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Tvrtko I of Bosnia

Tvrtko I
Seal of king Tvrtko I
Ban of Bosnia
Reign 1353–77
Predecessor Stephen II
King of Bosnia
Reign 26 October 1377 – 10 March 1391
Coronation 1377
Successor Dabiša
Born c. 1338
Died 10 March 1391
Bobovac, Kingdom of Bosnia
Spouse Dorothea of Bulgaria
Issue Ostoja of Bosnia
Tvrtko II of Bosnia
House Kotromanić
Father Vladislav of Bosnia
Mother Jelena of Bribir
Religion Bogomilism (until 1347)[1]
Roman Catholicism (from 1347)[2]

Stephen Tvrtko I (1338 – 10 March 1391) was Ban of Bosnia from 1353 until his coronation in 1377 and King of Bosnia thereafter. He also claimed the title King of Serbia from 1377 and the title King of Croatia after 1390. A member of the Bosnian Kotromanić dynasty which had ruled the Banate of Bosnia, he was a "politically adept and religiously tolerant ruler" and under his command Bosnia reached its peak and became the strongest power in the Balkans, conquering parts of what is today Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro.


  • Family connections 1
  • Ruler 2
    • Ban 2.1
    • King 2.2
    • Aftermath 2.3
  • Titles 3
  • Marriage and children 4
  • Legacy 5
  • Ancestry 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9

Family connections

Tvrtko and his brother Vuk on Casket of St. Simon, dated 1380.

Tvrtko was the firstborn child of Šubić family. Tvrtko was the first cousin of Elizabeth of Bosnia, the daughter of Vladislaus's brother, Ban Stephen II Kotromanić.

In the times when the plague was devastating the region, Tvrtko's mother Jelena Šubić was in charge of the household, which, among others, included her own family, including her ailing husband Vladislaus, and the family of her ailing in-laws of Stephen II Kotromanić. Jelena brought up her own children, Tvrtko, his younger brother Vuk, and his sister Catherine, together with her niece and adopted daughter Elizabeth.



King Tvrtko I's gold coin (14th century) averse - with lion rampant (MONETA AUREA REGIS STEPHANI).
King Tvrtko I's gold coin (14th century) reverse - with the state fleur-de-lis coat of arms. (GLORIA TIBI DEUS SPES NOSTRA)

Tvrtko succeeded his uncle Ban Stephen II Kotromanić as Ban of Bosnia in the Hungarian King's name in 1353 at the age of 15. He was still young, so his father Vladislav Kotromanić ruled in his name. The first year of Tvrtko's reign passed mostly as confirming and issuing new edicts. In 1354, Tvrtko and his brother Vuk were declared as Bans of "Bosnia, the Lower Edges, Zagorje and the Hum land". The same year Tvrtko's father and Bosnia's de facto ruler, Vladislav, died. Tvrtko's mother, Banass Jelena Šubić asserted to the throne, but she wasn't accepted in Bosnia because she was a woman, so much of the Bosnian nobility refused to obey her. The first one to rebel was Tvrtko's close cousin Pavle Kulišić. Tvrtko gathered a small force, defeated Pavle, took his Usora cities for himself and threw him in the dungeon, where he died.

Zadar if the cities didn't answer their side's demands.

In 1356–58 the Hungarian King was at war with Venice, so he had mustered Tvrtko's forces, but Ban Tvrtko was unwilling to assist him. In the middle of 1357, Tvrtko visited the King's court and the King had forced Tvrtko to relinquish Završje and the Hum as well as swear an oath of loyalty and promise to wipe out the Bosnian Church. The last task was given to Bosnian Bishop Petar Šikloš, who unlike his predecessor Peregrin, wasn't loyal to the House of Kotromanić. In turn, the King confirmed Tvrtko and his brother Vuk as the Bans of Bosnia and Usora. The King also imposed a law that always, either Tvrtko or his brother had to be at the Hungarian court as hostages. The Hungarian King also took the rulers of the Lower Edges from Tvrtko's suzerainty for himself and continued to rile up the rest of the Bosnian nobility against the Ban.

Ban Tvrtko desired to restore power. He threatened the nobility of the Lower Edges and mustered a side out of the nobility loyal to him, but his party began to crumble. The Hungarian King had finished his conquest of Dalmatia from Venice by 1358 and even had put the Republic of Ragusa under his supreme rule, to which he issued an edict that totally undermined Tvrtko's authority. Tvrtko's plot against the Hungarian King and the Bosnian Bishop Petar Šikloš later that year utterly failed.

Serbian Prince Vojislav Vojinović counterattacked the Hungarian Kingdom at the Republic of Ragusa, which asked Ban Tvrtko for assistance as the Hungarian King recommended. Tvrtko amassed his forces, but the war was already over by the time he was prepared. In the peace treaty, the Hungarian King again undermined Tvrtko's authority. In 1361, the Republic of Ragusa was attacked by Prince Vojislav again. After numerous pleas from the Republic's envoys, the Ban dispatched Count Sanko Miltenović to negotiate. Prince Vojislav refused all negotiations, so Tvrtko claimed that nothing more could be done. The war was eventually over in 1362, so the Republic's pleas stopped.

The Bosnian Bishop had the permission from the Pope to raise arms since 1360 and the Hungarian King was to supply them. In 1363, the Hungarian King attempted a double invasion of Tvrtko's Bosnia to remove Tvrtko from his office. The first and primary target was the city of Soko on Pliva. Tvrtko's Duke Vukac Hrvatinić led a three-day defence against the siege of the city from 8 to 10 July. The Hungarian Palatine Nikola Kont was sent later to renew the invasion. He attacked Srebrenik in Usora. The Hungarians suffered heavy losses and someone even stole the royal seal from its guardian, the Archbishop of Esztergom, in the Hungarian camp. After this triumph, by 1364 Tvrtko called himself Ban of All Bosnia "by the mercy of God" instead of "by the mercy of the Hungarian King". The Republic of Venice, Hungary's old enemy, nominated Tvrtko as an honorary citizen. The war strengthened the Bosnian nobility. Prince Sanko Miltenović and the Dabišić brothers stopped recognizing the Ban's supreme rule and numerous Venetian and Ragusan trade caravans were raided by the lesser nobility. Anarchy ruled in Tvrtko's Bosnia.

In February 1366 open conflicts emerged. The Bosnian nobility deposed Tvrtko from his throne and brought his brother, Vuk. Tvrtko had to flee to Bosnia, and Soli and Usora and the Lower Edges and the Drina and the Hum Lord". His brother Vuk fled to the Republic of Ragusa. The Ragusians and the brothers' mother, Jelena Kotromanić, invited Tvrtko to make peace with his brother, but Tvrtko came to the Republic with an army in July 1367. Although he feasted in Ragusa, Vuk escaped from the city.

The new Serbian nobleman, Prince Nikola Altomanović, attacked the widow of Prince Vojislav Vojinović. Tvrtko assisted her by helping her to flee to Albania. Out of revenge, Prince Nikola attacked the Drina area of Tvrtko. Prince Altomanović assisted Tvrtko's brother, Vuk, and then mustered Prince Sanko Miltenović against him. Prince Sanko was on edge, so he made peace with Tvrtko in the summer of 1367, but rebelled against him again the following 1368. In 1369, Tvrtko went to the Hum Land and raided Sanko's land with his army. Prince Sanko had to flee to the Republic of Ragusa. Tvrtko again made peace with Sanko, whom he gave his army to lead. Sanko leading Tvrtko's forces raided the lands of Prince Nikola Altomanović, although he was killed in a trap set for him when he entered Trebinje.

Tvrtko's brother Vuk appealed to Pope Urban V, accusing Tvrtko of heresy and stating that he supported heretical Bogomilism, while referring to the Bosnian Krstjani, adherents of Bosnian Church. The Pope asked then the Hungarian King to restore control over Bosnia and give the authority to Vuk. In 1370 Vuk raised an army and assaulted Tvrtko's capital, Bobovac. Bobovac was defended by Stipan Rajković, who managed to convince Vuk to give up his military attempts against Tvrtko for the sake of the brotherhood.

Bosnia during King Tvrtko's reign (red border).

In the Spring of 1370, Tvrtko led Bosnia's nobility to a war against Prince Nikola Altomanović. Negotiations were initiated already in the Summer. In Serbia Nikola's power was rapidly decreasing and that of the Lazar Hrebeljanović, the Prince of Moravian Serbia. The decisive conflict was in 1373. Ban Tvrtko raised his army and the Hungarian King sent a thousand pikemen under Srem's Ban Miklós Garai. Tvrtko attacked from the west, while Prince Lazar attacked from the east. Very soon, the two armies met at Užice, where they forced Nikola Altomanović to surrender. Nikola was blinded and banished to a monastery, while his demesne was split. Tvrtko gained the Upper Drina area and the Lim area with Mileševa as well as Gacko. Konavle, Trebinje and Dračevica; other lands in which was Tvrtko interested, were seized by Đurađ Balšić of Zeta. The other lands were given to Prince Lazar.

In 1374, Tvrtko finally made peace with his brother Vuk. By the end of the same year, he married the daughter of Bulgarian Prince Ivan Stracimir of Vidin, Dorothea of Bulgaria upon the appeal of the Hungarian King. The ceremony took place in December 1374 in Saint Ilija (today's Ilinci) near Šid. Tvrtko soon raised his armies and occupied Trebinje, Konavle and Dračevica. Đurađ Balšić died before he could counterattack. Tvrtko took the remaining Bosnian lands from the Adriatic to the Mileševa monastery, a pilgrimage site with the remains of Saint Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church.


Charter of Tvrtko I Kotromanić written in Moštre, near Visoko

The acquisition of Serbian territory, including the important Monastery of Mileševa, combined with the fact that Tvrtko's grandmother was a Nemanjić (Elizabeth of Serbia[1]), prompted Tvrtko into also having himself crowned King of Serbia. This was made possible by the royal Nemanjić line having died out with Uroš in 1371.[3] Thus, in 1377 Tvrtko was crowned "By the grace of Lord God, King of Serbia, of Bosnia, Pomorje, and the Western lands".[4] The crown was sent to him by Hungarian king Louis of Anjou. According to plurality of recent works, in historiography represented by scholars like Čošković, Anđelić, Lovrenović, Filipović, ceremony itself was conducted in Mile, near Visoko, in the church which was built in time of Stephen II Kotromanić's reign, where he was also buried alongside his uncle Stjepan II.[1][5][6] In contrast, some earlier historiographers, mostly represented by scholars from Serbia, consider that he was crowned in the Orthodox Monastery of Mileševa,[7] by the Metropolitan of Mileševa.[1][3]

Tvrtko assessed the "Double crown" (Sugubi vijenac) as King of Bosnia, his native God-given land, and as King of Serbia. Logothet Vladoje left the Serbian court and went to work for Tvrtko, for whom he modelled his ruling ideology identical to the Serbian. King Stephen Tvrtko adopted the Serbian titles and gave them to the Bosnian nobility. His crowning was recognized by the most powerful noblemen in the territory of the former Serbian Empire, Princes Lazar Hrebeljanović and Vuk Branković. Although the Hungarian King recognized his coronation, he continued to call him Ban until his death in 1382. Tvrtko officially declared the independence of Bosnia.

In 1378, a new war erupted between Hungary and the Republic of Veneice. Venice desired to take the Ston area from the Republic of Ragusa, thus Ragusa asked Tvrtko for assistance. Tvrtko was too busy to intervene as he was waging a war in Serbia to consolidate power. Kotor was conquered by Venice and Ragusa wanted to use Genoa to finally destroy its greatest adversary, the City of Kotor. The citizens of Kotor promised Tvrtko that they would accept his supreme rule if he liberated them from Venetian rule. Ragusa didn't like this, so the relations between it and Tvrtko sharpened. In 1379, the relations between them were good again. Kotor played him out as it recognized the supreme rule of the Hungarian King as soon as it revolted against Venetian rule. Tvrtko was mad and planned a joint attack on Ragusa (Dubrovnik) and Kotor. He couldn't launch an attack, though, since his army had to quell a rebellion in the vicinity of Trebinje. However, Tvrtko did gave support to the surrounded Venetian garrison in Kotor by sending them mercenaries, food and weapons. In 1381 in Torin, it was finally decided that Hungary acquired Kotor.

He built, and in 1382 opened the ports of Brstanik near Počitelj and Sveti Stefan (Herceg Novi in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro) as a line of defence from Ragusa and Kotor. The fort was soon renamed to Novi. The Republic of Ragusa was jealous of its trading and salt-producing success, so it sent a galleon to block entrance to the port. Tvrtko asked Venice to dispatch two warships to help him raise the blockade of Novi, but the Venetians didn't have anything to spare. In the end, Tvrtko decided in December 1382 that no salt would be distributed in Novi any more, which ended the crisis with Ragusa, which began to rile up the neighbouring Bosnian-held cities in the meantime.

After Hungarian King Louis I's death in 1382, Tvrtko became the protector of his cousin and Louis's widow Elizabeth, and her daughters, Queen Mary of Hungary and Queen Hedwig of Poland. Tvrtko received Nicholas Baseja from Venice, who became admiral of the new Bosnian fleet, and bought a galleon, and ordered two more, from Venice. In 1383, he became the honorary citizen of the Republic of Venice. That same year, a rebellion of members of the Hospital Order broke out in Serbia, which was assisted by Tvrtko, but Queen Mary quickly quelled it. The rebellion ended with a rebellion in Zadar in 1384, but it was broken quickly.

In 1385, Elizabeth lost to Tvrtko her patrimony of Hum. The same year, Tvrtko took some territories of Croatia: Livno, Duvno and Glamoč. Tvrtko later that same year met with the Hungarian Palatine Nicholas I Garay and achieved a political understanding. Tvrtko was not to help rebels against Queen Mary's authority any more and become a Hungarian vassal. In return, he received the City of Kotor. To ensure his authority over the city, Tvrtko sent numerous gifts to its citizens and swore to defend them.

In 1387, after the murder of Tvrtko's cousin Elizabeth, and captivity of her daughter Queen Mary, Tvrtko might have become, on Mary's request, the heir presumptive to the throne of Hungary as well.

Since 1387, Tvrtko had pretensions to rule the Croatian lands of the Bribir Prince, ancestors across his mother's side as well. He dispatched that year Duke Hrvoje Vukčić to relieve the Siege of Bishop Pavle Horvat in Zagreb. In July the same year, King Stephen made his first greater military success by making Klis to surrender. From there he continued on to Split and then the Zadar hinterland. Finally his forces reached Vrane and freed the rebels from the Hungarian rule that were being besieged there. King Sigismund's men had to fall back to Nin, which was subsequently attacked by Bosnians. Ostrovica was captured in 1388. Tvrtko's forces conducted terror in the Dalmatian cities. Split's hinterland was entirely burned to the ground as a punishment for its staunch loyalty to the Hungarian King and other cities suffered too. The Bosnian forces held Klis, Ostrovica, Vrana and Knin. It is because of this that Trogir decided to accept Tvrtko's supreme rule. Split, Zadar and Šibenik were frightened because of this, so they asked Hungarian King Sigismund for assistance. Tvrtko's ground forces were too weak to assault those cities, so he started building up a navy of his own in Kotor.

In 1386–88 numerous breaches into Bosnia by the Ottomans occurred under the request of Đurađ Stracimirović, the Lord of Zeta. The greatest battle occurred on 27 August 1388 near Bileća when the Ottoman commander Shahin advanced deep into Tvrtko's realm with 18,000 soldiers. Tvrtko's Duke Vlatko Vuković and Prince Radič Sanković led the Bosnian Army and fought off the Ottomans. In the meantime, Hungarian King Sigismund dispatched Ladislaus Loszonac to help the Dalmatian cities. The Hungarian Army moved from Zadar, but Ladislaus called it off subsequently. As a punishment, Tvrtko's forces broke into the city of Zadar and burned a part of it. The Dalmatian cities saw that the Hungarian King couldn't help them, so they asked Tvrtko to issue them a deadline for surrender, which King Tvrtko subsequently did.

The Dalmatian cities received some more time as the Ottomans were braking into Europe. Tvrtko had accepted the necessity of defending Christian Europe on his shoulders and dispatched the best squadrons of his military under Vlatko Vuković to fight in the Serbian Army of Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović in a Battle of Kosovo on 15 June 1389. The Ottomans were led by Sultan Murad I himself. In the battle, both sides suffered heavy losses, as both Prince Lazar and Sultan Murad lost their lives.

Tvrtko cherished the battle as his personal success, claiming that he had defended Europe and Christianity in the name of the Christ against the infidel soldiers that threatened the civilized world. He dispatched the news across to western Europe and described how 12 Serbian noblemen managed to break through the Ottoman ranks to Sultan Murad and kill him. However, after the Battle of Kosovo, Tvrtko's rule in Serbia remained mostly de jure.

In the meantime, Hungarian commander Ladislaus conquered Klis in July 1389. Duke Vlatko Vuković returned from Serbia soon, as the Ottomans were temporarily stopped. Tvrtko launched a counteroffensive in the fall of the same year and struck at the surroundings of Zadar. The Bosnian forces moved to Vrana, where they fought the Hungarian forces several days. The Hungarians took Vrana and held hostage Tvrtko's ally, Ivan Paližna. The Hungarian Army suffered a heavy defeat and Klis subsequently surrendered to King Tvrtko. In April 1390 the Dalmatian cities started to negotiate terms of surrender. In the summer, Split, Trogir and Šibenik all accepted his rule as well as the islands of Brač, Hvar and Korčula. Tvrtko claimed the title by the mercy of God glorious King of Rascia, Bosnia, Dalmatia, Croatia, the Seaside...

Tvrtko's last territorial aims were at Zadar, and he requested ships from Venice to take the city. His wife, Queen Dorothea died, so Tvrtko negotiated with Albert III of Austria to remarry into the House of Habsburg. Austrian duke Albert III also acted as a mediator to finally bring peace between Tvrtko and the Hungarian King Sigismund.

King Stephen Tvrtko I died unexpectedly on 10 March 1391.[8]


Following Tvrtko's death, any agreement which appear to have been reached with the Ottoman Empire, became null and void.

Within two decades following Tvrtko's death, Sigismund fomented a number of wars in Bosnia and Croatia and murdered almost 200 prominent families. Some of carnage is known as 1397 Bloody Sabor of Križevci and the 1408 Dobor Massacre. Sigismund became the Holy Roman Emperor.


☩Stefan Tvrtko, in the Christ God the King of Serbs, Bosnia, and the Maritime
  • "Ban of Bosnia", alongside his brother Vuk
  • In 1377, he signed himself "King of Serbs, Bosnia, the Maritime and the Western Parts"[9][10][11]
  • In 1382, he signed himself "King of Rascia, Bosnia, Dalmatia, Croatia, and the coastal region"[12]

Marriage and children

Tvrtko I married Dorothea in Saint Ilija (today's Ilinci, near Šid) on 8 December 1374[13] and became Banness of Bosnia. On 26 October 1377 Tvrtko was crowned King and Dorothea took the title of Queen consort of Bosnia.

Queen Dorothea died shortly before 1390.[14] She may have had a son, the future Tvrtko II of Bosnia. Tvrtko planned to remarry, this time to a member of the House of Habsburg, but he died in 1391. Tvrtko had three ilegitimate children:


He was a "politically adept and religiously tolerant ruler" and under his command Bosnia reached its peak and became the strongest power in the Balkans.[16]


See also


  1. ^ a b c Velkonija 2003, p. 33.
  2. ^ Fine 1994, p. 281
  3. ^ a b Fine 1994, pp. 392–93
  4. ^ Singleton 1985, p. 496.
  5. ^ Mile declared as national monument. 2003.
  6. ^ Anđelić Pavao, Krunidbena i grobna crkva bosanskih vladara u Milima (Arnautovićima) kod Visokog. Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja XXXIV/1979., Zemaljski muzej Bosne i Hercegovine, Sarajevo, 1980,183-247
  7. ^ Dr. Željko Fajfric: Kotromanići.
  8. ^ Zemaljski muzej u Sarajevu, Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja u Sarajevu, 1951
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Vinko Foretić, Povijest Dubrovnika do 1808: dio. Od osnutka do 1526, Nakladni zavod MH, 1980
  14. ^ Krunoslav Draganović, Poviest hrvatskih zemalja Bosne i Hercegovine, Hrvatsko kulturno društvo "Napredak", 1942
  15. ^ Medieval Lands
  16. ^ Velkonija 2003, p. 33
  1. ^ And Stephen the King, brother of Milutin the King, Uroš II, that held Syrmia, with his wife Catherine, daughter of the Hungarian King Ladislaus, had Urošica and Elizabeth. And Elizabeth had three sons: Stephen the Bosnian Ban, Ninoslaus and Vladislaus. And Vladislaus had Tvrtko the Ban and Vuk.


Regnal titles
Preceded by
Stephen II
Ban of Bosnia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Ban of Bosnia
Became king
New title King of Bosnia
Succeeded by
Title last held by
Uroš V
King of Serbia
Conquest — TITULAR —
King of Croatia and Dalmatia
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