Trebinje

Trebinje is the southernmost city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Republika Srpska which is located 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. Town of 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 set 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 emerald-blue river. The neighboring towns of Trebinje are Bileća, Ljubinje, Dubrovnik, Herceg Novi and Nikšić.

Trebinje is adorned with well preserved old quarters, monuments and palaces of the Mediterranean architecture which greatly contribute to its beauty and charm. Surely the landmark of Trebinje is the wonderful park full of plane trees /platanus/ that was founded by Austrians after the Berlin congress. They planted 16 plane trees on the spot of the Turkish graveyard that existed during the Turkish conquest, ever since locals and numerous visitors enjoy in their deep shade while drinking favarite drinks. Trebinje is also town of the famous poet Jovan Dučić. In the center of Trebinje there is the monument on the Trg slobode /the Liberty square/ dedicated to the locals of Trebinje who gave their lives in defending the city which is the latest monument Jovan Ducic gifted to the town in 1938, the last time poet visited his Trebinje. On one side of the monument there are mentioned 77 fellows and two girls who were hanged here after Gavrilo Princip killed Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, while its back side commemorates soldiers who liberated the town in the First World War. There are other monuments of culture in Trebinje, as the unfinished Roman catholic church of the Birth of the Virgin and several Orthodox churches and monasteries, of which the Tvrdos Monastery is the most significant, but also the Gracanica of Herzegovina church dedicated to the Holy Virgin which was built along the Gracanica Monastery in Kosovo and Metohija.

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 of Travunia, which initially was a Byzantine territory governed by the Serbs. It commanded the road from Ragusa /nowadays Dubrovnik/ to Tsarigrad-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, zupanus 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 Ottomans as the rest of Herzegovina. Old Town of Trebinje is called the Kastel, and had been transformed into the former commercial and craft center. The Osman pasha Mosque with the octagonal 16-meters minaret is the most spacious mosque in Herzegovina, located near the entry gate leading to the historical part of Trebinje. The Osman Pasha Mosque in Trebinje was built in 1726 as per orders of the Osman Pasha Resulbegovic, the member of the most powerful and wealthy moslem family who was the first Turkish governor of Trebinje which quickly became the important border station. The Osman pasha mosque along with the Tsars Mosque in Trebinje built in 1719, represents the oldest Ottoman heritage of Trebinje.

At the end of the 19th century and early 20th century and Austrian military camp was built on sites of the Roman, Medieval, Turkish and Austria-Hungary fortifications. Today the rich Museum of Herzegovina, established in 1952 in the building of the former military barracks of Austria-Hungary Empire, keeps various artifacts and items from all historical periods of Herzegovina. The Trebinje city walls, the old town square of Travunija, and two mosques of Trebinje were built in beginning of the 18th century by Resulbegović family, actually Osman Pasha Ruselbegović. 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 in Trebinje 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, with a garrison based in the town. Austrians also modernized the town infrastructure, 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 and wonderful harmony 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 River course there is the place called 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 of 1857, before the Saint Nicholas Feast in the Duži Monastery began an uprising of the Serbs under the leadership of Luke Vukalovic. Near Duzi Monastery is old school – the first school in area, built in 1857 by Nicifor Ducic, a notable monk, a soldier, an Archimandrite, an academic, and 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. There are foundations of the episcopical church and the shrine with the baptistery from the 4th-6th century, which is testified by the archaeological excavations. Nearby from the SS Peter and Paul 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 re-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 works. 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.

“Trebinje features total of some 30 fortifications which are located withing the town itself, but also on the surrounding hills, on which writes dipl. ing. Volker Konstantin Pachauer from the Istitute of history of towns and architecture, the member of the Austrian Society for research on fortifications. The smallest and the narrowerst fortified system in Trebinje was built around the town itself, in the narrow sense. Austria had erected this small part right after 1878, and those fortifications protected the center of Trebinje /Dubrovačka and Bilećka kapija gates/ and the River of Trebišnjica. As the ambition of Austrian-Hungary Empire was breakthrough to the east, such strategic task needed construction of very strong fortification system on the surrounding hills around Trebinje, which was successfully accomplished. As the strongest fort in the surroundings of Trebinje, there were built fortifications of Strac and Kravica. The mountainous style forts of Trebinje, along with the mountainous fortification in Bileca and the strongholds in the area of Avtovac and Gacko created so-called “kordon” which was actually the first line of defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina from those directions.  “Kordon” contained three defense lines, and was constructed along the most modern plans of the best fortified systems, likewise in Netherlands and France. The fort of Trebinje included the fortified Strac, of different batteries, and defense barracks and large number of barbed wire obstacles. Such defense system of the Austrian-Hungary Empire was constructed only in Galicia and Lombardy /24 fortresses/. Numerous historians, amateurs consider this fortification system also as the Ligne Maginot – the Balkan Maginot Line. The tradition has it that the Strac frotress included 365 premises, as many as days in a year, and it was regarded as the unconquerable fortification. During the First World War the Italian ships in the Adriatic were shot from the Strac fortress. After the Second World War, the Strac fort was mined and part of its steel was transferred to the Zenica Ironworks”. Kulturni Centar Trebinje

Strač is military stronghold built during the Austrian rule located 7 km from the center of Trebinje which makes one of the most interesting old fortifications, and one of the largest in the Balkans. The Strac fortress is located southeast of Trebinje at the elevation of 750 meters and enjoys beautiful view of Zupci, Petrovo polje, Trebinje and Trebinje forest. During the Austro-Hungarian period, Trebinje was one of the most protected cities. Each hill above the city had a fortification from which a potential attack could be seen so the people could be alarmed and respond to it. Unlike the other strongholds of Trebinje, the Strač fortress was buried under ground for the major part, and because of this it is considered the most mysterious object of that time. The symbol of power of the Strac fortification is represented in its iron cannon domes on the top, which still resist the imminence of time, but human negligence as well, which caused significant damage to the object. It is interesting that Austrian experts have converted the then currency crown to today’s Euro, and calculated that the construction of this fortification cost the astonishing 60 million Euros. As per the story told by locals of Trebinje, the Strac fortress features 365 units likewise number of days of the year, and 80 canisters that still keep water, while the walls are thick up to 1 meter. The present architects speak about the construction of the Strac fortress with great admiration. All spaces of the fortress are connected and each unit gets the fresh air and rain water. The old Trebinje people tell that from 2 spots one can see the Italian shore, from the Strac Fortress and top of the Leotar Mountain. The fact that no one had ever heard gun fire from the Strac fortress is especially noted. On the other side, there are few people who can proudly testify to have entered the rooms of the Strac fortress, as still there is a mystery on secrets kept by this fortress above the town of Trebinje ….

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 the Trebinje region to be the most convenient area for growing and cultivation of 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. When we consider wine, Radovan Vukoje has the cult status in Herzegovina, but also abroad….

Present day numerous visitors of this uniquely beautiful Trebinje 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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