Trebinje

Trebinje, the southernmost city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Republika Srpska lies at the foot of Leotar Mountain /1224 meters, highest limestone peak of the area/, at the edge of the karst Trebinjsko and Popovo polje – Trebinje and Popovo Fields, at the altitude of 270 meters. Trebinje is situated only 28 km away from the famous tourist center and the wonderful Adriatic city of Dubrovnik /Croatia/ and 40 km away from Herceg Novi /Montenegro/. The town of Trebinje is located in the hinterland of the Adriatic Sea, specifically in the hinterland of Dubrovnik and Herceg Novi coastal areas. Trebinje borders with Bileća in the north, with Ljubinje in the northwest, with municipality of Ravno in the west, with Dubrovnik in the southwest, with Herceg Novi in the south and Nikšić in the east. Leotar Mountain rises above Trebinje which is surrounded from all sides by mountains, so when observed from the air, the town sits in the vast valley, through which flows the river. The neighboring towns of Trebinje are Bileća, Ljubinje, Dubrovnik, Herceg Novi and Nikšić.

Trebinje competes with Mostar and Stolac in terms of beauty, but fortunately had escaped the fates of these two towns and was not heavily damaged during the Bosnian war, which luckily left its old town intact. However, Trebinje is unfortunately famous for Srđan Aleksic, (Herzegovinian Serb born 1966, tragically killed 27 January 1993), who was real Serbian patriot and heroically lost his life trying to defend his Muslim fellow citizen Alen Glavović by being beaten to death. Srđan’s father wrote in the obituary of his son that “Srđan died carrying out his human duty”.

The name of Trebinje comes from the Byzantine term Travunia, which initially was a Byzantine territory governed by the Serbs. It commanded the road from Ragusa /nowadays Dubrovnik/ to Constantinople /nowadays Istanbul/, traversed in 1096 by Raymond of Toulouse and his crusaders. According to some researchers, the first stecak -tomb stone- with inscription designates the grave of the zhupan /lord/ Grdesa /Grda, iupanus Gerdessa/ from Trebinje, who died sometimes between 1151 and 1178, which was found in the Medieval necropolis of Police, near Trebinje. The Grdesa zhupan was one of the most distinguished Serb noblemen and knights of the 12th century, about whom there are not other preserved documents. Under the name of Tribunia or Travunja /the Trebigne of the Ragusans/, it belonged to the Serbian Empire until 1355. Trebinje became a part of the expanded Medieval Bosnian state under Tvrtko I in 1373. There is a medieval tower in Gornje Police /Gornye Politse/ whose construction is often attributed to Vuk Brankovic. In 1482 Trebinje was captured by the Turks as the rest of Herzegovina. Old Town of Trebinje is called the Kastel, and had been transformed in the former commercial and craft center. At the end of the 19th century and early 20th century and Austrian military camp was built on sites of the Roman, Medieval and Turkish fortifications, while at present it hosts the rich Museum of Herzegovina. The city walls, the Old Town square, and two mosques of Trebinje were built in beginning of the 18th century by Resulbegović family. The Arslanagić Bridge in Trebinje was originally built in the 16th century by Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic, at the village of Arslanagić, 5 km north of the town. Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic attributed Arslan-aga and his family to collect the bridge toll after which the bridge got its name. Arslanagic Bridge was moved closer to Trebinje (1 km) in the late 1960s when it got under water, because of the new-constructed accumulation lake. The Arslanagić Bridge represents one of the most attractive and beautiful Turkish bridges in Bosnia and Herzegovina, featuring two large and two small semicircular arches. During the period of the Austro-Hungarian administration /1878-1918/, several fortifications were built on the hills surrounding Trebinje, and there was a garrison based in the town. They also modernized the town, expanding it westwards, building the present main street, as well as, several squares, park, new schools, tobacco plantations, and vineyards, thus forming an unique mixture of the Oriental and Mediterranean architecture of Trebinje. Industrial development during the period of the socialist Yugoslavia, especially hydroelectric potential brought prosperity and large increase in urban population of Trebinje.

There is barely a town in Herzegovina that was not erected alongside a fresh-water river. Trebinje is no exception – its old town lines the banks of the Trebisnjica River that flows through the heart of the city. Trebišnjica River is the largest underground river in the world /98 km long/ and along with its underground courses it makes total length of 187 km. Trebišnjica River is composed of complex system of surfacant and underground water courses in Herzegovina and with its tributaries flowing through the vast cascaded carst fields features enormous hydro-potential. The Bileća Lake on the river Trebišnjica near Bileća in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the biggest artificial accumulation in the Balkans. Close to the Trebišnjica course there is the place of Crkvice, which features the highest rate of precipitation, of the average 4900 mm per year. The Trebisnjica River and the city of Trebinje have always been known for the enormous number of old water mills treading the Trebisnjica. Although water mills on Trebisnjica River are not fully functional today, they remain a symbol of Herzegovina’s not-so-distant past when everything was directly connected to the power of nature.  The Vjetrenica Cave is Monument of Nature and outstanding tourist attraction and nature landmark, located on the west edge of Popovo Polje, near Zavala village.

The Duži Monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church is dedicated to the Shroud of the Mother of God and commemorated on October 14. The church of the Monastery Duzi is large, one nave building, with semicircular altar. It has been reconstructed, and mural painting is ongoing. Duzi Monastery is situated in the Trebinje forest away from about 4km on the left shore of the Trebisnjica River, 7km downstream of Trebinje on the way to Dubrovnik. In the 16th and 17th century Duzi Monastery was the metochion – property of the Tvrdos Monastery. When Tvrdos Monastery was destroyed in 1695, metropolitan bishop and monks moved to Duzi Monastery. They restored and enlarged the church and property, which still has been well known by the same name. Until the end of existing of the Pec Patriarchate – Pecka Patrijarsija in 1776, this monastery was the centre of metropolitan bishop of Herzegovina. It was robbed and devastated several times. One of the worth-mentioning sights of the Duzi Monastery is the miraculous healing of Savo Kushtra. However, the Duži Monastery was not only the exclusive spiritual center, but also the national liberation epicenter of the Serbian Herzegovina. In the winter  1857, before the Saint Nicholas Feast in the Duži Monastery began an uprising of the Serbs under the leadership of Luke Vukalovic. Near Monastery is old school – the first school in area, built in 1857 by Nicifor Ducic, a notable monk, a soldier, Archimandrite, academic, philanthropist to Serbian education and Serafin Perovic.

The Monastery of SS Peter and Paul is located in close vicinity of the Cicevo village in the Petropavlov polje field /the field of SS Peter and Paul/, 4 km southwest of Trebinje.This field is surrounded on three sides with hills beyond which spreads the sea, while on the fourth side it is open to the town, so located at the same time close enough to fulfill possible needs of the monastery, yet still away to provide necessary quietness.Nearby from this monastery there are two important roads passing by – a new road which leads to Herceg Novi that is some 40 km away, and another road direction Dubrovnik, that is 25 km away.Proximity of those tourist centers, as well as the famous St Paul’s Pecina Cave, that is some 45 minutes of walk away, along the inaccessible rocky terrain above the monastery- make it more frequently visited by pilgrims, religious people and foreign visitors, especially in summer period.

The monastic life of SS Peter and Paul Monastery, living liturgical life above all means, was established at the end of August 1998 when for nuns the new dormitory with monastic chapel dedicated to the council of the Holy Virgin, celebrated on 26 December/08 January was built. Besides the Dormitory, the monastic complex includes two churches: a church dedicated to Saint Apostle Peter, reconstructed in the present appearance in 1906 during the service of Saint Metropolitan Petar Zimonjic, that originally was only the baptistery, to be turned into the church, reconstructed in 2007, by the donation of Rodoljub Draskovic, born in Herzegovina, in the village of Slivlje, near Gacko. At present the fresco painting art work of the church is carried out by the nuns of the Gradac Monastery in Raska (Žiča Bishopric). The estate belonging to the Monastery of SS Peter and Paul is mostly planted with vineyards, orchards and olive trees.

Next to the dormitory with the chapel and auxiliary buildings, the complex of the SS Peter and Paul Monastery contains two churches. The first church was erected in 1906 during reign of the holy martyr Petar Zimonjic, on the foundations dating from the second half of the 4th century, as per archaeological estimation. The second smaller church, was rebuilt in 2007 and is actually a structure added to the existing basilica, that represents the three-conchs church, built on the earlier baptistery, discovered during the archaeological excavations carried out in the recent years.

As per finds, the basilica dedicated to the Saint Apostle Paul used as the Assembly shrine where the service was held, while the three-conchs church with the baptistery, dedicated to Saint Paul, was the place where baptizing was performed. On this testify remains of 16 graves of religious people found on this spot. The opinion of Professor Đorđe Janković, who had carried out with his team of archaeologists excavations of the three-conchs church during 2001 estimates those two shrines dating from the antiquity. True explanation of this assumption that this place used to be the Assembly church of the Ziza village, and possibly the Bishopric seat of that time, might be a proof that the Bishopric of Trebinje could have been established already in the antiquity.

The tradition of local population is connected with visit of Saint Apostle Paul and the Apostle Titus to this area during their missionary work in Dalmatia makes another proof on the antiquity of those churches. The extraordinary similarities with some churches built in this period /the Basilica of Saint David in Thessaloniki and the Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Erevan, and the churches of North Illyricum and Dalmatia from the period of 4thtill the 6th century when three-conchs churches are considered/ support the fact on the old age of the SS Peter and Paul Monastery.

Excavations testify that those churches were several times destroyed. The Basilica was first time destroyed at the beginning of the 5th century, during the campaign of Gots from Greece to Italy, and the second demolition is connected with the Avar intrusion into Dalmatia at the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 7th century, when some churches in Trebinje area were demolished. It is assumed that this church was not reconstructed until 1906 after the fire set by Avars, between 597 and 615. Further excavations and research of this church would surely provide full scale facts.

The liturgy was performed longer in the three-conchs church of the Saint Apostle Paul. However, after 1377 – the year of reestablishment of the Roman-Catholic Episcopate in Trebinje, the both churches were used as burial places. The existence of two churches erected one next to the other, which is unique for the late-antiquity and early-Byzantine period in Dalmatia and beyond, is explained by the need for the Assembly church with the church dedicated to the local martyr, intermediator or protector, as ever since possibly was the Apostle Paul for this area.  (source Bishopric of Herzegovina Zahumlje and Maritime)

The Paul’s Pecina Cave is one of the prehistorical localities, rich in cave jewelry, located some 2 km away from the SS Peter and Paul Monastery. The massive forms of the cave columns, created from large crystal calcites prevail in this cave. There is a number of folk traditions connected with the Paul’s pecina Cave, that contributes to its special fame. An old tradition has it, that this cave was visited by the Saint Apostle Paul, thus comes its name. Saint Apostle Paul used to baptize local population in this cave while he was hiding from the Roman administration. A large number of religious people gather every year for the Petrovdan-Saint Peter’s Day, to attend the service here, performed by the priest. The Paul’s pecina Cave features a stone altar part and the icon of Saint Apostle Paul. The cave itself contains several halls, richly decorated with stalactites and stalagmites. In the cave interior, there is a tiny lake, connected with the belief that its waters are curative.

Along the banks of the Trebišnjica river, in the Petrovo and Popovo Polje plains, surrounded with stony and lunar mountains, grape is grown for generations. Back in 1894, Austria-Hungarians declared this region to be the most convenient area for growing white wine grapes called Žilavka, thus creating one of the two regal vineyards, whereby this spot was the only place for cultivating Žilavka that was exclusively delivered to the Viennese court. These vines give life to žilavka and vranac, two wines that have made the history and success of oenology in Eastern Herzegovina. Present day numerous visitors of this uniquely beautiful area enjoy themselves in excellent wines produced in numerous wine-houses. The beautiful nature and rocky scenery of Herzegovina surely contributed to the fact that Trebinje people are regarded as beautiful, but also very high, slim, handsome, good constitution with wide shoulders. Trebinje people are also known as uniquely wise, talented, minded, good spirit and creative people.

Museum of Herzegovina in Trebinje housing its exceptionally rich collections and legacies is truly worth-visiting.

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