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The village of Počitelj

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General presentationGeneral information
Počitelj is a picturesque small village of Herzegovina, perched on the heights of the valley of Neretva and crowned by the ruins of a medieval fortress.
The origin of the Počitelj toponym is not certain: the root “čitelj” could come from Italian “cittadela” (citadel). Počitelj would thus mean “place of the citadel”, which corresponds indeed to its geographical location.

The name of the city is written Почитељ into Serb Cyrillic.


Neretva seen of Pocitelj. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).The village of Počitelj is located on left bank of the Neretva river, to approximately 30 km in the south of the capital city of Herzegovina, Mostar, and to 10 km north of the border with Croatia.

Počitelj is to 3 km in the North-East of the town of Čapljina, chief town of the commune of which been part the village.

In the south of Počitelj, the valley of Neretva, in its lower course, becomes particularly narrow and is prolonged to the Croatian city of Metković, where the river forms a delta before throwing itself in the Adriatic Sea.

In the area, the valley of Neretva is the only passage in the direction of the south through the dinaric Alps; that was worth in Počitelj to be a strategic place for a long time, in particular at the time of the Othoman conquest at the 15th century.


The Medieval City
Mosque and Gavrankapetanovic House. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).The walls of the strengthened medieval city of Počitelj entirely surrounded this one; the ramparts, frames with same the rocks, married the steep relief of the hill, and were closed again on the side of the North-West on the rock slope located at the edge of the river, which offered also a solid foundation.

The čaršija (bazaar), with its lines of small Eastern shops, a large inn and the public baths were located along Neretva. Just behind the inn is the medresa (médersa) and the imaret (soup kitchen). Above the médersa the mosque is, in relation to the bazaar and the Koranic school by one of its doors and with the district of dwelling by the other carries.

Lane. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).Minaret and Turn of the Clock. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).
The minaret and the tower of the clock form a characteristic image in the landscape. Gornje polje (am in hiding of in-high) and Donje polje (am in hiding of in-low) are the gardens of Počitelj.
Minaret and Turn of the Clock. Click to enlarge the image.The village. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).
The districts of dwelling of the city are laid out in amphitheater on the slopes of the hill at the bottom of the medieval fortress which is drawn up at its top. The paving stones of the three main streets and the abrupt lanes, like certain traditional stone residences, like the old property of the Gavrankapetanović family, confer an unquestionable charm on this village.
Lane. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).Lane. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).Lane of Pocitelj. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).
The Fortress
The fortress of Počitelj was built between 14th and the 18th century, with intervals during which construction was stopped.

The medieval core of origin of the fortress is the oldest part strengthened, where two stages of construction can be identified: at the beginning the fortress was only one simple keep with a small court, dating from the end of the 14th century; it was increased and strengthened in second half of the 15th century to resist to the Othomans, with additions, modifications and reinforcements.

To judge some by the provision of the oldest parts of the fortress, one can suppose that there was already at the bottom of the fortification a small village dating one former period or from the same period as the fortifications themselves.

It is especially at the end 17th century, a little before 1698, that the fortress was considerably increased and strengthened by the Othomans, with a powerful defense system. The city was also strengthened so as to form an interior court of the square tower, two bastions (that of Mehmed-Pasha and that of Deli-Pasha), the Dizdar house, an attic, the mosque of the fort and a “water tower” - a cistern with an entry and staircases leading to water, two large doors and two small. The strengthened city of Počitelj fell however to the hands from the Venetian ones.

Fortress (Author: Mediha). Click to enlarge the image.Fortress seen of the village of Pocitelj. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).Fortress seen of the village of Pocitelj. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).
During the war of Bosnia-Herzegovina, between 1992 and 1996, the fortress was only construction not to have suffered any serious damage; it was used as observation post by the Croatian soldiers who drew up a cross at the top of the keep. Top of the keep, one contemplates a splendid panorama embracing the mosque Hadj Alija, the whole of the village and the valley of Neretva.
Mosque Chichman Ibrahim Pasha. Click to enlarge the image.Mosque seen since the fortress (Author: Saxx teacher). Click to enlarge the image.
The Tower of the Clock of Počitelj (Pociteljska sahat kula)
One is unaware of the date of construction of the belfry of Počitelj, but, as the Turkish writer Evliya Čelebi does not mention it in his account of 1664, one thus supposes that it was built later during the 17th century. The turn-clock is also named tower of Gavrankapetanović.

The architecture of the tower evokes the Dalmatian style, with four pointed arches to the top of the bell-tower, and ending in a stone pyramid. The tower has an almost square base of 3.22 m by 3.26 m, a 16 m height and thus a hurled silhouette, unusual enough for a belfry: this kind of belfry meets only in Počitelj, Mostar, and Stolac.

It is told that in calm weather, one could understand to sound the bells until Čapljina; but the bell of the tower ceased sounding in 1917, when it was molten by the Austrians to be used with the manufacturing as ammunition.

Turn of the Clock. Click to enlarge the image.Turn of the Clock. Click to enlarge the image.
The Mosque Chichman Ibrahim Pasha/Mosque Hadj Alija (Šišman Ibrahim Paša Džamija/Hadži-Alijina Džamija)
Mosque Chichman Ibrahim Pasha. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).The mosque of Chichman Ibrahim Pasha was built in 1562 and 1563 (in year 940 of the Hegira) by Hadj Alija Mujezinović de Počitelj, the son of Foamed Agin; the mosque is also known under the name of mosque Hadj Alija.

The mosque Šišman Ibrahim Paša presents one of the most successful examples of mosque to single dome realized by the Othomans as Bosnia-Herzegovina, and shows the importance of Počitelj.

Mosque Chichman Ibrahim Pasha. Click to enlarge the image.Mosque Chichman Ibrahim Pasha. Click to enlarge the image.Mosque Chichman Ibrahim Pasha. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).
The mosque was seriously damaged by Serb artillery in 1993; shortly after it was dynamited by the Croatian army. The central cupola of the mosque crumbled inside the buildings, and the slim minaret crumbled on the ground. The mosque now was entirely restored and returned to its original function.
Mosque Chichman Ibrahim Pasha (Author: Marcin Szala). Click to enlarge the image.Minaret of the mosque Chichman Ibrahim Pasha. Click to enlarge the image.Mosque Chichman Ibrahim Pasha. Click to enlarge the image.
Médersa (Medresa)
Médersa. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).Old the medresa (médersa) is with the bottom of the village, close to the walls which skirted Neretva.

The médersa date of the 17th century: the writer Evliya Čelebi mentions it in his report of voyage (Seyahatnâme) in Počitelj: it thus was already built in 1664.

The Koranic school understood five small rooms of class and a conference room, on both sides of an interior court. One sees the six domes of his roof while assembling the main street which leads to the mosque. The classrooms are covered with five small domes whereas the conference room is covered with a larger dome.

Destroyed by the bombardments during the war of 1992-1996, the madrasa was rebuilt.

The Turkish baths (Hammam)
The small Turkish baths (hammam) of Počitelj were built before 1664; according to the account of Evlija Čelebi, they would have been built by craftsmen sent of Istanbul to this end.
Turkish baths. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).Turkish baths. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).
The Inn (Han)
The inn of Chichman Ibrahim Pasha was built around 1665. It was of square form, on only one level, built around an interior court where the stable for the horses was.

There remained already almost nothing any more the inn of the village at the 20th century: remainders of a door arched out of stone of finely engraved size, with parts of the external wall on the left and, on the right of the entry, of the parts of the wall external vis-a-vis the entry; some vestiges of an elevated podium where the travellers could take rest.

It is in years 1960 that the inn was rediscovered and restored partly to be used like restaurant.

The Gavrankapetanović House
Gavrankapetanovic house. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).The Gavrankapetanovic family was the most re-elected family of Počitelj. The name of this family would originate in the fact that a captain (kapetan in bosnien) had hair and the moustache as black as the plumage of a corbel (in bosnien, the corbel names gavran).

The house of the Gavrankapetanovich family, which is next to the mosque, is the most important example and more developed of deprived architecture in Počitelj. A characteristic of the building is the use of arched windows on the western frontage.

The various buildings of the Gavrankapetanović house were built between 16th and 17th centuries. The house is made up of three building: large and two small (with division in selamluk and haremluk).

In the middle of the 20th century, the buildings had been given up and worsened seriously; with an aim of preserving the house a project to convert it into a colony of artists was launched and completed in 1961 in 1975. The central building was transformed into residences for the artists.

Minaret and Turn of the Clock. Click to enlarge the image.The private architecture of Počitelj is a mixture of Mediterranean and Eastern elements, with common characteristics like round chimneys and covered roofs of coarse flagstones (roofing stones), and certain local characteristics.

The influence of Mediterranean architecture is recognized in the use of the roofs with pinion, of the walls of stone, small largely separate windows, and in the fitting of rather small parts in houses of only one floor.

The influence of Eastern architecture is reflected, it, in the use of roofs in croup, oriel windows (oriel), of lines of windows brought closer, in the fitting of the parts with an anteroom (hajat) on the ground floor and a living room open (divanhan) on the first floor, like in the closed court and the interior districts connected to each other.

All the houses had latrines in the court and of a small room of baths (hamamdžiluk) in will musandera (dresser out of carved wooden occupying all the wall of the principal room). The richest families had a bathroom in each room.

The Cemetery
Contrary to other cities dating from the same period, it does not take place there of burial inside the walls of the city; the mosque does not have either a cemetery. Deaths were buried apart from the ramparts. The known cemetery as the Large Harem is located on the hill, apart from the ramparts. The oldest epitaph raised on a tomb stone goes back to 1796.

History and traditionsHistory, literature, arts, traditions, legends, religions, myths, symbols…

The strengthened city of Počitelj was probably created by 1383 on the order of king de Bosnie Stjepan 1st Tvrtko. The fortress was mentioned for the first time in 1444 under the name of Posichell.

In second half of the 15th century (1463-1471), the fortress is with the hands of the Hungarians under Matthias Corvin. During this period the city had a major strategic importance, at one moment when central Bosnia and Dalmatie power station became the target of the military campaigns of the Ottoman Empire. The cost of the construction of the fortress was dealt with by the Republic of Raguse (Dubrovnik), under the direction of Paskoje Milićević.

A garrison of Hungarian soldiers then defends the fortress against the Othomans who attack it on several occasions starting from 1463. On September 19th, 1471, after a court sits, the city is conquered by the Othomans. Počitelj then becomes a rampart against the attempts at conquests of the Republic of Venice starting from Dalmatie.

The city will remain within the Ottoman Empire until 1878, except for an interlude: at the end of the 17th century (1693), the city was conquered by the Venetian ones within the framework of the Turkish Great War. But, in 1718, Počitelj fell down in the Othoman hands.

1878 put an end to the Othoman reign as Herzegovina, when the country passed under the protectorate of Austria-Hungary. After the establishment of Austria-Hungary as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Počitelj lost of her strategic importance and started to worsen quickly. However, this loss of the strategic role of the city contributed to the safeguarding of the architectural whole of origin, so that the city remained in its original form until our days.

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