Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Catacombs in Jajce, the historical monument

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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 21 to 27 January the Commission adopted a






           The historical monument of the Catacombs in Jajce is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

           The monument is situated on c.p. (cadastral plot) 879 and 880, c.m. (cadastral municipality) Jajce I, Jajce Municipality, Federation of 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 and 27/02) shall apply to the National Monument specified in the preceding paragraph.




            The Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall be responsible for ensuring and providing the legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary to protect, conserve, display and rehabilitate the National Monument specified in Clause I of this Decision.

            The Commission to Preserve National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the Commission) shall determine the technical requirements and secure the funds for preparing and setting up signboards with the basic data on the monument and the Decision to proclaim the property a National Monument.




            The following measures shall apply to the site of the National Monument:

Ÿ          On the monument itself, only works carried out for the purpose of the conservation and display of the monument shall be permitted;

Ÿ          In Protection Zone I, which covers cadastral plots 880, 879 and 876, all construction or other works that could have the effect of altering the site are prohibited;

Ÿ          Protection Zone II shall be defined by a comprehensive town plan for Jajce to be drafted later.  In this zone no construction, including earth moving and landscaping, is permitted other than the restoration and rehabilitation of buildings forming an integral part of the extended protected area.




             All executive and area development planning acts not in accordance with the provisions of this Decision are to be 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 specified in Clause I of this Decision or jeopardize the preservation and rehabilitation thereof.




            The Government of the Federation, the Federal Ministry responsible for town 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, III and IV of this Decision, and the Authorized Municipal Court shall be notified for the purposes of registration in the Land Register.




            The elucidation and accompanying documentation form an integral part of this Decision, which may be viewed by interested parties on the premises or by accessing the website of the Commission (http://www.anek8komisija.com.ba) 




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




            This Decision shall enter into force on the date of its adoption and shall be published in the Official Gazette of BiH and the Official Gazette of the Federation 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: 06-6-742/03-1         

21 January 2003




Chairman of the Commission

Dubravko Lovrenović



E l u c i d a t i o n




            Pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a “National Monument” is an item of public property proclaimed by the Commission to Preserve National Monuments (hereinafter referred to as the Commission) to be a National Monument pursuant to Articles V and VI of Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter referred to as Annex 8) and as 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.

            At its session held on 11 March 1998, the Commission issued a Decision to add the historic monument of the Catacombs in Jajce to the Provisional List of National Monuments as No. 272.

            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:

Ÿ          Documentation on the location and current owner and user of the property (copy of cadastral plan for c.p. 879 and 880, c.m. Jajce I, dated November 2002, and copy of land registry entry no. 1, c.m. Jajce)

Ÿ          Data on the current condition and use of the property, including a description and photographs, data of war damage if any, data on restoration or other works on the property if any, etc.

Ÿ          The current condition of the property

Ÿ          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 Site


            The Catacombs are situated on c.p. 879 and 880, c.m. Jajce I; Ownership Certificate No. 660; public property.

            The catacombs (an underground church or crypt) are hollowed out into the living rock within the town ramparts, below the plateau between the Medvjed tower and the church of St Mary with St Luke's belltower, in an ensemble where several religious buildings (a church, a Franciscan monastery and a graveyard) have been erected over the centuries. 

Historical Information

            The first reference to Jajce in written sources dates from 1396, when Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić is described as the count of Jajce, “conte di Jajcze”. In his day (the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century) the town underwent considerable political and cultural development.  The assumption is that by 1416, when he ceases to figure in historical sources, Hrvoje Vukčić gave orders for the catacombs to be carved from the rock as his mausoleum and that of the ducal family Hrvatinić (Ć. Truhelka 1904, 58-59; Đ. Mazalić 1952, 92-93 P. Anđelić 1988, 180).There are no written sources about the catacombs themselves.


Legal status to date

            In the procedure prior to issuing a final decision on designating the property  as a national monument, documents were inspected from which the following was established:

Pursuant to the law, by Ruling of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SR BiH No. 1088/51 dated 28 December 1951 in Sarajevo, the Catacombs in Jajce are place under state protection.

            By Ruling of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SR BiH No. 02-761-3 of 18 April 1962, the monument is registered in the Registry of Immovable Property as No. 80/62.

            The Catacombs in Jajce are on the Provisional List of National Monuments as No. 272.

In the Regional Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina to 2002, the monument is registered and classified as a Category I monument, and also as a part of the urban ensemble of Jajce which is a Category 0 ensemble of international importance.

            In the draft Regional Plan of Jajce Municipality (drawn up in 1988 by the Town Planning Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina), the monument is registered on the list of 74 individual monuments and ensembles to which the protection previously stipulated is applicable.

            The draft Regulation Plan providing for the revitalisation of the historic nucleus Jajce by Architect Radivoje Jadrić includes the historic monument of the Catacombs.


2. Description of the monument

            The historic monument of the catacombs in Jajce is an underground structure. It is basically arranged similarly to a church, with a narthex, baptistery with fonts, nave, presbytery with altar space. The catacombs are oriented south-north, with the entrance at the south end.

            The entrance to the catacombs is through a small, narrow forecourt the door to which are set in the rock itself. In the late nineteenth or early twentieth century the entrance to the catacombs was provided with an above-ground stone porch to provide shelter from precipitation. By the entrance to the narthex, unfinished figures are carved on the rock of the forecourt to the left and right of the door. The left-hand figure is of a man, probably with a spear in his right hand, and a sword in his left, held pointing down. To the left of the figure is a heraldic image – a large helmet with a cloak falling from the vizor (or perhaps it is intended to be the peak of the helmet), with an arm emerging from it, bent at the elbow, holding a sword.  This appears to be an incomplete representation of the coat of arms of Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić, which bear a raised, extended arm with a sword above the helmet.  The heraldic motif is clumsily carved. To the west of the door is another roughly carved figure, this one female, holding a heraldic symbol of some kind in the left hand. Truhelka (1904, p. 589) claims that this is a fleur-de-lis, but it is hard to discern (Đ. Mazalić, 1952, pp.. 92-93).

            The narthex is a narrow space measuring 2.18 x 5.50 m, partly stone walled and with a barrel vault.  From the narthex a passage through a low, narrow aperture with a semicylindrical vault, hollowed out from the thick wall, leads into the main area.

            The first section is a baptistery measuring 7.50 x 2.05 m, or 9.50 if one includes the fonts in the transepts to left and right of this space (C), above which there are arched apertures.  In the right hand corner there is a stone seat with three round holes cut in it to hold holy water stoups.

            The main body of the church measures 2.80 x 4.00 m.  Along the side walls there are burial vaults in the floor, with arched openings about 1.20 m. deep (D). On the left side of the church vault D is completed.  A double cross is carved at the bottom of this vault, with the sun and crescent moon to its left and right. The left hand vault is completely recessed and is 2 m. deep. Hollow D to the right is only 20 cm deep, and the initial depths of the hole beneath it is only 10cm, indicating that this part remained unfinished.

            Both side walls of the main body of the church extend towards the presbytery, ending in three semi-columns (E). The baptistery and the main body of the church to the presbytery are vaulted with a barrel vault that turns in the centre into a pointed vault with a height of 4.15 m. The pointed section has been given a smooth finish.

            The presbytery is narrow (2.94 x 10.66 m). The entire front section along the entire length of the presbytery  is roofed over by a long, narrow, shallow vault. The altar stands at the end. A deep and spacious, but empty altar apse is roofed with a pointed arch. There is a hollow on either side, of which the procelium is also covered by pointed arches (I). The hollow on the right hand side is complete, with a window on each lateral side, while the left hand hollow remained incomplete, with only the depth and procelium hollowed out.  On both sides of the altar part of a narrow passage has been dug out, probably intended to pass right round the apse, but remaining unfinished (K). Crossing the presbytery, this passage (G) was linked with space F, probably also a burial vault.  On the left hand side passage G and hole F are barely indicated.

            From the centre of the main area, a kind of crypt is reached through a square hole and four steep steps. The crypt measures 3.92 x 4.22 m. with a height ranging from 1.90 to 2.20 m. the entire central space is taken up by an altar with a double cross-shaped perforation, sun and crescent moon, like those in the burial vault (D) in the church.


3. Research and conservation and restoration works

            The first person to study and describe the catacombs with fair accuracy was Ćiro Truhelka. No major works have been carried out. After the 1992-1995 war, the Catacombs were cleared and lit.


4. Present situation of the site

            An on-site inspection determined the following:

Ÿ          the Catacombs are clean and well lit, under the supervision of a caretaker, and are not a risk of destruction.

Ÿ          the surrounding area is at risk of rapid deterioration from lack of regular maintenance and failure to clear the surrounding ruins

Ÿ          the environs are endangered by new inappropriate building (a private house by the Medvjed tower).




            Applying the Criteria for the adoption of a decision on proclaiming an item of property a national monument, adopted at the fourth session of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments (3 to 9 September 2002), 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.i. quality of workmanship

C.ii. composition

C.vi. structural value

E. Symbolic value

E.ii. religious value

E.iv. relation to rituals or tradition

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

F. 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

G.vi. spirit and feeling

H. Rarity and representativity

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

I. Integrity (groups, sites, collections)

I.i. physical coherence

I.iii. completeness

I.iv. unimpaired condition.


            The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

-         Photodocumentation;

-         Drawings


            The documentation annexed to the Decision is public and available for view by interested persons on written request to the Commission to Preserve National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina.




Anđelić, P. Jajce. In: Arheološki leksikon (Archaeological Lexicon) Vol. 2, 179-180. Sarajevo, 1988.


Mazalić, Đ., Stari grad Jajce (Jajce Old Town) Journal of the National Museum, ns.sv.IV, Sarajevo,1952.,59-100.


Thalloczy, L. Povijest Jajca (History of Jajce) Zagreb, 1916.


Truhelka, Ć., Katakombe u Jajcu (Catacombs in Jajce) Journal of the National Museum IV, 1892., 57-68.


1904  Katakombe. In: Kraljevski grad Jajce.(Jajce, Royal Town) Sarajevo, 1904., 57-61     



Catacombs, interior BaptisteryMain altar and altar of the crypt, drawingCatacombs in Jajce, plan and cross section
Above-ground entrance to the CatacombsStaircases from the above-ground entranceMain altar and altar of the crypt, photo from 2002Nave, sepulchre
Figures carved on the rock of the forecourt <br>Detail, heraldic symbol - a fleur-de-lisCoat of arms carved on the rock of the forecourt (coat of arms of Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić)Crypt, entrance 

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