The necropolis in Boljuni is one of the most impressive stećak necropolises in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The construction technique, preservation, ornamentation, and large number of inscriptions rank this necropolis among the most important for researching the history, art, script and language of medieval Bosnia. UNESCO has recognized this necropolis as a World Heritage Site. Boljuni is a hamlet of Bjelojevići located 15 kilometers southwest of Stolac. In a contract made in Ragusa in August 1487, Herak Bogunović, Vukac Milaković and Radič Bratuljević from Boljuni are mentioned. As is often the case, there are ruins from an earlier period near this necropolis, including an Illyrian fortress and tumulus. Near the necropolis there was a quarry from which stone was probably used to make stećak tombstones. The site contains a necropolis with 273 stećak tombstones of various shapes arranged in two groups about 400 meters apart. It is quite certain that the number of stećak tombstones in earlier times was much higher. In total, the necropolis contains 78 slabs, 177 chests, 14 gables, and 4 crosses with slabs. All stećak tombstones are oriented along the west-east line, and rows of graves and tombstones along the north-south line are visible. A total of 92 monuments are ornamented, most of which are gables, slabs and chests. According to statistics, this necropolis belongs to the category of necropolises that are above average in terms of decoration. The most significant motifs on the stećak tombstones of this necropolis are a curved line with trefoils, a shield with a sword, various types of rosettes, plastic ribbons, borders of various types, crosses, crescents, figure representations of human and animal figures, hunting scenes, dances, fantasy animals, and figures of lions.

The stećak tombstones in this necropolis show a high degree of similarity to the stećak tombstones in Eastern Herzegovina, such as the necropolises in Radimlja or Opličići. The necropolis is tentatively dated between the middle of the 14th century and the beginning of the 16th century. The Vlach population who were primarily engaged in cattle breeding, as well as their neighbors who took their cattle to mountain pastures in the summer, were buried under the stećak tombstones in Boljuni. Through the trade of livestock products and participation in caravan transportation, the inhabitants of these regions were able to enjoy a higher standard of living, which was reflected in the erection of these expensive tombstones. The Vlachs from this region recognized the seniority of the noble families Pavlović and Kosača in a hierarchical sense, and after the fall of the Bosnian state, they were integrated into the Ottoman military system.

The number of inscriptions on these stećak tombstones is above average. A total of 20 inscriptions were recorded on the preserved stećak tombstones, so this necropolis is considered the most important based on this parameter. Among the notable people, Tarah Boljunović is mentioned in the epitaphs on these stećak tombstones. His son Miliša Tarahovića is mentioned as katunar (head of the Vlach katun) of katuni (settlement of Vlachs) Boluni in Ragusan documents in 1477. It is interesting that one epitaph states that a person named Vlatko Vuković was buried there, whom some researchers have identified as Duke Vlatko Vuković Kosača. This thesis is not tenable. Radosav Heraković, Ljubica Vlatkovica, Jerina Vukocamić, Jerina Ivkova, Petar Vukčić, Radič Vladisalić, Radič’s brother, Vlađ Vladisalić, Radič Vučić, Stana Đurenovica were also mentioned. The inscriptions also mention several blacksmiths or masters who made stećak tombstones such as Grubač, Milić, Dragiša, Zelija, and scribes who were in charge of working on epitaphs such as Semorad, Radoj and Vuk. Of these masters, Grubač stands out in particular. He was a prominent craftsman who worked in Boljuni, and also in other necropolises such as Opličići and Nekuk. Grubač specialized in high chests, which he decorated primarily with human and animal figures, as well as other ornaments and symbols. The period of his most active involvement was the period 1430-1470. According to the content of an epitaph from the stećak at the necropolis in Boljuni, it is believed that Grubač was buried there. Among the notable stonemasons who created epitaphs was scribe Semorad. Almost all the inscriptions on this necropolis are his work or the work of his students. He appears to have worked in the second half of the 15th century.

Sources and literature:

  • Bešlagić Šefik, Stećci – kultura i umjetnost, Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo 1982, 164-165, 184, 196, 212-214, 234-235, 260-261, 316-317, 320-322, 461-463.
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  • Miletić Nada, “Boljuni”, in: Arheološki leksikon Bosne i Hercegovine, vol. III, ed. Borivoj Čović, Arheološka nalazišta regija 14-25, Zemaljski muzej Bosne i Hercegovine, Sarajevo 1988, 169
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  • Vego Marko, Zbornik srednjovjekovnih natpisa Bosne i Hercegovine, vol. II, Izdanje Zemaljskog muzeja, Sarajevo 1964, 18-30.