Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Church of St John in Podmilačje, 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 5 to 12 May 2003 the Commission adopted a






            The architectural ensemble of the church of St John in Podmilačje is hereby designated as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

            The National Monument is on a site comprising cadastral plots 8/5, 8/6, 8/7, and 8/8, cadastral municipality Podmilačje, land registry entry 164, Jajce Municipality, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina

            The provisions relating to protection and rehabilitation measures set forth by the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of the Federation of  BiH nos. 2/02 and 27/02) shall apply to the National Monument.




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




            With the purpose of ensuring the permanent preservation of the property, the following measures are stipulated relating to cadastral plot 8/5, c.m. Podmilačje, being the site on which the National Monument stands.

            • All works on the buildings constituting the architectural ensemble are prohibited other than archaeological investigations and works of conservation and restoration to a project approved by the relevant Federal ministry and under the expert supervision of the Federal heritage protection authority;

            • The dumping of waste of all kinds is prohibited.


            An outer protection zone shall extend to a width of 50 m from the boundaries of Protection  Zone I.  In this outer protection zone all new construction, the building of new infrastructural facilities and the dumping of waste are prohibited.




            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 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 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 FBiH.


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



Chairman of the Commission

Amra Hadžimuhamedović

No. 08.2-6-498/03-1                                                                 

6 May 2003                                                                              



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 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 a session held on 1 July 1999 the Commission issued a Decision to add the church of St John in Podmilačje to the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, numbered as 276.

            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:

• 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.

• Copy of land registry entry and ownership details.

• 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 property are as follows:


1. Information on the site


            The architectural ensemble of the church of St John is in the village of Podmilačje, 10 km. from Jajce on the road to Banja Luka, c.p. 8/5, 8/6, 8/7, 8/8  c.m.. Podmilačje, Land Registry entry no. 164, owned by the Roman Catholic parish office, Jajce Municipality, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Historical information

            The village of Podmilačje lies beneath a massive cliff where a mediaeval tower is assumed to have stood, occupied by sentinels of Hrvoje Vukčić, defending the approaches to the town (Kovačić, 1930, p. 8).  The origins of the name of the settlement are unknown – perhaps from the cliff, the appearance of which suggests a building, or because stone from the cliff was once used to build the original houses.

            The first reference to Podmilačje dates from 1461, in a charter of King Stjepan Tomašević bestowing the area on Prince Radivoje.  It was probably at this same time that the church of St John was built (Kovačić, 1930, p. 12-13). There was no parish, in the modern sense of the word, in Podmilačje until the nineteenth century.  The church and surrounding villages belonged to the parish of Jajce, which in turn belonged to the Fojnica monastery from 8 June 1757 when the Bosnian Province was briefly abolished and the Custodiate of St. Križan was established, with three monasteries, six residencies and about 150 friars. One of these six residencies was the church of St John the Baptist in Jajce (Jelenić, 1913. p. 28 – 29).

            The church was neither demolished nor damaged during the period of Ottoman rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the late nineteenth century, 1878 to be exact, the Podmilačje parish was split off from the parish of Jajce.

            The date of origin of the church of St John in Podmilačje has not been determined with certainty.  No document has ever been found that would make it possible to give an exact date for the church.  It is one of the five oldest churches in Bosnia: Kraljevska Sutjeska, Fojnica, Kreševo, Vareš and Podmilačje. (Jelenić, 1990, 106)

            According to Đuro Basler and Juraj Kujundžić, the church was built in the fifteenth century.  On the basis of the stylistic features of the portal, it can be still more accurately dated to the mid fifteenth century.  The interesting feature of this church was that in it two influences mingled, the central European – visible in the actual appearance of the church and its facades – and the littoral, visible on the portal, where the Mediterranean influence is plain to see.  Based on its apperance, in the shape of the decorative elements and the treatment of the stone, it may safely be said to be of late Gothic Dalmatian workmanship.

            The polygonal sanctuary and the bell tower rising from the front facade of the building are some of the main features of village churches of continental Europe.  This feature too can be dated to the fifteenth century.  Polygonality instead of curvature is also to be seen in the towers of that date in some Bosnian forts, which indicates that this style of construction was becoming common in Bosnia.

            The richly decorated portal, the work of Dalmatian stonemasons, added to the modest building of the church, was the result of the close links Bosnia had at that time with Dalmatia, and in particular the links between Jajce and Split.  It is a known fact that in 1431 Martin Perković of Jajce entered the workshop of the painter Blaž on Korčula. In 1438 Martin was working independently on painting the choir stalls of the Franciscan church in Split, where he was permanently resident at that time.  Another master craftsman, Juraj Gradimilović, who was born in Vesela Straža near Bugojno, studied the art of stone carving betwen 1455 and 1461 with the famous master craftsman Andrija Alešije, whose workshop probably made the great late Gothic palace in Jajce castle in the mid fifteenth century, parts of which have been found in the embankments of the bastions.  Podmilačje was already known at that time as a place of pilgrimage (Kujundžić, 1966, p. 370)

            In his work Kultura i bosanski Franjevci (Culture and the Bosnian Franciscans), Julijan Jelenić notes that Christians were strictly forbidden to hold meetings in the places where mass was served.  According to the revived order of the definitoria of Bosnia Argentina dated 1793 and the «Orders and Administration» of Miletić, «parish priests and the clergy were not allowed to serve mass, if they were Franciscans, without their monastic habit, hood and girdle. Since there were no churches in Bosnia until crowds of people came from all directions to Kraljevska Sutjeska, Fojnica, Kreševo, Vareš and Podmilačje, to all the church festivals every Sunday, hastening in particular to the patron saints of these churches» (Jelenić, 1990,93).  In the same work, Jelenić notes that Fra Grgo Kotromanović (d. 1864) made several propylaea, a statue of St John the Baptist for the church in Podmilačje, and a statue of St Francis for the church in Guča Gori.  Fra Nikola Lašvanin, known for his studies of history, was buried in Podmilačje in the church of St John the Baptist in 1750 – Necrologia of the Fojnica Franciscans.  According to the Schematization of Bosnia Argentina dating from 1877, Podmilačje had a primary school, and Fra Anto Knežević was apppointed as supervisor.  A parish house was also built in 1873 (Jelenić, 1990, 233, 336, 578, 600)

            Little is known from written sources of the fate of the church over the centuries.  In 1705 major repairs were undertaken, and in 1758 a new roof was laid. There were further major repairs in 1822, and in 1872 the bell tower, with its Gothic features, was extensively rebuilt.  The most extensive works of all began in August 1910 and continued over the next few years, when the bell tower and facade were pulled down and the old sanctuary incorporated as a chapel in an ambitious new pseudo-Gothic church.

            In 1960 a new altar was made in the new church of black and white stone, the altar steps were covered with white Brač stone, and the presbytery was revetted with polished slabs.  New windows were inserted with ornamental glass and marble statues of SS Peter and Paul.  In June 1970  the roof of the church was replaced by sheet metal.  In 1974 the interior was arranged on the basis of a design by Mandica Lovrić, an architect, and the sculptor Zdenko Grgić, who made a medallion of the History of Bosnia in walnut, and the following year a mosaic of the arrival of the Franciscans in Bosnia.

            A fire in the parish hall in 1916 destroyed the important cultural and historical material that was kept there.

            The church of St John in Podmilačje was the only mediaeval church that had continued to be used for its original purpose without a break. Until the outbreak of war there survived some documentation on its earlier appearance, such as photographs dating from 1935 in Conspectus Provinciae, showing the building with its bell-tower and facade.  The ground plan of the earlier church also survived, and in the courtyard of the monastery in Jajce there still stands the arch of the portal, which was taken there after the demolition of the church.  The arch was restored to its former position during the 2000 reconstruction.

            The church of St John in Podmilačje was razed to the ground on 1 March 1993, when the entire shrine of the parish house and outdoor altar were also destroyed.

            The site of the church of St John in Podmilačje is a place of pilgrimage not only for Catholics but also traditionally for Muslims and Orthodox from throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Once a year, on St John’s Eve (24 June) huge crowds of people visit the site.  There is a folk belief that this is a healing site where gravely ill people can be cured, both the chronically sick and the mentally ill.  It is also believed that the pilgrimage must be performed two or three times, and that if there is no cure on the third occasion, the sick person will never recover.  Many people also come to the place in fulfilment of a vow, but most come to pray and to be cured of their illnesses.  Since this is a multiconfessional cult and votive site of pilgrimage, on St John’s Eve it turns into a Bosnian Lourdes in little.  It gains a particular charm from the people wearing traditional folk costumes, distinguishing people of different faiths and nations who have come from the farthest flung regionos of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Fabijanić, 2002, pp. 169,170).  By 23 June the area around the church is already becoming crowded with people wanting to make their confession.  Since the church is small, confessions are also held outside, with the help of priests who also come from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The next day a great mass for the sick is heard at 9 a.m., the central and most important part of the ritual, of which an integral part is washing at dawn at the spring known as Mrtvalj, also called Gospino vrilo (Our Lady’s Spring) by the people, which is regarded as healing and miracle-working.  After this the pilgrims go to the surrounding hills to pick a medicinal herb (Teucrium montanum or mountain germander), which is the principal ingredient in many folk medicines.  The pilgrimage then comes to an end.

            The cult of St John the Baptist in regard to the cure of the sick who are particularly “obsessed” is widespread throughout Bosnia and Hedrzegovina, and is held alongside similar cults such as that of Our Lady of Olovo on 15 August and the Orthodox cults of St Vasilije of Ostrog on 12 May and the Mother of God of Čajniče on 28 August.  Regardless of the date of origin of St John’s Church, this cult may be assumed to pre-date Christianity, later taking on Christian features.  The assumption is that there was a pre-Christian cult site in Podmilačje, given that bathing was an integral part of the ritual, later reduced to washing the face at the Mrtvalj spring.  The practice of ritual bathing suggests antiquity and the practice of ancient times.  Furthermore, many Christian churches were built on or close to the sites of pre-Christian shrines (Fabijanić, 2002, pp. 173,174).


Legal status to date

            By ruling of the Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina no. UP I 02-7-1/70 of 27. 03. 1970, the building was placed under the protection of the state.


2. Description of the monument

The old church of St John

            The church was 15.85 m. long and 8.50 m. wide, without the sacristy, which projected by 3.10 m. beyond the nave wall.  The church consisted of four basic elements: the nave, sanctuary, sacristy and bell-tower.

            The nave of the church formed an elongated rectangle with massive walls 1 m. thick, enclosing a space 8.40 m. long and 5.56 m. wide.  There was a narrow window terminating in a pointed Gothic arch roughly in the middle of each of the side walls.  The exterior of the walls were of regular but roughly dressed limestone blocks, roughly square in shape with the sides measuring some 20 cm. 

            The only decoration on the facade was a richly decorated portal, consisting of a border 32 cm wide with a total of five rows.  The outer edge was shaped like a series of refracted rectangles, alongside which was a narrow band of four-sided pyramids.  The rest of the decoration was composed of two folds separated by a clear level surface. A beam served as lintel, with the under side decorated by a narrow rope twist.  The door was 123 cm. wide.

            The sanctuary was of somewhat elongated form, and ending in a pentagonal apse.  It was roofed by a steeply pointed arch vault 6.35 m. above the first altar step. The western half of the space was one step higher than the nave, while the polygonal apse, where the votive altar stood, was another three steps higher.  The area was lit by a small window in the first north joining wall.  The door to the sacristy had a threshold 30 cm high, was topped by a less than semicircular arch, and measured 75 cm. wide and 182 cm. high.  The door was fixed in a particular way, known as cardo – a pivot system, where the door was not on hinges but on a pivot inserted in holes in the threshold and lintel.

            The sacristy was a smaller area measuring 3.60 x 2.70 m, poorly lit by a squarish window. 

            The belltower of the church of St John emerged from the centre of the facade.  The masonry section was about 29.0 m. high, and the overall height with the cross was almost 37 m.  It had five storeys.  The ground floor had openings on all four sides through which one passed into the nave when entering through the main door.  The belltower thus formed a kind of vestibule to the church.  There was a choir on the first floor, the architectural details and treatment of which are not known.  The third storey was simply treated: a single narrow, steeply arched aperture served to light the steps that led to the upper storeys.  It was at this point that the tower emerged from the body of the front wall of the church.  The fourth storey was in the shape of a cube, with a diagonally moulded cornice and quoins projecting from the remaining mass of the walls.  In the centre of the facade was a «round surface» which was presumably intended to be where a clock was to be fixed.  On the other sides of the tower there were narrow windows at this point.  On the fifth and final floor was a simple Gothic biphora above a diagonal moulded cornice. Here too the corners were prominent.  The tower had a steep roof covered with wooden shingles. (Kujundžić, 1966, 370).

            All that survived of the items in the old church was a Gothic chalice in the sacristy; its present whereabouts are not known. 

New church of St John

            The new church of St John was typical of the architectural treatment of churches of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, in the manner of historicism with elements of neo-Romantic and neo-Gothic.  The church had a triple nave with a massive apse with contrafora on the north side and a transept running east-west.  The old church was incorporated into the east end of the new church and turned into a baptistery.  When this was done the bell tower and facade of the old church were pulled down.   The concept of the facade of the old church was an attempt in some way to imitate the appearance of the facade of the old church, except that as well as new building materials, new formal elements were also used.  This relates in particular to the way it gradually narrowed to emphasize the verticality of the bell tower, which was still further emphasized by the steep polygonal roof topping the belfry.

            The entrance to the church was on the south side, with steps and a portal ending in a depressed arch.  Above the portal was a tympanum with a crux immissa window, and a small symmetrically placed window aperture on each side.

            Alongside the lateral walls of the church were symmetrically arrayed contrafora, between which were trifora with very pronounced central window apertures terminating in the form of a pointed arch that was optically but not structurally linked by the two adjacent contraforae.

            The church had a gabled roof, with the exception of the apse which had a five-pitched roof.  The roofs were covered with industrial tiles.


3.Conservation and restoration works:

1705 – major interventions to the roof and walls of the building

1758 – replacement of the roof

1822 – major interventions to the building

1872 – rebuilding of the bell tower, which had Gothic elements

1910 – bell tower and facade pulled down and new church built incorporating the old

2000 – rehabilitation of the building demolished during the war


4. Current condition of the property

            Based on a Feasibility Study drawn up by D&Z Design Bureau d.o.o. of Zadar and architect Josip Gršković, at the request of the client, the parish office of St John the Baptist in Podmilačje, on 21. 05. 1999, technical documentation for the rehabilitation of the old church of St John in Podmilačje demolished during the war was drawn up.  In 2000 the building was rebuilt.

            The rehabilitation of the old church was effected on the foundations of the building that had been demolished, using photographic documentation and the written description by Đuro Basler, on which the technical documentation for the new building was based.

            The findings from an on-site inspection are as follows:

Ÿ          The buildings of the old and new churches of St John were totally demolished during the 1992-1995 war,

Ÿ          There were quantities of stone on the site where the church had stood; after 1999 these were removed during clearance of the site and preparations for building the new church;

Ÿ          Some of the stone fragments are still alongside the church of St John below the present day Jajce to Banja Luka road.  It has been impossible to determine whether they belonged to the old or the new church, since they are mingled with concrete and overgrown with self-sown weeds.  According to the parish priest, they are from the new church;

Ÿ          The building has been rehabilitated to its pre 1910 appearance, before the bigger church was built.  According to the parish priest the works were carried out on the foundations of the old church of St John;

Ÿ          The building has had an entrance facade and bell tower built on;

Ÿ          The lunette with decoration that was kept in the monastery in Jajce after 1910 has been restored to the portal;

Ÿ          The windows, window sills and window frames have been reconstructed on the basis of their earlier appearance;

Ÿ          The interior of the church has been reconstructed on the basis of its earlier appearance in old photographs.



            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:

B. Historical value

C. Artistic and aesthetic value

C.v. value of details (original arch above the portal)

E.  Symbolic value

E.ii. religious value

E.iii. traditional value

E.iv. relation to rituals or traditions

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


            The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

-         Copy of cadastral plan

-         Copy of land register entry and proof of title;

-         Photodocumentation;

-         Site plan



            During the procedure to designate the church of St John in Podmilačje as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina the following works were consulted:


Blažević, Fra Velimir, Katolička župa Jajce u XVII i XVIII stoljeću (The Catholic Parish of Jajce in the 17th and 18th centuries), in: Bosna franciscana, yr. VI,  no. 10, pp. 112 – 142, 1998


Fabijanić, Radmila, Podmilačje i sv. Ivo, Jajce 1936.-1996. (Podmilačje and St John’s), collected papers, pp. 169-174, Jajce, 2000


Kovačić, A.S., Podmilačko svetište i župa (The Podmilačje shrine and parish), in: Podmilačje, 2nd ed., Parish office of St John Podmilačje, Zagreb, pp. 7.-60, 1990


Kujundžić, Juraj, (Basler), Crkva sv. Ive u Podmilačju (The Church of St John in Podmilačje), u:Dobri pastir, vols I-IV, yrs XV-XVI, pp. 369-374, Sarajevo, 1966.

Church of St John in Podmilačje, the architectural ensembleChurch of St John, photo of the old church and photo of the reconstructed churchChurch of St John, photo from 2003New pseudo-Gothic church<br>Old church incorporated in the new church.
South facadeNorth facadeWest facadeWest facade, reconstruction of the old church
PlanWindow of the old church and window on new reconstructed churchPortal 

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