The most recent (2016), Croatian contribution to UNESCO's World Heritage Site list is actually an honor shared between Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, each of whom hosts stecci. Stecci are medieval tombstones, notable for their unique design and decoration that typifies funerary art between the 12th and 16th century in this region.
Stecci are spread over 3300 sites throughout the region of which 400 are in Croatia, mostly in Dalmatia. Only 30 sites are on the UNESCO list. The majority are in Bosnia-Hercegovina but there are two sites in Croatia: The Church of St. Barbara in Dubravka, Konavle in southern Croatia; Velika and Mala Crljivica in Cista Velika, northeast of Split near Imotski.
So, they're just tombstones. Why are they important? In finding the stecci to have "outstanding universal value" (criteria for inscription on the WHS list) UNESCO pointed to the decorative flourishes of the tombstones which blended eastern and western Christianity as well as pagan symbols and local script to create funerary art that perfectly expressed the time and place of their creation. Human figures, flowers, geometric designs, celebratory scenes, moons and stars are just some of the motifs chosen by the creators and the deceased.
As the stecci are mostly in out-of-the-way locations, they have met the "authenticity and integrity" test even though centuries of weather have worn down the engravings on some. It's also important to note that presenting the stecci for inclusion on the World Heritage list has been a joint project of formerly warring countries in ex-Yugoslavia which doubtless also played a role in their inclusion.
The necropolis is Velika i Mala Crljivica, a 200m site along the Trilj-Imotski road, that once was a Roman road built on top a Bronze Age settlement. The 90 well-preserved stecci date from the 14th and 15th centuries and are in several shapes, vertical and horizontal, with motifs that include crosses, lilies, hunting and dance scenes, duels (maybe the cause of death?) and various plants.
Head outside Dubravka village to the Church of St Barbara to explore this graveyard which contains 84 stecci in slab or chest form also from the 14th to 15th centuries. Decorations include grape tendrils, rosettes, crosses and bows and arrows. The church is from the 19th century, built on the site of an older church. Note the tombstones that are part of the entrance gates.
Here are some other graveyards in Dalmatia that contain stecci:
Brotnice, Sv Luka church
Cavtat, Sv Durde church
Dunav, Mala Gospa church
Gabrile, Sv Mitar church
Mocici, Sv Durad church
©CroatiaTraveller 2005-2018 All rights reserved