T H E   F R A N C I S C I A N   M O N A S T E R Y   I N   B A Č

Franciscan Monastery of Bac is in the centre of Bac, integrated with its townscape and the mediaeval urban layout, with high walls and a massive bell tower, rising from the plain.The complex consists of a church and to the south three adjacent ground floor monastery wings that enclose an cloister with a well in its centre. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, it is of an elongated ground plan of east – west direction, with a five-sided apse on the east side and a short side nave on the north side. On its south side, a corridor connects it with the residential quarters, creating a unified structure under one roof. The main church entrance is on the west side, but there are two more in the southern wall, as well, one more towards the main entrance and the other near the access to the altar.

The present look of the complex has been forming for seven centuries. As far as we know, it started to be built in the late 12th century, when the members of the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem built a small one-nave church, today preserved in its entirety.The church had massive walls with buttresses built with stone and brick in alternation, tall gables and a much lower apse. In the second half of the 14th century, the Franciscans restored it in Gothic style, building the monastery and a bell tower along the altar, and in the 15th century the church was extended towards west.. When Bac fell under the Turkish rule in 1526, the church was turned into a mosque – there is a mihrab niche in the southern wall, formed in the place of the original west entrance – until the year of the liberation in 1686. Baroque renewal included the church and the monastery, when the characteristic square inner court was created between 1724 and 1770 by the Franciscans of the Franciscan Province of Bosna Srebrena. In the south wing there is a spacious refectory, indicating that the brotherhood was once quite numerous.

Thus, a complex architectural composition of the Bac Franciscan Monastery is weaved from Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Islamic, Baroque and Classicistic elements. The cultural stratigraphy is expanded with the remains of mediaeval frescoes: scenes of the Crucifixion of Christ on the church south buttress (today, the tower bell west wall); a fragment of a scene showing two female faces on the church south wall; kings' torsos in garlands, painted on the arch separating the nave and the altar. Among the numerous paintings, there is an Italo-Cretan icon of the Virgin Eleousa, from 1684, work of master Dima and the Last Supper painting from 1737, by Paulus Senser. Evidence of active life of this special place also lies in extensive treasures, a library with old and rare books, liturgical vestments, handicrafts and object that used to be in everyday use (dishes for cooking and serving food, objects for cloth making, smithy tools, etc.)

The Centuries of Bac comprehensive approach that bestows equal attention to investigations, conservation and heritage use, found its full application and justification in the Franciscan Monastery of Bac. It started in 2006, when the extant complex situation project was made and a Valorisation Study of the painting and sculpture works, as grounds for their conservation. In 2011 the investigations were intensified, inspired by a discovery of a mediaeval fresco. Then the archaeological excavations were also resumed after a long break. The increased public interest in the Franciscan Monastery of Bac was employed to now turn the attention from the mediaeval attractions to the significance and values of those from the 18th and 19th centuries and the numerous issues concerning their preservation. Consistent work started in 2004 on finding solutions for bettering the complex conditions, was finally rewarded in 2016 with an EU grant, coming as a support to the organised activities in conserving those values, improving their use and in presenting them, as well as developing the idea of introducing the museum and didactic content.