Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Old Ključ fort and the Ključ mosque (mosque of Ajnebeg dede, mosque of the Ključ captains or Starica) with harem in Ključ, the historic site

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Status of monument -> National monument

             Pursuant to Article V para. 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Article 39 para. 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, at a session held from June 27 to July 02 2005 the Commission adopted a





The historic site of the old Ključ fort and the Ključ mosque (mosque of Ajnebeg dede, mosque of the Ključ captains or Starica) with harem in Ključ near Gacko is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).


The National Monument consists of the ramparts and towers of the old fort of Ključ, parts of two cannon constituting movable heritage and located in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, and the uninvestigated movable heritage items on the designated area of the monument and the Ključka mosque with harem and nišan tombstones.

The National Monument is located on a site:

-     The old Ključ fort consists of two parts. The upper fort stands on the eastern part of the plot, with a length of 102 m, designated as cadastral plot no. 298 (new  survey), corresponding to c.p. 977/19 (old survey) Land Registry entry no 457/05 cadastral municipality Cernica, and the lower fort on c.p. 290, 291, 292, 299,300 (new  survey), corresponding to c.p. 977/1, 977/8, 977/9, 977/10 977/11, 977/12, 977/13, 977/14, 977/15, 977/16, 977/18, 977/20, 977/21, 977/22, 977/23, 977/24, 977/25 (old  survey), Land Registry entry in continuity from no. 464/05 to number 476/05, cadastral municipality Cernica; and

-     the Ključka mosque with harem and nišan tombstones is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 975/9 (old survey), corresponding to c.p. 340 (new survey), Land Registry entry no. 426/05, cadastral municipality Cernica, Municipality Gacko, Republika Srpska, 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 Republika Srpska no. 9/02) shall apply to the National Monument.




The Government of Republika Srpska shall be responsible for ensuring and providing the legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary to protect, conserve, and display 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 research and conservation and restoration works, the reconstruction of missing parts and works on the current maintenance, 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,
  • a programme for the presentation of the National Monument shall be drawn up and implemented
  • the site of the monument shall be open and accessible to the public and may be used for educational and cultural purposes,
  • the path to the fortress shall be cleared and marked,

At the area of the Old fort the following urgent protection measures are hereby stipulated:

  • clearing the ramparts of the fortress, the walls of the towers, the interior of the fort and the remaining areas and environs outside the fort on the site where there is a judges' seat in Stoca to remove overgrowth endangering the structure of the monument,
  • structural repairs to the towers and ramparts where cracks have appeared that threaten to cause collapse, and conservation of the walls.

At the area of the mosque with harem and nišan tombstones the following urgent protection measures are hereby stipulated:

  • the minaret shall be reconstructed on the basis of documentation on its original appearance, using the same or same type of materials as those from which it was originally built,
  • during the rehabilitation works, all parts of the building not executed in conformity with the principles of conservation and restoration shall be reconstructed,
  • the harem of the mosque shall be tidied and damaged nišan tombstones shall be repaired.

The protective belt is hereby stipulated, which consists of all plots adjoining and bordering with the protected area of the national monument. The following protective measures are stipulated in that belt:

  • the rehabilitation and repair of damaged buildings shall be permitted subject to their retaining their existing dimensions and height
  • the construction of new buildings shall be permitted subject to a maximum height of 6.40 m to the base of the roof structure, i.e. two storeys (ground + 1) and maximum dimensions of 12 x 12 metres



The removal of the movable heritage items 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 temporary removal 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 items, 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 Republika Srpska and urban and municipal authorities, shall refrain from any action that might damage the National Monument or jeopardize the preservation and rehabilitation thereof.




            The Government of Republika Srpska, the Ministry responsible for regional planning in Republika Srpska, the Ministry responsible for culture in Republika Srpska and the heritage protection authority of Republika Srpska, and the Municipal Authorities in charge of urban planning and land registry affairs, shall be notified of this Decision in order to carry out the measures stipulated in Articles II – VI 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) 




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.




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




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


            This Decision has been adopted by the following members of the Commission: Zeynep Ahunbay, Amra Hadžimuhamedović, Dubravko Lovrenović, Ljiljana Ševo and Tina Wik.


No: 05.2-2-165/05-4

June 28 2005


Chair of the Commission

Ljiljana Ševo

                                                                 E l u c i d a t i o n




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

On 17 March 2003 the Commission received a petition from the Centre for Islamic Architecture, Sarajevo, for the property of the Ključ mosque (mosque of Ajnebeg dede, mosque of the Ključ captains or Starica) in Ključ, Municipality Gacko.

            On 06 June 2005 the Commission received a petition from the Gacko municipality for the property of the Old Ključ fort in Ključ.

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


Ključ is south-west of Gacko, and is separated from the Gacko plain by Mt Baba (1737 m), which borders the Ključ-Cernica valley to the north and Kameno brdo to the south.  These hills shelter the valley, giving it a milder climate than other parts of the Gacko plain and surroundings. There are also several springs in Ključ.

The remains of the fort of Ključ stand on the extreme south-west flank of Mt Baba, below Rudo brdo (1167).  Some ten kilometres to the north, where the Gacko-Trebinje road forks towards Ključ, stands Cernica, the history of which is closely associated with this fort.

           The Ključ mosque occupies a dominant position in the village on a prominent hillock, on a site known as Begova bašča, fifty metres from the old fort of Ključ.

Historical information

Mediaeval period

The area where the old Ključ fort stands has not been subjected to archaeological investigations.

On page 19 of his Copioso ristretto de gli annali di Ragusa, 1790, Giacomo di Pietro Luccari refers to events that took place in the 12th century and to the clashes between Hum's prince Ljutovid in Cernica.  The chronicler Mavro Orbini also wrote about this event in his Il regno dei Slavi, published in 1601, noting on page 227 that Dobroslav, son of Dragomir, routed and killed Ljutovid in Cernica and expelled the Greeks from Ključ, Gacko and all the fortresses of northern Dalmatia.  Dobroslav then granted the Gacko župa (county) to his son Radomir (Mandić, 1985, 129-130).  In the late 12th century, the independent Serbian state governed by the Nemanjić dynasty was formed, which included Hum (Ćirković, 1964, 48-49).

An event associated with the Gacko area occurred when Dragutin opposed his father King Uroš I, bringing Cuman and Hungarian troops to the Gacko plain in 1276 and defeating his father with their help, after which he occupied the Serbian throne (Mandić, 1985, 328).

According to Orbini, after overpowering the župan (lord of the county) Nikola Altomanović in 1373, Serbia's Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović and Bosnia's Ban Tvrtko shared out part of his lands between them.  This division left Gacko in the hands of Bosnia's Ban Tvrtko.  Bosnian rule thus extended to the eastern part of Hum (Ćirković, 1964, 134).

            The earliest written document referring to the fort of Ključ is a charter issued by Sandalj Hranić on 28 December 1410, datis in castro Cluz, concerning the sale of the Ostrovica fort to the Venetians (Mandić, 1985, 58).

            The fort of Ključ is referred to in 1426 as the residence of Grand Duke Sandalj and later of Herceg Stjepan Vukčić Kosača (Kreševljaković, 1954, 19).

Sandalj Hranić was in Ključ when he wrote to the people of Dubrovnik on 8 July 1429.   He is also known to have been in Ključ and Cernica in March and May 1430 (Mandić, 1985, 78). 

Letters from Dubrovnik envoys written in Ključ date from 1431 (Mandić, 1985, 79). 

An event from the life of Sandalj Hranić  is recorded on a stećak tombstone that stood about 1 km south-east of the fort, on Ćućenica hill.  This stećak, which was transferred to the Military Museum in Belgrade in 1960, was in a small necropolis consisting of two slab-shaped, three chest-shaped and one ridge-shaped tombstone, all of good workmanship but undecorated, apart from the ridge-shaped one on which the north side is decorated and which has an epitaph on the east front face.  The tombstone measures 1.60 (145) x 0.82 (74) x 1.50 m (of which the ridge or gable has height of 0.30 cm), and lies west-east.  The north side is carved with a tournament scene showing two horsemen tilting with lances.  The east side has an epitaph recording that Radonja Ratković was killed by the fort of Ključ during the rule of duke Sandalj (Delić, 1911, 491, Bešlagić, 1962, 46-47).   As Vego interprets the epitaph, it reads: Here lies Radona Ratković, killed by the fort of Ključ for his lord duke Sandalj (Vego, 1964, epitaph no. 159, pp.32, 33, Vego 1964a, 194). It is not known what kind of battle this was that took place by the Ključ fort.

On Sandalj Hranić's death in 1435, the treaties between his heir Stefan Vukčić Kosača and the people of Dubrovnik had to be renewed. Some of the negotiations were condeucted in Ključ (Ćirković, 1964a, 14).

In April 1443, duke Stjepan was in Ključ when he dictated to his scribe Vukša confirmation of his receiving his legacy from Jelena, Sandalj's wife (Mandić, 1985, 85, 102).

There is no reference to Ključ in a charter dated 19 February 1444 by which the king of Aragon and Naples, Alfonso V, confirmed Stjepan Vukčić's holdings.  A similar charter of the “Roman Emperor” Friedrich III, issued on 20 January 1448, lists by name the holdings of Herceg Stjepan, including civitate Cluz cum pertinetiis suis.   A third charter with the same contents was issued by Alfonso V on 1 June 1454 (Dinić, 1978, 178, 245).

At the end of the winter of 1455, Herceg Stjepan issued from Ključ a document governing the rights of his future wife (Ćirković, 1964a,  218).

On 5 April 1462 Bartol Gučertić sent a letter to Herceg Stjepan.  The Herceg was to be sought in Blagaj, Hum or as far as Ključ.  Gučetić had been given the role of mediator to bring about a reconciliation between Herceg Stjepan and his son Vladislav, who was demanding his share of the promised legacy.  In a letter received on 18 April that year, the Dubrovnik government told Gučetić that he would find horses and men in Cernica who would take him to Vladislav (Ćirković, 1964a,  218, n. 17).

Dubrovnik sources also mention Potključ, as the outskirts of the fort of Ključ, but this was not a settlement of any economic importance.  A document in the Dubrovnik archives, dated 21 August 1434, refers to a robbery subtus unum castrum  vocatum Cluc. In 1449, Radiša Stanković de Sotocluc left to learn the craft of weaving in Dubrovnik, and in 1466 wax was seized sub Cluc castrum (Vego, 1959, 55-56; Kovačević- Kojić, 1978, 118, n. 45).

Part of the outskirts of Ključ sensu latu included Cernica, which evolved from the caravan station to a marketplace with a customs house.  Cernica, like Ključ, developed in particular during the time of Herceg Stjepan (Jireček, 1951, 118; Kovačević-Kojić, 1978, 52, 93, 169, 215, 238, 251).

Ottoman period

In February 1463 part of the Ottoman army invaded the lands of Herceg Stjepan Vukčić Kosača, intending to bring to power the Herceg's son Vladislav as their man and to incite as much disturbance as possible in Herzegovina so as to make it impossible for the nobility there to provide Bosnia with active support as the Ottomans carried out their imminent planned conquest.  No details of this Ottoman action are known.  In mid June Herceg Stjepan fled to Novi, and the assumption is that he surrendered much of his holdings to the Ottomans.  It was at this time that Ključ fell into Ottoman hands.  Panic prevailed in the country, and the Herceg later said that he had had many castellans who had betrayed him by surrendering their forts to the Ottomans along with all the riches and supplies they contained.  By June 1463, food shortages and the poor condition of his army led the sultan abruptly to leave the Bosnian kingdom and the Herceg's lands after conquering 117 fortresses in these lands. By 14 July 1463 a spokesman of the Herceg's son Vlatko brought to Dubrovnik the joyous news of the conquest of Ključ, and four days later of Ljubuški (Ćirković, 1964, 253- 254; Dinić, 1978, 260; Šabanović, 1982, 38-39).

In July 1465 the Ottomans again attacked the Herzeg's lands under the command of the Bosnian sandžakbeg Isa-beg Ishaković, with dukes Ahmed and Ismail.  By November that year, the territories they held included Gacko and, soon thereafter, Cernica as well. The Hungarian army was in the Neretvavalley.  The Herceg appealed to Dubrovnik for supplies for his fort of Ključ, but the people of Dubrovnik referred him on to the Hungarian commanders.  The people of Dubrovnik had themselves appealed to Hungary not to allow the fort, which was in grave difficulties, to fall into the hands of the Ottomans.  The garrison in Ključ, along with that of the fort of Mičevac, put up resistance, but were defeated by Duke Ahmed.  The Ottomans finally conquered the fort; the exact date is not known, but it was probably between September 1468 and May 1469.  On 6 September 1468 Luka Radomilić, who had been in the service of Herceg Stjepan in Ključ, filed a suit in Dubrovnik against Bogdan Vučihnić of Predojević. On 16 May 1469 the Dubrovnik authorities ordered all those who had entered Dubrovnik territory following the conquest of Ključ and Blagaj to leave Dubrovnik. That's why most scholars are of the view that Ključ fell prior to September 1468 (Kreševljaković, 1954, 19-20; Ćirković, 1964, 264; Dinić, 1978, 261; Šabanović, 1982, 44; Mandić, 1985,108-109).

The earliest reference to the Hersek vilayet or Herceg's lands is in the 1468/69 census. It included Gacko with Cernica, but no reference to Ključ, although the census was completed in May 1469.  At first the Gacko nahija belonged to the Blagaj kadiluk (area under the jurisdiction of a qadi), andcorresponded to the old 12th century župa (county) of Gacko in the Podgorje district.  This part first formed part of the Vilayet and kadiluk of Drina, or Foča in the newly-formed Herzegovina sandžak in 1470.  In the first half of the 16th century, three new kadiluks were formed in the area covered by this kadiluk: the Mostar, Cernica and Nevesinje kadiluks.  Cernica became the centre of the Gacko nahija prior to 1532, becoming the centre of the eponymous kadiluk in the same year.  In the 19th century thisarea belonged to the Mostar district kajmakamluk and the Gacko county murdirluk (Šabanović, 1982, 136-137, 157, 188, 192, 323).

In the 16th century, a number of foreigners journeyed from Dubrovnik eastwards via Ključ:

  • In 1533 the Venetian Benedetto Ramberti passed through Ključ, and wrote in his Libri tre delle cose dei Turchi, Venezia, 1589, that there was a ruinous fortress there (Mandić, 1985, 335-336). 
  • In 1547 Pierre Lescalopier described Ključ as a small Turkish village above which stood an old fort, entirely in ruins (Mandić, 1985, 342-344).
  • In 1580 the Venetian envoy Paolo Contarini, on his way to Istanbul, wrote: in the valley by Cernica there stands on a cave a very solid fort in which there are 25 Turks (Mandić, 1985, 344).
  • In the late 16th century, the people of Herzegovina, led by duke Grdan of Nikšić, rebelled against the Ottoman authorities.  There was a bloody battle in the Cernica Ključ plain in 1597 (Mandić, 1985, 135).
  • In 1626 the anonymous secretary of Louis de Hayes, baron of Kormanen, the French envoy, describe the road that led from Korita to Ključ and Cernica and thence  to Gacko. From the plan where Korita stands it leads via a mountain on which stands a fortress, the old castle of Ključ, which guards the route to Cernica.  This is the first inhabited area we encountered coming from Dubrovnik; during three days' journeying we had not seen a total of ten houses (Mandić, 1985, 354).

In the second half of the 17th century, Çelebi recounted that Ključ was the headquarters of a military leader, a Janissary serdar, a dizdar, a qadi and other town officials (Kreševljaković, 1991, 206; Çelebi, 1979., 452-453).

            During the Austro-Turkish war from 1683 to 1699, the Venetians conquered Risan and Herceg Novi in 1687. At that time the fort of Ključ became an important fortification in the newly-founded serhat (frontier region) with its centre in Trebinje.  Following the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699, Ključ became the headquarters of a captaincy, which covered most of present-day Gacko and Bileća municipalities, and coincided with the territory of the Cernica kadiluk.

Following the 1711 peace treaty between Turkey and Russia, the insurgents in Herzegovina, who had already been incited to rebellion by Russia's Emperor the Great, were forced to take refuge in Venetian territory.  The Ottomans resolved to root out this insurgency with all speed. This led to war between the Ottomans and Venetians, during which the battle of Ključ took place in December 1717 (Mandić, 1985, 399).

War broke out with Venice in 1714, and lasted until 1718.  To all appearances, the Ključ captaincy was founded in about 1705 (Tanović, 2000, 36-37). Tradition has it that there were seven Ključ captains, all from the Tanović family.  The names of four Ključ captains are documented.  A document dating from 1740 names one Abdul-Baki-aga as captain of Ključ.  In the mid 18th century the captain of the fort was Omer, who is buried in the harem of the mosque in Ključ. Ali-kapetan is referred to in 1768, and at much the same time there is reference to the qadi of Cernica, Hahja, who is also buried in Ključ (Mandić, 1985, 416).   Ali-kapetan is also known from a petition dating from 1780, prompted by the murder of his cousin Ali-beg Hasanbegović, signed by several commanders of Ključ with the dizdar (fortress commander) Zulfikar-aga, the imam and the hatib.  Mustafa kapetan served as captain prior to 1818. Tradition has it that he appointed his younger son Hasan, who was also the last captain of Ključ, and a follower of Gradaščević, contrary to Smail-aga Čengić who supported the reforms in the Ottoman Empire (Kreševljaković, 1954, 20; idem, 1991, 205-207).

This information coincides in part with the information given by Tanović based on a reading of the epitaphs on the graves of all seven captains of Ključ who are buried in the harem of the mosque in Ključ: Omer-kapetan, who was probably captain from 1705 to 1730; Abdul Baki-aga,  who died in 1749; Mustafa, who died in 1761; Ali-beg, referred to in 1768; Hasan, who died in 1778; Mustafa, who died in 1818; and Hasan, who died in 1845-1846. (Tanović, 2000, 36).

Documents in the Sarajevo sidžil (court records) give the names of the agas who served as commanders of the džemat azap (light infantry in fortresses) in the Ključ captaincy, the mustahfiz (fortress guards), ćehaja (deputy, associate and representative of sundry officials), and barjaktar (standard-bearer) (Kreševljaković, 1991, 204-205).

Just two dizdars of the fort of Ključ are known:  ? in 1518, and Zulfikar in 1780 and 1792 (Truhelka, 1911, 318; Kreševljaković, 1991, 206).

            In the second half of the 19th century, the fort of Ključ ceased to be of importance.  During the 1875 uprising, there were a few Turkish soldiers in the fort (Kreševljaković, 1954, 20). In his work Dinarische wanderungen, on his travels in Bosnia and Herzegovinan towards the end of the 19th century, Moritz Hoernes wrote that the fort of Ključ had been held by irregular Turkish troops, a so called bašbuzluk, until the recent wars, and that the fortress guarded the entry to the notorious  Dugo sedlo, the most vulnerable place in Montenegro. Seemingly, of all the scholars and writers who described the road from Dubrovnik via Trebinje, Bileća, Gacko and Čemerno to Foča, Hoernes is the only one who visited the area and the mediaeval route in detail.He thus wrote that the road ran from Kobilja glava to Cernica and Ključ and via a bend through Baba to the Gacko plain and Gacko itself.  The construction of the road from Trebinje via Kobilja glava, bypassing Cernica and Ključ, was one of the reasons why they ceased to be of much importance.

            The Ključ fortress was abandoned prior to the Austro-Hungarian occupation. Hoernes wrote that the remains of the fortifications were barely holding up. The engineer Hugo Jedlička conducted various excavations in the fort and discovered two cannon, which were transferred from the fort of Ključ to the National Museum in Sarajevo in 1885 (inventory nos. 180, 181) (Delić, 1911, 502; Kreševljaković, 1954, 20).

            The Ključ mosque was built in 1560, and was the first mosque to be built in the Cernica nahija.  Its founder (vakif) was dizdar Ajnebeg(1)(M. Ajnebeg dede), after whom the mosque is known as the Ajnebeg dede mosque (Tanović, 2001, p. 139).

            The local people have another two names for the Ključ mosque: the mosque of the Ključ captains(2) and the Starica (the old one), since it is the oldest mosque in that part of Herzegovina.

            According to one tradition, there was formerly a church on the site of the mosque(3)    (Hasandedić, 1990. p. 199.)

            The importance of the Ključ mosque lay in the fact that Muslims from the surrounding villages of Cernica, Fazlagića Kula, Bistrica and other nearby villages used to come there to pray, particularly on Fridays and Eid days.

           The mosque was repaired on several occasions (1915, 1937, and 1967) (Bašić, 2001. p. 59.)

           The Ključ mosque remained in use until 1992, when it was set on fire, burning down the roof and part of the minaret.

            The Ključ mosque was repaired and reopened in June 2002, but was again dynamited in August 2002, when the minaret was again destroyed, as was the roof, while the interior of the mosque was badly damaged.

            Work on the restoration of the mosque is in hand.


2. Description of the property

The builders of the fortress in Ključ made maximum use of three sheer rockfaces of unequal depth and height running parallel east-west and descending precipitously to the Rijeka ravine.  The area between these cliffs was built up with ramparts to the east and west.  Between the northern and the central cliff stands the Upper Fort, with somewhat below it, between the central and southern cliffs, stands the Lower Fort.  These two separate areas were joined by a secret doorway by the bastion in the south-east corner of the Upper Fort.  There was another secret doorway by the tower alongside the northern rampart of the Upper Fort.  The fortress as a whole occupied an area of about 4000 m2.  Access to the fortress was from the east.  The Upper Fort was reached via a steep slope, probably along a hairpin bend path.  This has long since been scattered with stone from the fort and low scrub, making it extremely difficult to reach the fort via this route (Delić, 1911, 495).  Nothing survives of the entrance to the Lower Fort (Delić, 1911, 496).  The steep Šuplji val behind the west rampart is scattered with litter.  It is possible to descend this slope to the Rijeka ravine, which fills with water at times, caused by snowmelt welling up from Vilina cave, so that the fortress is largely protected from this side by natural factors.  The road to Zagradci, about 200 m to the west of the fort, makes a wide detour to bypass the fort.

The Upper Fort is rectangular in plan, with a length of about 56 m and a width of about 24 m, covering an area of about 1350 m2.  The east and west perimeter ramparts are entirely of masonry, while the north and south ramparts are set into the cliff.  The ramparts are of varying thickness and height.  The east, entrance rampart is 3.50 m thick.  Close to the north-east corner of the fort in this rampart is the main entrance, which is about 1.7 m in height, of which the arched section accounts for 0.5 m, and 0.8 m wide.  Both inside and out were doorjambs of cut, laid stone, about 0.2 m thick, of which only the odd stone survives.  The entrance area was set back into the ramparts by 1.45 on the outside and 1.28 m on the inside.  The entire passageway was the same length as the thickness of the ramparts, 3.5 m. It is hard now to ascertain how high the entrance was above ground level, since both inside and out the lower part of the ramparts is piled up with fallen stone. Delić writes that there were steps cut into the rocky ground on the inner side of the entrance; these can no longer be seen under the piles of fallen stone (Delić, 1911, 494).   Some two to four metres above door height is a walkway along the ramparts, with breastworks about 1 m high with loopholes about 0.5 m above the level of the walkway. These loopholes are of varying shape, from rectangular, circular and triangular to mere slits.

The Upper Fort has two towers, at the south-eastern corner and by the north rampart.  The fort was reached via a steep slope, probably along a hairpin bend path.  This has long since been scattered with stone from the fort and low scrub, making it extremely difficult to reach the fort via this route (Delić, 1911, 495). In the early 20th century, the inhabitants of the village of Ključi recounted that there were small towers at each of the four corners of the Upper Fort, but all that survives are the vestiges of a small tower (1 x 2 m) in the north-eastern corner, by the inner side of the ramparts (Delić, 1911, 495).

At the south-eastern corner, above the most precipitous part of the central cliff, is a tower that partly projects outward from the ramparts.  By the east wall it is 3.5 m thick, and by the south wall, 7 m.  The north and west walls, which were within the ramparts, are up to 0.8 m thick.  Almost at the centre of the north cliff, at its highest point, a rectangular inset tower was built, with sides 8 m long and walls up to 2 m thick.  The inside was filled in and the tower was used as a cannon emplacement (Delić, 1911, 495).  Inside the fort by the north rock, 8 m from the north-east corner, a seat was cut, which survives to a length of 1.10 m, with the seat 0.45 m wide and 0.5 m above ground level.  The backrest, which is 0.55 m high, is cut vertically.  Above the upper edge of the backrest a narrow ledge was cut, 1.1 m long and 0.15 m wide (Bešlagić, 1985. 54).

To the west of the tower by the north rampart is a cistern measuring 3 x 4 m, which has long since been filled in (Delić, 1911, 495). 

The Lower Fort is almost as long as the Upper Fort, but is about twice as wide, approx. 50 m between the central and south cliffs, and covers an area of about 2500 m2.  The east and west ramparts survive to a height of barely 1 m.  The area of the Lower Fort is now an empty wasteland.

Çelebi, who spent time in Ključ in about 1660, described only the Upper Fort.  His description gives some new information: that the fort had two cannon at the time, and that the two towers were “sky-high”.  Çelebi recounts that there was a cistern, a granary, and twelve rather narrow houses with stone-clad roofs and a small mosque. The houses were probably in the Lower Fort, and the mosque is very close, to the north-east, outside the ramparts (Çelebi, 1978, 453).

There is another stone seat associated with the old  Ključ fort on the Stoca plateau that borders the cliffs, about 100 m to the south-east of the fortress.  In 1981, when Š. Bešlagić visited the site, this seat was close to Zaim Mehić's house.  It was carved out of a limestone block, with a rectangular horizontal seat (0.7 x 0.45 m) 0.4 m above ground level. The backrest, which is 0.36 m high, is decorated with a relief frieze with six rosettes surrounded by garlands, below which is a plain band, and below that again a relief spiral band.  The backrest and sloping armrests are 0.2 m thick. The upper surface of the backrest is decorated with a relief band of twining vines with trefoils.  The seat is partly damaged.

            The Ključ mosque in Ključ near Gacko in spatial organization, belongs to the type of single-space mosque with hipped roof and stone minaret.

The mosque consists of a main prayer space and stone minaret.

The ground plan of the masonry part of the mosque is a square, with exterior dimensions of approx. 10.0 x 10.0 metres.

            The mosque has massive stone walls about 100 cm thick, built of cut stone with lime morter as binder.

            The facade of the mosque is not plastered, and is of ashlar stone.

            The hipped roof is high and steeply pitched, with timber roof structure clad with red tiles. It was previously clad with stone slabs.

            The interior prayer space of the mosque has an area of 64 m2.   The ceiling is a flat wooden ceiling clad with deal boards.  The height of the interior space from floor to ceiling is approx. 5.5 metres.

The floor of the mosque is of deal boards.  All the inside walls of the mosque are plastered and whitewashed.

There is a front mahfil measuring approx. 8.0 x 3.0 metres along the entire length of the north-west wall of the mosque above the entrance portal. The mahfil is reached via a single-flight staircase by the south-west wall, to the right of the entrance door. The entrance to the minaret was via the mahfil.  Works are in hand on building a new mahfil.

The walls of the mosque have a total of 8 windows, all at the same level, and all rectangular in shape.  The north-west entrance façade has one window, the south-west three (two of the same size and at the same height, and a third which is smaller in size and set higher), and the south-east and north-east facades have two each, all of the same size.  The windows have simple wooden frames measuring approx. 70 x 120 cm, and are newly made.  On the inside, the windows have stone frames about 15 cm wide.

            The entrance to the mosque is in the centre of the north-west façade.  The door is a standard wooden door measuring approx. 90 x 200 cm, terminating in a round arch.  The mosque courtyard leads straight into the mosque, since the mosque floor is at ground level.

The wooden door has a stone frame which projects outwards from the wall face by approx. 15 cm. The frame is rectangular in shape, about 30 cm wide, and painted white. Above the frame is a shallow rectangular niche, also painted white, which formerly contained an inscription on the building of the mosque.

            The Ključ mosque has no sofas inside or out.

            The mihrab is stone, of simple workmanship, and without any special decoration. The mihrab niche is semicircular in section and is approx. 1.70 cm wide, with a stone frame that projects outwards from the wall face by about 30cm, and terminates in a depressed arch.

            To the right of the mihrab is the mimber (width approx.1.00 m, length approx. 3.80 m); it is newly made of timber.

            The minaret of the Ključ mosque was built onto the angle of the north-west and south-west walls of the mosque façade.  It was reconstructed in 2002 but again dynamited two months later, so that the Ključ mosque still has no minaret. It had a total height of approx. 14.0 metres, with the part of the minaret from the base of the mosque roof to the top measuring approx. 7.0 metres.  The base of the minaret was of ashlar stone, and was square in ground plan, measuring approx. 2.5 x 2.5 m. The height of the base was to the height of the mosque roof.

            The transition from the square base to the body of the minaret was in the form of a trapezoid prism with a simple stone string course at the top. The minaret was octagonal in shape, and wider than was usual for minarets.  It was plastered and painted white.

            The minaret had no šerefe; instead, at mid height it had a small rectangular window which served the same purpose as a šerefe, allowing the muezzin to call the faithful to prayer.

            The mosque had a conical steeple clad with copper and topped by an alem (finial) with three equal-sized pommels.

Harem by the Ključ mosque

            The plot designated as c.p. 340 (new survey) on which the mosque stands also contains the harem in front of the mosque and the spacious harem known as Begova bašča, to the east of the mosque. This formerly contained many old nišan tombstones on which drawn bows with arrows were carved.  These marked the graves of the first conquerors of Ključ.  It is believed that only one such nišan tombstone now survives (Hasandedić, 1990. p. 201).

            The captains of Ključ from the Tanović family, and members of the Muslim families who lived there, including the Čustović's, Husić's, Mehić's, Radžić's and Škaljić's, are buried there.

            Research by Bakir Tanović of Sarajevo with a relative in Ključ in 1988 found the nišan tombstones of seven captains in the harem by the Ključ mosque.  The epitaphs on the headstones were recorded, read and translated in the Oriental Institute in Sarajevo (Tanović, 2001. p. 36).

            One headstone nišan found in the harem of the Ključ mosque bears the epitaph «Omer-kapetan of Ključ son of Alija 1705-1730 el fatiha.»  It is not known whether these are his dates of birth and death or the dates of his captaincy.

            Other nišan tombstones give only the dates of death of the captains:Abdul-Baki aga 1749, Mustafa I. 1761, Ali-beg 1778, Mustafa II. 1818, Hasan 1845, Ali-beg son of Hasan 1716 (Tanović, 2001. p. 36).


3. Legal status to date

            In the procedure preceding the adoption of a final decision on designation, documents on legal protection of the property were inspected and the following was ascertained:

Pursuant to the law, and by Ruling of the National Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of NRBiH no. 1280/50 dated I October 1950, the old Ključ fort near Gacko, Municipality Gacko, was placed under state protection.

By ruling no. 02-773-3 86/54 dated 18 April 1962, it was entered in the Register of immovable cultural monuments.

The Regional Plan for BiH to 2000 lists the Old Ključ fort as a Category II monument.

The Ključka mosque is not listed as a monument.


4. Research and conservation and restoration works 

There were no works on the Old Ključ fort.

            Thanks to its massive stone walls, the Ključ mosque has retained its original appearance and dimensions.  On several occasions, heavy snowfalls have caused the roof to collapse, necessitating its repair or reconstruction (Hasandedić, 1990.  p. 200).

            During repairs to the roof in 1915, the doorjamb on which the inscription on the construction of the mosque was recorded became detached.  The tarih was not known about, since it faced inwards towards the wall.  It related that Šaban Čustović had given 7000 dinars for its construction (Hasandedić, 1990.  p. 200).

            In 1915 300 crowns were spent on repairs to the roof, and in 1916 a further 400 crowns were spent.

During World War I the mosque suffered considerable damage, and underwent thorough repairs in 1937 (Hasandedić, 1990.  p. 200).

The Ključ mosque remained in use until 1992, when it was set on fire, burning down the roof and part of the minaret.

The Ključ mosque was repaired and reopened in June 2002, but was again dynamited in August 2002, when the minaret was again destroyed, as was the roof, while the interior of the mosque was badly damaged.


5. Current condition of the property

An on-site inspection on 17 May 2005 ascertained as follows:

Access to the old Ključ fort from the east, through the main gatehouse, is impossible.  The steep slope by which the fort was formerly approached, probably by a hairpin-bend route, is scattered with stones fallen from the ramparts and covered with impassable scrub. It was the same in the early 19th century, as noted in descriptions of the fort dating from that time (Delić, 1911, 495).

The walls and buildings in the fortress are in poor condition as a result of long-term lack of maintenance and physical damage. Parts of the structure, such as the outer side of the east wall, the entrance, the towers and the perimeter ramparts, are badly damaged and ruinous.  In some parts the stones have fallen away.  About two-thirdsof the area inside the fort is impassable because of dense overgrowth (trees, brushwood and brambles).  All this makes it effectively impossible to reach and inspect the fort.

The judge's seat to the south-east of the fort is also entirely overgrown, although it had been cleared when Š. Bešlagić carried out his investigations in the 1970s.

            An on-site inspection in May 2005 ascertained as follows:

  • the building has been fitted with new woodwork – windows and door;
  • the roof has been clad with tiles;
  • damage is visible on the building, particularly in the interior, that has not been fully repaired;
  • the minaret has been completely destroyed;
  • the old nišan tombstones have fallen over and are unprotected from further deterioration.



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.vi. value of construction

D. Clarity

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

D.ii. evidence of historical change

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

E. Symbolic value

E.ii. religious value

E.iii. traditional 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

G.ii. material and content

G.iii. use and function

G.v. location and setting

Gvi. Spirit and feeling,

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

-     Ruling of the Institute for the Protection of Culture of SR BiH of 18 April 1962 on entering the old Ključ fort in the Register of Protected Cultural Monuments

-     Photodocumentation;

§          taken from article by Stido Delić

§          taken during on-site visit in May 2005

-     Drawings



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


1911. Delić, P. Stevan, Dva stara natpisa iz Hercegovine. (Two old inscriptions from Herzegovina), Jnl of the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, XXIII. Sarajevo, 1911, 485-502.


1911. Truhelka, Ćiro, Tursko-slovjenski spomenici dubrovačke arhive. (Turko-Slav monuments of the Dubrovnik archives) Jnl of the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina XXIII. Sarajevo, 1911, 303-349.


1951. Jireček, dr Josip, Trgovački drumovi i rudnici Srbije i Bosne u srednjem vijeku. (Trade routes and mines of Serbia and Bosnia in the mediaeval period) Svjetlost, Sarajevo, 1951.


1952. Kreševljaković, Hamdija, Prilozi povijesti bosanskih gradova pod turskom upravom. (Contributions to the history of Bosnian towns under Turkish rule) Contributions to oriental philology and the history of the Yugoslav peoples under Turkish rule II/1951. Sarajevo, 1952, 119-184.


1954. Kreševljaković, Hamdija-Kapidžić, Hamdija, Stari hercegovački gradovi. (Old Herzegovina towns/forts) Naše starine II, Sarajevo, 1954.,


1959. Vego, Marko, Naselja bosanske srednjevjekovne bosanske države. (Settlements of the mediaeval Bosnian state) Svjetlost, Sarajevo, 1957.


1962. Bešlagić, Šefik, Izbor stećaka i nišana za novu stalnu izložbu Vojnog muzeja JNA. (Selection of stećak and nišan tombstones in the new permanent exhibit of the JNA Military Museum) Jnl of the JNA Military Museum, 6-7, Belgrade, 1962, 43-47.


1964. Ćirković, Sima, Istorija srednjovjekovne bosanske države.(History of the mediaeval Bosnian state)  Belgrade 1964.


1964.a Ćirković, Sima, Stefan Vukčić Kosača i njegovo doba. (Stefan Vukčić Kosača and his times) Naučno delo, Belgrade, 1964. 


1964. Vego, Marko, Zbornik srednjovjekovih natpisa Bosne i Hercegovine III, (Anthology of mediaeval inscriptions/epitaphs of BiH) Sarajevo,1964.


1964.a Vego, Marko,  Novi i revidirani natpisi iz Hercegovine (nastavak).(New and revised inscriptions/epitaphs of Herzegovina [cont]) Jnl of the National Museum in Sarajevo, (A), n.s. vol.XIX, Sarajevo, 1964, 173-211.


1971. Kajmaković, Zdravko, Zidno slikarstvo u Bosni i Hercegovini.(Mural painting in BiH) IRO Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo, 1971.


1978. Dinić, Mihailo, Zemlje hercega svetog Save.(The lands of Herceg St Sava) In:Srpske zemlje u srednjem vijeku (Serbian lands in the mediaeval period). Belgrade, 1978, 197-269.


1978.  Kovačević-Kojić, Desanska, Gradska naselja srednjovjekovne bosanske države.(Urban settlements of the mediaeval Bosnian state) IRO Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo, 1978.


1979.  Çelebi, Evlija, Putopis odlomci o jugoslovenskim zemljama. (Travelogue: excerpts on Yugoslav lands) ed. Hazim Šabanović, IRO Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo, 1979.


1980.  Institute of Architecture, Town Planning and Regional Planning of the Faculty of Architecture in Sarajevo, Regional. Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Stage B, valorization of natural, cultural and historical sites and monuments, Sarajevo, 1980.


1982.  Šabanović, Hazim, Bosanski pašaluk. (The Bosnian pashaluk) Svjetlost, Sarajevo, 1982.


1983. Redžić, Husref: Studije o islamskoj arhitektonskoj baštini (Studies on the Islamic architectural heritage), Cultural Heritage Series,  Sarajevo,  1983.


1985.  Bešlagić, Šefik, Kamene stolica srednjovjekovne Bosne i Hercegovine. (Stone seats of mediaeval BiH) Academy of Science and the Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Proceedings, bk LIX, Dept. of Social Sciences, bk 34, Sarajevo, 1985.


1985. Mandić, Novak, Studo, Gacko kroz vijekove, prilozi istoriji Gacka I.(Gacko through the centuries, contributions to the history of Gacko) Publ

Gacko Municipal Assembly, 1985.


1988. Bojanovski, Ivo, Bosna i  Hercegovina u antičko doba. (BiH in the antique period) Academy of Science and the Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Proceedings bk. LXVI, Centre for Balkan Studies, bk 6,  Sarajevo, 1988.


1990. Hasanefendić, Hivzija, Muslimanska baština u istočnoj Hercegovini (Muslim heritage in eastern Herzegovina). El Kalem, Sarajevo, 1990.


1991. Kreševljaković, Hamdija, Ključka kapetanija u Hercegovini. (The Ključ captaincy in Herzegovina) In: Kapetanije u Bosni i Hercegovini. (Captaincies in BiH) Selected works I, IRO “Veselin Masleša”, Sarajevo, 1991., 204-207.


1999.  Bećirbegović, Madžida, Džamije sa drvenom munarom u Bosni i Hercegovini (Mosques with wooden minarets in BiH), Sarajevo Publishing, 1999.


2000. Tanović, Dž, Tahir, Ključka kapetanija u Hercegovini i porodica Tanović (The Ključ captaincy in Herzegovina and the Tanović family), Des Sarajevo, 2000.


2001.  Bašić, Mehmed, Bošnjaci Gacka u prostoru i vremenu (Bosniacs of Gacko inspace and time), Society of citizens of eastern Herzegovina, Sarajevo, 2001.


(1) Sidžil (court records) of the Sarajevo qadi, no. 33, p. 19, 1792. Gazi Husrefbeg Library (Tanović, 2001. p. )

(2) Some scholars write that the Ključ mosque was the endowment of one Husein-kapetan, but the Islamic Community has no information on his vakuf. It is odd that the Ključ captaincy was founded in the early 18th century and that there is no reference to Husein-kapetan among the known captains of Ključ (Hasandedić, 1990. p. 200.)

(3) There is a tradition recounting that Jelena, daughter of Emperor Lazar, who was married to Sandalj Hranić, built the first church.  When the Bogomils of Ključ, who included Sandalj, converted to Islam, they turned Sandalj's church into a mosque(Hasandedić, 1990. p. 199).      

Old Ključ fort and Ključka mosqueOld Ključ fort, Archival photo from 1911Eastern aproach to the fortUpper for, detail of south rampart
Upper for, east rampartUpper fort, interiorEntrance in 1911 and 2005Stećak tombstone of Radonja Ratković
View from fort at the village of KljučKljučka mosqueMosque in 2005Mosque in June 2002
View from fort at the mosqueHarem of the Ključka mosqueNišan tombstonesInterior of the mosque - mimbar

BiH jezici 
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