Some of the most mysterious monuments in Croatia are, by no doubt, stećak tombstones. Stećak [stechak] (for singular) or stećci (for plural) are not only found in Croatia but in the neighboring countries as well. Bosnia and Herzegovina is particularly famous for this tradition with an estimated 60 000 stećaks still standing!
Although their look resembles the look of the ancient Roman sarcophagi that were quite common in this area, they started appearing in the 12th century and reached the peak in the late 14th to 15th centuries just before the arrival of the Turks. There are two types of stećak: those lying flat on the ground and those that actually look like sarcophagi. Another characteristic are the carvings and various representations on the sides of the stećak tombstone. Some of the monuments have a cross, meaning that several religions have used them. Most of the time they are dedicated to important persons and some are actually believed to belong to Bosnian kings. Most fascinating to me are the inscriptions found on these tombstones! Some of them can be found here!
Stećak tombstones appeared with the raise of Bogomil heresy – or Bosnian Church as it was known in this areas. The carvings are mostly symbolic but the meanings remain mystery. Luckily, the locals usually considered them to bring bad luck if touched or moved, so they remained literally untouched for centuries! Numerous legends and beliefs are connected to the origins of stećak tombstones and some, quite interesting, originate from Bosnia. People in central Bisnia call these graveyards Greek graveyards as they believe that these are the tombstones of a lost Greek tribe that lived in these regions and that had to flee after a 7 years long winter did not seem to end. Only the daughter of a Greek king remained as she did not want to abandon the treasure so her father cursed her and she turned into a dragon still watching the treasure. Another, equally “possible”, talks about a time that the dead were dug out and eaten by monsters and strange animals so the people had to cover the tombs with heavy monuments to prevent that…
The stećak tombs on these pictures are located near Cista Provo – only about half hour from downtown Split. On the ancient road, and now main modern road, to Imotski. As I have always been fascinated by these mysterious tombstones, this was a perfect opportunity to see them up close. Before going to Bosnia 🙂