This once-charming mediaeval town is situated in the vally of the Neretva River some twenty - five kilometers from Mostar, on the route to the Adriatic Sea. The history of Pocitelj is not well known and has to be researched. As far as we know, it existed in 1444 as a fortress supported by Hungary. Turks took it over in 1471 and it became an important part of the Ottoman Empire. The town's principal mosque is built by Hadzi Alija in 1563. From the beginning of the 18th century Pocitelj was the seat of the captaincy and in 1782 it became the seat of the kadiluk. A seventeenth-century enclosing wall marks the height of the town's growth. At the time, there was in the town an elementary school (mekteb), a secondary theological school (medresa) and also public baths (hammam) and an inn for travelers (han).
The town was constructed right into a rocky mountainside overlooking a bend in the Neretva River. This gives it the aspect of a natural amphitheater, and is a delight for any architect with a feeling for environmental settings. Its characteristic buildings are in Ottoman style. The Stone houses along stone pathways are an unique, hidden behind high walls surrounding peaceful, inner courtyards. It is testimony of a culture that internal values grace over external appearence.
The Turkish world traveler Evliya Celebi passed through Pocitelj in 1664 and wrote in his travel account (about the town's principal mosque): "There is a tall cypress tree in its courtyard. This shining mosque was erected by a forebear of our lord Ibrahim Aga. Alongside the town walls, beside the water, his honored brother built a public kitchen (imaret) which distributes free bread and soup to needy inhabitants day and night. On Thursday evenings, it distributes spiced meat and savory and sweet rice dishes. The houses of the town are built one above the other, facing west towards the river. There is an abundance of walnut trees here. Since the climate is mild, fruit grows better here than in other towns." Evliya also mentions a clock tower WHICH bell "heavier and clearer than any other in Bosnia and Herzegovina" was, according to legend, brought from Crete. For many years the bell tolled the hours for Pocitelj and in calm weather could be heard in Capljina and Gabela, resounded from the stone into the far distance.
The clock-tower's bell still tolled until 1917, when the Austrians, who had occupied Pocitelj since 1878, melted it down for bullets - just a year before an armistice brought to an end both World War I and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
With the Austrian conquest, Pocitelj lost its strategic importance and declined. Only in the 1960s did it begin to grow again, as a tourist center. In the Ca-ptain's House family mansion an art-ist's colony was founded in 1964. More than 2.000 artists, not just in the fine arts but also writers and poets, from the former Yugoslavia and around the world, came to the colony between its founding and the beginning of the 1992-1995 war. Pocitelj, with its jumble of medieval stone buildings, ancient tower overlooking the river and its proximity to the seaside, gave artists a quiet and scenic place to work.
But the 1992-1995 war meant the destruction and looting of Pocitelj's mix of Mediterranean and Turkish architecture and the magnificent examples of the world's architectural trea-sury have been trashed.
There's no life in Pocitelj without the colony and it started work again in 1999. Its reopening will revitalize this tiny medieval town. Nine houses have been already rebuilt, along with the Hadzic-Alijana mosque and the art colony building, in the first phase of a $93,750 project sponsored by the Federation of BiH (FBiH) government. This year, the official 8 June opening attracted several hundred artists and officials to Pocitelj, where just 300 people lived before the war. And another project has been budgeted for the next phase of work, including more houses, infrastructure, and the Ottoman bath house. Pocitelj life can be renewed and its glory reestablished.
[Accessed October 04, 2005]