Tombstones – Stecci – The 8th Wonder in Croatia
Croatia has 10 of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, read about Stecci – Medieval Tombstones
The Republic of Croatia on 15 July 2016 enrolled, together with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, the multinational nomination of Stecci – medieval cemetery tombstones on the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
In the nomination Stecci was translated as “medieval tombstones”, but their name literally means – who is standing.
The Croatian locations of Stecci – medieval tombstones are in Crljivica near Imotski (municipality Cista Provo) and Dubravka – St Barbara in Konavle near Dubrovnik and they represent the best-preserved sites of their kind in Croatia.
To understand the value of this UNESCO decision and to have a better insight into the 8th of UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia, I’ll try to represent a short history of these specific tombstones.
Stecci or tombstones are little known to the public, for example, it is not known that Stecci were created in parallel with developing of Notre-Dame in Paris, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, as it is not well known that were created while on the Adriatic coast were built stylish churches and cathedrals and acted brilliant artists like Buvina, master Radovan, and others.
However, in the area of today’s Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, western Serbia and Montenegro were created, almost in complete silence of the Western world, scattered over accessible and the inaccessible mountainous expanses, gentle valleys, along mountain lakes and the rivers, along paths, next to the demolished church, on the prehistoric tumuli or on the ruins, an entirely different art products, the strange stone monolith, with the size of thin stone slabs to the giant stone blocks.
The emergence of the Stecci are usually tied to the beginning of the 13th, and lasting up to the early 16th century. There were thousands and were called with different names (markers, old Bosnian monuments, Bogomil monuments etc.), while more recently are stabilized with name Stecci.
The solid, resistant and large, like they sent us a message that it is better to steer clear of them, because of that, years, and centuries later ordinary people feared from them and looked with awe to these riddles of the past.
It’s been a lot of time until the legends, myths and various folk beliefs about the origin and meaning of these tombstones have not ceased to be the only explanation, and while they are not researched and published information about them.
Stecci were usually decorated with figural scenes, individual characters people, animals (wolf, horse, snake), fantastic beings (winged horses, dragons), a variety of symbolic and ornamental motifs, it’s all carried out usually in bas-relief, or more rarely engraving. Sometimes it comes to whole compositions that show hunting (mostly deer, bear and then a boar), knights scenes (matches, tournaments horsemen, knights in battle), round dancing the men and women. With knights scenes, you can see shields with the feudal emblems and weapons. A smaller number of tombstones carries inscriptions, with the exception of the oldest, which was written in bosancica. They contain information about the deceased, information about a master who prepared the tombstone, but mostly about the different social strata.
Stecci or medieval tombstones beneath which were buried the dead, as a rule, were raised between thirty and fifty in one place, as a kind of dead cities. There is a separate Stecci, also, but it is not yet clear if this loneliness was punishment or reward.
It was found around 70,000 of tombstones of which is the most on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, even 60,000. In Croatia are 4400 tombstones, 4100 tombstones in Serbia and Montenegro has 3500, but it is believed that there are still more.
Among the thousands of tombstones does not the same tombstones, all are decorated and written in different ways. There is no identical monuments nowhere else in the whole world, and is possible parallels, according to the report on the World Heritage List, in Armenia, where is the KHACHKAR, and in Ireland, the CELTIC CROSS.
For Stecci – tombstones are simply not possible exclusiveness. Stecci were regional and cultural phenomena of this area. So, do not miss to visit another site of UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia.