Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Remains of the church and the necropolis with stećak tombstones of Zakuk in Bitunja, the archaeological site

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Status of monument -> National monument

Published in the “Official Gazette of BiH” no. 26/08.

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 16 to 22 May 2006 the Commission adopted a






The archaeological site of the remains of the church and the necropolis with stećak tombstones of Zakuk in Bitunja, Municipality Berkovići is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument). 

The National Monument consists of the remains of the church and the necropolis with nine stećak tombstones.

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 438 (old survey), Land Register, cadastral municipality Bitunja, municipality Berkovići, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The provisions relating to protection measures set forth by the Law on 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. 9/04) 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 and routine maintenance works, including those 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;

-         the site of the monument shall be open and accessible to the public, and may be used for educational and cultural purposes.

A protective strip with a width of 300 m from the boundaries of the National Monument is hereby stipulated. In this strip:

-         the extraction of stone, the location of potential environmental polluters as defined by regulations, and the construction of industrial buildings and facilities, major infrastructure, and any facilities the construction or operation of which could endanger the National Monument are prohibited;

-         the dumping of waste is prohibited.

The Government of Republika Srpska shall ensure that the following measures are implemented:

-         archaeological survey of the remains of the church;

-         investigation of the causes of damage and the possibility of restoring the stećak tombstones;

-         removal of plant organisms from the stećak tombstones;

-         repairing cracked and broken tombstones;

-         providing access to the area by the construction of an access road and paths to all parts of the area;

-         drawing up and implementing a programme for the presentation of the National Monument.




All movable artifacts found during the course of the archaeological survey shall be deposited in the closest museum or in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, processed, and suitably presented.    

The removal of the movable artifacts found during the archaeological survey 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 artifacts for the purposes of display or conservation shall be permitted if the head of the survey determines that a given artifact must be processed abroad, provides evidence to that effect to the Commission, which may permit the temporary removal of the artifact from the country subject to detailed conditions for its export, treatment while out of the country and return to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Upon receipt of a report on the investigations conducted, the Commission shall identify which movable artifacts shall be subject to protection measures to be determined by the Commission.




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




Everyone, and in particular the competent authorities of the 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 the Republika Srpska, the Ministry responsible for regional planning in the Republika Srpska and the heritage protection authority of the 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 – V of this Decision, and the Authorized Municipal Court shall be notified for the purposes of registration in the Land Register.




The elucidation and accompanying documentation form an integral part of this Decision, which may be viewed by interested parties on the premises or by accessing the website of the Commission (http://www.aneks8komisija.com.ba).




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




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: 05.1-70/06-4

May 2006



Chair of the Commission

Amra Hadžimuhamedović


E l u c i d a t i o n



Pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Law on 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 11 May 2006, Lidija Fekeža, research associate, custodian for the mediaeval period of the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina,submitted a petition to designate the historic site of the remains of the church and the necropolis with stećak tombstones of Zakuk in Gornja Bitunja as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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, para. 4 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.


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


1. Details of the property


Bitunja is a village settlement, located some 19 km from Berkovići and some 12 km from Stolac. It is divided into Donja and Gornja Bitunja or Zabrđe. The stećak tombstones from Gornja Bitunja (Zabrđe) are situated at four sites, generally known as Lokve, Potkuk, Zakuk and Baba. Of the total of 282 stećak tombstones, 62 are decorated (22%). The Kuk, a natural rocky limestone mass which was used as a quarry for the stećaks in the nearby necropolis, lies above the hamlet.

Historical information

The earliest reference to the mediaeval župas (counties) of Zahumlje is to be found in chapter XXX of the written document "Regnum Sclavorum", by the Orthodox Doclean priest, where he refers to nine Hum župas(1). The Bitunja area belonged to the mediaeval župa of Dubrava, which bordered on the župas of Dabar, Popovo, Žaba, Luka and Večerić. Dubrava župa was mentioned in a Dubrovnik document dated 13 October 1285, and later in several documents from 1405, 1406, 1443, 1444, and 1449. Gornja Bitunja (Zabrđe) is located not far from the south-eastern župa border.

The Zabrđe stećak tombstones have been in existence for a relatively long time. The oldest stećak tombstones belong to the Lokve necropolises and to the southern and central parts of the Potkuk necropolis. These are somewhat lesser in height and of poorer workmanship than the others. Burials were later carried out in the northern part of the Potkuk necropolis, and later on in the Zakuk necropolis. The stećak tombstones of latest date, finest workmanship and richest decoration are those in the Baba necropolis. 

There are no precise data on the date when the church in Zakuk was built. The arrangement of the stećak tombstones around the church suggests that the church was already in existence at the time the necropolis was in use, in the 14th and the 15th century (Š. Bešlagić, 1964. 100).


2. Description of the property

The archaeological site, the remains of the church and the necropolis with stećak tombstones are situated on a slightly levelled plateau.

The remains of the church occupy the central part of the site, and are surrounded by tombstones. The church was rectangular in ground plan, with outer dimensions of 10.5 x 5.5 m, and lay west-east. The walls were 0.60 m thick. The entrance to the church was at the west end. The remnants of a semicircular apse wall (radius 1.6m) and the stone column of the altar table can still be seen at the east end. The column is in a shape of a rectangular parallelepiped (120 x 60 x 23 cm). Its western face is decorated with a border composed of carved curving line with trefoils. Inside the border is a carved motif of a horse and rider, with a transverse twisted band running below it, extending into a motif of some kind, rectangular in shape, horizontally edged by a twisted band. Part of the column is in the ground, so that not all the decoration can be seen.

In the centre of the church, there are the remains of a transversal wall, with an opening in the middle. On the outside of the central part of the longitudinal walls, the remains of the retaining wall foundations, some 0.60 cm thick, can be seen. The church was constructed of regularly cut limestone blocks, which can still be seen in the interior and around the ruins. Here and there the lime mortar in the remains of the walls can still be seen.

The necropolis with stećak tombstones occupies an area of 20 x 20 m. It consists of a total of 9 chest-shaped stećak tombstones(2). Four decorated stećak tombstones have been recorded. They all lie west-east.

Stećak tombstone no. 1 (165 x 95 x 40 cm) is partly chipped on the upper horizontal surface, and is decorated with a rectangular border composed of incised slanting parallel lines, inside which there are two rosettes in the centre. One rosette is pentafoil in a circular garland, while the other is nine-leaved, and is surrounded by a circle. There is a band running from one rosette to the other, ending in a horizontal bar. The motif is reminiscent of a crux commissa ( "T" cross).

Stećak tombstone no. 2 (154 x 86 x 26 cm) features a decoration on the upper surface shallow carved motif of a staff with a horizontal crossbar.

Stećak tombstone no. 3 (190 x 110 x 40 cm) is decorated with shallow carved stripes, which are now somewhat eroded and hard to make out.

Stećak tombstone no. 4 has slid from its original position. The upper surface bears incisions reminiscent of letters of the alphabet, but they are too badly worn to state with confidence whether they represent letters or some other motifs.  (Š. Bešlagić, 1964. 80).

Some twenty metres to the north-west of the church, there is a well 4,0 m in diameter, with potable water, and one cattle watering-trough. 

Very close to the well, among the tombs with stećak tombstones, tombs without tombstones, but with a surface edging of stone blocks, can be seen.


3. Legal status to date

The monument is not on the provisional List of National Monuments of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, and the decision is adopted on the basis of the above petition.

The Regional Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina to 2000 lists it as a Category I monument.


4. Research and conservation and restoration works 

No research and conservation and restoration works have been undertaken at this archaeological site to date.


5. Current condition of the property

An on-site visit conducted in April 2006 ascertained as follows:

The access to the archaeological site, as well as the site itself is overgrown with self-sown vegetation, making the area hard to reach.

The stećak tombstones are damaged due to the long-term effects of the elements, and the presence of plant organisms, lichen and moss. Stone blocks from the ruined church are scattered about the site, in the interior of the church and around it.

There is no construction in progress in the vicinity.


6. Specific risks to which the monument is exposed

The decoration of the monuments could suffer permanent damage as a result of long-term lack of maintenance.



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.v.       value of detail

G.         Authenticity

G.i.       form and design

G.ii.      material and content

G.v.      location and setting


The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

-          Copy of cadastral plan;

-          Copy of land register entry;

-          Plan of the necropolis, drawing from: Š. Bešlagić, Naše starine (Our antiquities) 1964;

-          Photo documentation from the field, April 2006.



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


1909.    Dedijer, Jevto, “Hercegovina” (Herzegovina), From the Serb Ethnographic Anthology, Volume XII, Belgrade, 1909.


1964.    Bešlagić, Šefik, “Stećci u Bitunjoj” (Stećak tombstones in Bitunja), Naše starine IX (Our Antiquities IX), Sarajevo, 1964. 79 -101.


1965.    Wenzel, Marian, Ukrasni motivi na stećcima (Decorative motifs on stećak tombstones), Sarajevo, 1965.


1971.    Bešlagić, Šefik, Stećci, kataloško-topografski pregled (Stećak tombstones, a catalogue-cum-topographical survey), Sarajevo, 1971. 142-143.


1978.    Dinić, Mihajlo, “Zemlje Hercega Svetoga Save” (Lands of the Duke St. Savo's), from: Srpske zemlje u srednjem veku (Serbian lands in the Middle Ages), Belgrade, 1978., 178-269.


1982.    Vego, Marko, Postanak srednjovjekovne bosanske države (Formation of the Mediaeval Bosnian State), Sarajevo, 1982, 51-54.


1982.    Bešlagić, Šefik, Stećci-kultura i umjetnost (Stećak tombstones – culture and art), Sarajevo, 1982. 49-50,116.


1999.    Anđelić, Pavao, Sivrić, Marijan and Anđelić, Tomislav, Srednjovjekovne humske župe (Mediaeval Hum Župas), Mostar, 1999.


1999.    Humski zbornik (Hum Anthology) – IV, “Stolac u povijesti i kulturi Hrvata” (Stolac in the history and culture of the Croats), Zagreb-Stolac 1999.


2005.    Jalimam, Salih and Mičijević, Senad, Stolac od najstarijih vremena (Stolac from the ancient times), Mostar, 2005.


(1) Ferdo Šišić, Letopis popa Dukljanina (Chronicle by the Orthodox Doclean priest), SKZ, Beograd-Zagreb, 1928. p.327.

(2) Š. Bešlagić recorded one cruciform stećak tombstone.

Plan of the archaeological site Site with remains of the churchRemains of the churchStone column
Stećak tombstoneDecorated stećak tombstoneWell 

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