Central Bosnia has a long and remarkable history. The delicate and fascinating melange of Western and Eastern cultures marks the true character of the region. This tiny kingdom, with its fortresses perched atop lush, green, rolling hills, offers a warm and hospitable experience in the heart of Bosnia’s cultural heritage. As the birthplace of the Bosnian state, this region plays a major role in the cultural, natural and historical heritage of past and present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina. A major highway is being constructed in BiH and most of it cuts through this region, which will surely make exploring Central Bosnia much easier than before.
The central part of Bosnia and Herzegovina was the seat of the Bosnian state in medieval times. Known as the Bosna Srebrena (Silver Bosna) region it was the political, cultural and religious heart of Bosnia. All the Bosnian kings resided in central Bosnia, from Bobovac and Kraljeva Sutjeska to the castle at Jajce that fell to the Turks in 1528. The unique ‘heretic’ Bosnian Church was the spiritual backbone of the small Slav communities that dotted the lush and green countryside until the 14th century. By 1340 the Franciscans had established their first order in Bosnia, and in a very short space of time Catholicism spread and monasteries in Kraljeva Sutjeska, Visoko, Kreševo and Fojnica were built.
With the arrival of the Turks in the mid-15th century, Ottoman and oriental culture asserted its influence in places like Travnik, Visoko, Donji Vakuf and Jajce. Travnik became not only the main city in central Bosnia, but also the centre of the Ottoman Empire’s establishment in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mahalas (neighbourhoods/quarters) sprang up in many towns, and the spread of Islam had a major impact on life in Bosnia. Small settlements developed into towns and cities, and the once isolated mountain communities became more interconnected. The Lašva Valley was a main trading route from Dalmatia, Serbia and beyond. Travnik, once heralded as the European Istanbul, soon became known for its magnificent oriental architecture and bustling trade centres.
Of all the ethnically mixed communities in Bosnia, this region, in particular, maintained a balance of Catholic and Muslim inhabitants (with a much smaller Orthodox community). The Catholics view themselves as the only continual line of defenders of the ancient Christian Bosnian state. The Bosnian Franciscans are the heart and soul of this sentiment and remain loyal to the preservation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty, unlike many of their Franciscan counterparts in western Herzegovina. The parish of Srebrena Bosna remains the largest Catholic parish in Bosnia. In short, it would be difficult or impossible to find a central Bosnia town or community that hasn’t intimately meshed with the other. Exploring central Bosnia’s ancient fortresses, monasteries, mosques and highland villages is a journey into the very heart of the original Bosnian state and its long line of Slavic ancestors that have settled these lands since the 7th century.