Damage inflicted on cultural monuments in the Yugoslav conflict

Report of the Institute for the Protection of Monuments, Croatian Ministry of Education and Culture, with information collected by 5 October 1991


We here reproduce the part of the Croatians’ report dated 11 October which records damage to what they have categorised as monuments of “national and international importance”. This report also goes on to describe in equally careful and unsensationalist detail the damage to forty-six monuments “of regional importance”, which include the nineteenth-century Neo-Gothic Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Osijek, and the centre of Sibenic, building by building. This we have had to omit for reasons of space.

We felt it important that our readers should see the manner in which this report has been compiled because one of the assumptions made by the English quality newspapers has been that no information emerging at an official level from either side in this war is to be believed. We leave it to our readers to judge whether what is printed here is likely to be propaganda.

Area covered by Institute for Protection of Monuments in Dubrovnik


One of the leading ancient cities of Europe, surrounded by towers. The port, squares, and public, religious and residential buildings of exceptional architectural and aesthetic value, mainly fourteenth to eighteenth-century in date.

1.10.1991 Shelled in artillery and mortar attacks, the churches of St Anne, St Mary and St Magdalenc in Bosanka on the outskirts of Dubróvnik, as well as targets close to the historic centre. The Yugoslav Federal Army also pounded the villages of Mokosica, Komolac and Rijeka Dubrovacka thus threatening the country residences of Dubrovnik and the Rizat monastery. The marina in Rijeka Dubrovacka, with its Gothic and Renaissance Italianate villas, is reported by Croatian TV to have been struck. Since this marina is situated at the villa of Sorkocevic, this is likely to have suffered damage. However, with all links to Dubrovnik cut off, information on the extent and nature of damage is still lacking.

Dominican church and monastery

Founded in thirteenth and completed in fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Cloister designed in 1455 by the cannon-founder Maso from Florence and built after his death by local craftsmen.

5.10.1991 Reported by radio and television to have been damaged during mortar attacks. The extent and nature of the damage is not yet known.

Area covered by Institute for Protection of Monuments in Osijek

ERDUT (Osijek district)

The remains of once a sizeable medieval brick-built town, including a tower, and massive wall and structures. Important archaeological site around the tower.

27.07.1991 During an artillery attack by the Yugoslav Federal Army from the other bank of Danube the northern wall of the square tower was damaged by shells. The resulting holes in the wall are 40-60 cm wide, 40-50 cm deep and in one place the wall is broken through in the width of 60-80 cm.

ILOK (Vukovar district)

St John Capistran with monastery

A single-naved gothic building, constructed in fifteenth-century. Church and monastery are richly furnished and are in possession of a library.

26.07.1991 and 6.08.1991 Church roof, the belfry cornice and the monastery walls damaged by cannon, mortar and machine-gun fire from a Yugoslav Federal Army patrol-boat on the Danube.

MARTIN (Nasice district)

Church of St Martin

A single-naved late-Romanesque chapel with gothic elements. The arched barrel-shaped sanctuary with a late-baroque altar.

21.09.1991 Reported by Zagreb TV to have suffered considerable damage in a military attack against Nasice. Full extent and nature of damage as yet unknown.


Church of St Michael

Built by Jesuits (1725-48); valuable contents, baroque altar, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century paintings, liturgical vessels.

8.09.1991 and 13-15.09.1991 Shelled. The roof and altars damaged and window panes smashed.

The Tower

A circular fort with eight ramparts on the left bank of Sava. Of medieval origin, the urban complex of the Tower was completed by the middle of eighteenth-century and is the best preserved specimen of an urban and military complex in the country.

3.09.1991 Buildings within the protected Tower area, the “Narodna tehnika” building, formerly a Jesuit monastery, hit by mortar shells. The presbytery on the square shelled. Nos 8a, 25, 29 Kuhaceva St were damaged by mortar shells.

5.09.1991 In the night of September 4/5 60mm mortar shells hit the courtyard of Kuhaceva 9 building.

10.09.1991 In an artillery attack on the city of Osijek, a large calibre shell was fired at the Franciscan Monastery on the V. Lisinski Square No 3. During the same attack, grenades fired from multi-barrel launchers fell on the city centre. A. Starcevic Square (within the protected complex of period buildings) and damaged the building No 6 (Central Hotel).

13.09.1991 K. Firinger No. 14 and D. Pinterovic St No. 4 badly damaged in mortar attack.

17-18.09.1990, 1991 Heavy damage to all the above in concentrated attacks; the buildings of the Slavonia Museum, the Franciscan Monastery and the church rendered structurally unstable.

STARA GRADISKA (Nova Gradiska district)

Old city centre

Small sixteenth-century fortress with eighteenth-century additions.

17.08.1991 Damage inflicted on the tower by missiles launched from Bosanska Gradiska by the Yugoslav Army.

VOCIN (Podravska Slatina district)

Church of St Mary

Large fifteenth-century gothic single-naved church with high-quality architectural decoration.

Unknown date The church inventory looted and removed in several trucks.

VUKOVAR Vucedol (Vukovar district)

Vucedol Archaeological Site

This and the adjoining sites of Gradac and Trojstvo are a complex of prehistoric settlements considered to be some of the most interesting in Southern Europe.

Access road shelled causing considerable damage.


The Palace of Eltz

Owes its present appearance to the designs of the Viennese architect Siedik, and is one of the biggest and most impressive aristocratic secular buildings in Croatia. Part of the palace houses an important part (including prehistoric exhibits) of the Vukovar City Museum collections.

25.08.1991 In the course of incessant attacks against Vukovar by the Yugoslav Federal Army and Serbian para-military groups the façade of the Vukovar City Museum was damaged by a shell. The roof of the museum was extensively damaged.

26.08.1991 Part of the palace completely destroyed by a 450 kg aircraft bomb; the part housing the museum collection, damaged on the roof only and the collection itself remains intact.

22.09.1991 In renewed raids the museum part of the palace was hit by a missile and is reported to have been burnt down.


Cathedral of St Peter

The construction of the neo-Romanesque Cathedral (1866-82) was sponsored by Bishop J. J. Strossmayer. Decorated with frescoes by followers of the Nazarenes.

16.09.1991 North wall struck by two shells in a mortar attack. Damage to the internal walls but not the frescoes; further damage to architectural sculpture of all portals.

Episcopal court

One-storey baroque chancery built in the first half of eighteenth-century and extended in nineteenth-century. The court houses a highly valuable diocesan collection, and includes crypts, chapels, and the remains of a gothic and baroque cathedral.

16.09.1991 Roof, main and courtyard façades and the interior of the building damaged by about fifteen shells in a mortar attack aimed directly against the Episcopal court.

Area covered by Regional Institute for Protection of Monuments in Split

STARI GRAD/HVAR Starigradsko polje (Hvar district)

Complex of rustic villas and Roman houses between Jelsa and Stari Grad

15.09.1991 In an air raid against the local runway which occupies the central part of the antique ager (richest in archaeological finds), about ten holes were made to a depth of up to one metre.

Area covered by Institute for Protection of Monuments in Dubrovnik

CAVTAT (Dubrovnik district)

Racic family mausoleum

Built in the Twenties to the designs of sculptor Ivan Mestrovic.

Unknown date Damaged in mortar attacks to an extent not yet established.

Area covered by the Institute for Protection of Monuments in Karlovac

KARLOVAC (Karlovac district)

The old city area

Built from 1579 as a fortification at the time of the rising Turkish threat. The old city area of Karlovac represents one of the few examples of “ideal” cities (Palma Nuova). It is of outstanding value in terms of history, urban planning and architecture.

5.08.1991 Late July and early August 1991 subversive actions were initiated in Karlovac, even inside the old city centre, with devastating effects.

3.08.1991 Extensive damage was caused by a bomb planted in the old city centre to houses.

18.09.1991 Concentrated mortar and artillery attacks resulted in new damage on individual buildings within the old city centre. The extent of damage, however, cannot yet be established with certainty, because the attacks are still going on. Karlovac Historic Archive was struck by artillery shells.

KARLOVAC (Karlovac district)

Church of the Virgin Mary with Pauline Monastery

The church is richly furnished with baroque contents.

19.09.1991 Church and monastery damaged in attacks by Serbian paramilitary groups. As the place is still inaccessible, the extent and nature of damage cannot yet be determined.

TOPUSKO (Vrginmost district)

The remains of a massive medieval Cistercian abbey. Remains of a monumental Gothic façade of around 1300 with architectural sculpture.

20.08.1991 The Cistercian Abbey was subjected to a mortar attack in spite of being marked by the sign of the Hague Convention. The damage, however, is slight.

Area covered by Institute for Protection of Monuments in Sibenik

SIBENIK (Sibenik district)

Old city centre of Sibenik

Dominated by the Fort of St Ann with walls, partly reinforced by ramparts, descending to the shore. Sibenik’s rich political and architectural heritage includes the Cathedral of St Jacob, palaces and important religious buildings.

18.09.1991 Incessant bombardment from land and warships anchored in the port have not spared many buildings within the old city centre. Sibenik City Museum, monastery of St Lucy and the steepl of Church of St Francis were hit, but exact information on the extent of damage is not yet accessible.

Cathedral of St Jacob

Gothic-Renaissance building started by Venetians and finished by Juraj Dalmatinac and Nikola Firentinac. Rich ornamental and figurative gothic and Renaissance sculpture inside and outside. Baptistry and vestry richly decorated with ornamental and figurative motifs, also by Juraj Dalmatinac. An extremely important building for the history of the gothic-Renaissance architecture in Dalmatia.

17.09.1991 Three mortar shells hit the square between the town hall and Cathedral of St Jacob inflicting minor damage on the Cathedral’s northern façade. The sculptures by Juraj Dalmatinac remained intact as they had been protected.

18.09.1991 A 400-mm artillery shell broke through the cupola of the Cathedral.

Fortress of St Ann

Mostly fifteenth-century.

19.09.1991 Western wall damaged over a surface exceeding one square metre by a tank grenade.

The Nuova Church

Rebuilt in late fifteenth-century in the tradition of Nicholas of Florence. Interior reliefs modelled in the style of Nicholas of Florence. Coffered ceiling with painted angels and “Assumption” in the central cassette.

19.09.1991 The roof damaged; the actual extent of overall damage, however, is still to be determined.

Area covered by Institute for Protection of Monuments in Varazdin

VARAZDIN (Varazdin district)

Varazdin old town

One of the most beautiful baroque environments in Croatia adapted to the irregular medieval arrangement of streets and squares.

18.09.1991 Many buildings, including the Palace of Sermage, the Old City, the Erdody Palace, grammar-school, Church of St Mary and Jesuit monastery were damaged by Yugoslavian Federal Army shells and bullets.

The town hall which is one of the outstanding specimens of the late-baroque architecture in Northern Croatia, suffered similar damage to roof and façade.

Area covered by Institute for Protection of Monuments in Zadar

KARIN (Obrovac district)

Church of the Immaculate Conception and Franciscan friary

Fifteenth-century Franciscan friary renewed in 1736, devastated by an earthquake in 1986, and rebuilt by the end of 1990.

26.08.1991 Façades of friary and church damaged by mortar fire and the friarsdriven out by paramilitary rebels. The full extent of damage cannot yet be established.

NADIN (Benkovac district)

Illyrian settlement of Nedinum with megalith stone block city walls built under Hellenic influence.

24.09.1991 The area was bombed, but the extent of damage not yet established.


One of the oldest cities in our country. The orthogonal arrangement of streets, typical of the first centuries of the Roman Empire, was taken over and retained in the medieval and subsequent construction of the city. This basic architectural fabric along with numerous antique remains, has largely been preserved up to the present times despite all the calamities the city underwent in its past. Many of the city’s early medieval, medieval and subsequent buildings (such as Church of St Donat, Cathedrial of St Stoshia) harbour precious Roman and old-Christian structures, and are considered as some leading specimens of the European medieval architecture.

1.10.1991 During artillery attacks a number of buildings within the historic centre, including Church of St Krshevan and National Museum, a restored period building at the Old Church of St Peter the northern wing of the Detrico House (fifteenth/sixteenth-century) plus more recent buildings suffered major and minor damage.

5.10.1991 Renewed attacks against the old city centre with the Science Library and History Archive buildings, the Land Gates and more residential buildings damaged.

ZADAR Poluotok

Church of St Simon

Old parts date back to the early Christianity and through the Romanesque to Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. An historically and architecturally exceptionally important building. Of its rich and artistically invaluable contents the most important is the Sepulchre of St Simon.

5.10.1991 The Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments in Zadar, reports that the Church suffered major damage during mortar attacks against the city of Zadar.


(collected by 12 Oct 1991)

level of damage O A B C N Total

Minor damage 1 21 25 65 31 143

Severe damage 0 30 29 27 21 107

Destroyed 0 0 11 11 13 41

Information lacking

about degree of damage 0 8 6 4 16 33

total 1 65 71 107 80 374

types of monuments

Historic sites 0 0 1 0 0 1

Small towns and villages 1 7 9 2 2 21

Palaces and important

houses 0 14 15 69 15 113

Fortresses 0 7 3 0 2 12

Churches and monasteries 0 23 40 32 43 138

Archaeological sites 0 3 0 0 0 3

Mausolea, tombs and

cemeteries 0 1 1 0 1 3

Industrial buildings 0 0 1 0 0 1

Museums, galleries,

collections 0 10 1 4 0 15

Archives 0 0 0 0 5 5

Libraries 0 0 0 0 12 12

total 1 54 48 107 80 324

O World importance

A Monuments of national and international importance

B Monuments of regional importance

C Monuments of local importance

N Lower category or non-categorized