulers, the last of which, until 1326, were the Šubić’s. Livno župa became part of the Bosnian banate in 1326, during the reign of Ban Stjepan II Kotromanić. It remained in the hands of the rulers of Bosnia until 1463. The ecclesiastical affiliation of the župa is also closely linked with geopolitics.  For centuries it formed part of the Split Archbishopric, until 1736 when the Livno župa became temporarily – to 1757 – and then permanently part of the apostolic vicariate in Bosnia (Vrdoljak, 1994, 115-116 with details and other references).

The earliest accounts of the Franciscan presence in Bosnia date from 1248 and 1291, when they came to search out heresy or heterodoxy.  In 1327, Pope John XXII issued a decision appointing the Franciscans as the main missionaries and heresy-seekers in Bosnia.  With the founding of the Bosnian vicariate, in 1340, Franciscan monasteries began to be erected.  Nine were built in the Bosnian banate between 1340 and 1375; one of those to which there is reference is the monastery in Livno.

There are only a few references in historical sources to the Franciscan monastery of St John the Baptist of Bistrica in Livno.  The exact date when it was built is not known.  It is suggested that it was built in the early 14th century with the help of the powerful Šubić's as donors.  The arguments put forward in support of this hypothesis are that so large an edifice could only be erected with the help of powerful donors, and the Šubić's were such at that time; Mladen II is referred to as župan or count of Livno in 1304; the Šubić's regarded St John the Baptist as their patron saint (Glavaš, 1994., 109-110; Vrdoljak, 1994, 120-121).  

The earliest source to mention the Bistrica monastery is the will of Andrije Pervošije, a native of Split, dating from 7 January 1367, bequeathing money to monasteries in Bosnia including those in Bistrica and Livno.  The assumption is, given that the dual name Livno and Bistrica appears several time in historical sources, that the will related to a single monastery, that of St John in Livno (Vrdoljak, 1994., 118).

The earliest census of Franciscan monasteries in the Bosnian vicariate, De conformitate vitae B. Francisci  by Bartolomeo of Pisa, dating from 1375, refers to the monastery in Livno (Jelinić, 1912, 37). Although the exact date when it was built is not known, it was thus certainly already in existence in the second half of the fourteenth century.

The Dubrovnik squire Mihajlo Andrije Sorkočević drew up his will on 23 June 1421 while in the Franciscan monastery in Livno.  A month later, on 23 July 1421, a trader from Dubrovnik who had begun to draft his will in Visoko continued working on it in Clievne (Kojić-Kovačević, 1978, 127, n. 7).

The earliest reference to the name of the monastery, ordinis Minorum, S. Johannis de Bistrica, is to be found in the registers of Pope Nicholas V dating from 1448 (Vrdoljak, 1994, 118).

The Dubrovnik trader Radić Mišetić, who died in Fojnica, left some gifts in his will alo poveri zoe lebrozi in Clivno.  The will is dated 19 June 1449 (Kovačević-Kojić, 1978, 127, n.7).

On 11 June 1469 Pope Paul II issued a Papal Bull entitled “Sacrae religionis” which states that the Bistrica monastery in Livno has been renovated and is one of the monasteries that were safer from Ottoman attack in the Bosnian vicariate (Vrdoljak, 1994, 118).

There is no reference to the monastery in the 1514 census of monasteries of the Bosnian Province or that of 1539 when Pope Paul III promised to return some monasteries to Bosnia.

St John’s church in Zastinje, now part of Livno, is listed in the 1604 defter of the Klis sandžak.  It is not certain whether this relates to the site of St John’s cemetery and the archaeological remains that have been discovered, or to a church in Zastinje.  The cadastral records show that Zastinje extends as far as the river Bistrica, and the assumption is thus that the reference is to the site to which the local tradition relates (Glavaš, 1994, 105-106; Vrdoljak, 1994, 119, n. 42, 124).

According to this tradition, which is corroborated by archaeological excavations, the monastery was burned down, but the tradition does not match the archaeological finds from the site.  The local tradition is that the monastery was burned down 300 years ago, i.e. during the 17th century, which would agree only with the 1604 defter reference if this is indeed to this site (Vrdoljak, 1994, 124).  On the other hand, in the preliminary report on the archaeological excavations, the movable items from the site date from the 14th and 15th centuries, from which the author concludes that the monastery was burned down no later than the 1480s during the Ottoman conquest of Livno (Glavaš, 1994, 110).

Following this a cemetery was established on the plot, which remained in use until the beginning of the 20th century, while during World War II people who died in the hospital and who had no one to take care of their mortal remains were also buried here.  In 1885 a chapel was built on the eastern part of the plot, paid for by Jakov Jazva of Livno.  The chapel is dedicated to St John the Baptist and was still in use in 1991.  It was demolished during archaeological works in 1994-1995, because it was at the centre of the site, overlying the remains of the mediaeval monastery (Glavaš, 1991, 105; Vrdoljak, 1994, 122).


2. Description of the property

            From antique times through late antiquity to the beginning of the 20th century the site was of a funerary religious nature, and has remained so to this day, except that it has been turned into an archaeological park.  There has been much rebuilding on the site, as a result of which the older remains have been damaged and at times it is difficult to identify them.  The later cemetery has also covered almost the entire site.  Before the banks of the river Bistrica were regulated, when in spate the river swept away the ruins from the northern and eastern parts of the site.

            The results of the archaeological excavations have not been published, so that it is not possible to give full descriptions and to identify all the structural, conserved and partly reconstructed parts of the buildings that have been studied.

            The oldest remains to be found belonged to parts of buildings from the antique era, which stood on the eastern edge of the site by the bank of the river Bistrica (11).  The faint remains of a late antique basilica (10) lie by the west wall of the antique-era building.  To the west of the remains of the basilica are two late antique vaulted tombs (8), which were covered by the remains of the mediaeval monastery building.

            The late antique vaulted tombs were constructed of limestone.  The walls were of irregular or barely dressed blocks, and the gabled roof was clad with slabs.  The tombs measured (tomb 1) 2.5 x 2.3 m, and (tomb 2) 3 x 2.6 m; both lie east-west.  The entrance to the tombs is to the east, and the deceased were laid with their heads to the west, facing east.  Particular attention was paid to the entrances to the tombs, which were framed with monolithic jambs and lintels.  Antique spoil was used for this purpose in the case of tomb 2.  Stone slabs were used to close off the entrances.

            According to published data, the archaeologists identified the cloister (3), refectory (6) and bell tower (9) in the remains of the monastery.  The monastery cloister, measuring 21.5 x 12 m, lay east-west (with a slight shift according to the natural lie of the land).  There were small square cells, 2.3 x 2.3, abutting onto the south wall of the cloister.  The cloister passageway, which was about 1 m wide, was by the north wall of the cells.  The remains of what were probably cells are also discernible by the east wall of the cloister.  The other area, in the north-western part of the cloister, measuring 14.5 x 6 m, was destroyed by later burials.  A few graves, contemporary with the building, remained by the north wall.  The cloister had two entrances, of which the main entrance, about 1 m wide, was in the east wall.  The second, with a width of 0.8 m, was by the south-east corner of the cloister in the south wall, and linked the refectory with the cloister.  Both, to judge from the surviving remains, had carefully worked stone jambs and thresholds.  The cloister was paved with stone slabs of varying sizes, and in part had a hard-packed clay floor.  There were tombstones among the stone slabs, contemporary with the building.  Part of one tombstone was found with the epitaph, in bosančica script, showing no wearing, meaning that it had not been exposed to weathering, but had from the very start been under cover (Glavaš, 1994,107). 

            The refectory, which ran from the south wall of the cloister, had an extension about 3 m long and 4.5 m wide at the north-eastern corner.  The main area was to the west of this extension and measured 10 x 12 m.  Here a stone furnace was found, made of the same brown stone as the bell tower.  The furnace was rectangular in plan, and measured about 3 x 2 m, with walls about 0.6 to 0.7 m thick.  The opening through which it was stoked was to the east, and there was a hole in the upper surface, probably to let the smoke out.  There was a stone platform in front of the stove, with a surrounding wall to the sides.

The bell tower was rectangular in plan and measured 3 x 2.5 m, with walls about 0.5 m thick.  The entrance was in the west wall.  To judge from the surviving remains, it was built of brown porous stone (tufa?) cut into blocks.  Limestone slabs were laid between the horizontal courses, probably as a decorative feature.

Outside the west wall, a number of mediaeval graves remained in situ, and by the south wall of the refectory four later graves remained with tombstones set upright at the head end.

The extremely numerous archaeological finds date from various periods, from the prehistoric to the late mediaeval period.  The prehistoric movable items are attributed to the Bronze and Iron ages.  The antique material consists of pieces of stone tombstones, coins and many shards of pottery vessels and amphorae.  Capitals from the altar partition belonging to the late antique basilica were also found.

Items dating from the late mediaeval period included stone mouldings, coins and the seal of Bishop Guido of Modena, dating from the first half of the 14th century, tombstones, and a plaque with a Glagolithic inscription dating from 1386.  The abundant pottery finds consisted of local and imported glazed pottery and pieces of a furnace.  Numerous glass shards of Venetian and German manufacture were also found.  Metal items included numerous nails, a door latch, door hinges, and parts of door fittings, horse shoes, a knife, a razor and a hammer, all made of iron.  Other metal finds of particular interest were a copper wire buckle, a bronze needle, and sheet silver.  In one of the cells, lying at the bottom of the cultural stratum by a double gilded silver buckle, the seal of Bishop Vida of Modena, ascribed to Guido de Guisio (1318-1334) was found.  He is assumed to have been the Papal legate referred to in historical sources without specifying his name, who visited the Bosnian court in about 1330 to express his gratitude to Ban Stjepan II Kotromanić for his sympathy for the Franciscans.  Travelling through Livno, he lost his seal in some manner that has yet to be explained (Glavaš, 1994, 108-110; Vrdoljak, 1994, 120). 

All these finds are kept in the Franciscan museum and gallery in Gorica (Livno).  They have not been published and are thus not wholly accessible to the public.


3. Legal status to date

No legal protection effected, since the site was excavated and conserved between 1991 and 1995.


4. Research and conservation and restoration works 

            In 1974, when the hospital was built, Fr. Bono M. Vrdoljak sunk two small trial shafts by the south-east and north-west corners of the chapel/

            In 1991 the site was partly excavated under the direction of Tihomir Glavaš, senior custodian of the National Museum in Sarajevo, and Fr. Bono Vrdoljak from the Gorica monastery in Livno, with the supervision of experts from the Republic Institute for the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage from Sarajevo.

            In 1993 there was a second round of excavations, and in 1994-1995 the final excavation works were completed.

           In 1995-1996, conservation works were carried out under the supervision of Mato Zekan, an archaeologist from the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Antiquities in Split, partly financed by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, through the involvement of the conservation department of the State Authority for the Cultural and Natural Heritage in Split, in the shape of expert assistance from conservator Ivo Vojnović.

            The movable archaeological material is in the Gorica Museum and Gallery in Livno.


5. Current condition of the property

An inspection of the site conducted on 19 May 2004 ascertained as follows:

            Apart from the tall grass covering some of the tombstones, it has remained in good condition.  A low concrete wall has been erected by the right bank of the Bistrica to protect the site from further flooding and erosion, and the site is separated from the hospital grounds by a sturdy wire fence.




           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

C.  Artistic and aesthetic value

C.iv. composition

C.v. value of details

D. Clarity

D.i. material evidence of a lesser known historical era

D.ii. evidence of historical change

D.iii. work of a major artist or builder

E. Symbolic value

E.i. ontological value

E.ii. religious value

E.iii. traditional value

E.iv. relation to rituals or ceremonies

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

F. Townscape/ Landscape value

F.ii. meaning in the townscape

G. Authenticity

G.v. location and setting

G.vi. spirit and feeling


            The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

o        Copy of cadastral plan

o        Copy of land register entry;

o        Photodocumentation;

o        Drawings



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


1912.  Jelinić, fra Julijan, Kultura i bosanski franjevci (Culture and the Bosnian Franciscans) I. Sarajevo, 1912.


1978.  Kovačević-Kojić, Desanka, Gradska naselja srednjovjekovne bosanske države (Urban settlements of the mediaeval Bosnian state), 1978


1994. Glavaš, Tihomir, Otkrivanje sv. Ive (dosadašnji rezultati istraživanja prvog franjevačkog samostana u Livnu) (The discovery of St John [results to date of the investigation of the first Franciscan monastery in Livno]) in :Livanjski kraj u povijesti (The Livno region in the past) Split-Livno 1994, 105-113.


1994.  Vrdoljak, M. Bono, Franjevački samostan sv. Ive u Livnu tijekom 14. i 15. stoljeća. (St John's Franciscan monastery in Livno during the 14th and 15th centuries) in: Livanjski kraj u povijesti (The Livno region in the past) Split-Livno 1994,115-125.


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