Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Church of Saint George in Sopotnica, the architectural ensemble

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Status of monument -> National monument


Published in the “Official Gazette of BiH”, no. 97/09.

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 4 to 10 November 2008 the Commission adopted a






The architectural ensemble of St George's church in Sopotnica, Municipality Novo Goražde, is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

            The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot 5283, title deed no. 563/1 - property of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Dabar-Bosnia Metropolitanate, cadastral municipality Kopači, Municipality Novo Goražde, 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, 70/06 and 64/08) shall apply to the National Monument.




            The Government of Republika Srpska shall be responsible for providing the legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary for the protection, restoration, conservation 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 notice boards 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 site defined in Clause 1 para. 2 of this Decision, the following protection measures shall apply:

¾      all works are prohibited other than conservation and restoration works and routine maintenance works, including 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,

¾      on the plots adjoining the protected area, the construction of new buildings that could be detrimental to the National Monument in size, appearance or other manner 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 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 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 – 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.




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. 255.




This Decision shall enter into force on the day following its publication 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 Martin Cherry.


No: 07.1-02-81/03-10     

5 November 2008         



Chair of the Commission

Dubravko Lovrenović


E l u c i d a t i o n



Pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a “National Monument” is an item of public property proclaimed by the Commission to Preserve National Monuments 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 issued a decision to add St George’s church in Sopotnica, Novo Goražde to the Provisional List of National Monuments of BiH under serial no. 255.

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:

¾      Documentation on the location and current owner and user of the property (copy of cadastral plan).

¾      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.

¾      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 St George’s church stands four kilometres to the north of Goražde, in the village of Donja Sopotnica, on the left bank of the Drina, at the foot of Gradina hill, where the north slope merges into more level ground. The main Goražde to Višegrad road passes close by the church.

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 5283, title deed no. 563/1 - property of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Dabar-Bosnia Metropolitanate, cadastral municipality Kopači, Municipality Novo Goražde, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The complex of the National Monument has a boundary wall about 3 m in height, and is entered from the west. To the right of the entrance is a small single-storey souvenir shop, and to the left is a konak (residence).

To the east of the National Monument is a burial ground in active use, with a double wooden gate leading into the church complex.           

Historical information

The Drina region (Gornje Podrinje, the upper Drina valley) is mentioned by the Doclean priest in the mid 12th century, from which time it is possible to trace its considerable importance, whether as part of the Serbian or the Bosnian state. In 1373 the area belonged to Bosnia, when Tvrtko I, by agreement with Prince Lazar, took over and divided the lands of the Serbian landed noble župan [roughly, Lord of the County) Nikola Altomanović (Kojić-Kovačević, 1981, 109).

Goražde was a well-known mediaeval market under the Hranić-Kosača family. The earliest reference to it in written sources dates from 1376. The Drina district consisted of the župas [counties] of Bistrica, Govza, Osanica, Goražde, Pribud and Piva. The village of Kosača, in which some scholars see the origins of this powerful feudal family, belonged to the Osanica župa (Kojić- Kovačević, 1981, 109). The ascent of the Kosača family began at the time of Vlatko Vuković, one of King Tvrtko’s military leaders, and continued under his heir Sandalj Hranić (1392-1435). Sandalj Hranić’s lands extended from the mouth of the river Neretva to the Lim and from the Rama valley to Kotor. He resided in his court of Samobor near Goražde, on the right bank of the Drina. Following his death in 1435, Stjepan-Vukčić Kosača(1) took power, ruling these lands as an independent overlord from 1437 to his death in 1466. In 1448 he acquired the title of “herzog” (herceg), from which the entire region, including Hum and Primorje, the coastal regions, came to be known as Herzegovina. In 1454 herceg Stjepan built an Orthodox church in Sopotnica, dedicated to St. George.(2)

The church dedicated to St George (known locally as the Sopotnica church) dates from the mid 15th century – 6954-1446 (according to Ilarion Ruvarac, writing in 1880, the year 6954 of the mediaeval Serbian and Byzantine calendar which reckons time from “existence,” i.e. from the time of Adam, which is given on the donor's inscription on the lintel of the entrance to the church, corresponds to the year 1454 AD, being the year the church was built) (Kajmaković, 1981) and was built by Stefan Vukčić Kosača, known as the founder of several Orthodox monasteries and churches in former Herzegovina.

Not all parts of the building are of the same date.

There are differing opinions as to the evolution of the church over the centuries, based on available written sources and historical information as well as on archaeological investigations.

According to Z. Kajmaković, following archaeological and architectural investigations in the 1980s (five soundings: where the choirs meet the nave, where the paraclys (chapel) and altar parvis meet, where the old and the newer part of the nave meet, and in two places in the churchyard) and an expert analysis of the style of masonry of the various parts of the church, the shape of the stone blocks and the structure of the binder, the chronology would be as follows:

¾      the oldest part of the church is the cruciform east end, which in plan is a single-nave church with a semicircular apse (altar area) and abutting choirs, with a pointed vault

¾      the nave and choirs were built at the same time

¾      the paraclys (chapel) to the north of the altar space was a later addition soon after the church was built

¾      the western, parvis end of the church, with a barrel vault, is more recent than the cruciform eastern part. The nave is small, and probably soon proved too small, so the monks enlarged it during the time of Makarije Sokolović (latter half of the 16th century, at a time when the Ottoman authorities were permitting repairs and extensions to Orthodox places of worship (Kajmaković, 1981, 156)

¾      when the western part was built onto the church it was not in ruins; rather the west wall of the church was pulled down to allow for a larger area to be created. The point where the old and new buildings meet is not by the western edge of the third pilaster, but 60 cm to this west of this point

¾      the bell tower was built on in the late 19th century (Kajmaković, 1981, 156)

As well as the founder's inscription, there is another on the church, on the window jamb of the south choir, where the monastery brothers recorded the ordination of the monk Isaija. Judging from the linguistic features and script of this inscription, which shows that St George's church was a monastery at that time, it dates from the 15th-16th century (Kajmaković, 1981, 159). Further evidence that this was a monastery church is to be found in the first census of the Bosnian sanjak, dating from 1468/69, and the first name list of the sanjak of the vilayet of Herzegovina of 1477, which records that the church had extensive landholdings (Dželetović, 2007, 68).

During the Ottoman period, from the mid 16th century to 1869, no major repairs or alterations to the church were carried out beyond re-roofing and whitewashing. Details of the repairs to the church in 1869 may be found in the Triodion written by Arsenije Popović-Kosorić, jefimer, owned by the priestly family Kosorić of Goražde. Metropolitan Sava Kosanović also wrote about these repairs, in 1871, as did Zečević in 1890. Information about the repairs is also to be found in an inscription by the donor Jovan Andrić of Sarajevo on the metal church door, reading “This door was donated by Jovan Andrić Ćebenika of Sarajevo to the Goražde church in 1869.” The small bell cote “on the gable-end above the door” was probably built that same year, when the small bell “in the shape of a cup” was also probably mounted. The bell cote was soon demolished, and the existing bell tower was built in 1894 (Dželetović, 2007, 64).

The metal entrance door also dates from 1869, as recorded by the inscription “This door was donated by Jovan Andrić Ćebenika of Sarajevo to the Goražde church in 1869” (Dželetović, 2007, 21).

The roof cladding was relaid in 1992, using tiles – it is not known what kind of roof cladding they replaced. The nave of the church was given a gabled roof, the south choir a three-pane roof, the north choir and chapel (paraclys) a pent roof, and the apse a six-paned roof.

Following these roofing works, no major building works were carried out on the church until 1987/88, when the Višegrad hydro power plant was built and the reservoir created on the Drina upstream of Višegrad, causing the water table to rise at the site of the church. To protect the church from rising damp, remedial works were carried out – the floor of the church was taken up and a concrete base with insulation was laid, over which the old paving slabs were relaid in their original positions. The foundation walls of the church were also treated, by stripping off the plaster to a height of 1 m and injecting them before re-rendering the lower reaches of the walls with lime cement plaster. During the course of these works the parts of the bell tower that had been walled in with painted brick between the stone façade edges were also plastered (Dželetović. 2007, 71).

The church was damaged during the 1992-1995 war. It was shelled and set on fire in September 1992, destroying the roof frame and cladding. There was also damage to the interior of the church, the cornice, the entrance gate (which was partly destroyed) and the façade, where there was shrapnel damage. After the fire the walls and interior were left exposed to the elements.

In October 1994 the parish arranged for the church to be given a temporary roof. By the end of 1999 the Committee for the restoration of the church and the parish of Goražde, backed by the Metropolitan of Dabar-Bosna, had raised enough money, mostly from donations, to restore the church, which was done in 2000-2002.

The restored church was reconsecrated on 7 September 2002 by Metropolitan Nikolaj of Dabar-Bosna.

One of the earliest Serbian printing presses operated in the monastery founded alongside St George’s church in Sopotnica (the first Serbian printing press was founded in 1494 in Cetinje – Dejan Medaković, Grafika srpskih štampanih knjiga XV-XVII veka, Belgrade, 1985). Božidar Goraždanin’s printing press was in operation in the monastery between 1519 and 1529, supplying churches and monasteries with liturgical books immediately after the Ottoman occupation. Three books were printed under the auspices of the church in the 16th century. The oldest was a Služabnik (liturgical book), typeset and issued by the brothers Đurađ and Teodor Ljubavić in 1519. The other two were typeset by Teodor Ljubavić, following the premature death of his brother Đurađ: a Psalter with Posledovanje(3) and Horologion, in 1521, and a Prayer Book or Trebnik (ritual book) two years later, in 1523. When it moved to Wallachia in the 1530s, the monastery complex of the Sopotnica church was used as a scriptorium. The four Gospels are known to have been transcribed at St George’s church in Goražde in 1550 (Dželetović, 2007, 69).


2. Description of the property

In terms of layout, St George's church in Sopotnica belongs to the type of single-nave church with parvis, nave, altar space and semicircular apse.

The main axis of the church is east-west, with the entrance at the west end and the altar apse at the east end.

The oldest, original part of the church, dating from the mid 15th century, was a small single-nave cruciform church of the Drina type(4), with a semicircular altar apse and rectangular choirs abutting onto it symmetrical to the north and south, with a pointed vault and blind Romanesque arcades articulating the wall surfaces inside the church. Excluding the apse and choirs, it measures 8.50 x 4.50 m on the inside. The pointed vault of the church is seven metres in height.

The choirs are of roughly the same size, 2 m long and about 1.70 m wide. They have barrel vaults with a height to the apex of about 2.90 m. The walls of the choirs are the same thickness as those of the nave, at about 1.10 m. The altar apse is semicircular inside and out, and occupies the full width of the nave; it has a radius in line with the long axis of the church of 2.12 m, slightly more than the transverse radius of 1.83 m. The apse is lower than the nave, with the apex of the dome 3.40 m above floor level on the inside.

Not long after the oldest part of the church was built, the rectangular paraclys (chapel), measuring 3 x 1.80 m, was built onto the north side of the altar parvis(5), in line with the north choir, from which it is entered. Like the choir, the chapel has a barrel vault, with the apex at the same level as the north choir, about 2.90 m. The paraclys was lit through a small window to the east shaped like an inverse loophole, which was later walled up. The chapel was used for religious worship, and was already built as early as 1455 at the request of the Herceg himself.(6) (Dželetović, 2007, 60)

The nave of the church soon proved to be too small, and the monks enlarged it, probably in the latter half of the 16th century. A study of the joins in the walls revealed that the church was not in ruins when the parvis was added at the west end of the nave; rather, the west wall of the church was pulled down to allow for a larger area to be created. The church was extended by 6 metres to the west. The point where the old and new buildings meet is 60 cm to this west of the third pilaster (Kajmaković, 1981, 156). The extension of the nave is about 75 cm wider than the older part, at about 5.40 m, which was achieved by making the side walls of the extension thinner than those of the older part by about 35-40 cm.

Unlike the pointed vault of the oldest part of the church, the extension to the nave was built with a Romanesque barrel vault and pilasters, between which rounded-headed blind arcades were added. The vault of the extension is 55 cm lower at the apex than the older pointed vault. The arcades are of unequal depth, up to 18cm.

The demolition of the west wall and the enlargement of the nave meant that the portal of the church also underwent certain changes. The stone door jambs of the old church were decorated with Moravian interlace in bas-relief, typical of Serbian carving of the last quarter of the 14th and first half of the 15th century(7), and the founder's inscription was on the lintel of the old church. When the church was enlarged, the stone with the inscription and the right-hand door jamb were rebuilt into the new church doorway, and a new left-hand door jamb and decorative architrave were made without the decorative interlace (Kajmaković, 1981, 159). The existing portal is round-headed, with the apex 2.12 m in height; the doorway is 1.06 m wide. The crown of the portal and the arches at both ends are strikingly moulded.

Inside the church, in front of the altar apse, there was a stone partition used as an iconostasis.

Light entered the church through five windows, one in the attic space and one in the apse lighting the altar space, one in the south choir lighting the choir and nave, and two in the extension to the nave (the parvis) – one to the north and one to the south. The window in the attic space above the apse and the two in the parvis are round-arched inside and out; those in the apse and choirs are rectangular. The attic window is 1.18 m high and 74 m wide; the other windows vary in height from 73 to 77 cm, and are 60 cm wide. The paraclys (chapel) to the north was lit through a narrow opening in the east wall, shaped like an inverse loophole, which was walled up after World War II.

The floor of the church was covered with fairly smooth flagstones. The nave floor was lower than the entrance and the altar area by about 27 cm.

In the view of Đ. Mazalić, who studied the church in Sopotnica in the 1940s, it was built by coastal masons, as suggested by the fairly tall pointed vault of the nave, with sharply pointed transverse arches over the bays in the Gothic style, the use of which was widespread in the 15th century in the coastal region and which influenced neighbouring regions (Dželetović, 2007, 61).

The bell tower is rectangular in plan, with sides of 3.5 and 3 m, and a height of about 12 m. Its simplicity of execution does not match the rest of the church. The two massive piers and two pilasters that support the rest of the bell tower are covered at a height of about 3 m by a shallow groin vault. The piers and pillars, with the three outer round-arched passageways and the entrance doorway to the church, form a tetrapylon. The former window on the west gable-end of the extension to the church was converted into the entrance to the bell tower, reached via the wooden staircase of the church choir gallery. The entrance to the bell tower is 1.66 m high and 66 cm wide, and is round-arched, as are the windows on the top stage of the bell tower. This stage is lit from the south, west and north by three rather taller round-arched windows and one oculus with a diameter of about 60 cm on the west side of the lower half-stage of the bell tower. The piers of the bell tower, the vaults of the passageways, and the quoins of the bell tower to the top, unlike the rest of the church, are of cut facing stone, with the wall faces between the quoins built of painted façade bricks. During repair works to the church in 1987/88 the bricks were rendered so as to minimize the contrast between the bell tower and the rest of the church. The bell, which weighs 306 kg, was cast in Greece and mounted in April 2005 (Dželetović, 2007, 65).

The iconostasis in St George's church in Sopotnica was made after the church was restored, and was installed in 2001. It is made of walnut and decorated with carving. It is the work of Dragan Petrović of Belgrade, who also made the choir gallery and bishop's throne.

The iconostasis has two tiers.

¾      the bottom tier has icons of the following saints and scenes (from north to south): St George the Martyr, the Virgin, the Annunciation (Royal doors), Christ, St John the Baptist

¾      the top tier has icons of the following saints and scenes (from north to south): St Petka, St Stephen, St Peter, the Nativity, the Last Supper, the Resurrection, St Nicholas, the Archangel Michael, St Sava.

Above the icon of the Last Supper, at the top of the iconostasis, is a cross with the figure of Christ crucified. To the north of the cross is an icon of the Virgin, and to the south an icon of St John the Baptist.

When the church was restored in 12002, Radoš Delić donated a polyeleos of Greek manufacture.

The founder's inscription is carved on a dark marble slab measuring 125 x 21.5 cm, with letters about 7 cm high and 3.5 cm wide.

The founder's inscription of Herceg Stefan was originally on the lintel above the entrance tithe original building at the west end. It reads: “In the summer of 6954/1446, the servant of Christ the Lord, Herceg Stefan, built the church of St George the Grand Martyr of Christ, beseeching him to pray for me, a sinner, to Christ.” After the building was enlarged, this arched stone lintel and the right-hand doorjamb were fitted to the new portal. The right-hand doorjamb was decorated with a carved interlace, modelled on the bas-relief decoration of Moravian churches.

There is another inscription in the church, on the window lintel in the south choir. It is in two parts, the first of which is shorter and, according to Mazalić, “the lettering and ligatures are very similar to those of the Herceg's inscription,” so that it probably dates from the same period. The inscription on the window jamb of the south choir is much smaller than the one on the door lintel, and so is the lettering, which is a mere 2 cm or so in height. The inscription was transcribed for the first time during the course of Kajmaković's investigations, and reads: “Ase pisa Vasilije Ivanovik, bratie tako glet gdje iže ostavit otcai mater mene radi p(a) az budu emu mati I otac. Isai est moi učenik se slišav (?) ostaviv otca I mater, I bih Bogu edinomu rob, prostate me obratie”. The inscription is a record by the monastery brothers of the ordination of the monk Isaija, and was composed by another monk, Vasilije Ivanović; the linguistic features and script (style of lettering, nature of the ligatures, and ductus of the letters) date it to the 15th-16th century. The inscription confirms that at that time St George's church was a monastery (Kajmaković, 1981, 159).

The church also contains three plaques that have been incorporated, one into the altar area, with inscriptions, and one into the south façade, with a relief of the figure of Mercury.

According to D. Đeletović, who refers back to Bojanovski and Mazalić, there was a sizeable Roman settlement very close to the site of the church, either a way station or a small military camp (vexillarium) on the major Roman road from Epidaurum that ran along the Drina valley towards the north-east and eastern Balkans. This site was located on the basis of shards of pottery and lime mortar just to the south-east of the church, on level ground on the bank of the Drina. The three plaques built into the walls of the church are survivals from the settlement and the temple that probably stood there.

Two marble plaques with epigraphic symbols – abbreviations and numerals – representing dedications to the gods, were built into the side walls of the altar area. One, measuring 47 x 44 cm, with the abbreviations and numerals I.O.M.Cor. (CIL.III 837=13856), was built into the left-hand wall, 114 cm above floor level. The other, measuring 59 x 41 cm, with the abbreviations and numerals TERM(ino) (C.III 8371=13856), was built into the right-hand wall of the altar parvis, 106 cm above floor level.

The third plaque, which is of reddish marble, was used as a corner stone on the outside of the south-west corner (now in the south façade), and bears a bas-relief 79 cm high and 64 cm wide of the Roman god Mercury with his caduceus or kerykeion – as the Greek divinity Hermes Psychopompos, the conductor of souls.(8)

The fourth Roman monument, according to Arthur Evans who visited the region in the late 19th century, was a bas relief of an eagle in porphyry; this disappeared during the renovation of the church in the late 19th century.

Since one of the plaques in the altar area belonged to an altar to the god Terminus, it is likely that the way station already referred to, on or very near to the site of the present-day church, included a small Roman shrine. The bas relief of the Roman divinity Mercury, whom the Romans worshipped as the protector of travellers and merchants, also suggests that the Roman settlement was a way station or small military camp serving to protect a major road, while the epigraphic inscriptions IOM Cohortali and Termino suggest that a Roman military unit was based there (Dželetović, 2007, 26-28).

The church would certainly have been frescoed in the Herceg's time, but the paintings later vanished (Kajmaković, 1971, 156). In the latter half of the 19th century, before the restoration of 1869, there were merely vestiges of mediaeval frescoes, referred to by metropolitan Sava Kosanović in 1871 and Zečević in 1890. Kosanović wrote that “the church was once plastered,” and Zečević also referred to fragments of a fresco of St Michael on the wall where the bishop's throne later stood.

In the hope of finding traces of the fresco painting referred to by these eye-witnesses, when soundings were taken in the churchyard in the 1980s several dozen soundings were drilled in the plaster of the older part of the church, but no sign of frescoes was found. However, according to Kajmaković, an examination of the structure of the plaster clearly indicated that the church was decorated with frescoes, as confirmed by the findings of one of the soundings in the churchyard. Fragments of frescoes were found 25 m to the west of the church, at a depth of about 2 m. The frescoes, which had been removed in the church and buried where they were found, were mixed with the remains of mortar and stone from the demolished walls. They came from the frieze that decorated the lower register in the altar area (Dželetović, 2007, 62).

While the soundings were being taken in the churchyard, the foundations of the monastery konak were found about 20 m from the north wall of the church, providing archaeological evidence that the church once had a monastery complex. The period when this part of the complex was not determined, however (Kajmaković, 1981, 161).

The church was built on the site of a former mediaeval burial ground with stećci, where burials continued after the church was built; only two stećci now survive, together with some fragments (since they bore no symbols or epitaphs, they would have been broken up and used to build parts of the church in the 16th century). One, a gabled tombstone, dug up during the archaeological excavations in the 1980s, was damaged during the most recent restoration works on the church (Dželetović, 2007, 54), and is now on a concrete plinth to the north of the church. One chest-shaped stećak was built into the foundations on the north side of the later extension to the church, and part of it can still be seen below the wall inside the parvis. The other stećak, also chest-shaped, with an epitaph revealing that it stood over the grave of knez (headman) Radoslav Širinić, stands by the west wall of the church to the right of the portal. The epitaph is on the top of the tombstone, which is cracked and split. To the left of the portal is another chest-shaped stećak in which some member of the headman's family is buried, probably his wife.

The tombstone of knez Širinić bears an epitaph reading: “In the name of God, here lies the servant of God knez Radoslav Širinič.” The tombstone has suffered the ravages of time, but the epitaph has survived, though in poor condition.


3. Legal status to date

St George’s church in Sopotnica is on the Provisional List of National Monuments of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, under serial no. 255.         


4. Research and conservation and restoration works

¾      1980s – archaeological investigations of the Herceg's church of St George in Sopotnica, led by Z. Kajmaković (Dželetović. 2007, 24);

¾      working design for the restoration of the church, drawn up in 1999 by the Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Republika Srpska in Banja Luka; the investor was the parish committee of Srpsko Goražde, and the works contractor was OGIP Granit of Višegrad. The restoration works were preceded by a detailed survey of the condition of the church, the findings of which were as follows:

¾      the roof structure and interior were completely burned out and the vault was cracked in several places and showing signs of collapsing,

¾      there was considerable damage to the pointed Gothic vault of the oldest part of the church, which was sagging in several places,

¾      the outer walls of the church were also cracked in several places, particularly at the junction of the older church and the later extension,

¾      the south wall of the altar parvis was leaning inwards and had several small, irregularly-shaped vertical cracks,

¾      the walls of the choirs, paraclys and bell tower were also visibly damaged,

¾      the stone floor of the church had been dug out and the flagstones broken. The ambo of the church in particular had been dug out (Dželetović. 2007, 190);

¾      the renovation works on the church carried out in 2000/2001 consisted of the following:

¾      consolidation of the walls and stone vault,

¾      injecting the walls with a special compound based on opaline breccia from Macedonia, using special presses,

¾      installing metal anchors in the stone vaults, drawn through the vaults from the inside and linked on the outside by a rebar grid which was then concreted over. The walls and vaults of the choirs, paraclys and bell tower were made good in the same way,

¾      the stone floor of the nave was beyond repair, and all the flagstones were therefore replaced. The old stone floors in the altar parvis, choirs and paraclys, which were less badly damaged, were repaired and restored to their original appearance,

¾      the rendering was carried out using lime mortar from the Ljubinje area, chopped straw and sand. On account of its quality, this plaster was also used to inject some of the walls, the wooden beams were replaced by concrete girders and injection,

¾      the metal ties that were probably installed when the church was restored in 1869, and which can be seen as decorative crosses on the south and north walls, were retained and reinforced,

¾      a timber roof frame was constructed and clad with sheet copper,

¾      in the nave of the church, a small choir gallery was built of oak above the entrance doorway, reached via a staircase also made of oak. The choir gallery also serves as the entrance to the bell tower (Dželetović 2007, 191).


5. Current condition of the property

St George's church in Sopotnica is in good condition.


6. Specific risks




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.iii.      proportions

C.iv.     composition

C.v.      value of details

D.         Clarity (documentary, scientific and educational value)

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

E.         Symbolic value

E.i.       ontological value

E.iii.      traditional value

E.iv.     relation to rituals or ceremonies

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

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:

¾      Copy of geodetic plan

¾      Extract from working project for the restoration of the church

¾      Photodocumentation (photographs taken in August 2008)



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


1965.    Mazalić, Đoko. Slikarska umjetnost u Bosni i Hercegovini u tursko doba (Painting in BiH in the Turkish Period). Sarajevo: Veselin Masleša, 1965.


1971.    Kajmaković, Zdravko. Zidno slikarstvo u Bosni i Hercegovini (Wall Painting in BiH). Sarajevo: Veselin Masleša, 1971.


1981.    Kajmaković, Zdravko. “Drina u doba Kosača” (Drina in the Time of the Kosača), Naše starine XIV-XV, Annual of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments and Natural Rarities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sarajevo: 1981.


1981.    Kojić-Kovačević, Desanka. “Arhivsko-istorijska istraživanja Gornjeg Podrinja” (Archival and Historical Studies of the Upper Drina Region), Naše starine XIV-XV. Sarajevo: 1981, 109.-127.


1988.    Čović, Borivoj (ed.). Arheološki leksikon Bosne i Hercegovine (Archaeological Lexicon of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Vol. I. Sarajevo: 1988.


2002.    materials for inscription on the Commission’s Provisional List, 2002.


2007.    Dželetović, Danilo. Istorija i stradanje Hercegove crkve (History and Tribulations of the Herceg’s church), Office of Textbooks and Teaching Aids. East Sarajevo: 2007.


(1) Born in 1404 or 1405. Vukac Hranić, his father, lived and worked in the shadow of his powerful brother Sandalj.  His mother Katarina, also of unknown origin, died in early 1456.

(2) The church-building activities of the Kosača family began with Sandalj Hranić (Kovačević-Kojić, 1978, 298)

(3) An archaic word literally meaning “following” (after Christ). Trans.

(4) In the first half of the 15th century there was a renaissance of 13th century Rascian architecture in mediaeval Serbian architecture, mainly in the areas ruled by the Kosača.

During Sandalj Hranić's time (1392-1435) and that of his nephew Stefan Vukčić (1435-1466) about ten churches were built in the areas they ruled, modelled on the mother church and seat of the metropolitan for the whole of the Kosača lands, the Mileševo monastery, endowed by King Vladislav in the first half of the 13th century, with later elements in the Gothic style, introduced by Dubrovnik builders from the southern coastal region, giving rise to a new kind of Orthodox church known as the Drina type (Dželetović, 2007, 58)

When studying the Drina type of church as part of mediaeval Serbian architecture, it is important to consider a number of factors that directly or indirectly influenced the formation of this type of church in old Herzegovina.

Primarily, the construction of the finest buildings in Christendom, churches and apostoleion (churches of the Apostles), led to the emergence of a range of forms of types of similar churches in Western and Eastern Europe (Vojislav J. Đurić, “Mileševa i drinski tip crkve” in Raška baština, Kraljevo: Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments, 1975, 15).

Church-building in mediaeval Serbia was influenced mainly by the Orthodox East, but the rich architectural heritage was not immune to the impact of the West.

It is also important to note that certain specific elements of religious architecture in mediaeval Serbia were never adopted as copies but evolved into original forms under various influences. One of the heirs to this tradition is the Rascian school, which unites the Byzantine understanding of sacred space and the Romanesque and Gothic manner of decoration of the façades.

The Mileševa monastery, built in the 13th century in the style of the Rascian school (of which the basic features as regards churches were the single nave church with a dome, low rectangular choirs and side chapels: for more on the characteristics of the Rascian school see Đurđe Bošković, Arhitektura srednjeg veka, Belgrade: Narodna knjiga, 1962, 275), is one of the monasteries that was to have a considerable impact over the next two centuries both architecturally and as regards the ecclesiastical hierarchy; crucially, this was not limited to Serbia.  In 1377, after the coronation of Bosnia’s ban Tvrtko I as king of the Serbs and Bosnia and the transfer of the Dabar metropolitanate to Mileševa, the monastery became the spiritual centre of Orthodoxy in Bosnia (Vojislav J. Đurić, op.cit., 1975, 18).

The magnificent edifice of the Mileševa monastery, with features that bear the unmistakable stamp of the architectural legacy of the 13th century, would have a direct impact on the development of religious architecture in Bosnia, above all as regards the appearance and dedication of churches, and in particular under Sandalj Hranić (1392-1435) and Stefan Vukčić Kosača (1435-1466).

A number of churches built in the Kosača lands (among them St Stephen’s at Šćepan-Polje, St. George’s in Sopotnica, SS. Srđe and Vakh in Podi above Novi, and St. Luke in Smokovac) which revived the typical features of the Rascian type of church (see n. 2), leading to the so-called Renaissance of Rascian architecture in the first half of the 15th century. This renaissance, however, did not entail a unilateral attitude towards the prototype and its followers, nor was it reduced to mere copying (Vojislav J. Đurić, op.cit, 1975, 19).

The Kosača’s builders did adopt the basic Rascian layout, but simplified it by doing away with the side chapels by the altar and parvis, retaining only the parts of the building that were essential to the performance of the liturgy (Vojislav J. Đurić, op.cit., 1975, 19).

When considering the crucial role of Mileševa in the formation of a modified Rascian type of church in old Herzegovina, Vojislav J. Đurić concludes that the first modifications to the Rascian plan took place in the Drina region under the Kosača, and that the Drina valley remained the heartland of this type of architecture into the Ottoman period. The essential simplification of the Rascian type of church and the creative approach to the formation of new church compositions are the reasons for treating this group of churches as a distinctive, Drina type of architecture.

St George’s church in Sopotnica is the only church in old Herzegovina commissioned by herceg Stefan Vukčić Kosača that is not associated with the Mileševa cults. Nonetheless, architecturally and stylistically, the builders of the church in Sopotnica were certainly indebted to Mileševa, as the layout of the building reveals.  It is a single-nave structure with a single apse and pointed vault, and low choirs to the north and south, giving it a cruciform layout, with shallow rebated arches against the side walls.

(5) Determined by Z. Kajmaković during archaeological investigations in the 1980s, on the basis of the structure of the mortar in the foundations and the style of masonry.

(6) Some scholars surmise that this chapel was added so that the Herceg’s second wife, Barbara, daughter of one ducis de Payro, who was a Catholic, could pray there. Metropolitan Sava Kosanović, the first authority to refer to the church, which had a parvis “to the left of the altar like [the church] in Goražde,” mentions a tradition to the effect that “the wife of Herceg Stjepan, who was of the Latin confession, prayed to God in that parvis” (Kajmaković, 1971, 56)

(7)  Moravian interlace

(8) Mercury, the god of trade, took on the characteristics of the Greek god Hermes. Vestiges of this cult are to be found in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sopotnica near Goražde and Donje Unac (Drvar). He was also worshipped through gems engraved with the figure of the god (Tomislavgrad-Crkvina). His cult was maintained primarily by merchants and traders. He is known as Augustus in inscriptions. Date: 2nd-3rd century. (Borivoj Čović (ed.), Arheološki leksikon Bosne i Hercegovine, Vol. I, Sarajevo: 1988, 105).




The architectural ensemble of the church of Saint George in SopotnicaChurch of Saint George in SopotnicaChurch of Saint George in Sopotnica, the architectural ensemble South facade
North viewNortwest viewInteriorChoir
Southern choirParaclys (chapel)EntranceIconostasis
Entrance and founder’s inscriptionRoman plaque Graveyard 

BiH jezici 
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