Epitaphs or inscriptions on tombstone stećci are exceptionally interesting phenomenon. Every epitaph aims to tell a tale of a life. It seeks to attract observer’s attention, to connect him equally with the cemetery as the city of dead as with the village, place of the living. With epitaphs, the graves emerge out of the anonymity and receive identity that remains in the surroundings for as long as the tombstones are stands there.
Today there are around 400 medieval epitaphs registered on a territory that tombstone stećci are spread on. All of the inscriptions on the tombstone stećci are written in Cyrillic script, currently best known as Bosnian Cyrillic (Bosančica).
The vast number of epitaphs are short in length. They contain sole information of a person deceased, occasionally about who built it, engraved it and inscribed the monument. They might seem to be devoid of all emotions, but the truth is that their cold look is just a delusion hiding the sorrow of the dearest who had the monument raised.
Besides that, it is often used to emphasize that the deceased is buried on his own noble land, therefore his rank could be approximately defined and whether he had lived at least partly independent, free and wealthy medieval life.
Some of the inscription can be said to represent a small biography of the deceased. His life, composed and presented in short lines till the moment of death and a tombstone raised. The inscriptions of this type are a bit longer, with important historical figures often mentioned, combining more components such as biographical elements, messages to passers-by, grave and tombstone visitor.
It is all additionally emphasized with regular use of phrases such as on his noble, on his legacy, on his noble land, that used to indicate and highlight the social position of the deceased, yet the urge to have his eternal home built on a family graveyard, own land, near his closest siblings.
The theme of a chivalrous death and loyal service to the master is found in many epitaphs. Death is often a direct consequence of a service to the senior, who then raised a monument for his subject.
It is deeply implanted in the European middle age literature. The sole idea of a chivalry is the Western Europe phenomenon that spread though whole Europe and „got caught“ on tombstones stećci, too. The epitaphs on stećci strictly highlight the hierarchy between senior and his protégé, enabling us to examine the relations among the sovereign, high nobility and small gentry.
Numerous inscriptions carry philosophical, religious and moral message saying once was as you are and you shall be as I am. teaching us to live a life conscious of death, that is awaiting as close to us as a shirt's collar.
Furthermore, the epitaphs manifest human loneliness and individuality in time and space, suggesting impermanence and fragility of this material world opposing the other, eternal universe.
The content of epitaph often hides certain documents and historical values, besides aesthetic, artistic, moral or religious messages. People who are considered most important figures of those times are often mentioned with their names inscribed on epitaphs.
Epitaphs occasionally depicted historical events that the deceased was directly or indirectly involved in. Moreover, epitaphs on tombstone stećci today represent a vast treasure of pure local folk expressions and forgotten medieval words and phrases.
Some of the most interesting epitaphs are:
A se leži Radivoj Draščić: dobri junak ja bih, molju ja se vas, ne ticajte! Vi ćete biti kako ja, a ja ne mogu biti kako vi.
Podgradinje u Gornjem Hrasnu kod Neuma; Vego 1964, 82.
A se leži Bogčin kneza Stipka Ugarčića sin na svojoj zemlji na plemenitoj.
Družino, žalite me! Mlad s sega svita otidoh, a jedan bih u majke. A se pisa Ugarak
Crnač u Donjem Kotorcu kod Istočne Ilidže
Va ime Otca i Sina i Svetago Duha, amin.
Se leži knez Batić na svojoj zemlji na plemenitoj, milostiju Božijom i slavnoga gospodina kralja Tvrtka knez bosanski.
Na Visokom se pobolih, na Duboku me dan dojde. Si bilig postavi gospoja Vukava s mojimi dobrim, i živu mi vjerno služaše i mrtvu mi posluži.
Kopošići kod Ilijaša; Vego 1970, br. 245
Va ime o(t)ca i sina i svetago d(u)ha amin'.
Se leži Vign' Milošević' služi banu Stipanu i kralu T(vart)ku i kralu Dabiši i kralici Grubi i krala Ostoju i u to vrime doide (i) svadi se Ostoja kral' s hercegom' i z Bosn(o)m' i na Ugre po(id)e Ostoja to vrime mene Vigna doide kon'čina i legoh' na svom' plemenitom' pod' Kočerinom' i molu vas' nenastupaite na me ja s(a)m' bil' kakovi este vi ćete biti kakov' sam' ja.
Kočerin kod Širokog Brijega; Vego 1962, br. 1.
A sije bileg počtenoga viteza vojevode Radivoja Oprašića. Dokle bih počteno i glasovito živjeh.
I legoh u tuđoj zemlji, a bileg mi stoji na baštini.
Oprašići kod Rogatice; Vego 1970, 226
A se piše na krstu Jurja. Da je znati svakomu čoviku: Juraj Ivanović kako stekoh blago i š njega pogiboh. Kami usiče Radič kovač.
Slipčići kod Mostara
A se grob sina Luke Stijepanova.
Rodih se u veliku radost, a umr u veliku žalost. A se kipi je Tomaševiju Bore, a da mu deseto vredi!
Svitava kod Čapljine; Vego 1962, br. 31.