Pomoc Pretraga Mapa Projekat Rastko - Boka

TIA Janus

Djordje Capin

Relationship Towards Serbian Monuments in Konavle

This work is read on 19th May 1995 in Bijeljina on consultation about museum activities, archives and the protection of culture inheritance in the Republic of Srpska and the Republic of Serbian Krajina, which was organized by Pan-Slavic association and museums of the Republic of Srpska and the Republic of Serbian Krajina. Excerpts are published in the review "Pogledi" – ("Views") no. 182, Kragujevac, 1995, page no. 36-37.

Translation – Dejan Djurovic

Supplement: leaflet found in the church in Radovcici in 1992.

This work has no pretension to offer the entire insight in the number of and the condition of the monuments of culture in Konavle but to offer proofs about destruction and their changing. Konavle is not exception. There are similar examples in almost all-Serbian lands especially in those, which were under Austria-Hungarian rule. The work on discoveries of numerous forgeries from the Middle Age until nowadays could be one of the priorities for our science. The breaking up of the unity of Serbian ethnical and cultural space is being tried among other means by manipulation with monuments, from their false presentation – to sheer avoiding and their non-registration.


Photo no. 1.: church of The Holy Demetrius in Picete

The old Slavic tribal state Konavle, which borders with the tribal state Dracevica in the east (nowadays the municipality of Herceg Novi) and Zrnovica (the tribal state of Dubrovnik) in the west, was settled by Serbs according to historian Constantine Porfirogenitus.[1] Serbian and Orthodox-Christian character Konavle region had entirely preserved until the first half of the fifteenth century, when it came under the rule of Dubrovnik. Despite centuries of aggressive action of Roman-Catholic Church, which after all succeeded in converting of inhabitants of Konavle, there are even nowadays still visible traces of their Christian-Orthodox origin.

Photo no. 2.: portal of the church of The Holy Barbara in Mrcine

In the past the term Konavle has been mentioned as one of the tribal states of Travunija or like the special dukedom. The region was part of the Serbian Medieval Lands (Duklja, the Nemanjics' Serbia, and later Bosnia) which were passing from hand to hand of various regional masters as the central power was weakening. Dubrovnik has bought the eastern part of Konavle with Vitaljina from Sandalj Hranic in 1419 and the rest of the tribal state from Radoslav Pavlovic in 1426. Religiously very non-tolerant Dubrovnik had started immediately conversion of inhabitants to Roman Catholicism. The action was carried out relatively fast, so the last mentioned Orthodox-Christian priest was Bozidar Tarakovic in 1466.[2] There was active resistance in the beginning and the passive one much later. Because of the strong resistance of the local inhabitants the attempt of building of the Franciscan monastery in the village of Saint George (nowadays Popovici), the most powerful Orthodox-Christian centre has failed. The folk tradition remembers the murder of two Franciscan priests, even the place where it happened.[3] The monastery has been built later but in place called Pridvorje.[4] As a trace of the Orthodox-Christian past there are many toponyms with the prefix "Greek" left like "Popovici", "Popova glava", "Popova njiva", "Kaludjer" and similar.

The Republic of Dubrovnik was satisfied by formal conversion of local inhabitants to Roman Catholicism but have not interfered into the local religious customs and buildings. (Differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism in fifteenth century were not so clear as they are nowadays, and the Julian calendar was still valid for both religious groups). The inhabitants of Konavle began an uprising in 1799-1800 against the aristocracy of Dubrovnik and in the war of Russians, Montenegrins and the inhabitants of Boka against French in 1806-1807 a part of Konavle joined the allied troops and burnt the property of Dubrovnik. When Konavle came under the rule of Austria in 1815 began a systematic action of denationalization and uprooting of ancient Serbian customs and destroying or remodeling of Serbian monuments. The action had lasted until the fall of Austria-Hungary in 1918 and continued with more intensity during the short rule of "NDH" (independent state of Croatia) and after during the communist Socialist Republic of Croatia in the former SFR Yugoslavia. All the time until the beginning of Austro-Hungarian annexation and even later the term "Croatia" or "Croatian" is completely unknown in the region of Konavle. Not until the second half of the nineteenth century when all Roman-Catholics who spoke Serbian language were announced Croatians gradually they began to declare themselves under the pressure of authorities and Church as Croats.

However, despite the pressures, the large number of inhabitants of Konavle preserve the ancient Serbian folk customs ("Slava"-family patron saint, burning of yule log for Christmas etc.), remember their origin (Montenegro and Herzegovina) and "the old faith"[5] Until 1941 most of them declare themselves as Serbs Roman-Catholics. Keeping the inhabitants under its control Roman-Catholic Church achieve by various methods even by open pressures and threats.[6]

According to traditional resources there are over thirty localities where used to be "Greek" or "orthodox-Christian" churches or graveyards. According to tradition there were at least four Orthodox-Christian monasteries. For some churches it was said that they were built "when Konavle was of Orthodox-Christian faith".[7]


Photo no. 3.: church of The Holy Demetrius in Gabrili

The medieval monuments of culture deserve special care and attention and they testify about the Orthodox-Christian nature of Konavle. Just they are (and not exclusively in Konavle, as we are going to see later) the objects of without precedent manipulations, remodeling and destruction.

It is amazing the fact that in Konavle after the Second World War there has not been done any archeological reconnoitering or excavations or if they have been done their results have been hidden from the scientific public. Konavle is the "empty" space on archeological maps, especially for the Middle Age period. It is worth mentioning that the municipality of Dubrovnik was the center of tourism in the former Yugoslavia and therefore one of the most rich communities in the Socialist Republic of Croatia, so such relationship towards the cultural heritage (contrary to ethnic Croatian regions) cannot be justified by lack of financial means and especially not by lack of adequate staff or professional interest. The Croatian authorities deliberately prevented archeological researches from the political reasons because their results could only harm the Croatian "right" on annexed Serbian lands and their open pretension on other Serbian regions like Boka Kotorska. The cultural monuments were not protected so their number nowadays is far less from the poor and incomplete information in literature.

Many churches, which were orientated towards the east and had the Orthodox-Christian altars, were destroyed in the second half of the nineteenth century during the Austria-Hungary annexation. Short after on their foundations or in their vicinity were built the new churches with complete new position and without apse. (In 1885 in Ljuta, under Soko-grad the church of the Birth of the Holy Lady from fifteenth century was destroyed, and in the recent period the church with the "Greek" cemetery in Racevo polje was also destroyed and the new one erected – The Holy Rock etc.). If destroying of the churches and their "renovation" could be justified by ignorance in nineteenth century, continuation of such methods until sixties or seventies of twentieth century (when there are well developed services of evidence and protection of cultural monuments) refers to deliberate and criminal destroying of monuments to cover up their Orthodox-Christian character.

Two churches – The Holy Martyr Demetrius in Picete and The Holy Martyr Barbara in Mrcine are noted in professional literature[8] as one naval temples with semicircular apses, Orthodox-Christian sanctification[9] and large tombs – stecci. Churches which existed until the Mid sixties of twentieth century do not exist any more in that form.

The church of The Holy Demetrius in Picete (Mitar's church) is nowadays the building of rectangular shape, 5.80 m long and 3.70 m wide without apse (picture no. 1). On the east and the north side of the recent building can be seen large amount of barren, which next to the eastern wall forms a semicircular foundation (the foundation of apse). In the vicinity of the church there is no tomb-stecak. Behind this church had been buried the Orthodox-Christians until the end of the First World War.[10]All these grave tombs are destroyed today.

The church of the Holy Martyr Barbara (Vara's church) in Mrcine has also no apse nowadays. On the portal in the shallow engraved rectangular stone is engraved a cross and the year 1889. Taking into consideration that the surface of the rectangular stone is completely white (picture no. 2.), with recent engravings and traces of chisel on the contrary to other stones and surfaces which have grey coating the forgery cannot be older than the period of seventies of the twentieth century. We can only guess what has been done by such an intervention. The nearby vicinity there is still a graveyard with ancient tombs – stecci that is called "a graveyard of Kulin ban" by local inhabitants. The church of The Holy Barbara and its nearby vicinity has been used by occupying Croatian forces as a tank fortification in 1992-1993 that is another violation of the cultural monuments.

The church of The Holy George in Cavtat has also been rebuilt from outside but inside there is still visible the Orthodox-Christian altar. Between the two World Wars the church was Orthodox-Christian. In the churchyard there is still an Orthodox-Christian graveyard with many tombs of Russian emigrants.

Photo no. 4.: Tomb epitaph of the family Zore from the town graveyard in Cavtat.

The church of The Holy Demetrius in Gabrili (picture no. 3)[11] from the period of the Serbian state Duklja (eleventh century) is the oldest preserved church in Konavle. It faces east, the apse is quadrilateral and the outside walls are decorated with rosettes. In the original shape there are also preserved the church of The Holy Ann in Lovorno (thirteenth–fourteenth century) and the older one (there are two existing) the church of The Holy Ascension in Vitaljina (fourteenth – fifteenth century), both with the Orthodox-Christian altars, orientated towards the east. This church in Vitaljina is without use and it is turned into a storehouse.


The significant sign of the Orthodox-Christian past of Konavle are tombs – stecci, graves from fourteenth-fifteenth century characteristic for Serbian Dinaric area from Lika to Skadarsko lake and Posavina in the north. From the period of Austria-Hungary annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878 until nowadays the tombs called stecci are misused in the political sense, trying to take over the lands from the Serbian national corpus. The tombs – stecci are attributed without the good proofs to historically and archeologically "uncatchable" "Bogomils" and were a foundation in creation of so called "Bosnian nation" or "Muslim nation". Such thesis a majority of researchers do not accept, and the whole fairy tale is reduced to a reasonable level and is approaching the truth. Nowadays it could be asserted that tombs – stecci, if taken into consideration the fact that their position is next to the Orthodox-Christian churches (the churches still in use, ruins of the Orthodox-Christian churches and the churches taken over by Roman Catholics later), and that their orientation is east-west with the head of a deceased towards the west, epitaphs and ornaments, and diffusion within the Serbian ethnic space, belong to believers of the eastern Orthodox-Christian church.[12]

Stecci in Konavle exist on more than twenty localities and they do not differ from those in another parts of Travunija. Their style is very similar if not the same as in the neighboring regions of today Herzegovina, the area of Herceg Novi and the tribal state of Dubrovnik. From the twenty mentioned localities, twelve are not to be found in professional literature. Tombs – stecci nowadays exist next to the following churches: the church of the Holy John and the Holy Vit in Vodovadja, the the Tiny Lady under Soko, the Holy Sergius and Bakos and the Holy Trinity in Pridvorje, the Holy Barbara in Mrcine, the Holy Rock in Djurinici, the Holy Ascension in Vitaljina, the Holy John in Ljuta, the Holy Elijah in Strujic, the Holy Michael in Mihanici, the Holy Demetrius in Gabrili, the Holy Lucas in Brotince, the Holy George in Cavtat, the Holy Lucas in Komaji, the Holy Ann in Poljice etc. The summary is not complete and by systematic reconnoitering the number of the localities would be much larger. The only epitaph has been found on stecak near Brotnice.[13] The other Cyrillic inscriptions, which are mentioned in literature,[14] are destroyed and do not exist anymore. Only in Brotnice (the upper Konavle, next to the border with nowadays Herzegovina) stecci can be found on their original location and are orientated east-west, on contrary to other locations where are displaced, deliberately broken or even used as the building material. Whereas the dislocation of stecci in nowadays Montenegro and Herzegovina were very sporadic and unintentional in Konavle we can talk about deliberate, systematic changing of their original position. Today in many graveyards there are less tombs-stecci than the number mentioned in professional literature (for example "The Tiny Lady" under Soko or "The Holy Ascension" in Vitaljina). The large number of stecci is secondary used for building of new graves or for the construction of the church enclosure, stairs or entrance etc.


Photo no. 5.: Epitaph on the tomb of Mato Vragolov in the town graveyard in Cavtat.

On recent graveyards there are almost no modern tombs before 1900. Between 1900 and the beginning of the First World War and couple of years after it, the vast majority of graveyard has been reconstructed and totally changed. Almost all ancient tombs have been destroyed. It is noticed that in some Latin letters inscription from the beginning of the twentieth century there are Cyrillic letters occasionally (the graveyard in Jasenice etc). Among the oldest of the inscriptions is the Cyrillic one from the graveyard in Cavtat, which belongs to Roman Catholic family Zore (picture no. 4.):

The grave of
The family Zore
Built in 1889

About the Serbian feelings of some older Roman Catholic inhabitants of Konavle testifies the Latin letters inscription on the tomb of Mato Vragolov (1907.), also from the graveyard in Cavtat:

Day sixth of April of MCMVII
Passed into eternity
In his very youth
Mato Vragolov
Of his deceased father Capt. Stijepo
Owner of a large estate and lawyer
By origin from Cavtat
In his heart Serb
He was young man of kind heart
And honest soul
Very wise and educated
He was always among the people
He always helped the poor
He had no enemies
And he deserved
To be sorry for his loss
With no difference of nacionalities and religion
Let him rest in peace.

The words " in his heart Serb" are deliberately destroyed (picture no. 5.).


Manipulations with the monuments of culture are not specific only for Konavle, although the situation here is much worse than in other regions, where numerous and organized Orthodox-Christian population expressed resistance and mostly preserved their monuments especially churches. There are also examples of destroying or forgeries even in Boka Kotorska.

Above the entrance of the town Herceg Novi (Tora) there was a Cyrillic inscription which was deliberately destroyed.[15] The Cyrillic inscriptions from the seventeenth century on the churches in the background of Herceg Novi (the Holy Ascension in Mojdez, The Holy Barbara in Mokrine) which says about the reconstruction of those churches (therefore about their genesis from the Middle Age, before the Turkish arrival) are never registered or published and most of those churches are not even given the status of the monument of culture. The ruins of the monastery "Potplanina" in Mojdez which could be found in some archived documents throughout the whole eighteenth century[16] are protected 1957.[17] Even though there are architectural remains on the terrain, the monastery has been erased from the register of the protected monuments.

The Orthodox-Christian church of The Holy Cosma and Damian in Ratisevina (Herceg-Novi) is one naval building with apse, orientated east-west, has three visible architectural phases. The first belongs to fourteenth-fifteenth century and this monument has never been registered as the monument of culture. It hasn't been reconstructed after the disastrous earthquake 1979. On the place of The Holy Cosma and Damian in Austria-Hungary cadastre is noted Roman Catholic church of "The All Saints" (cadastre particle 518, no. 55.). From the cadastre that wrong information has been mechanically rewritten until the recent topographic maps of Military Geographic Institute of Yugoslav National Army (1:50000 Kotor 1, 1967. and 1:25000 Cetinje 1-1, 1974.). Calender coincidence of the Roman Catholic Holiday of "The All Saints" (1st of November according to Gregorian calender) with the Orthodox-Christian holiday of "The Holy Cosma and Damian" (1st of November according to Julian calender) refers to deliberate forgery. That it is not accidental but very deliberate act we can see on the example the chapel of "The All Saints" in Dobrota (Kotor), which is known among the people as " The Holy Vraca" (The Holy Cosma and Damian)[18] However in the case of Ratisevina it is about the church which was always Orthodox-Christian and is situated in the village which was never inhabited by Roman Catholics.

The church of "The Holy Lady" in Budva is renamed in "Santa Maria in Castello", partially demolished in 1888 and then turned into a military warehouse.

The church of "The Holy Sava Consecrated" from the twelfth century in Budva was also turned into a warehouse. Originally it was dedicated to "The Holy Marcus". After 1550 Franciscans usurped it. It was also forged the Latin inscription with the year 1112 and the dedication of the church which is built in the bottom of the south hole for the supporting beam of iconostasis. The letters in the middle of the inscriptions are deeper engraved, that means that they were engraved later after the stone had already been immured. It is illogical because of "spolia" from the beginning of the twelfth century in church which really comes from the twelfth century. This forger obviously thought that the church was the newer one and dedication to The Holy Sava Consecrated was fabricated to diminish the cult of The Serbian Holy Sava, which was very spread in Budva.

The most open forgery of history in the recent period are commemorative volumes of a thousand year of the crowning of the Croatian king Tomislav in 1925. The favorable political moment such was the birth of the Serbian prince Tomislav Karadjordjevic in 1928 and euphoria of unification and integral Yugoslav feelings were used to spread these commemorative volumes all along the Serbian coastline, far beyond the borders of Croatia, even 250 km far from the eastern ethnic Croatian border.


1 Kovacevic Jovan, History of Montenegro I, Titograd 1967, page no. 291

2 Vukmanovic Jovan, Konavli, SANU special editions book DXXVII, Belgrade 1980., page no. 36

3 Vukmanovic J., op. cit., page no. 363

4 The toponyms "Dvor" and "Pridvorje" are related to the court of the duke of Dubrovnik. However the nearby toponym "Kraljevo" relates to the older origin, to the family Nemanjic

5 All the way until the seventies of this century (XX) Roman Catholic Church has not succeeded in uprooting of the old folk custom – giving a requiem mass to a deceased person after forty days of his death. On the church door in the church of The Holy Ascension in Vitaljina in the sixties there were massages left with the following content: "Days for giving requiem mass for deceased for Roman Catholics are the third, the seventh and the thirtieth day after death AND NOT SOME OTHER DAYS!" ; "Whoever die go all of you on the funeral and the requiem mass, men and women, all. Let alone the old customs".

6 Leaflet from the church in Radovcici (see the supplement).

7 Vukmanovic J., op. cit., page no. 377.

8 Djuric Vojislav, History of Montenegro II/2, Titograd 1970., page no. 442-443.

9 Dedicated to the eastern saints, if it is not thought of the written dedications which do not exist nowadays.

10 Vukmanovic J., op. cit., page no. 424.

11 Pusic Ilija, Church of The Holy Thomas in Kuti, Zograf 17., Belgrade 1986., page no. 75., picture no. 5.

12 Glusac Vaso, The truth about Bogomils, Belgrade 1941/1945., reprint Belgrade 1992.

13 Beslagic Sefik, Stecci in Brotnice, Annals of The Institute of History JAZU VIII-IX, Dubrovnik 1962., page no. 68-69, picture no. 4.

14 Vukmanovic J., op. cit., page no. 424.

15 Popovic Tomo, Herceg-Novi, Dubrovnik 1924., reprint Herceg-Novi 1982., page no. 253.

16 Crnic-Pejovic Marija, A settlement of Herceg Novi's municipality in XVIII century – Mojdez according to documents in Herceg Novi's archive, Boka 10., Herceg-Novi 1978., page no. 69-76.

17 Decision of the Republic Institute for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage Cetinje no. 1144/57 in the archive of The Regional Museum of Herceg Novi.

18 Tomic Antun, Toponims of Dobrota, Annual Almanac of The Maritime Museum in Kotor XXV, Kotor 1977., page no. 140-141.

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