Arnaudija: A mosque with three names and three important years

Arnaudija Mosque, Hasan Defterdar Mosque or Defterdarija Mosque are three names that the people of Banja Luka use when they want to say the name of the mosque near Banja Luka Gymnasium.

In its centuries-long history, three years stand out in particular, namely the year 1595 when it was built, the year 1993 when it was demolished and the year 2024 when, after renovation, it will be reopened tomorrow.

This mosque was built at the end of the 16th century by Hasan defterdar, so it is also called Hasan defterdar’s Mosque, from which the name Defterdarija mosque is derived. Hasan’s mosque was called Arnaudija by the people, and as stated in the document of the Commission for the Preservation of National Monuments, people coined that name because its builder was probably Albanian by origin.

Historical data

Hasan Defterdar was the Minister of Finance of the Bosnian Pashaluka during the time of Ferhat Pasha Sokolović. The choice of the site for the construction of the mosque was not accidental, and as stated in the document of the Commission for the Preservation of National Monuments, accepting Ferhat Pasha’s idea of ​​urbanizing this part of Banja Luka, and especially emphasizing the importance of the road that started from Lauš hill to Vrbas, Hasan defterdar built his the mosque at the northernmost point of this road. More precisely, at the point of its intersection with the road that went from the then Gornji Šeher to Gradiška.

The mosque was mined on May 7, 1993, and the remains were taken to the dump and landfill in Ramići, and the site was completely cleared.

National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina

By the decision of the Commission for the Preservation of National Monuments from July 2003, the site and the remains of the architectural complex of the Arnaudija Mosque are declared a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which consists of the site where the mosque was located and the remains of the mosque, the turbet, the akšam-taš minaret, the stone fountains, a harem with sights and courtyards, the entrance building to the complex with the associated stone walls that enclose the building complex.

The same decision establishes the protection measures that defined that Arnaudija must be reconstructed in its original location, in its original form, of the same size, of the same or similar material, applying the same technological approaches to the greatest extent possible, and based on the documentation of its original form.

Also, it was stated that all the fragments of the mosque, which remained after the demolition of the building complex or were found on neighboring plots or at the landfill in Ramići, where they were taken after the demolition, and refer to the authentic building, must be recorded, preserved and re-incorporated into the mosque using the anastylosis method. On the other hand, all the fragments that were found, and which, considering the degree of damage or for other justified reasons, cannot be incorporated, must be presented in an appropriate way as part of the building complex. Among other things, it is stated that the courtyard inside the complex should be paved with stone slabs.

Architecture of the Arnaudi Mosque

The Arnaudija or Defterdarija mosque belongs to the type of sub-domed mosques with a portico and a stone minaret. As stated in the explanation of the Commission for the Preservation of National Monuments, the whole consisted of: the entrance gate, the upper part of which was decorated with a small akšam-tash minaret, a cobbled courtyard, a mosque and a harem.

“The outer porch extended along the entire entrance side of the mosque. The structure of the porch rested on four stone pillars, connected to each other by broken arches. The columns were strengthened by copper rings under the capitals. These rings are also placed above the round bases of the pillars. The bases stood on square bases. The columns were decorated with richly decorated capitals with geometric and stalactite decoration”, it is stated on the website of the Commission.

The central part of the portico provided access to the mosque, and the broken arches of the portico carried three domes, the middle one of which was raised, thus emphasizing the entrance.

In the interior of the Arnaudi mosque, there was a mihrab, a mimber, a wooden mahfil and a jurs, and the interior itself was lit by windows arranged in three levels.

“The Arnaudija mosque is built of ‘ice tufa’, which is treated differently in certain parts of the building. The thickness of the walls was 79-89 cm,” the Commission’s explanation states.

The specificity is the small Aksham-tash minaret, which was located in the fence above the gate and served, as stated, for the call to Aksham prayer. Three other mosques in Mostar have minarets like this. There was a small fountain next to the fence, and the entire yard was paved with stone slabs.

Also, the Arnaudi mosque is characterized by the addition of a turbe, where Hasan defterdar and his wife were buried, and the turbe was connected to the prayer area.

There was also a harem in Arnaudija’s yard, and the oldest sights date from the 17th century.

“After the earthquake in 1969, when the walls and dome of the mosque were damaged, some protective works were carried out in terms of repairing the cracks. On that occasion, the arabesque in the dome, which originated from the Ottoman era, was removed from the interior of the building, and the painted decoration from the Austro-Hungarian era was also removed from the walls. The mosque is painted in white and blue, where only the calligraphic texts are given in gold. On that occasion, the mihrab and mimber were painted and colored in imitation of the Ferhadija mosque, using red and blue shades,” the document of the Commission for the Preservation of National Monuments points out.

Signing of the reconstruction protocol

The protocol on the realization of the Arnaudi mosque reconstruction project in Banja Luka was signed in Ankara in 2016 between the Director of the Waqf Directorate of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina Senaid Zajimović and the Director of the General Directorate of Waqfs of the Republic of Turkey Adnan Ertem.

As stated on the official website of the Waqf Directorate of the Islamic Community in BiH, with the help of the General Directorate of Waqfs of the Republic of Turkey, the necessary waqf funds were secured to finance the reconstruction of Arnaudija.

Laying of the foundation stone

The foundation stone for the reconstruction of the Arnaudija Mosque, which was actually the only unrenovated mosque in Banja Luka, was laid on April 22, 2017, and the Day of the City of Banja Luka is also celebrated on that date. The laying of the foundation stone was attended by, among others, the reis-ul-ulema of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina Husein Kavazović, the then mufti of Banja Luka Osman Kozlić, the ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to BiH Haldun Koč, the general director of the Directorate of Waqfs of the Republic of Turkey Adnan Ertem, as well as the director of the Vakufska Director of the Islamic Community in BiH, Senaid Zajimović.

Opening of Arnaudi Mosque

The opening of Arnaudi Mosque is scheduled for tomorrow, exactly 31 years after its demolition. Namely, it will be opened on the day it was demolished, and according to the decision of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, May 7 is also marked as the Day of Mosques. For its reconstruction, as mentioned earlier, about six million marks were allocated. With its opening, the process of rebuilding all 16 destroyed Banja Luka mosques will be completed.