Počitelj, located in Bosnia and Herzegovina about 19 miles south of Mostar, is a historic village representing one of the country’s few remaining urban ensembles preserved in its integrity to the present day. In that sense, it is also an open-air museum. The town, built in a natural karst amphitheater along the Neretva River, was developed in several phases throughout its history, beginning with the medieval period, playing a significant strategic role from the 13th to 17th centuries. Between 1464 and 1471, following the Ottoman conquest of the Bosnian realm, the town was fortified with the support of Dubrovnik, Hungary, and the Pope.

During the course of Počitelj’s history, three significant periods can be distinguished:

  1. 1463–1471: The period under the Hungarian King, Matthias Corvinus, during which time the town was of major strategic importance.
  2. 1471–1698: The Ottoman Empire period, which saw the erection of public buildings such as the mosque, imaret, maktab, madrasa, hamam, han, and clock-tower.
  3. 1698–1878: The period following the Venetian destruction of the main Ottoman fortification facing Dalmatia, during which time the village gained renewed strategic importance.

In 1878, after the establishment of Austro-Hungarian rule, Počitelj lost its strategic importance and started to rapidly deteriorate. From 1992–1995, Počitelj and the surrounding area suffered extensive collateral damage, especially by the Croatian forces during the 1993 Bosnian War. Following the war, a large part of the town’s population was displaced and its 16th-century master works of Islamic art and architecture were destroyed.

In 1996, Počitelj was named as one of the world’s “100 Most Endangered Cultural Heritage Sites” by World Monuments Watch. In 2000, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina initiated a program to permanently protect the town. This ongoing program includes: the protection of cultural heritage sites from deterioration, the restoration of damaged and destroyed buildings, encouragement for the return of refugees and other displaced persons to their homes, and the long-term protection and revitalization of the town’s historic urban area.

Počitelj’s historic sites include the:

  • Hajji Alija Mosque: Built in 1563 by Hajji-Alija, son of Musa, the domed mosque is notable for its acoustics (below).

  • Gavrakanpetanović House: A typical example of the town’s residential architecture, dating from the end of the 16th century. It is the only house in town to have separate rooms for men and women. From 1961 – 1975, the house was also the residence of the longest operating artist colony in Southeast Europe. It was set on fire during the Bosnian war and later restored to its original state in 2003.
  • Kula: The silo-shaped fort overlooking the village from the top of the hill.
  • Sahat Kula: The town’s bell tower.

  • Visited: Nov 2018

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