Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Cathedral church dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mala Gospa), 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 19 to 23 January 2006 the Commission adopted a






The architectural ensemble of the Cathedral church dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mala Gospa) in Trebinje is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument). 

The National Monument consists of the Cathedral church, parish house and bell tower.

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 1027 (new survey), corresponding to c.p. nos. 2564, 2571 (old survey), Land Register entry no. 3, cadastral municipality Trebinje I, Trebinje Municipality, 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.




Protection Zone I consists of the site where the church with its existing bell tower and an area of 1 m around the buildings.  In this zone:

  • all works are prohibited other than conservation and restoration works and works designed to display the monument, 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,

Protection Zone II consists of the part of plot c.p. no. 1027 that is not covered by Protection Zone I. In this zone:

The interpolation of a bell tower of approximately 4.5 x 4.5 m with a heigtht of 27 m shall be permitted.  The interpolated bell tower shall be built so as to be clearly separate from the protected church building by at least 1 m, its stylistic features and use of materials shall be such as to ensure that the date of its construction is clearly identifiable, and its formal features shall not clash with the architectural values of the protected church building.

Protection Zone III consists of all the plots adjacent to the plot of the protected zone.

In this zone, the construction of new buildings which in dimensions, appearance or any other way could be detrimental to the National Monument is prohibited.




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




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 National Monument or the movable heritage in any way. 

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




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 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) 




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. 661.




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: 06/2-2-298/05-11                                                               

16 January 2006                                                                                                                                                          


Chairman of the Commission

Dubravko Lovrenović


E l u c i d a t i on




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 in its previous complement issued a decision to add the Cathedral church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Trebinje to the Provisional List of National Monuments under serial no. 661.

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)
  • Details of legal status to date
  • Data on the current condition and use of the property, including a description and photographs, data of war damage
  • Data on restoration or other works on the property, etc.
  • Historical, architectural and other documentary material on the property, as set out in the bibliography forming part of this Decision.


The findings based on the review of the above documentation and the condition of the site are as follows:


1. Details of the property



            The architectural ensemble of the Catholic cathedral church is in Njegoš street no. 2, in the centre of the town of Trebinje.  The cathedral church is in the immediate vicinity of the town park.

            The main axis of the church lies east-west. The main entrance to the church is to the east, via a pedestrian zone.


Historical information

            The Trebinje (Trebinje-Mrkanj) bishopric is one of the oldest bishoprics in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The earliest reference to it is in a bull of Pope Benedict VIII dated 1022.  Historians disagree over the precise boundaries of the bishopric at that time, but it is assumed to have covered the area of mediaeval Travunije.

Mediaeval Travunija came under Nemanjić rule in the late 12th century, and under the rule of Bosnia's King Tvrtko I in 1373.  In 1253, under pressure from Nemanjić, bishop Silvije fled to Dubrovnik. The Trebinje bishop received the island of Mrkanj from the Dubrovnik government as his residence.  The bishops began to be known as the bishops of Mrkanj after the island, and from 1436 on this is the title to be found in Papal bulls.  The title Bishop of Trebinje Mrkanj has survived to this day.

Following the fall of Bosnia in 1463, Herzegovina too came under Ottoman rule in 1482. During the Ottoman period the bishops' see continued to be in Dubrovnik territory.

Since the town of Trebinje was on the borders of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the Austrian authorities gradually transformed it into a fortified town.  The Austrian authorities built a number of infantry barracks around the outskirts of Trebinje, and a large artillery barracks in the town itself.  In addition to the fort in the town, the Austrian authorities also erected many fortifications on the hills around Trebinje.

After Austro-Hungarian authority was established in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Catholic Church was also organized.  Pope Leo XIII founded the Vrhbosnia metropolitanate, which comprised the Vrhbosnia archbishopric, with its see in Sarajevo, the Mostar Duvno bishopric, with its see in Mostar, and the Banja Luka bishopric, with its see in Banja Luka.  In 1890 the Holy See conferred the running of the Trebinje bishopric to the Bishop of Mostar.  As regards Catholic church administration in Bosnia and Herzegovina, this remains the case to this day.

The present-day boundary of the Trebinje Mrkanj bishopric occupies the area of south-eastern Herzegovina from the river Neretva in the west to the Montenegrin border in the east and the Croatian border in the south.

The erection of the present-day Catholic church in Trebinje began in 1880, and the first liturgical service, when the church was consecrated, was held on 7 June 1884.  The church is dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary; this festival is known in the local language as Mala Gospa.

The parish house was built at the same time as the church.

In 1904, two annexes or sacristies were built alongside the sanctuary of the church.

By World War I the church was in very poor condition, and repairs were carried out in 1917.  At the same time, a design for two bell towers was drawn up.  These were to be built to the east of the church, by the entrance facade.

The present-day bell tower, which is smaller in size and is located in the courtyard between the church and the parish house, was built in 1928.

In 1984, by decision of the Holy See, the church – which had until then been the parish church of the parish of Trebinje – was designated as the cathedral church of the Trebinje Mrkanj bishopric with its see in Trebinje, to mark the 1000th anniversary of the Trebinje bishopric.


2. Description of the monument


The cathedral church in Trebinje lies east-west with the entrance at the east end.  In layout, it belongs to the type of single-nave church with transet and semicircular apse.

            The exterior dimensions of the church are: length approx. 29.00 m, width in the transept area approx. 15.50 m and of the nave approx. 9.30 m.  The interior dimensions are: length approx. 27.70 m, width in the transept area approx. 14.50 m and of the nave approx. 8.00 m. 

            The height of the church from ground level to the base of the roof is approx. 11.80 m, and from ground level to the roof ridge is approx. 15.00 m.

            The church has massive walls, approx. 90 cm thick in the lower and approx. 70 cm thick in the upper zone.

The nave and transept of the church are clad with tiles, and the apse with galvanized iron.  There is a substantial moulded stone cornice below the roof.

            The east facade of the church is of regular-cut stone blocks, while the other facades are plastered and painted yellow.  In addition to the east facade, stone blocks were also used to make the pilasters at the ends of the exterior walls, and the socle, which is approx. 50 cm in height.

            The east wall of the church has a round-arched portal with substantial moulded stone door jambs and lintel.  The double doors are of solid wood.  They measure approx. 1.5 x 2.5 m.

There is a large rosette surrounded by a substantial moulded stone cornice above the door.  The rosette is glazed with stained glass.

            The north and south facades each have three tall arched windows, surrounded by a substantial stone cornice and glazed with stained glass.

            Structurally, the building consists of walls and pilasters, plus arches at the junction of the the walls of the nave and transepts.   The pilasters are approx. 50 x 50 cm wide and have bases and capitals.

            So as to gain an integral central space in the church, the structure of the building has three large arches on the north, south and west sides of the building.   These arches rest on pilasters.   The arches to the north and side have a span of approx. 7.00 m, and the one to the west of approx. 7.50 m.  Where the nave extends on into the apse area, to the west, is another arch with a span of approx. 6.00 m.

            Each of these rectangular areas of the church, the nave and the transepts, has a gabled roof of wooden construction.

            The apse area is semicircular, with a radius of approx. 4 m.  The walls have three tall arched stained-glass windows.  The apse is decorated with pilasters bearing a frieze, which continues as a painted calotte.  The floor of the apse is approx. 35 cm higher than that of the rest of the church.  The sanctuary with altar is in the central part of the apse.

            To the left and right of the sanctuary are rectangular rooms measuring approx. 3.5 x 4.0 m.  The sacristy occupies the one to the north, while that to the south has been converted into a toilet block and side entrance to the church.   Both have flat roofs and are approx. 2.5 m in height.

            There is a gallery running along the entire east end of the church, reached by a spiral staircase of recent construction.

            The interior walls of the church are plastered and painted yellow, with murals in some places.   The interior of the church is decorated with pilasters, moulded cornices and a caisson ceiling.

            The floor of the church is paved with stone slabs.

            In the 1930s, Vilko Šeferon painted murals in the apse and the area on the west wall above the apse.

            The painted area of the apse can be divided into two sections, the painted calotte of the apse and the painted frieze.

            The calotte of the apse features the Virgin with Christ in heaven.  The Virgin is shown in a blue robe and reddish mantle with floral designs.  Her head is bent towards the ebullient,  naked infant Christ.   Both have haloes.  Above them is the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.  To the left of the Virgin is an angel holding out a model of the church with two towers(1), and to the right an angel holding the coat of arms of the town of Trebinje in his right hand.  There are more angelic figures on white clouds around them.

            On the frieze below the Virgin and Christ, the figures of the four evangelists are featured in four circles.  The evangelists Luke and Matthew with their respective attributes feature on the south-west and John and Mark, again with their respective attributes, on the north-west side.

            The area of the west wall of the church above the apse is painted with two scenes.  One of them features Christ delivering the Sermon on the Mount.  Opposite this is a scene of Christ meeting Peter, who is handing the keys over to Christ.

            The windows in the apse are glazed with stained glass featuring St. Anthony holding a lily, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St John the Baptist.  The windows of the nave are also glazed with stained glass, featuring saints or merely floral designs, such as those decorating the rosette above the entrance portal.

            A number of works of art can be seen inside the church – several sculptures, such as that of St Benedict and that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and several paintings.  The paintings have been brought to the church since 1995, and are the works of a number of Croatian artists such as Đurđica Zanoški – Gudlin, Stipo Ledić, Blaženka Salavarda, Josip Marinović, Leile Michieli – Vojvoda, Katarine Žanić – Michieli, Francina (Franjo) Dolenec, Ljubo Lah, Šime Vulas and Zdenko Grgić.

Zdenko Grgić composed four works for the church in Trebinje, featuring scenes with human figures on copper plates.  These are four scenes of a religious nature, one of which is a prayer scene, another features St Mihovil, along with a mother and child and a sower.

Šime Vulas donated a work of his called  Sun to the church.  This is a circular relief embossed in bronze.

Đurđica Zanoški – Gudlin, an academic sculptor and painter, composed the first, second and ninth Stations of the Cross for the church.

Josip Marinović, academic sculpture, composed the third Station of the Cross in terracotta.

            The fourth Station of the Cross is the work of academic sculptor Stipo Ledić, who featured Christ with the cross on his back in relief on marble.

            The sixth Station of the Cross, in mosaic, was composed by academic painter Blaženka Salavarda, and the seventh, Christ falling as he carries the cross, and the thirteenth, the Descent from the Cross, are in oils on canvas, by academic painter Leile Michieli – Vojvoda.

            The tenth, eleventh and twelfth Stations form a triptych worked in mosaic by academic painter Blaženka Salavarda.

            Katarine Žanić – Michieli composed the thirteenth Station in oils on canvas, featuring the Descent from the Cross.

            The fourteenth Station, the Deposition in the Tomb, is in ceramics and is the work of the painter Francina Dolenec.

The Trebinje church has a small collection of church plate. The oldest item in the collection is a chalice with paten dating from 1908; all the other items are of recent manufacture.  The collection consists of the following items:

  1. Chalice with paten. Made of silver and then gilded.  The chalice is 26 cm in height.  Three panels on the foot are engraved with 1908, Trebinje Catholics, on the Festival of the Annunciation.
  2. Chalice (silver bowl engraved with IHS, and a cross above the letter H).
  3. Chalice with paten.
  4. Two ewers on patens with silver spoon.  One of the patens is engraved with the letter A in two places, and the other with the letter V in two places.
  5. Chalice with paten, the latter engraved with a cross. The chalice is engraved with the letters λ and Ω.
  6. Chalice with paten. The base of the chalice is engraved with the words: «1000th anniversary of the Trebinje bishopric, Franciscan monastery Mostar». The chalice was thus a gift to the Trebinje church in 1984.
  7. Chalice with paten. The base of the chalice has three cartouches engraved respectively with the figures of Christ crucified on the cross, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St Joseph.
  8. Monstrance topped by a cross and with oval glazed central section.  Decorated with four paste stones, two green and two blue.
  9. Monstrance topped by a cross and rays forming a square.
  10. Gilded communion plate.
  11. Incense vessel.
  12. Crucifix made of copper, gilded in places.
  13. Crucifix made of copper.
  14. Crucifix made of copper.
  15. Crucifix made of copper.
  16. Crucifix made of silver, with gilded body of Christ.
  17. Silver candlestick.
  18. Reliquary.
  19. Reliquary.

Parish house

The parish house stands four metres to the west of the church.  It is a residential building consisting of a ground floor and first floor, and measures approx. 12.00 x 8.00 m. The main entrance to the parish house is to the south from the pedestrian zone of Njegoš street.  The windows are wooden, with wooden grills on the outside.   There is a stone moulded string course with decorations above the first floor windows.

            In 1999 a new single-storey building designed to be used as a garage was built alongside the north facade of the parish house.  The garage measures approx. 12.00 x 6.00 m, and is entered from Meša Selimović street.

            The facade of the parish house and garage is plastered and painted yellow.

Bell tower

            The bell tower is about 3.00 metres from the church to the south-west, by the Njegoš street pedestrian zone.  It lies east-west.  In ground plan it measures approx. 3.0 x 3.5 m, and is approx. 7.8 m in height.  It is made of regular-cut stone blocks.

            The eastern part of the bell tower is reminiscent of the entrance to the church, and consists of two parts:

  • an uppermost rectangular section terminating in a belfry «na preslicu» where the bell is housed;
  • a lower section in the form of a portal terminating in a small gabled roof.  The portal contains an area which is an imitation of a door with a moulded stone frame and a rosette above.

The western part of the bell tower is reminiscent of the apse of the church.  The door is located here. The lower part of the apse is of stone blocks, and the upper is plastered and painted yellow.  The apse is roofed with galvanized iron.


3. Legal status to date


The cathedral church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Trebinje is on the Provisional List of National Monuments under serial no. 661


4. Research and conservation and restoration works


Information on research and conservation and restoration works was received from the parish priest.

  • 1904, two ancillary rooms to the sacristy were built beside the sanctuary of the church
  • 1917, minor repairs carried out
  • March 1917, project to build two bell towers drawn up.  This provided for the bell towers to be built to the east of the church on the entrance facade. The architect's signature is illegible. However, the Archives of Bosnia and Herzegovina reveal that the design of the bell towers of the cathedral church in Trebinje was Karl Paržik in 1913 (Sarić, Štimac, Kujović, 2005)
  • 1928, present-day bell tower built
  • 1999, single-storey garage built by the parish house
  • 2000, restoration of the facade of the church, interior and parish house


5. Current condition of the property


An on site inspection in December 2005 established that the cathedral church, parish house and bell tower are in good condition.




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. i. quality of workmanship

C.iii. proportions

C.iv. composition

D. Clarity

D.ii. evidence of historical change

E. Symbolic value

E.i. ontological value

E.ii. religious value

E.iii. traditional value

E.iv. relation to rituals or ceremonies

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

F. Townscape/ Landscape value

F.iii.  the building or group of buildings is part of a group or site

G. Authenticity

G.i. form and design

G.iii. use and function

G.v. location and setting

G.vi. spirit and feeling


            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 cathedral church in Trebinje as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina the following works were consulted:


1954.    Kreševljaković, Hamdija, Kapidžić, Hamdija, Stari hercegovački gradovi (Old forts of Herzegovina), Naše starine II, Sarajevo, 1954, 9-21.


1988. Puljić, Ivica, Tisuću godina trebinjske biskupije (A thousand years of the Trebinje bishopric), Vrhbosnia Theological High School, Sarajevo, 1988.


2005. Sarić Sajma, Štimac Vera, Kujović Mina, Exhibition of «Projects (drawings and plans) of religious buildings in the archive holdings of Bosnia and Herzegovina 1878-1918.» Sarajevo, 2005.


(1) This is a model of the church in Trebinje according to the 1917 design, which was not carried out.


Catholic church dedicated to the Birth of the in Blessed Virgin Mary – Mala GospaEntrance to the churchApse and bell towerBell tower
Interior of the churchAltarChoirStained glass windows
Parish house   

BiH jezici 
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