Stolac and Radimlja Necropolis

The quaint, historical, unusually beautiful, sunny southern town of Stolac is positioned in southeast of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the easternmost part of the Herzegovina-Neretva district, in the Vidovo Polje Field ravine and the wonderful Bregava River Valley. Stolac is located on the ancient road which connects Bosnia with Dubrovnik through Herzegovina, in the valley of the Bregava River, left tributary of the Neretva River, on the crossroad of Mostar – Dubrovnik and Capljina – Bileca, 33 km away from Mostar, 170 km from Sarajevo, 50 km from Neum and 100 km away from Dubrovnik. The western access into Stolac is the Dubravska plateau, particularly known for peach growing and, above all, the Dubrave vineyards and the famous wines from Stolac.

Nine historical layers make the architectural core of the town of Stolac – the prehistorical, the Illyrian-Roman period, the Antiquity, the Early, Middle and Late Medieval period, the Ottoman period, the Austrian-Hungarian period and the First and the Second Yugoslavia. Vidovski grad – town of Saint Vitus, on the Vidovstica River, and on the hill above the Vidovo Polje Field is the Medieval settlement in Hum first mentioned in 1375 and in 1444 as the town within the state of Herzeg Stefan Vukcic Kosaca. On the river beneath the Vidovski walls there was an Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Virgin, where Saint Sava stopped on his way to Ston, at that time the sea of the Orthodox Hum Bishopric and the Maritime countries. When the Turks conquered Vidovski in 1471 the Monastery was destroyed, and on its place a town mosque was built. With its 13 towers in the 17th century, the town of Vidovski was one of the best-fortified towns in Bosnia & Herzegovina, and it remains to date the largest citadel in the country. The town became parf of the Herzegovina sanjak /geo-political region/, and later part of the Bosnian Pashaluk /larger geo-political administrative area/. In 1838 Ali paša Rizvanbegović who was the Herzegovina vizier and governed the area in the 19th century, given of Herzegovina origin, succeeded to divide Herzegovina sanjak from the Bosnian Pashaluk when he transferred the seat of the newly established Herzegovina Pashaluk to the ancient town of Vidovski, and named it Stolac – ‘enthroned town. Although today there are nearly no more Serbs remained living in Stolac /the former town of Saint Vitus/ as per genocide in the Second WW which continued in the most recent war when traces of the Serbs were extinct and its population persecuted, we should not forget the ancient town of Vidovski.

Stolac is full of striking ancient and Ottoman architecture and makes a true playground for all visitors intrigued by anthropology, archaeology and history. Historical area – old town of Stolac has been in 2003 declared the national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The area of Stolac has been settled for at least 15,000 years, as evidenced by the markings in Badanj Cave, dated by experts to 12000-16000 BC. Nearby, few kilometers west of Stolac, in the tiny Osanici village, on the left bank of the Radimlja River, are remains of the ancient Hellenistic town of Daorson, an important monument of culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Daorson dates back to the Illyrian period, even though a settlement has continually existed at this location since the 16th and 17th century B.C. Daorson was the town of the Daors tribe who had some sort of autonomy during the Roman period. It consists of three sections : Gradina – Acropolis, the pre-acropolis area and the residential-economic part. With the invasion of the Dalmatians from the direction of Cetina, the town of Daorson was completely destroyed in 43 and 44 AD and life perished forever in this town.

Throughout its long history, Stolac has been an outstandingly cultured town. Stolac is since 1980 part of the world cultural heritage for the Badanj Cave and altogether 3000 stecaks, including the Radimlja stecaks tombstones complex of 130 ancient grave stones. Radimlja necropolis is located 3 kilometers west of the town of Stolac, roadside Stolac – Čapljina at the Vidovo field site, in the vicinity of the tiny Paprati village. Radimlja necropolis makes one of the most valuable monuments of the medieval period in Bosnia and Herzegovina. By large number of stećak tombstones and diversity of basic forms and the high quality of artistic completion and richness of plastic decorations, and relief depictions and inscriptions of stecaks, where famous historic persons were mentioned, as well as by its unusual location and accessibility, Radimlja necropolis of stecaks ranks among the most significant monuments of the Medieval period of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The first Radimlja area stacak with inscription is the monument of the Trebinje lord /zhupan/ Grdesa who died between 1151 and 1178. This stecak tombstone was found in the Medieval necropolis in Police village near Trebinje. The zhupan – lord Grdesa was one of the most important Serb nobleman and knights of the 12th century, but there are no preserved documents and artifacts about him. Radimlja necropolis of stecaks is regarded as one of the best decorated necropolis in Bosnia and Herzegovina. By its artistic features, the Radimlja stećaks necropolis belongs to the few most valuable and important necropolis of Bosnian and Herzegovinean stećaks whatsoever.

No other town in Bosnia and Herzegovina has produced such a rich array of intellectuals, artists, poets and leaders. Strolling through Stolac to the sound of the rushing Bregava and the warble of many birds, it is easy to imagine the inspiration felt by generations of Stolac extraordinary personalities. Among them we must mention Mak Mehmedalija Dizdar, the famous Bosnian-herzegovinean poet born in Stolac. Poet Mak Dizdar said “Bosnia’s fate was to dream about justice, to work for justice, to await the justice, but never to see it alive”.

Stolac is a great place to stroll around, visit outstanding Medieval stecaks complex of 133 tombstones in the famous Radimlja necropolis or less known but truly outstanding necropolis in Boljuni village, with more than 270 stone graves, eat figs, drink the tasty local wine, or dig into one of those delicious pomegranates that grow in every yard. Inevitable combination of figs, olives and pomegranate with tourism is perfect, as Stolac makes the heart of Herzegovina and center of its wealth, along with several tourist sites – the old town, restored bridges, mills and memorable flavors and tastes of Herzegovina. The most important surviving bridges on the Bregava River are 1) Ćuprija (Inat ćuprija), the oldest surviving bridge on the Bregava, assumed from the style of building to date from the medieval period; 2) Podgradska ćuprija, the second oldest bridge in Stolac Municipality, believed to have been built in the early 18th century; the bridge in Begovina, most recent of the three stone bridges in Stolac; the Sara Kašiković bridge, built according to its inscription in 1896. Stolac is also a good base from which to explore the region by bicycle. The town of Stolac features a sleepy, Mediterranean air and is lined with cafés all along the crystal-clear Bregava River. The Bregava is a favorite spot for youth to swim and dive and one will often find most of the town near the water during the hot and dry summers.

The center of Stolac enjoys lush trees and foliage, with unique pines darting into the skyline near the ancient old town fortress of Vidoska (surface of 20500 sq meters, built in the 14th century), named after the Vidostica River /today the Bregava River/. The earliest reference to Vidoška fort is in a charter dated 1444, followed by a series of charters up to 1454, as the possession of Stjepan Vukčić Kosača. Orthodox Church of SS. Peter and Paul in Osanici village near Stolac dates from the period when the Serb feudal lords of the Hrabren-Miloradović Family ruled this part of Herzegovina and possessed large estates in Stolac and Mostar. The name Hrabren is derived from hrabar, meaning “brave”. The church was in existence in 1505. Duke Radoslav Hrabren died in 1505 and was buried outside the entrance to the church in Ošanići. The stećak tombstone outside the entrance to the Osanici church bears an epitaph reading: “Here lies Duke Radoslav Hrabren April 24“, and the whole complex is under special regime of protection, proclaimed the national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hrabrens or the Miloradović family were significant noble family builders of religious objects during and after this part of Herzegovina was occupied by the Ottoman Turks. The Monastery of Žitomislić was most likely founded by the Hrabren-Miloradovic family, as well as the reconstruction of the Zavala Monastery, and construction of the Church of SS Peter and Paul in Ošanići village, and churches in Trijebnje and Klepci villages. Two judges’ seats dating from the 15th century, with a height of 2.50 m, stand outside the church, cut in stone.  Some people believe that Stolac acquired its name from these stone seats (stolica = seat). From this ancient Stolac fortress spreads wonderful panorama of the near and far surroundings, as the Radimlja necropolis, Daorson town in Ošanići village, the Begovina settlement established by Rizvanbegovic beys in the 19th century, number of bridges, Jewish sanctuary in Krajšina, and especially the striking Stolac panorama – the green oasis through which winds the green-blue river of Bregava. The Medieval Fair is organized in May at the old town of Stolac – the Vidoska Fortress, which is an unique event. The Bregava River which in the past had numerous water mills has made Stolac and the surrounding region of the Vidovo Field, called Dubrava in the past, one of the most fertile areas in the country. Vegetables and fruits from Stolac region seem to taste just that bit better.

Zilavka and Blatina wines produced in local Stolac vineyards are world famous and noble wines. In the nearby picturesque village of Domanovici, red and white Doman wine and a new sparkling wine are all produced from the harvests of the local vineyards. They are great and inexpensive wines. Zilavka is exclusive dry white wine produced of the zilavka grape variety, grown in the vineyards of  Capljina and Domanovići village, in wine region of Mostar in Bosna and Herzegovina. Žilavka wine is often regarded with the sunny Herzegovina south area and is known as bearer of all features of novelty and harmony. Bouquet of this wine is neither provoking, nor sweet, nor sour, but features character which remains in the memory. In order to impose its richness, fullness, bouquet and flavor, is it necessary to drink Zilavka at the temperature of 10-12 °C. Blatina is the exclusive red wine, produces of the grape variety of the same name, which is grown on the wine areas of  Čapljina and Domanovići village in Mostar wine region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Blatina red wine features ruby color of advanced and characteristic flavor, rich and harmonized taste. Its Mediterranean playfulness, the Blatina best performs when sampled with paired food. Then Blatina wine responds with its outstanding aroma, and the pleasant dry flavor, which is soft and passionate, and seductive…

Balkan Roundtrip