Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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60th session - Decisions

Handanija mosque (Handan-bey, Hajdar Ćehaja's or Čaršija mosque) in Prusac, the architectural ensemble

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Status of monument -> National monument

Pursuant to Article V para. 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Article 39 para. 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, at a session held from 15 to 21 March 2005 the Commission adopted a






The architectural ensemble of the Handanija mosque (Handan-Bey, Hajdar Ćehaja or Čaršija Mosque) in Prusac is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

The architectural entity consists of the mosque and burial ground within the harem walls, and the harem wall with entrance gate and fountain.

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 680 (new survey), Land Register entry no. 328/07, Cadastral Municipality Prusac I, Municipality Donji Vakuf, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 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, 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 making good the burial ground of the mosque and for conducting a study of and restoring the painted decoration in the interior 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 protection measures are hereby stipulated, which shall apply to the area defined in Clause 1 para. 3 of this Decision.

  • all works are prohibited other than routine maintenance works, conservation and restoration works, and works designed to display the monument, with the approval of the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the heritage protection authority),
  • during restoration and conservation works on the building, its original appearance must be retained, using original materials, original methods of treating building materials and original building methods,
  • the burial ground of the mosque shall be made good and damaged nišan tombstones shall be repaired,
  • the painted decoration in the interior of the mosque shall be recorded, restored and conserved.


            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 thereof.




            The Government of the Federation, the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning, the Federation 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.




On the date of adoption of this Decision, the National Monument shall be deleted from the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of BiH no. 33/02, Official Gazette of Republika Srpska no. 79/02, Official Gazette of the Federation of BiH no. 59/02, and Official Gazette of Brčko District BiH no. 4/03), where it featured under serial no. 202.




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. 09-2-17/05-6

15 March 2005                                                  


Chair of the Commission

Amra Hadžimuhamedović


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 to Preserve National Monuments issued a decision to add the Remains of the Handanija Mosque in Prusac – Donji Vakuf to the Provisional List of National Monuments of BiH, under serial no. 202.

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. Information on the property


The architectural ensemble of the Handanija mosque in Prusac is located in the centre of the town, in Market square. The plot on which the mosque stands is defined by a street to the northeast, a side street (sokak) to the northwest and private properties on the other two sides.

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 680, title deed no. 328/07, property of the Islamic Religious Community of Donji Vakuf, in sole ownership, c.m. Prusac I, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

            Access to the harem of the Handanija mosque is from the northeast.

            The main axis of the mosque lies northwest/southeast.  The entrance is to the northwest, and the mihrab wall to the southeast. The graves within the mosque harem lie lengthwise northeast/southwest (headstone to footstone). 

Historical information

Two tarihs (inscriptions) have survived concerning the founder of the Handanija mosque and the time it was erected – one built in above the door of the courtyard wall and the other above the main entrance to the mosque. According to Mehmed Mujezinović, both inscriptions refer to the same person as the founder of the mosque, and the year it was built was also the same on both inscriptions. These inscriptions reveal that the builder of the mosque was Handan Agha and that it was built in 1617 (1026 AH).

            In his travelogue, Evliya Çelebi ascribes this mosque (with stone minaret) to Hajdar Ćehaja.  The error concerning the builder of the mosque has been officially rectified by the Islamic Community. (1)

The inscription in Turkish above the portal of the courtyard wall is incised on a stone plaque measuring 72x32 cm. According to Mujezinović, the script used was handsome jali naskh.

            The inscription reads as follows: “In the name of Allah, Handan built this mosque,// Whoever sees or hear about it has a duty to pray.//The second noble Harem is finely executed, // So if such a beautiful building can be found anywhere else in the country// Let God the Supreme lavishly reward [the benefactor],// Since he followed Jahja-Pasha, in the manner of construction.// When it was finished Kemal praised it, //composing this chronogram. May this house of God be a pleasant [place].// 1026.”

Jahja-Pasha, who was mentioned in the inscription, was probably the Bosnian Sandžak-bey who held the post from 1482-1484 and 1494-1496. According to Mujezinović, the mahala of Jahja-Pasha’s mosque was mentioned in Prusac town in 1492/92 (898 AH). It is possible that Handan-Aga built his mosque on the foundations or ruins of Jahja-Pasha’s mosque, which could have been damaged by war or earthquake.(2) A basis for this theory can be found in the way the mosque was built. The entrance wall of the mosque is the only one which is entirely of regular blocks of tufa which were laid differently in relation from the courses of the stone blocks on the other walls. Then again, the absence of tiebeams in the walls above the mahfil level, which were the main structural element of the system of building at that time, suggests that the walls could have been rebuilt at some time. In the light of the decoration on the capitals,(3) as well as the fact that the pillars are not all of the same height, means that the pillars of the entrance porch, made of a single piece of stone, could have been taken from another, older building.

In his book, Ayverdi also states that the reference to Jahja-Pasha in the inscription definitely pertains to Jahja-Pasha’s mosque, but he also says that it is not possible to define which mosque that was, what it looked like and when it was built.

It is possible that Handan-Aga was familiar with Jahja-Pasha’s mosque in Skoplje, which was built in 1503/1504, and which also had a concealed wooden dome. Husein Ćepalo provides a basis for this, noting that there is no clear information on the founder of the mosque, besides certain facts about a man with the same name who left some of his legacy in Niš,(4) which could then shed light on construction of the mosque on the model of Jahja-Pasha’s mosque in Skoplje, because it suggests that the founder spent his life in different parts of the Ottoman Empire, leaving a legacy in the places he resided in and building under the influence of what he had seen. 

The inscription above the mosque entrance is incised on a stone plaque, measuring 70x33 cm, in Turkish.

According to M. Mujezinović, the inscription reads as follows: “Thanks be to God, who has been merciful to us// and who has given us a jewel from the sea of generosity,//the Moon honourable among constellations, brightness of nobility and fine characteristics,// that is Handan-bey(5) , admirer of the generous,//who has become a talisman of beauty and constellation of happiness,//and is worthy of the promised happiness “The one who is to build”, // has built a light-filled mosque, like a paradise, envied by both people and the universe. As soon as he saw it, Adni pronounced the following chronostich for it: “This tall building is similar to the Garden of Eden.// 1026”.

With the line: “As soon as he saw it, Adni pronounced the following chronostich for it” the inscription above the entrance portal creates doubt about the poet’s identity. According to Ayveri, the poet Adni could only be Adni Efendi, head of the of Belgrade Mevlevi tekke, but given the fact that he died in the year 1100 AH, he would have had to live an extremely long life.

The connection between the mosque and dervishes is quite possible, since Prusac and its region were famous for their Muslim Sufi lodges (tekke) and for  Sufism.  The Halwatiyyah order, an order which was in the forefront of science and which stands for spiritual development, education and construction, is specially connected with Prusac.


2. Description of the property

The mosque

In terms of spatial organization, the Handanija mosque in Prusac belongs to single-space mosques with open porch and stone minaret. It has a hipped roof which “conceals” a wooden dome.

Built during the classical style of Ottoman architecture, the Handanija mosque is the only mosque with a wooden minaret in Prusac.

At first sight it appears to be an ordinary religious building, an elogated cuboid structure, but the following elements distinguish it from the group of smaller, more simply built single-space mosques:

  • the porch is fully closed at both sides, which extend only to ground-floor height of the building;
  • the four short, stumpy pillars of the porch, of which the base, shaft and capital are made of a single piece of stone: the base is hemispherical in shape, while so-called wrinkle decoration (Turkish frieze of triangular form) appears on the capitals. This decoration is also visible at the points where the arches abut against the walls;
  • the five arches resting on the pillars of the porch, which are pointed arches without decoration;
  • the interior wooden dome, composed of eight segments, which covers the main prayer space.

The dimensions of Handanija mosque, measured on the outside, are approximately 16,20 x 12,60 meters. The height of the building measured from the floor to the dome is 10,32 m, and the height of minaret, together with the finial (alem), is around 31,20 m.

The mosque has stone walls, 90 cm thick, plastered on the outside and painted inside. Several types of stones were used for its building (tufa, limestone, marlaceous limestone and breccia-like limestone). (6) 

Inside the mosque, regarded in terms of layout, the entrance level and level of mahfil can be distinguished. The ground-plan at entrance level is square, while at mahfil level it is rectangular, since at this level the structure extends above the porch.

The volume of the interior space is enclosed by four walls which take the load of the interior dome and hipped roof.

The porch of the mosque, which is 3,20 m high, and open only on the entrance side, has a wooden ceiling which is a continuation of the ceiling joists of the mosque structure. The wooden ceiling is made of laths held together by a wooden frame. The geometric decoration of the entire ceiling is composed of laths laid on boards to create a lattic effect.

Five pointed arches, made of tufa, rest on four stumpy pillars. They are dodecagonal in section, with a slight entasis, and are now covered with thin coat of whitewash.

The exterior sofas, measuring 3,76 x 4,42 m (left-hand sofa), and 3.76 x 4,57 m (right-hand sofa), are made of concrete(7).

Traces of painting on the porch are visible on the arches, on the capitals of the pillars, around the windows and on the wooden ceiling. The arches are divided into nine sections, painted alternately with nero-fumo (black grey), ferro rosa (rust red) and white.(8)  Rust red was also used to paint the capitals. Rust red (decorative lattices) and green (boards) was used to paint the wooden ceiling. The wooden frame of the ceiling was painted purple-black. (9)   

The diameter of the ten-sided base of the minaret, the height of which is 4,92 m, is 2,30 m. The next 1,58 m, by height, is the transition from the polygon of the base to the polygon of the shaft with a diameter of 1,96 m. The fourteen-sided minaret shaft tapers slightly.  The height of the minaret to the šerefe is around 19 m, the height to the roof is about 24,40 m, and the overall height excluding the finial (alem) is around 30,0 m.

The minaret, which is made of tufa, is clad with sheet metal. The fourteen-sided minaret is plastered and decorated with stone mouldings. The end of the base and the part below the minaret roof are decorated with a frieze of blind arcades. The points where the diameter of the minaret alters are accentuated by simple string courses. The frieze of blind arcades below the minaret roof is painted. The balustrade of the šerefe is moulded and painted green.

The windows on the façade of the  building are arranged in two horizontal zones.

The first horizontal row consists of two rectangular windows (measuring approx 135 cm widex 195 cm high) on each façade.  The windows are framed on the outside by simple stone block frames.  Only the frames around the porch windows are moulded.(10) The windows are fitted with wrought iron bars (demiri) on the outside and wooden shutters on the inside. The shutters are made of good-quality wood and executed with triple panelling and without decoration. The relieving arch,(11) which is set back from the wall face, is divided into seven sections on both the outside and the inside. These sections are painted alternately in rust red, black grey and white.(12) Inside, the relieving arch is set withn a rectangular panel above the windows. The rectangular panel is bordered with rust red. Traces of the rust red paint on the inside window surface remain on some windows.

Inside, between each window on the southeast and northwest façades, there is a wall cupboard (dolaf). The relieving arch above the dolaf, as well as the shutters are executed in the same way as those of the windows.

The windows of the second horizontal row (the rectangular section measuring approximately 65 x 120 cm, with the height to the apex of the arch approximately 150 cm), are placed in the same vertical axis as the windows of the first row, except that on both the northeast and southwest façade there is one more window in this row. The top of the second row windows is accentuated by a pointed arch.(13) This arch is accentuated by being set back from the wall face on both sides.   On the outside, the arches are divided into sections painted alternately rust red, black-grey and white.  Inside, the pointed arches are set in a rectangular panel above the window, which is edged and decorated in rust red.(14)

The casements have been replaced with new ones made of iron.  There is no information on the appearance of the older casements.(15)  

In general concept and typological features, the entrance portal belongs to the second group of portals (categories by A. Andrejević in his 16th Islamic Monumental Art in Yugoslavia).  The portal, which measures 2.45 x 3.17 m, stands out from the wall face by 29 cm.  It is surrounded by a moulded stone frame 40 cm in width.  The opening of the portal, which is 1.13 m wide, terminates in a segmental arch.  The double wooden doors, painted ochre and green (an intervention in the 1980s) are divided into three panels.

The mosque portal is painted, (16) and on Ayveri’s 1977 photographs floral decoration to the left and right of the tarih can be seen.

The tarih on the building of the mosque, incised on a stone plaque measuring 70 x 33 cm, was mounted in the central area between the arch of the opening and the rectangular frame of the portal. According to Mehmed Mujezinović, the inscription consists of ten distichs (couplets) in Turkish, in five lines, set in ten elliptical fields separated by lines. The inscription is decorated around the text with rosettes and stylized arabesques.  The tarih was written in handsome nasta’liq script. (17)

The main prayer area of the mosque forms an almost regular cube, measuring 10.60 x 10.75 m on the inside. It is covered by a wooden dome consisting of eight sections. The segments of the dome (both the ribs and the sides of the infill) curve in the shape of an arch, “breaking” twice and terminating in the flat octagonal central section, the sofraluk (ortha).  On the underside, the structure of the dome is clad with boards and laths, painted green and rust red, forming the geometrical decoration of the dome – an orthogonal lattice.  The transition from the flat ceiling to the dome is accentuated by a wooden beam painted rust red and decorated with wooden “lacework”.  The ortha, separated by a wooden beam painted rust red, is also decorated with a geometric design composed of boards and laths. An old iron lightfitting for hanging lamps on is suspended from the central area.

The way the dome structure was supported is not known – whether it was supported by the roof, or rested directly on the walls. (18) 

The hipped roof which conceals the intereior dome was formerly clad with shingles, but is now clad with tiles.

The prayer area of the mahfil has a flat ceiling. The structure of the ceiling is concealed by boards, on which a geometric decoration was formed of laths. The boards are painted green and the laths rust red.

The absence of hatulas, structural timber tiebeams, in the walls of the mosque above the mahfil level is a distinctive feature of this mosque.  For this reason, during conservation works in 1972, steel ties were installed on the outside of the building where the timber tiebeams should have been.

Another feature of the structure of the mosque is the walls, which narrow from base to top, producing the effect of walls with a batter (the thickness of the walls at the base of the mosque is 95 cm and about 75 at the top; the height of the mosque walls is 6.75 m).

All the inside wall surfaces are painted and some elements, such as the arches above the windows, are painted. Traces of decoration are visible in a number of places on the walls. On the part of the wall to the left of the mihrab, part of an inscription – an ayat from the Qur’an is visible, written with a black brush. Rectangular frames painted in red, visible in several places above the mahfil, suggest that there may also have been ayats inscribed on the upper parts of the walls. Even Ayverdi’s note suggests this: “No drawings have remained in the mosque, which was merely uniformly painted.

While investigating the presence of inscriptions on the inside walls of the mosque, the epigraphist Hazim Numanagić noted as follows: “The traces of calligraphic inscriptions on the front wall of the mosque, to the right of the mihrab, suggest that there are also inscriptions in other places in the mosque.  In the rectangular area to the right of and above the mihrab are traces of the name of God and of part of an Arabic saying often to be found in mosques: “Hurry to repent before death.”  The traces of the name of God suggest that the name of His prophet, Muhammed, was to be found to the left of the mihrab, as well as the names of the caliphs on the other walls of the mosque, while the traces of the saying suggest that the other part of the saying was to be found beside the name Muhammad.” (19)

The wooden mahfil in the interior of the mosque is U-shaped. The entrance to the mahfil, which has a total area of 58.0 m2, is through the minaret. From the structural point of view, the mahfil rests on tiebeams set in the wall on one side and on a beam into which wooden pillars were fitted, without capitals on the other. The mahfil is now supported by ten octagonal pillars. (20)  

The mahfil railing is made of small wooden uprights which were later painted.(21)  The floor is made of boards. The mahfil structure is concealed on the underside by wooden boards with geometric decoration composed of of wooden laths painted rust red and creating an orthogonal lattice over the green-painted boards. The edging boards are painted with plant designs. Judging from the paints used (black-grey, rust red and white), the way the decoration is drawn (the outlines of the decorations are drawn with a thin brush, by drawing a parallel black and white border) and type of ornament, the decoration dates from the time the mosque was built. (22)

The wooden mimber, measuring 3.56 x 0.77 m with a height of approx. 6.25 m measured to the top of the pyramidal roof, consists of three parts: the portal with steps and stone balustrade, an upper pyramidal section supported by four square uprights joined by shallow curved [ogee?] arches, and the triangular side surfaces below this part and the balustrade of the steps. The stone balustrade of the mimber is moulded, as are parts of triangular side surfaces. The sides have four small and one large niche at the base, terminating in shallow curved [ogee] arches.  The niche at the bottom of the steps is a blind niche, the other small niches were later boarded up, and the large niche in fact constitutes the passageway below the upper part of the mimber.  Traces of painted decoration can be seen on the side surfaces. In modern times the pyramidal top of the mimber has been painted light blue decorated with gold stars.

The mihrab space, 1,95 m wide and 5,27 m high, projects outwards from the wall face by 25 cm.  The moulded stone frame of the mihrab, 42 cm wide, has a crown of simple shape, terminating in a stylized fleur de lis with classical Ottoman decoration on it – a star and a crescent moon facing upwards.  The seven-sided mihrab niche, which is 1.10 m wide and 3.70 m high, is topped by painted stalactite decoration consisting of seven rows.  According to Ayverdi, “the rows of stalactites and the hollow of the niche were later further decorated using a kalam.” (23) The entire mihrab (frame and mihrab niche) is painted in green, dark green, dark red, gold, ochre and black.

Levhas in the mosque

Inside the mosque, to the left and right of the mihrab, there are three levhas, or to be exact plaques composed of coloured ceramics. On one of them, according to Mujezinović, there is a picture of the Harem in Mecca, and on the second a picture of the Harem in Medina, while the third features quotations from the Qur’an.

Courtyard wall and entrance portal

The courtyard of Handanija mosque is made of stone with a concrete coping (intervention dating from the 1970s).

Because of the slope, access to the entrance portal, located on the northeast side of the courtyard, is via 11 concrete steps. The portal is made of stone, and has a hipped roof made of concrete. The central, rectangular section, within which is an inscription, is accentuated in white. The opening of the portal opening terminates in a segmental arch. The portal has a pronounced doorstep made of stone. The double doors are of solid wood, without decoration.

Fountain by the Handanija mosque

The fountain is located by the northeast courtyard wall of the mosque. It is made of concrete and consists of a trough and the main part with a gabled roof. The fountain is plastered. (24)

There is a plaque on the fountain wall, made of flat sheet metal, inscribed with the year 1931.  It is not known whether this refers to the date the fountain was made, or when it was renovated.

Burial ground by the Handanija mosque

The cemetery extends around all four sides of the mosque, and contains about 100 nišan tombstones. According to Mujezinović, very few of the tombstones are dated. The oldest dates from 1874/75 (1291 AH), and is the nišan of one Fatima.

When visiting the burial ground, the epigraphist Hazim Numanagić dated the following nišan tombstones:

1. Tufa woman’s nišan, rectangular in cross-section 24 x 7 cm, height 124 cm, with this inscription:

هو الحي الباقي المرحومة و المغفورة لها وصفية بنت الحاج ابراهيم اثير باشا زاده غفر الله لهما تزود من الدنيا فانك راحل و بارد فان الموت لا شك نازل و دنياك ظل فاترك الحرص بعد ما علمت فان الظل لا بد زائل واقرا الفاتحة لارواح الاموات فانها ... الوصول الدرجات في سنة 1315

He is the Living, the Eternal.  Forgiven Vasfija, rest her soul, daughter of hajji Ibrahim Eserbašić [check surname], may Allah forgive them both.  Learn from this world, for you will soon depart from it, and death is drawing closer to you beyond any doubt.  This world is a shadow, so cast away greed, for you know that a shadow is inconstant, recite al Fatiha for the souls of the dead for by doing so . . . the daraja [spiritual degrees] are attained. 1315 (1897/98).


2. Octagonal nišan with sides of 14 and 19 cm and height 140 cm, without epitaph, made of tufa.


3. Man’s nišan with turban, without epitaph, rectangular in cross-section 24 x 18 cm and height of 130 cm.  This could be the tombstone of Handanaga, founder of the mosque, but it has been displaced from its surround.


4. Large man’s nišan with turban, sunk into the ground.  The turban is 60 cm in height with a circumference of 160 cm.


5. Man’s nišan with turban, square in cross-section 16 x 16 cm with a height of 68 cm, bearing the following epitaph:

هو الحي الباقي يا واقفا بقيري كن متفكرا بامري بالامس كنت مثلك غدا تصير مثلي .....ساكر بن مصطفي ... الفاتحة سنة 1308

He is the Living, the Eternal. You who stand at my grave, reflect on my state, yesterday I was as you are and tomorrow you will be as I am.  Šakir son of Mustafa. . .  Fatiha. 1308 (1890/91).


The harem contains a further hundred or so tufa nišan tombstones without epitaphs, arranged around the mosque together with new nišan tombstones.

Burials are still performed inside the graveyard.


6. Legal status to date

By Ruling of the National Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments and Natural Rarities of 28 October 1950 the Handanija mosque was placed under state protection.

By Ruling of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of NR BiH of 18 April 1962, No. 02-746-3, the Handanija mosque was entered in the Register of immovable cultural monuments.

            The Regional Plan of Bosnia and Herzegovinan to 2002 lists the Handanija mosque in Prusac under serial no. 42 as a Category I building.

            The remains of the Handanija mosque in Prusac feature on the Provisional List of National Monuments of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, under serial no. 202.


7. Research and conservation and restoration works

During the past the Handanija mosque has been repaired on several occasions. Traces of repaired cracks, which probably occurred at the end of the 19th century, are evidence of this.

Under the expert supervision of the Republic Institute for Protection of Monuments, conservation works were carried out on the mosque in 1972.  The purpose of these conservation works was to reinforce the walls of the mosque and make them more resistant to potential earthquakes.  The following works were carried out:

  • a tie beam was installed around the building at two levels below and above the mahfil windows (in the places where the wooden tiebeams should have been); the tie beam is of 22 mm section steel bars, installed in pairs;
  • angle iron sections were installed at the corners of the building; the sections were installed along the entire length of the corner, starting at a height of 1.5m;
  • a 1 m wide concrete strip was laid around the base of the minaret and the entire mosque building;
  • the building was plastered with cement mortar, 5 cm thick;
  • the building was painted white inside and outside.

It is not known whether it was during these works that the roof cladding (shingles) was replaced by tiles.


There were interventions on the building on several occasions during the 1980s, involving the following:

  • the floor of the mosque was replaced; the stone floor was removed and a new one was laid, with layers of hydro and thermo isolation;
  • the replacement of the floor led to changes to the bases of the mahfil pillars;
  • the right-hand window (seen from outside) of the mosque porch was closed off;
  • water piping was installed in the right-hand section of the mosque porch for the purpose of taking abdest (ritual ablutions);
  • the mosque sofas were concreted and their level raised, causing “sinking” of the bases of the pillars and altering their proportions;
  • 1.5 m high panelling was installed along all the interior walls of the mosque;
  • the porch arches and the arches above the windows were painted green.

For the purpose of the restoration and conservation of the building, which was badly damaged in the period 1992-1995, the non-governmental organization from Sweden, Cultural Heritage without Borders, began drafting a project. The project for the restoration and conservation of the mosque was preceded by a detailed survey of the current condition and an analysis of historical documentation on this and similar buildings.  The restoration and conservation project was completed in July 2004.

The project provided for the building to be restored to its 1992 appearance.  However, on the basis of the historical documentation found and research carried out on site, it was decided that:

  • the structure of the inside dome of the building be executed not in the entirely traditional manner, given the lack of any data on its construction;
  • the later addition of a layer of concrete on the sofas be removed;
  • the later walled up window in the porch be re-opened;
  • the eleventh pillar of the mahfil be remade.

8. Current condition of the property

The Handanija mosque building was heavily damaged in shelling that took place between 1992 and 1995. The mosque roof took direct hits, as did the part of the minaret above the šerefe, one of the porch pillars and the mosque walls. Long exposure to the effects of the elements since 1995 has caused even greater damage. The mihrab, parts of the walls around the mahfil windows, the structure of the mahfil and the plaster in the mosque interior were damaged by damp. Parts of the roof that had fallen into the mosque damaged the mimber.

Emergency protection of the building by laying a temporary roof was carried out during 1999.

The restoration and conservation of the building began in 2002 when the non-governmental organization from Sweden, Cultural Heritage without Borders, headed by Tina Wik, an architect, took over the drafting of the project drafting and the execution of the works.

Restoration and conservation works on the building started in early October 2004 and are still in progress. So far, a hipped roof has been made and major damage to the walls has been repaired.




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.iii. proportions

D. Clarity

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

E. Symbolic value

E.i. ontological value

E.ii. religious value

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

F. Townscape/ Landscape value

F.ii. meaning in the townscape

G. Authenticity

G.i. form and design

H. Rarity and representativity

H.i. unique or rare example of a certain type or style


            The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

-     Copy of cadastral plan

-     Copy of land register entry and proof of title;

-     Photodocumentation;

-     Drawings



During the procedure to designate the architectural ensemble of the Handanija mosque in Prusac as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina the following works were consulted:


1984.    Andrejević, Andrej, Islamska monumantalna umetnost XVI veka u Jugoslaviji – kupolne džamije (16th century Islamic Monumental Art in Yugoslavia – Domed Mosques), publ. Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, Institute for History and Art, Serbian Academy of Science and Art, Balkan Institute, Belgrade, 1084


1990     Husein Čepalo, Prusac- historijski spomenici (Prusac – Historic Monuments), DP “Naša riječ” Zenica, 1990


1996     Çelebi, Evliya, Putopis (Travelogue), Publishing Company “Sarajevo Publishing”, Sarajevo 1996.


1997     Mujezinović, Mehmed, Islamska epigrafika Bosne i Hercegovine (Islamic Epigraphics of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Book II, 3rd ed., Cultural Heritage Series, Sarajevo Publishing, 1998.


2000     Ayverdi, Ekrem Hakki, Avrupa’da Osmanli Mimari Eserleri Yugoslavya, Book II (3. kitap), Istanbul, 2000.


2004     Hrvatović, Hazim, Elaborat o izboru kamena za obnovu džamije u Pruscu (Study on the Selection of Stone for the Reconstruction of the Mosque in Prusac), Sarajevo 2004


Documentation of the non-governmental organization Cultural Heritage without Borders.


(1) Gazette of the Supreme Islamic Seniority, Year III, 1952, page 125 “It was built by a certain Handanaga, who Evliya Çelebi (according to Kemura’s translation of Sejahatname) calls Hajdar Ćehaja”.

(2)  It is known that at the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century battles were fought around and for Prusac, so that the armies in the town constantly changed. It is also known that the Prusac area is liable to earthquakes. Sizeable cracks are visible on the Handanija mosque itself, which probably occurred at the end of the 19 century as a result of earthquakes.  

(3) The original Turkish triangular-shaped frieze in the Brusan stylistic group was also applied as a transitional structural solution. A. Andrejević, page 74.  

(4)  Husein Čepalo, Prusac, historic monuments

(5) Both Ayverdi and Mujezinović consider that giving a title of Bey to Handan-Aga was a mistake, especially for the reason that to give the exact year of building, at the end of the inscription, the word Aga was required.

(6) «Tufa was used to build parts of the wall, some window frames, the mimber steps and arches. Limestone is built into the mosque walls. Marlaceous limestone of white-gray and brown colour was used to build the mihrab, mimber and window frames on the ground-floor and for the doors. The window frames were made of marleceous limestone. Breccia limestone was used for the pillars at the entrance to the mosque» - from the study on stone selection for the reconstruction of the mosque in Prusac, Dr Hazim Hrvatović, Graduate Geological Engineer.   

(7)  It is not known when the concrete sofas were built. Their existance was recorded by Ayverdi, 1977. Research that was carried out in December 2004 did not reveal remains of stone slabs beneath the concrete slabs.

(8)  During a seminar in Prusac, Professor Pratali from Italy took samples of paint from the porch arches and took them to laboratory analyses in his lab. The names of the colours used to paint the porch, which Professor Pratali announced after the analyses, are given here.

(9) Before Professor Ayverdi's visit to and survey of the mosque in 1977, and probably during conservation work in 1972, all the painted surfaces were plastered or painted white. Afterwards, and probably during the 1980s, the porch arches as well as those above the windows of the ground- and the first floor were plastered with cement mortar and painted green.

(10) During the latest restoration work on the object, during 2004, the removal of a later coat of cement revealed a second porch window, the existence of which was also recorded by Ayverdi on his 1977 drawings . 

(11)  The mouldings on both sides of the arch are executed in plaster only. After removal of the cement mortar, during the 2003 and 2004 works, the relieving arch on the exterior remained visible only by the porch windows. 

(12)  During the work on the mosque in the 1980s, the inside and outside of the arches and the window frames were painted green. As a result, the older coats of colour are damaged and are only visible in part. 

(13)  Ayverdi regards pointed-arch windows as a foreign element in classical architecture. «However, the fact that the windows of the mahfil, which extend round three sides, were later arched, raises doubts in our mind; it is well-known and logical that windows on upper floors, such as the mahvil, are of a type that can be opened, elongated in shape, which is how they should be ...Therefore, these upper windows with arches are considered as unusual.» However, according to A. Andrejević, upper-floor windows with pointed arches are quite common.. «Those among them  that are set at ground-floor level were, as a rule, given a rectangular opening, while others , including those on a dome, terminated in pointed arches» (page 74).

(14) The pointed arches, as well as the rectangular panels into which they were set on the inside, were probably painted white on the inside in the 1970s, after first being plastered with cement mortar, and later on painted green on the outside. As a result, the decorations in the rectangular panel above the window, as well as the colours in the sections of the pointed arches, are visible only in traces.

(15)  It is believed that the windows at the mahvil level were fitted with transennas.

(16)  Only traces of green can now be seen, together with older traces of purple-black on the stone frames of the entrance door.

(17)  Ayverdi says of the same inscription: «That is five couplets in five rows, written in bad taliq script».

(18)  According to the project design for the restoration of the mosque, drawn up by «Cultural Heritage without Borders» in 2003-2004, the dome was executed as a separate element, completely separate from the roof. The structure of the dome is borne by hanging trusses and posts which rest on corner beams set on the walls.

(19)  The epigraphic studies were carried out in April 2005.

(20)  According to findings on site, the discovery of a pillar base meant there were 11 mahfil pillars, where the eleventh pillar did not have a structural but a symbolic role – 11 pillars for 11 imams. The eleventh pillar is also visible on Ayverdi's photograph. The project of the mosque restoration provides for the restoration of the eleventh pillar. 

(21)  The colours used were yellow, green, red and blue.

(22)  Judging from all the features referred to of this decoration, some people associate it with dervishes.

(23)  [Ar. qalam, Tur. kalem, Gr. calamos – originally meaning a reed pen. Trans.] 4. A steel tool used for decorating boxes; «a narrow iron stiletto about 10 cm long, with sharp pointed tip», Abdulah Škaljić, Turkish loan words in Serbo Croatian, 1989, page 387.

(24)  In 2004 the inhabitants of Prusac replaced the old fountain, which was badly damaged, with a new one. The new fountain is made of stone in cement mortar and has a hipped roof.

Handanija mosque in PrusacArchival photo of the Handanija mosquePorch of the mosque, archival photoHandanija mosque, photo from 2002
Handanija mosque  before rehabilitationInterior of the mosqueArchival photo of the mosque's interiorEntrance gate to the harem courtyard
Portico<i>Mimber</i><i>Mihrab</i>Pillar, details
Nišan tombstonesInscription above the portico<br>Inscription above the courtyard gateLevha 

BiH jezici 
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