Reviving the war-torn city of Mostar

A plan to reconstruct Mostar's historic centre


UNESCO, the European Union and the civil authorities of Mostar are working together to reconstruct this town in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Two years ago they instructed the architect Carlo Blasi of the University of Florence, to shore up the damaged buildings. A general plan was drawn up which establishes the priorities for the rehabilitation of the historic buildings.

In March, the director-general of UNESCO, Federico Mayor and the Minister of Education and Culture for the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Fahrudin Rizvanbegovic, signed an agreement relating to three restoration projects, including the rehabilitation of the historic centre of Mostar.

Since 1992, the city of Mostar has been divided into two halves governed separately by the Croats and the Bosnian Muslims. Work to consolidate the damaged buildings in an attempt to reunify the city began in 1994, following the strategy of the European administrator in Mostar, acting on a mandate from the European Union.

The work was undertaken by Carlo Blasi and his team. Professor Blasi commented: “It is very important to consolidate the domes of the mosques during a time of war. These mosques are the first historic buildings to have been saved along with the roof of the Franciscan convent and the archive building located in eastern Mostar”.

Colin Kaiser, a UNESCO delegate, has been working with professor Blasi to prepare a general plan for the reconstruction work required in Mostar. He said: “We have chosen certain historic buildings and provided estimates for their restoration”. Among these is the Museum of Herzegovina founded in 1899, which was badly damaged in the war and houses a unique collection of Bogomil art.

The reconstruction of the museum and of the neighbouring mosque of Cejvan is expected to cost $1,320,000 (£880,000); that of the seventeenth-century Tabacica Mosque $830,000 (£550,000); the restoration of the university library $740,000 (£490,000) and the Orthodox church dating from 1835, $320,000 (£210,000).

The universities of Florence and Mostar (the latter also divided in two like the rest of the city) have agreed to collaborate and in April this year the conference of European rectors asked for the University of Florence to participate in the restoration of laboratories and buildings.

A number of UNESCO member States have promised funds and Croatia, France, Italy and Turkey have pledged help with the reconstruction of the bridge at Mostar. This sixteenth-century bridge, destroyed by the Croatian forces, separates the Croat population from the Muslims and symbolises the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Rebuilding the bridge symbolises the unification of the country and will be undertaken as the conclusion of the restoration work on Mostar’s old town.

The exhibition “Bosnia-Herzegovina from peace to rebirth” and the film produced by UNESCO’s Unit for Special Projects for Cultural Patrimony, entitled “Mostar 96 from negative to positive” will be shown in Strasbourg in a joint initiative between the Strasbourg town council and the Council of Europe.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Mostar, the price of peace'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 61 July 1996