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Bosnia and Herzegovina: Stecci Rostovo

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Stecci Rostovo | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Europe

[Visited: May 2014]

Before arriving in Bosnia, I had seen pictures of stećci, and they had puzzled and intrigued me. On my first day in the country, while visiting the old castle of Travnik and walking around the tiny museum, I stumble upon a picture of these medieval tombstones in the wild, and I decide to try to find a place to see them. With some 70,000 stećci scattered around the region, mostly in present-day Bosnia but also some in adjacent countries Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, this should not be difficult, but the problem is that I did not have a proper map showing them. When one evening I have an internet connection, I search the web and digital maps with markers and pictures, and stumble upon a small field of stećci in central Bosnia. I adjust my planned route towards the north, so that I am be able to see them after all.

Picture of Stecci Rostovo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Some of the tombstones, or stećci, in a field near Rostovo

So, when I am on my way from Jajce to Srebrenik in the north, I take a longer route, passing the signs for Travnik and driving further south-east until I reach a turnoff that led me straight into a narrow valley. The asphalt soon disappears; fortunately, the road is good enough for my sedan car. The road climbs higher; I hope it will be high enough to see the snow-topped mountains up close that I have seen from afar. When I reach a small settlement, I know I am getting close, and to my surprise, there are even signs for stećci at the roadside. But they do not point to the ones I have seen online; I take a right, and almost immediately after that a left, and drive up a narrow, white country road. I pass a farm, and when the next farm is visible in the distance, I realize that the field I see besides it, has pointy stones sticking out. I have found the stećci.

Picture of Stecci Rostovo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Carved decorations on medieval tombstones, or stećci, near Rostovo

After parking the car at the roadside without traffic, I get out. While there are cows standing next to the farm, I do not see anyone around, and I suppose it is OK to walk around the fields here. I feel very excited: I am on an open field, with free views around, the snow-topped mountains in the distance, and I walk around the centuries-old tombstones that were once carved out for the deceased. It is believed that they represent an age-old Bosnian tradition of Each and every stecak (stećci is the plural form) is carved in a unique way. These are not the most beautiful stećci; I have seen pictures of richly decorated slabs of stone. But the location is awesome: I am higher up, and apart from the cows watching me, there is no one to be seen. I kneel for the tombstones that appear to lie around haphazardly. It seems that some have upside-down crosses carved on them, while some have big dots. They all have what appears to be a human shape with stumps where the arms would be. The practice of erecting stećci stopped after the Ottomans rule of Bosnia started. Today, they stand witness to the rich heritage of the country.

Picture of Stecci Rostovo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Row of three stećci with mountains in the background
Picture of Stecci Rostovo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Stećci, or medieval carved tombstones, near Rostovo
Picture of Stecci Rostovo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): The landscape of Rostovo with a row of tombstones, or stecak
Picture of Stecci Rostovo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): One of the stećci, tilting, in the landscape around Rostovo
Picture of Stecci Rostovo (Bosnia and Herzegovina): One of the stećci with carved decoration at Rostovo

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