Medieval fortresses in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Witnesses of strength and power of the medieval Bosnian state

As an intersection of many civilizations, Bosnia and Herzegovina is rich in archaeological remains from the Neolithic, Roman, Illyrian, and medieval periods, which, besides tombstones, left numerous fortresses.

They were built during the independence of the Bosnian state, between the 12th and 16th centuries. Fortresses were mainly built on the natural avenue of approach to these regions, river valleys, natural and hardly accessible areas that dominate the environment.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, numerous preserved and less preserved fortresses testify to the power and magnitude of the medieval Bosnian state, as well as the lavishness and power of its rulers. Among the most beautiful and largest preserved fortresses are:

OSTROŽAC

The fortress is located on a hill above the left bank of the river Una and the settlement of the same name, 12 kilometers from Bihać towards Bosanska Krupa. Ostrožac was first mentioned in 1286 and was ruled by princes Babonjić-Blagajski, who also used to signe as princes of Ostrožac. Since 1579, Ostrožac is in the possession of the Ottomans, and for almost 300 years, the members of the Beširević family, as captains, managed the fortress.

Due to such a long management of Ostrožac, Beširević family inherited the right to the old town and fortress. Because of that right, Mehmed bey Beširević sold the town to Lohtar von Berks, who from 1896 to 1905 was the head of the Bihać district.

FORTRESS TEŠANJ

The medieval fortress in the area of Tešanj municipality was first mentioned on March 23, 1461, in a letter written by the Roman Pope Pius II, which is now located in the Vatican archives. In the same year, King Stjepan Tomašević, in the charter, gives Tešanj, as a crown property, to his uncle Radivoje. After the arrival of the Ottomans to Srebrenik in the year 1520, the Hungarian army burned and demolished the city as they were escaping.

At the end of the 17th century, it played a very important role, and then it was renovated and modernly fortified. At the beginning of the 18th century, during the time of Sultan Mustafa, a new, lower part of the city was built. The fort was abandoned in 1840.

FORTRESS SREBRENIK

The fortress is located north of Tuzla, in Srebrenik, on the territory of the former district of Usora, which during the Middle Ages was the site of constant conflicts between Bosnia and Hungary, and from the 15th century the Ottoman Empire.

It is mentioned for the first time on February 15, 1333, in a treaty, which was signed in Srebrenik (the Srebrenk charter) by Stjepan II Kotromanić (1322-1533) and a representative of the Republic of Dubrovnik, on the transfer of Ston, Peljesac, Prevlaka and some other properties to the Republic in exchange for an annual tax of 500 perpers. From 1393, when the Hungarians first conquered it, until 1512, when the Ottomans finally and permanently occupied it, it was conquered and besieged several times.

FORTRESS KASTEL

Kastel Fortress is a part of the city and a historical area that is located in Banja Luka. There is no reliable data on the time of occurrence of this facility. However, many circumstances point to the conclusion that this is exactly where the Roman settlement Castra was located. The Romans were exposed to frequent attacks of barbarian peoples, and they certainly had strong reasons to defend the road that passed through the Vrbas basin. In addition, remains of the Slavic settlement from the early Middle Ages (from the 8th to the 12th century) were found in the fortress area. In the Bosnian medieval state, there was Vrbaški town, which, according to one assumption, was located on the site of today’s Kastel.

BOBOVAC

The main city of the Bosnian kings, the most important and best fortified city of medieval Bosnia, erected on a steep rocky slope of the southern slopes of the mountain massif of Dragovske and Mijakovske Poljice above the mouth of the Mijakovska River in Bukovica, southwest of Vareš.

Ban Stjepan II Kotromanić built it sometime before the middle of the 14th century. Bobovac was the seat of the Bosnian rulers from the time of Ban Stjepan II Kotromanić (the first half of the 14th century), through all the Bosnian kings and until the end of Bosnian independence through the Ottoman conquest. (1463).

VRANDUK

Vranduk is located about 14 kilometers downstream of Zenica. It was built at the end of the 14th century in the district of Brod, one of the seven districts of medieval Bosnia. In the Middle Ages, Vranduk was one in a series of royal cities, where Bosnian King Stjepan Ostoja, later the last Bosnian King Stjepan Tomaš, and his opponent, Radivoje, were seated.

The first mention of Vranduk dates from March 11, 1410, in the appeal of Dubrovnik citizens sent to the Hungarian king Sigismund because of the acts of his soldiers. The Ottomans occupied Vranduk in 1463. In his warfare to Bosnia in 1697, Eugene Savoyski, having realized the difficulty of conquering the city, simply bypassed Vranduk.

TRAVNIK FORTRESS

Travnik Fortress or Old Town Travnik is located in Travnik. Some archaeologists and historians consider that there was a Neolithic settlement here. The Old Town was built in the first half of the 15th century during the time of the Bosnian king Ostoja or King Tvrtko II Kotromanić.

It is not known how the Ottomans conquered it, but it is known that they upgraded and expanded the fortress. In the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire fortress was called Kastel or Kaštel. It is considered one of the best-preserved fortresses in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

MAGLAJ FORTRESS

Maglaj fortress is classified as a large and strong fortification in the valley of the Bosna River. As the medieval fortress, Maglaj was first mentioned on 18th of September 1408 in the charter of the Hungarian king Sigismund. The first official document signed in Maglaj is a document between Hungary and the Ottoman Empire in 1503.

Although it was built in the 14th century to serve the defense of the Bosnian kingdom, it was only in the era of the Ottoman fortress that it had its final form. Under the Ottomans, Maglaj was first mentioned in one defter (a type of a tax register and a land cadaster in the Ottoman Empire)  from 1485, as a nahiya (administrative unit) fortress of Maglaj. In its life of at least six centuries, the fortress experienced many smaller and bigger changes and went through several stages of construction, but preserved its medieval core.

FORTRESS DOBOJ

It is the most famous tourist offer of Doboj, which citizens call Gradina.

“… in Uxora suptus castrum Doboy … – In Usora under the fortress of Doboj”, on June 16, 1415, the Hungarian army camps there, those days they were in a war march through the valley of Bosnia. This is the news of Dubrovnik merchants sent to the Hungarian King Sigismund, and at the same time the oldest memorial of the fortress Doboj in written historical sources.

The construction of the Doboj fortress’s stonewalls began in the 13th century, and numerous archaeological excavations, finds of jewelery from cemeteries at Usora and ceramics from the bottom of the southern tower of Doboj fortress, Austrian inscriptions from 1697, old Turkish censuses and tefteries prove that. These evidences testify to the time when the construction of the Doboj fortress began in the 13th century.

FORTRESS JAJCE

The fortress is located in the town of Jajce, in the Old Town complex, and is presumed to have been built in the 13th century. Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić, who is the founder of Jajce, built the fort. It was the seat of kings whose coats of arms were carved at the castle.

After the death of Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić in 1416, the city passed, through his wife, into the hands of King Stjepan Ostoja. At the time of Stjepan Tomaš and Stjepan Tomašević Jajce was a royal residence. Dalmatian artisans carved the coat of arms of Kotromanić’s at the entrance door. In the suburb, the Franciscan monasteries of St. Mary and St. Catherine were placed. Relics of St. Luke were in the church of St. Catherine.

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