Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tangible and intangible Cultural Heritage
Mostar’s Stari Most
The single-arch stone bridge that spans the Neretva River was originally built in 1566. Hajrudin, who was mentored by the great Turkish architect Sinan, designed it. The Stari Most, or Old Bridge, was the symbol of Bosnia and Herzegovina as much as the Statue of Liberty is for the U.S. or Big Ben for England. It stood proudly for 437 years, symbolically and physically joining the east and west sides of the city. In 1993, during the savage siege of the city of Mostar, dozens of tank rounds sent the stone bridge to the bottom of the Neretva River. Over ten years and $50 million later, an exact replica was erected, using the same techniques and materials. Soon after, UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site. Besides the slippery stones and inside stunning views, the highlight of the Stari Most is the Mostari jumpers, or skakači. Keeping a long tradition alive, these divers make their living diving, head or feet first, 24 meters down into the cold waters of the whirling Neretva. It’s quite a sight.
Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge (Bridge on the Drina)
According to UNESCO, the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge of Višegrad (a World Heritage Site), which spans the Drina River, was built between 1571-1577. Its architect, Kodza Mimar Sinan, was acting on the orders of Grand Vizier Mehmed Paša Sokolović. Characteristic of the apogee of Ottoman monumental architecture and civil engineering, the bridge has 11 masonry arches with spans of 11 meters to 15 meters, and an access ramp at right angles with four arches on the left bank of the river. The 179.5-meter-long bridge is a representative masterpiece of Sinan, one of the greatest architects and engineers of the classical Ottoman period and a contemporary of the Italian Renaissance, with which his work may be compared. The unique elegance of proportion and monumental nobility of the whole site bear witness to the greatness of this style of architecture.
Stecci are the mysterious medieval tombstones found throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. The medieval tombstones that dot the countryside are a testament to its rich cultural and natural heritage. For this reason, they have been nominated as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stecci are often found in pristine natural settings, whether perched on scenic ridges or incorporated into beech tree forests. Medieval tombstones (stećci) represent the best preserved and genuine artistic expression of this form of medieval sepulchral art. In the areas where they emerged and evolved, they reflect permeation of various cultural influences of the time (from the second half of the twelfth to the sixteenth century), and they belong both to the Catholic West and the Orthodox East. Although immersed in the medieval European culture, the historical context and specific regional space where we find them, with traces of earlier influences (prehistoric, ancient and early medieval), stećci, by several aspects, remain a unique phenomenon in the medieval European artistic and archaeological heritage. Their main specificity is precisely in their number, over 60,000 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, not recorded anywhere else in Europe.
Konjic Wood Carving
Four generations ago, when Konjic counted less than 5,000 inhabitants, Armin and Orhan Niksic’s great grandfather, Gano Niksic, took up woodcarving as a hobby after getting familiar with the hand-carving techniques of a nearby village.
Today, the two cousins have woodcarving shops right next to each other in Konjic. For generations, they have been carving their flower and leaf patterns on every piece of furniture that the town’s famous shops produce.
While Armin Niksic’s shop continues to make souvenirs and pieces of furniture that the family has produced for about a century, Orhan’s shop, Rukotvorine, headed into a new direction and courageously embraced the mold of both traditional and modern design, combining them into a popular new style.
Business is booming for both of them, fortunately, and is expected to grow more since the UN’s cultural arm took note. In December of 2016, Konjic’s woodcarving was added to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.