The complex value of tombs called “stećak” in cultural, artistic, architectural, religious and historical sense is unique, not only in the Balkans, but throughout the whole Europe as well as in the world. Even today they are inexhaustible source of inspiration and despite many researches, mysticity of these tombs makes no one apathetic.
‘Stećak is for me what it is not for the others, what others did not know to see. Yes, it is a stone, but is also a word; it is earth, but it is also sky; it is substance, but it is also spirit; it is scream, but it is also the song; it is death, but it is also life; it is the past, but it is also the future.’ – Mak Dizdar
The synthesis of language and written forms, faith, customs and culture is sealed into the mysticity of stećak and they represent one of the most important medieval Bosnian legacy. Most of these tombs originate from the period between 12th and 16th centuries and are located in Bosnia and Herzegovina (there are 59.593 tombs at 2687 places), Croatia (4447), Montenegro (3049) and Serbia (2267).
One of the most important characteristics of tombs on the location of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the fact that all three church organizations had the same medieval understanding of death. It is logical to assume that every of the church organizations at that time cared for their deceased by their traditional patterns, but it can be considered safe that the tombs were used as the tombstones in the Catholic, Orthodox and Bosnian Church.
Ornaments and decoration on tombs are in various shapes, but they cannot help us with defining decedent’s religion, but sometimes texts on the tombs can discover to which one of three church organization that existed in medieval Bosnia and Hum (later Hercegovina) decedent belonged.
Texts on tombs called “epitafi” are extremely important for the study of language and they are written in bosančica. They show symbolism that characterizes medieval art, but also art from romanticism era and gothic art, and the whole life of decedent’s life is tagged, his abilities, how he died, his relation to death and love towards earth.
Thanks to many legends about stećak, they are not forgotten through the time. In 1950 in Paris was held exhibition of Yugoslav medieval painting and plastic and on that exhibition were presented tombs. After that exhibition the interest for this phenomenon characteristic for medieval Bosnia and Herzegovina suddenly grew between scientists and public.
“Stone sleepers”, as Dizdar names them, ensued in different occasions and are mostly related to the medieval location of Bosnia and Hum. They represent an authenticity and a long tradition of Bosnian – Herzegovinian culture and they are worthy historical heritage which makes us emotional and inspirational.