Cultural tourism in Dalmatian Zagora is blossoming: All the greater interest in visiting stećci in Imotski!

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Stećci (standing tombstones) in Imotski region were listed on 8th place of world UNESCO heritage list

Imotski region has a rich history of legends and myths, beliefs in fairies and other surreal creatures connected to stećci  (standing tombstones). Folk tradition has attributed their emergence to surreal creatures of great strength and power. These unique tombstones were often believed to have miraculous, healing properties.

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Stećci in Split-Dalmatia County are a specific part of Croatian cultural heritage from Medieval Ages. Due to their significance and value, they are a great contributor to development of cultural tourism in our country. Therefore, plans for development of cultural tourism of Split-Dalmatian County include stronger marketing tools which would include sightseeing of Medieval tombstones that definitely deserve greater attention and thus contribute to development of that region.

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It is known that Croatian history dates back to the 7th century, and our country is also proud of numerous historical sites. This fact is proven by Stećci – medieval graveyards, two of which were listed on 8th place of UNESCO world heritage list: Crljivica near Imotski, between Cista Velika and Cista Provo in Split-Dalmatia County and Dubravka – in Sv. Barbara in Konavli, Dubrovnik-Neretva County.

This way, somewhat mystical phenomenon of preserved stećci in our two Dalmatian places is listed with over 70 000 standing tombstones on 3 300 localities in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Monte Negro on a prestigious world heritage list. On this very list 28 necropolis have been included, among which are 2 aforementioned from Croatia, 3 from Serbia and Monte Negro and 20 from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Origin of these Medieval tombs in Croatia dates back to the 12th century, and this way of burying dead continued until the 16th century. Stećci in Cista Provo and Konavli were made of limestone, which is typical for Dalmatia region. Of almost the same kind of limestones standing tombstones were built in other countries of the region, and its specificity is that it can only be found on this area. We can, for example, compare them to those made in Armenia or Ireland, but they are not completely the same. Stećci were cut out of great limestone blocks, then designed and decorated with different kinds of shapes and motifs and inscriptions inspired by religion and everyday life of local traditions.

Locality Crljivica was marked by UNESCO as the biggest and the most important collection of stećci in Croatia. On more western Mala Crljivica there is a small number of stećci decorated in relief. Till today around 90 tombstones of all types have been preserved (flagstones, coffins and ridged ones), among which there are 16 sarcophagi, 56 coffins and 15 tombstones shaped as flagstones.

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Legend says that Crljivica originated when people, while escaping the Turks, covered a church located there with a pile of stones, in which valuable church vestments and chalices were hidden, together with one little bell. According to the legend, one mustn’t dig there for he/she would become ill and all the crops would be destroyed by hailstorm. The oldest local people say that every year, in the period from Pentecost till St. Anthony during the night you can hear silent ringing of the buried bell.

While travelling along the road from Lovreć to Imotski, after about 5 km, one comes across a necropolis Mramor on Kamenjak locality. Legend says that standing tombstones belong to a wedding procession which was attacked by haiduks before the wedding. Under one of the tombstones, says the legend, rest the bride and the groomsman, under another one stander-bearer and under the third one the groom.

Within the programme of cultural tourism development there are many other cultural-historical sites being revitalized. Those are, for example, Roman roads in Central Dalmatia, used in ancient times by soldiers of Roman legions. It is exactly this project of restoration of net of Roman road communication in Central Dalmatia, which will include renewal and sightseeing of Medieval tombstones, that can lead to greater interest of tourists for cultural tourism in Croatia. And what Roman roads really looked like can be seen on Roman Roads Exhibition, which will be held on April 6 in Archaeological Museum in Zagreb.

Photo: TB Split-Dalmatia County, archive TB Imotski

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