An Altar Domed by the Sky

architect Ivan Prtenjak
project Memorial, Gradac, Bosnia i Herzegovina
written by Jasminka Rusan


Nearly twenty years ago, architect Ivan Prtenjak was asked to complete and improve the functionality of a place of Christian pilgrimage located near a small town of Gradac in Herzegovina.


The place of pilgrimage is secluded. Only a modest chapel was standing on a hill slope  amidst karst fields. The ceremony has always been performed outdoors, around the chapel. Pilgrims gather there once a year.


The landscape on the way to the chapel is virtually biblical: herds of sheep grazing or drinking at water holes, shepherds reposing in the shade of a tree; air impregnated with the fragrance of Mediterranean vegetation; intense colours of green pastures, the blue of  rosemary in bloom and the azure of the sky.