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Franciscan Museum in Jajce: Guardian of the history of the Royal City and BiH

The last war in our country created a big discontinuity in the work of the Franciscan Museum in Jajce. In 2005, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its founding, the museum was reopened to the public. In the fall of 2018, the remodeled rooms of the monastery were opened to the public, where the exhibits of the ethnological, archaeological, and sacral collection are displayed. After that, we also published a guide for these three collections.

The last collection was edited two years ago. It is the Medieval Collection, and last year we made a separate guide for this collection as well.

Within these four collections, I would like to point out some valuable exhibits that the Franciscans still keep in the museum till today; above all there are the remains of the last king in Bosnia, Stjepan Tomašević, and a Mošunj type sword. Franjo Leovac, curator of the Franciscan Museum in Jajce, said this for Visit BiH Magazine.

The Last King

– The Medieval Bosnia collection is the most interesting for visitors. With this collection, we tried to tell the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the 10th to the 15th century. The central part of this collection is occupied by the remains of the last king Stjepan Tomašević (1461 – 1463), says Leovac.

According to him, the collection shows who were the rulers of medieval Bosnia, but also which key events took place in this area and left impressive traces.

– The archaeological collection tells us about the continuity of life in these areas. Today, when we talk about Jajce, we are talking about the city of AVNOJ (Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia), the waterfall, the royal city… However, the area of Jajce, as well as the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Human civilization has left behind many interesting traces. The oldest item kept by the Franciscans is in the center of the archaeological collection. It is a sword of the Mošunj type from the 9th century BC – says Leovac.

He points out that the Museum also has numerous other pieces of evidence of life in the area of Jajce. In addition to the prehistoric exhibits, there are also numerous Roman remains that can be seen in this collection. The archaeological collection also includes exhibits from the Church of St. Mary, the coronation church of the last Bosnian king Stjepan Tomašević, and from the tower of St. Luke. However, it is important to emphasize that in the 16th century, the coronation church was also converted into a mosque in Fethija.

-The museum also has an ethnological collection that tells about the people of this region, old Bosnian houses, Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim folk costumes through photographs. Franciscans keep a valuable sacred collection in the heritage museum. The central part of this collection is occupied by photographs of the monastery and the church before the last war. Unfortunately, the church was demolished in 1992. It should be noted here that all places of worship, churches and mosques were destroyed in Jajce during the last war. The church that was next to the Monastery was artistically extremely interesting, but you can no longer see that, except in photographs – he points out.

According to him, the sacral collection has many interesting exhibits. A few are worth highlighting.

– For all residents of our country, it is worth mentioning two books, i.e. reprints/copies of Hrvoje’s Missal and Hval’s Codex, which are exhibited in the sacred collection. These two books are related to Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić, who is considered the founder of Jajc. We often forget him, but he built so much in Jajce. First, he built the Jajce fortress, the catacombs, the walls around the city, Medvjed tower, but he also had some books written – says Leovac.

In the sacral collection, several other exhibits are worth highlighting, such as the chalice from the 15th century made in the Gothic style, or the display case/monstrance made in the 17th century.

Rich library

– When we talk about the museum and the new arrangement, it is worth noting that for the arrangement of the museum we received awards from the Collegium Artisticum from Sarajevo and the BigSee Institute from Ljubljana – he points out.

These, he emphasizes, are the four permanent collections in the museum, and the intention of the Franciscans, above all, is for as many visitors as possible to get to know Jajce from prehistory to the present day.

– The Franciscans have several thousand exhibits, but there is no adequate space to display everything. We currently have a space of several hundred square meters, and we need much more considering the number of exhibits. We hope that in the future we will also be able to build a museum building in the courtyard of the monastery – he says.

Moreover, the Franciscans keep more than 20,000 books, and among them are numerous books from the 18th and 19th centuries.

According to him, tourists who come from around the world, outside the Balkans, already know that the museum contains the remains of Stjepan Tomašević and that is what they most often come for.

-However, they are surprised when they learn that the Franciscans have other collections with extremely interesting exhibits, and they can learn about the history of this region. That’s why we recently published a museum guide in English. When it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina, many students who learn about the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina through their education visit and enrich their knowledge in the museum – he says.

Leovac says that the museum is open from Monday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Groups should be announced in advance.