Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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60th session - Decisions

Catholic church of the Holy Trinity in Blagaj, the architectural ensemble

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Status of monument -> National monument

Published in the “Official Gazette of BiH” no. 60/08.

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 27 May to 2 June 2008 the Commission adopted a






The architectural ensemble of the Catholic church of the Holy Trinity in Blagaj, City of Mostar, is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

The National Monument consists of the church, parish hall and churchyard.

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 7/81 (old survey), corresponding to c.p. nos.759 and 746 (new survey), Land Register entry no. 4, cadastral municipality Blagaj, City of Mostar, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 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 surely this should be (Official Gazette of the Federation of BiH nos. 2/02, 27/02, 6/04 and 51/07) 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 providing the legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary for the protection, restoration, conservation, rehabilitation and presentation of 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 basic details of the monument and the Decision to proclaim the property a National Monument.




To ensure the on-going protection of the National Monument on the area defined in Clause 1 para. 2 of this Decision, the following protection measures are hereby stipulated:

-          all works are prohibited other than conservation and restoration works, reconstruction and refurbishment works, and works designed to display the monument, with the approval of the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the heritage protection authority);

-          the adaption of the church hall to bring it in line with modern living conditions shall be permitted.  The works shall not be detrimental to or alter the outward appearance of the property (size, the disposition and size of the openings, the treatment of the façade, the roof cladding) or alter the relationship between the buildings within the architectural ensemble;

-          all works that could endanger the National Monument are prohibited, as is the erection of temporary facilities or permanent structures not designed for the sole purpose of protecting and presenting the National Monument;


The following emergency protection measures are hereby stipulated for the purpose of rehabilitation of the property:

-          clearing the architectural ensemble of waste matter, rubble, soil and vegetation;

-          conducting a detailed architectural survey of the current condition of the buildings in the architectural ensemble;

-          conducting a structural analysis of the surviving structural elements of the church;

-          removing those structures that examination reveals beyond doubt to be at risk of collapse;

-          cataloguing, conserving and suitably presenting the dismantled structures;

-          conducting repairs and structural consolidation of the structural elements;


To protect the meaning of the architectural ensemble, a buffer zone is hereby established, consisting of the plots bordering directly on the site of the National Monument. In this zone, the construction of new buildings that could be detrimental in size or height to the National Monument and its position in the image of the town is prohibited.




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 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 thereof.




The Government of the Federation, the Federal Ministry responsible for regional 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 to 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: 07.2-02-1029/03-84

28 May 2008



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 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 to Preserve National Monuments received a petition/proposal from Sulejman Demirović to designate the property as a national monument.

Pursuant to this proposal, 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 of the property (copy of cadastral plan);

-          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 property are as follows:


1. Details of the property


The church is located very close to the main road running the length of Blagaj, with which it is linked by an approach road (c.p. no. 538).

To the south of the plot is a slight slope running down to the river Buna.

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 7/81 (old survey), corresponding to c.p. nos.759 and 746 (new survey), Land Register entry no. 4, cadastral municipality Blagaj, City of Mostar, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Historical information(1)

The favourable geomorphic and climatic conditions of this region encouraged human settlement even in the remote past, so that the evolution of the area of present-day Blagaj can be traced since prehistoric times. Another factor favouring the development of settlement is the proximity of the river Neretva, one of the most important communications on the eastern Adriatic coast, which has carried considerable traffic from the interior to the coast and vice versa over the centuries.

The earliest indirect written sources on Blagaj, as one of the towns of Zahumlje, are to be found in the treatise on nations in De Administrando Imperio by the Byzantine Emperor and author Constantine Porphyrogenitus between 948 and 952 where two towns or forts are referred to – Bona and Hum.

After the 10th century, too, Blagaj played a major part in the development of Hum or Zahumlje.  Prince Miroslav of Hum, during whose time the Church of SS Cosmas and Damian was built, resided in Blagaj.  There is considerably more extensive evidence of life in late mediaeval times (12th -16th century). 

The development of the town of Blagaj near Mostar continued uninterrupted in the Ottoman period, when it once again acquired administrative and political importance. 

The decline of Blagaj's importance is associated both with the development of Mostar and the formation of the Počitelj kadiluk in 1728, when a number of villages from the Blagaj, Mostar and Stolac kadiluks were allocated to this new administrative entity.

As a result of the 1878 Congress of Berlin, during the forty years when it was administered by Austro-Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina was initially an occupied province under the formal sovereignty of the Sultan and, after annexation in 1908, part of the Dual Monarchy. After coming under Austro-Hungarian rule, most of Herzegovina consisted of one of the six districts into which the occupied country was divided. The Mostar district consisted of ten counties – the urban county of Mostar, the rural county of Mostar, and the counties of Bileća, Gacko, Konjic, Ljubinje, Ljubuški, Nevesinje, Stolac, Trebinje (Peez, 1891, 85).

During the Austro-Hungarian period the way of life changed, but Blagaj remained unaltered as an urban entity. There was not so much new building as to disrupt irrevocably the proportions and spatial relationships of the town's historic centre. While the import of central European historicist-eclectic architecture was of insignificant proportions, the old Herzegovina-Mediterranean-oriental architecture stagnated and died out. During the Austro-Hungarian period, Blagaj still retained its character as an oriental-type settlement, both in its overall appearance and in its architectural and compositional details, though there was obvious deterioration of the urban fabric.

The architectural heritage of this period is the most recent cultural stratum, which made no mark on the town planning and stylistic development of Blagaj. For all that, the construction of residential-cum-commercial and school buildings in the commercial area of the town began to alter the traditional image of the čaršija with its shops and storehouses. The layout of these buildings was free and simplified. The exterior features and siting gave this category a certain architectural and townscape value.

Blagaj also remained isolated from the design and construction of the roads network linking the principal towns of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was a time when the Mostar-Nevesinje road, which ran through the middle of Blagaj, and was the only passable road until 1903, lost its importance with the construction of the new main road. When the narrow-gauge railway line was laid between Mostar and Metković in 1885, Blagaj was linked with other regions via Buna, where the railway station was located.

It was at this time, too, that two religious buildings were erected – the Serbian Orthodox church, dedicated to St Basil of Ostrog, built in 1892, and the Catholic church dedicated to the Holy Trinity, built in 1908.

The parish of Blagaj was founded by Mostar's Bishop Fr. Paškal Buconjić in 1891, and the parish church was built by a Bosnian friar, Ivo Božić, of the Franciscan province of Herzegovina. Of note is the fact that Bačka Croats were involved in building it (Hrvatska riječ, 9.5. 2008). In 1933 the bell tower was added, using concrete.

The church of the Holy Trinity suffered no major damage during the war, but became increasingly derelict after the war ended in 1995.


2. Description of the property

The church belongs to the type of single-nave church of rectangular plan with a bell tower. The long axis of the church deviates slightly from an east-west orientation. On the outside, it measures 22.29 m long from east to west, and 11.58 m wide from north to south.

The entrance to the church is at the west end, and is accentuated not only by the bell tower but also by a rectangular projection without decoration, standing 20 cm proud of the wall face. The entrance is a simple round-arched doorway without decorated door jambs and lintel, at the top midpoint of which the year the building was erected is carved.

Inside, the church consists of a narthex, nave and altar area with a sacristy to the south.  Architecturally, the interior is clear and easy to grasp, thanks to its rectangular plan and almost perfect symmetry. The choir gallery, reached by the same wooden staircase that leads into the bell tower, stands against the west (entrance) end of the nave, at a height of about 4 metres.

The nave measures 17.44 m x 9.90 m on the outside and 15.87 x 8.36 m on the inside.  The side walls of the church are adorned between the windows with decorative pilasters with bases and capitals with simple mouldings. The pilasters are linked by round arches in bas relief in plaster. The spherical triangles of the triple groins above the capitals form the transition from the rectangular plan of the church to the structure of the channel ceiling. The pilasters further emphasize the verticality of the interior, leading the eye to the ceiling and adding to the building’s elegance.

Beyond the nave is the square altar area with sides of approx. 4 x 4 m, containing the altar, which dominates the composition of the interior. To the south of the apse is the square sacristy with sides of 4 x 4 m.

Light enters the nave from the sides through four round-arched windows 102 cm wide in both side walls, with another two windows at the west end. Each window is divided into 5 x 5 panes glazed with drawn glass. Further light enters through the exposed roof structure, allowing still more light from the west to enter the church from the choir gallery.

The main structural problem of roofing the nave was resolved by means of a channel ceiling, resting on the 77 cm bearing side walls, which are stone-built. The flat part of the ceiling consists of substantial wooden beams supporting the ceiling structure, itself composed of reeds fixed to the substructure as a basis for the plaster. It is not known whether it was decorated, and if so, how.

This structure was covered by a gabled roof using a queen post system. The roof structure has no ridge board; instead, boarding was laid over the rafters. The roof is clad with galvanized iron, and the floor is paved with flagstones.

Stylistically, the church is of neo-Romanesque design, with a marked use of neo-Romanesque decorative elements on the façades, notably the blind arcades below the only slightly accentuated roof cornice. The façades are rendered with lime cement mortar and painted. The side walls are each divided into four equal-sized panels in the central axis of which are the round-arched windows. Above are eleven blind arcades on each side. The side walls of the church are accentuated by roof projections without decoration. The north side of the church bears a memorial plaque to the Bačka Croats, erected in the first half of the 20th century.

The bell tower of the church is at the west end. Its roof is unique in Bosnia and Herzegovina, consisting essentially of a flat roof, but with a very complex structural design resulting in a highly unusual form.

The bell tower is square in plan, with sides of about 4.00 x 4.00 metres, and 21 metres in height. The base consists of massive 114 cm thick walls. The bell tower has three stages, of which the first is the same height as the church. It has no particular decoration, and only two openings, the entrance portal and a single round-arched window in the central axis of the bell tower.

The next stage of the bell tower is rather more elaborate, with shallow corner pilasters in plaster linked by a composition of five blind arcades on each side. Below this are round-arched windows with metal louvres, one on each side. This stage of the bell tower terminates in a complex string course and balustrade at the centre of which is a coat of arms and crown. The tower is topped by projecting corner turrets.

The top of the tower is composed of a two-stepped pyramid, with steps leading onto the roof. Surmounting this structure are four concrete girders meeting at mid point of the bell tower to form a pyramid. These girders have a dual role – one purely structural, to transfer the weight of the cross to the outside walls of the bell tower, and the other symbolic, to highlight the religious nature of the building.

The church was built of irregularly-sized blocks of quarry stone, with ashlar quoins. It is entirely rendered with lime cement mortar.

Parish hall

The parish hall stands to the south-west of the church.  It is rectangular in plan, with sides of 11.5 x 9.5 m, the long sides lying east-west. It is a two-storey building (ground + 1).

The façades of the building are extremely simple, their decorative treatment consisting of nothing more than the regular rhythm of the fenestration and parts of the structural and decorative mouldings. The fenestration consists of two rows each with four double-casement windows on the north and south façades and two each on the east and west façades.

The entrance, with double-sided steps, in in the middle of the south wall.

The building is articulated by shallow string courses, separting the façade into an upper and a lower register. The roof cornice is rather more pronounced and complex, consisting of stepped horizontal courses, probably brick, later plastered and finished with moulded sheet-metal templates and wooden guide bars. The building has a hipped roof clad with tiles.

The entire complex has a high boundary wall, with a glebe [a plot belonging to the church] to the south of the protected architectural ensemble.


3. Research and conservation and restoration works

No major works have been carried out on the property apart from routine maintenance works.

In 2007 the Federal Ministry of Culture and Sport carried out investigative works to identify any damage and the measures required to make it good.

The Commission to Preserve National Monuments has submitted an application for the repair of the property to the US Ambassador's Fund for 2008.


4. Legal status to date

The property has not been under state protection, nor is it on the Register of immovable cultural monuments of the National Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments and Natural Rarities of NR BiH (nor of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of NR BiH of Sarajevo). Furthermore, it was not listed as a cultural and historical property in the 1980 Regional Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Regional Plan for the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina to 2002 lists the Urban and rural ensemble of Blagaj as a Category I monument (of national importance).


5. Current condition of the property

The damage to the property consists of damage to the galvanized iron roof cladding, in the shape of small shrapnel holes.

The most serious damage is to the channel ceiling inside the church: 80% of the substantial wooden beams forming the flat part of the roof have been cut off. The area covered by these beams on the flat area is rectangular, measuring 11.70 x 4.20 m. There is also damage from rainwater entering the building.

The ceiling above the sacristy is in a state of dilapidation as a result of long-term exposure to the elements. The ceiling structure of reeds forming the base for the plaster finish, Austro-Hungarian style, attached to the wooden substructure, is becoming detached.

There is damage to the plaster on the inside walls of the church caused by damp, a direct consequence of the damage to the roof cladding.

There is minor damage to the glass in the windows, with a few panes missing.

The remains of a lightning conductor can be seen, but its earthing has not been checked to see if the entire installation is in working order, which is also true of the whole electric wiring in the building.


6. Specific risks

-          Effects of the elements

-          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.vi.      value of construction

D.         Clarity

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

D.v.       evidence of a typical way of life at a specific period

E.         Symbolic value

E.i.       religious value

E.iv.      relation to rituals or ceremonies

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

F.         Townscape/ Landscape value

F.i.       Relation to other elements of the site

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:

-          Photodocumentation of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments of BiH, photographs taken in 2004 by Mirzah Fočo using Canon Powershot camera;

-          Photodocumentation of the Institute for the Protection of Monuments of the Federal Ministry of Culture and Sport, photographs taken in 2006 by Azra Hadžić;

-          Copy of cadastral plan;

-          Copy of land register entry;

-          Drawings – ground plan of the church, drawn by Mirzah Fočo.



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


1891.    Karl Pec, Mostar i njegov kulturni krug (Mostar and its cultural environs), Leipzig, 1891


1941.    Gojko Grčić, “Istorijski osvrt na tendencije razvoja do 1941. godine” (Historical overview of development trends to 1941), Most, nos. 12-13, Mostar, 1977


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


2000.    Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nomination for the list of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the townscape ensemble of Blagaj, Sarajevo, 2000


2008.    Hrvatska riječ, issue dated 9 May 2008.


Websites consulted:






(1) For further historical details, see the decisions designating the historic urban area of Blagaj and the old Blagaj fort as national monuments of BiH.

Catholic church of the Holy Trinity in BlagajView from the east to the Catholic Church in BlagajView from the west to the Catholic Church in BlagajEntrance façade
Southwest façadeNortheast façadePorticoInterior, altar
InteriorParish house  

BiH jezici 
Commision to preserve national monuments © 2003. Design & Dev.: