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Bobovac

The fortress of Bobovac was built because the ancient town of Kraljeva Sutjeska was vulnerably located in the valley. The fortress is strategically situated on a high ridge above the Bukovica Stream, some 5km from Kraljeva Sutjeska.

It is in the middle of nowhere. Initially, the inhabitants of Kraljeva Sutjeska sought shelter here when they were under attack. In the dangerous years before the final invasion by the Ottomans, they moved here permanently. The fortified town had quarters for the noble family on the western end, while the central and lowest part of the ridge housed the towns people. The church, horse stables and military barracks were situated on the upper eastern hill overlooking the entire fortress and the surrounding mountains.

Bobovac is not accessible by car. Getting there is a pleasant and well marked one-hour walk from Kraljeva Sutjeska, along the Bukovica Stream through thick beech tree forests. In the summer months the trail is lined with blackberries and fresh mint growing near the water. The only fully intact structure remaining at Bobovac is the mausoleum that Queen Katarina had built following the death of Tvrtko. His remains were removed during the last conflict and moved to an undisclosed location. Some of the outer walls and part of the horse stables can be seen on the high ridge behind the mausoleum and the king's quarters are slowly crumbling away. The view from this little nest in the valley is extraordinary. If possible, go to the monastery first and take a tour around with one of the Franciscans. The monastery's old drawings of Bobovac will help create a much clearer picture of how things looked in 13th and 14th century Bosnia.

Monastery, museum and library

Today's church is much more recent than the rest of the monastery. It was built just before the turn of the 20th century when the Austro-Hungarians lent considerable support to building and/or reconstruction of sacred Christian objects in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Designed in Venetian style, the high vaulted ceilings are now cracking in places as a result of earthquake damage and, as was recently discovered, because of some flaws in the original design. What is assumed to be the oldest organ in the country was previously hidden in the monastery and is now displayed in the church. A massive statue paying tribute to Queen Katarina (she was deemed a saint by the local church but has not yet been officially acknowledged as such by the Pope) dominates the east side of the church.

The monastery is a complex so large that it infinitely exceeds the requirements of the six monks now residing in Kraljeva Sutjeska. It burned down several times during the Ottoman period. The last reconstruction was completed in 1891, with some additions and renovations made since then. The museum houses a limited collection of art, documents and artifacts gathered or discovered at Bobovac or brought back from monks traveling the Christian world. The collection of crosses, robes and artifacts is quite impressive for a small three-room museum somewhere in the hills of central Bosnia. A cross from 7th-century Syria is displayed amongst the elaborate crosses collected in Germany, Venice and Rome. Miniature models of the village's old architecture and a rich collection of traditional dresses illustrate the traditional ways of life. Lastly, the original permits issued by both the sultan and the local vizier from Visoko are displayed. At the time, these two documents cost more than the construction of the monastery itself.

The old chapel bell was recovered when Bosnia was annexed by Austria. Church bells were illegal during Turkish times and were hidden by the monks. When the bishop was ordered out of Bosnia, only the Franciscan monks were permitted to stay. They went to great lengths to hide and protect the sacred objects that the priests left behind. The largest collection of incunabula are housed in the library. Volumes and volumes of philosophy, theology, chemistry and history written in Italian, Latin, German, French and the local language line the shelves. The books were all collected from local boys who went to the West to be educated and brought back literacy and Catholic teachings. The first Bible to be translated into the local bosancica language also has an introduction to the local alphabet so the illiterate villagers could learn to read and write. The monastery is open to visitors upon request Monday to Sunday from 09:00 - 15:00. Entry fee is 3 KM (1 KM for groups 20+). The Museum and Monastery are located at Sv. Ivana Krstitelja (tel: 032 771 700; email: gvardijan@ks-samostan.com; web: www.ks-samostan.net). 


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