Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Synagogue, the historic building

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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 1 to 7 July 2003 the Commission adopted a



            The historic building of the Synagogue in Mostar is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

            The site is located on cadastral plot 23/38 and 23/74, cadastral municipality Mostar, Land Registry entry no. 701, Municipality Stari Grad Mostar, Federation of BiH, 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.


The use of the premises for religious, educational and cultural purposes is permitted, but the owner is required to ensure that the original religious purpose is respected.

During the course of future interventions to the building, works relating to the conservation, restoration and adaptation of the complex for new purposes shall be permitted with the proviso that it is desirable to reconstruct or retain to the fullest extent possible the original design of the building and all its elements based on which the original purpose of the building is plain to see.

The original design and function of the building and changes thereto shall be presented in a suitable fashion within the ensemble.


            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-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.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 the Federation 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.

Chairman of  the Commission

Amra Hadžimuhamedović

No.: 08/2-6-7/03-1

3 July 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 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.

            Pursuant to a petition submitted on 16 December 2002 by the Jewish Community of Mostar, the Commission proceeded to carry out the procedure for reaching a final decision to designate the Property as a National Monument, pursuant to Article V of Annex 8 and Article 35 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments.


In the procedure preceding the adoption of a final decision to proclaim the property a national monument, the following documentation was inspected:

·          Documentation on the location and current owner and user of the property (copy of cadastral plan and copy of land registry entry, Mostar Municipality)

·          Data on the current condition and use of the property, including a description and photographs, data of war damage, data on restoration or other works on the property, etc.

·          Historical, architectural and other documentary material on the property, as set out in the bibliography forming part of this Decision.

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

1. Information on the site


The Synagogue or Temple in Mostar is in Braće Ćišića street, no. 15, Brankovac residential area, c.p. 23/38 and 23/75, c.m. Mostar, Municipality Stari Grad Mostar, Federation of BiH, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Historical data

In the middle ages Mostar was an important crossroads for routes leading from Bosnia to Montenegro and Dalmatia and beyond to Italy and the other countries of Europe, via the Adriatic ports.  Archive records dating from 1570 refer to the first Jewish immigrants,  Sephardi Jews expelled from Spain by the name of Daniel Rodriguez and Mosho Cohen, citizens of Mostar – «Habitori» - who found asylum in Bosnia and Herzegovina after fleeing the persecution of the Reconquista, with many other Jews, following the 1492 Granada Edict.

In the nineteenth century, under Austro-Hungarian rule, Ashkenazi Jews settled in the region, bringing with them their Western European culture and the way of life of Eastern European Jews, including the Yiddish language.  The old Sephardi inhabitants and the newly-arrived Ashkenazi created a joint Jewish religious community, the first widely known community of its kind in Europe.

A Jewish almanach for 1928/29 noted that according to statistics of the Jews of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, there was still a synagogue in Mostar in 1889.  The synagogue was created by converting a building that had previously been used as a seed warehouse.  The plot on which the temple stood ran alongside Mukića street (as it was then known – now Braće Šarića).  Since it had limited capacity and the Jews of Mostar were increasing in number, a larger building was needed.  A Construction Committee was formed consisting of David Kohn, David Fromer, and L. Rosenfeld, which sought approval from the Country Government to collect voluntary contributions to build a Synagogue or Temple in Mostar.  The funds raised were used to buy a building site from Salk Ćiber, plots no. 23/74 and 23/38.  Given their shortage of funds, the Commission turned to the Country Government on several occasions.  The estimate for the building was 17,500 kr., but there remained a shortfall of 9,000 kr.  A record of the construction of the synagogue was drawn up on 7 June 1904 with complete documentation.

The synagogue building was partly demolished during World War II.  In 1952 the Jewish community of Mostar donated the synagogue to the city of Mostar, since it was itself unable to prevent the building from further deterioration.  The City housed the Puppet Theatre in the temple premises. The building was restored at that time, and two wings added to house the theatre's offices.  

During the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina the building was damaged during the demolition of the Orthodox Cathedral in Mostar which stands in the immediate vicinity.  The detonations resulted in the destruction of part of the building.  Later some missiles landed on the roof of the building, which was completely burned out.

Legal status to date

            The building was not subject to state protection.

 2. Description of the monument

This religious building belongs stylistically to the period of historicism, or more exactly to the very early years of the appearance of the pseudo-Moorish expression.  This expression is to be seen in many buildings, both public and residential.   The development of the pseudo-Moorish manner in architecture, which is to be seen in very reductive form in this synagogue, was based on the use of the structure and architectural language to be seen in northern Africa.  Since brick, or rather adobe, was often used as a building material, in this the architecture of Bosnia and Herzegovina colour was often used to suggest it, with facades painted in alternating bands suggesting the stone and brick of the architecture that was the model for the development of this historicist manner.  Most of the buildings in this manner in BiH were the work of Karlo Paržik, Josip Vancaš and Ćiril Iveković. The pseudo-Moorish expression or mudejar was used in building Jewish places of worship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, since it was linked to stylistic sources in Spain of the Caliphate era, when the Jews enjoyed civil rights in that country.  The majority of Bosnian Jews regarded Spain as their country of origin, and the mudejar expression was perhaps accepted only by the Jews of  Bosnia and Herzegovina as an element of a recognizable identity, and in this case could also be regarded as romanticism.

            The Mostar Synagogue is a rectangular building with a centrally placed apse, lying on an east-west axis with the main entrance on the west side and the apse facing east.     

            The building is 22.70 metres long overall, or 20.20 m. without the apse, and 11.40 m. wide overall. The walls are of brick, 70 cm thick, other than the semicircular apse wall which is 50 cm thick.  On the western entrance facade (the front of the building) is a portal measuring 1.6 m. wide and 3.5 m. high, which was originally horseshoe arched with stone doorjambs and a pronounced lintel.  The arch was lost in the course of the last interventions on the building, and the present entrance door is simpler in appearance. All that has survived of the original is its rectangular shape.  There are also two pairs of elongated windows in the facade, also arched.  The lower windows are rather wider than the upper ones, measuring 0.60 x 1.50 m. compared with 0.50 x 1.50 for the upper.  Roughly in the centre of the building was a simply moulded cornice, which along with the various treatment of the facade surfaces emphasizes the horizontal lines of the building.  The cornice no longer exists.

The Synagogue-Temple building is entirely stuccoed with lime-cement mortar.  All the decorative elements were also worked in mortar, such as the decoration on the finishing cornice, the imitation stone of the lower part of the building and the alternately recessed quoins.  The upper part of the building was smooth mortared without any decoration.

The apertures on the north and south facades of the building are arranged perfectly symmetrically, and their dimensions, as well as the axial spaces between them (4.40 m.), are identical.  There are three rectangular, horseshoe-arched windows on the south facade and two on the north, measing 1.00 m. wide by 2.50 m. high.  On the north facade there is another entrance door, so that the overall number of apertures is the same as on the south.

The total height of the building is 9.90 m. to the height of the roof, or 6.70m on the north and south sides.  The front facade is 9.00 m. high.

The building ends with a pronounced cornice extending the entire length of the building except on the front facade, where there is a frieze with decorative elements worked in mortar representing a stylization of the ribbing on buildings such as is to be seen in Egypt and North Africa.  These stylized forms are typical of early twentieth century Austro-Hungarian buildings in this part of the world.  In addition to these elements, there are three stone obelisks on the front facade.  The central part of this facade, beneath the cornice, also bears the Jewish scriptures, open to show a Hebrew text on Moses' tablets of stone.

There are certain departures from the1908 design in the appearance of the facade, probably the result of the financial shortfall when the building was erected.

The interior of the building consists of three parts: the apse, the central area used for prayer, and a smaller antechamber.  The apse was raised 50 cm above the floor level of the rest of the building and was also emphasized by an arch with a radius of 5.00 metres.  The apse radius was 2.50 m.

            The internal dimensions of the central prayer space were 14.80 x 10.00 m, while the antechamber was much smaller, 2.00 m. long and 10.00 m. wide.

            The interior of the building had two galleries 1.50 m. wide and 2.78 m. high on t he north and south walls.  The wooden structure of the galleries rested on steel pillars set every 2.93 m. Access to the galleries was from the antechamber by two simple staircases 1.00 m. wide.

            The building had neither a level nor a dropped ceiling; the rafters were left exposed.   This gave the interior a greater usable height of 7.20 m.

            Outside the main entrance to the building was a spacious courtyard with a lime tree.  It was in the courtyard that on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the Jews made roofless huts of brushwood and leaves, which has a symbolic meaning for the Jewish people – that of the transience of life and wealth.

3. Research and conservation and restoration works

The Puppet Theatre building, in other words the Synagogue in Mostar, was renovated in 1996 with the help of the European Union and its representative Hans  Koschnik.  On that occasion the interior of the building, the facade and the roof construction were renovated, so that structurally the building is now in good condition.

4. Current condition of the site

In 1952 the Synagogue-Temple building was donated to the city, and that same year a number of interventions were carried out to adapt it to the needs of the Puppet Theatre.  All the original elements were removed from the interior at that time – the galleries, pillars, access stairs in the apse, wooden staircases in the antechamber.  Seating was placed in the central prayer space and the apse was turned into the stage.  To improve the acoustics, the ceiling was lowered.  To the north and south, two additional wings were built to house the theatre's offices.  These extensions deprived the building of its authenticity. 

The Puppet Theatre building, in other words the Synagogue in Mostar, was renovated in 1996 with the help of the European Union; the interior of the building, the facade and the roof construction were renovated, so that structurally the building is now in good condition.  Part of the holy scriptures from the facade is on display in the courtyard.


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:

A.  Time frame

B.      Historical value

E.  Symbolic value

            E.iii. traditional value

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

            The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

-          Copy of cadastral plan

-          Copy of land register entry and proof of title;

-          Photodocumentation;

-          Drawings

The documentation annexed to the Decision is public and available for view by interested persons on written request to the Commission to Preserve National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


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

Building permit and record of construction, Archives of BiH, ZVS, 1908, 25-234-29

Jewish Almanach, Judaism Statistics, 1928/29

Mandlbaum, Zoran, Veličanstven pomen nevinim (A magnificent monument to the innocent), Most magazine for education, science and culture, Mostar, no. 122-123, 2000




Synagogue in MostarFront facaderance to the Synagogue Plaque in a front of Synagogue
Interior, detail - window   

BiH jezici 
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