Decorative motifs

Decorative motifs represent most prominent and most valuable artistic feature of the tombstone stećci. It drew attention of numerous scientists and curious men.

The researchers mostly devoted to examining a variety of motifs, trying to describe them, explain their purpose and meaning. This caused usually unjustifiably made connections between the stećak tombstones and the various monuments in different parts of Europe, but also related to different dates.

It should be as well mentioned that the most of the tombstones stećci are not decorated at all. Only around 6.000 tombstones stećci carry different decorative motifs. Although not so large in number, decorative motifs still excite imagination and serve as an endless source for the study of the medieval sepulchral art of the old Bosnian state.

Architectural motifs

The tombstone stećci decorative motifs can be divided into a few categories. The architectural motifs stand on the first place. They are the direct representation of scene heighten buildings or some parts of them, and monuments entirely conceived as buildings and decorated with columns and arcades.

Astral motifs

The next are astral motifs such as the sun, the stars and the moon. Particularly interesting motifs are the ones that speak of a buried one's profession, like pictures of various tools (steel, chisel, ax, sword, and shovel). Religious themes, such as the cross, also appear greatly as a motif on the tombstones stećci .

Illustrations of animals

The illustrations of animals as a motif on the tombstone stećci are extremely interesting, hiding plenty of symbolic meaning. The drawings of a deer, horse, dog, lion, rooster, snake, bird, boar but also some fantasy animals, have not yet been studied enough to be able to completely comprehend their true meaning. The flora drawings are also numerous and interesting, with lilies, trees, spirals and grapes standing out.

Human figures

Human figures are the most expressive representations on the tombstones stećak. Some of the motifs show only certain parts appearing, like head, one or two hands, seldom a drawing of a semi-figure or a whole-man. It can easily be claimed that they illustrate certain scenes or the prevailing interest in the life of the deceased, or it might be that they conceal a deeper, more studious message, perhaps of a religious significance.

Dance, tournaments and hunting

Some of the most expressive motifs on the tombstones stećci are images of a dance kolo, tournament scenes, deer or other animal hunt. The kolo dance is particularly interesting, usually considered to be a motif of an obituary dance.

There are authors who are representing the theory that the tombstones posthumous dance differs from the standard, usual kolo dance. According to their opinion, the posthumous kolo dance is left-sided, thus opposite to the custom practice. Representing ancient tradition of this land, these images surely implicate deeper metaphor.

Hunting scenes take special place in the entire repertoire of the stećak tombstones motifs. The idea of ​​hunting is itself directly related to death: each hunt ends with death, whether it's of a hunt or a hunter. The hunting scene can be interpreted as the every-day life image of the medieval nobility, but broader interpretation should not be ruled out, too.

The tournaments were one of the basic features of the European court culture of High and Late Middle Ages. Each tournament is a solemn and honorable act. Only the best and the most skilful family members were chosen to participate, with their victory telling stories of their family's size and reputation. The numerous tombstones stećci are the most prominent sing of how rooted chivalry is in the Medieval Bosnia. Most of the tournament scenes presented on the tombstone stećak can be said to reflect the medieval entertainment of Bosnian nobles and other wealthy residents. All of these features are well incorporated into wider circle of the European chivalry culture. Furthermore, many authors sought to attribute the tombstone stećak chivalry scenes to the broader cult significance of a Pagan or Cristian character.