The Bosnian city whose name means the palace in the plain, or the plain around a palace, came into being in the valley below Mt. Trebević half a millennium ago. Isabey Ishaković, the sanjakbey or governor of Bosnia, built his palace on the left bank of the River Miljacka, built a bridge over the river, and established the trade and crafts centre known as the čaršija.
Thus were laid the foundations for the city, which lies on the boundary between East and West, a city where many cultures and civilizations have met and mingled, and which Isabey described in one of his vakufnamas (deeds of pious endowment)as “a flower among cities, a city of ghazis and warriors.” The history of the Sarajevo region begins in the Upper Stone Age (four thousand years ago), and the first known inhabitants of Butmir, followed by the Illyrians, the Romans, Germanic tribes, Slavs, the Ottomans, the Austro-Hungarians and the country’s present-day people – Bosniacs, Jews, Croats, Serbs and others. The costumes and influences of Antiquity and the Mediterranean, East and West, and its location on the road from Narona to Constantinople all contributed to the formation and development of Sarajevo. The mediaeval village grew into an oriental city, and later into a modern European city. The beliefs of the people who lived here have included polytheism, the “heretical” Bosnian Church, Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, Islam and Judaism; but all, including atheism, were based on a philosophy of tolerance and common living. All left traces of their material and spiritual culture, evidenced by the pottery of Butmir, mosaics, the mediaeval tombstones known as stećaks, the Muslim grave markers known as nišans, bastions and ramparts, caravanserais, bridges, public and religious edifices, and more. Sarajevo’s cultural heritage is a veritable treasure-house, with its mediaeval and oriental manuscripts, icons and decorative articles, jewellery and weaponry, household wares, and the range of art works and crafts of today. The successive periods of Sarajevo’ past begin with the late Middle Ages, the time of the mediaeval Bosnian state, followed by the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian periods and the time of the two Yugoslavias. The wars and fires that have so often ravaged the city have changed its appearance, but it has always risen again from the ashes to become larger and even more beautiful. Sarajevo is now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the city and its surroundings form country’s cultural, social and economic heartland. Certain aspects of its history and art are of world-wide importance: Butmir pottery, which features in the archaeology textbooks of every country the Sarajevo Haggadah, the object of study in every art history of the world places of worship of the three great monotheistic faiths standing side by side, earning the city its nickname “the Jerusalem of Europe” the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, which led to World War I, rightly known as the Great War the Olympic Spirit and commitment to humanism expressed in the 14th Winter Olympics held here and, tragically, the 1992-1995 war, when Sarajevo was under siege – the longest siege of a city in the history of war. This remarkable city is now the focus of European and global interest as a place where a philosophy by which people will be able to live in future is being re-created.