Stephen II of Bosnia

From New World Encyclopedia
Death of Stephen II Kotromanić, detail from Saint Šimun's church, Zadar

. Stephen II Kotromanić of Bosnia (Bosnian and Serbian Stjepan II Kotromanić, Serbian Cyrillic: Стефан II Котроманић), nicknamed the Devil's Student was a Bosnian Ban.[1] from 1322, until 1353 sharing some authority with his brother, Prince Vladislav. He was the son of Ban Stephen I Kotroman and the Serbian Princes Jelisaveta, sister of king Stefan Vladislav II of Syrmia. Throughout his reign, Stephen ruled the lands from Sava to the Adriatic Sea and from Cetina to Drina. His daughter Jelisaveta and her daughter, Mary became co-regent Queens of Hungary. Another granddaughter became regnant Queen of Poland. While credit for establishing Bosnian statehood goes to Ban Kulin it was Stephen II who solidified statehood and made Bosnia one of the strongest countries in the Balkans at the time, gaining territory from both Croatia and Serbia. This included Herzegovina. He converted to Roman Catholicism and all the Bosnian rulers after him except one up until the Ottomans conquest were Catholic. During his rule, the Franciscans became the leading Catholic order in the land. However, despite strong pressure from the Pope he refused to persecute Orthodox Christians as well the Bogomils, whom the Catholic Church declared heretical. He referred to his people as Bosniaks, which is currently the term used to describe Bosnia's Muslim population. Technically a Hungarian vassal, by playing Hungary off against the Republic of Venice he emerged as ruler of what was effectively an independent state.

Tensions with Croatia and Serbia, however, continued throughout his reign. Croatia, as a firmly established Catholic state, was encouraged to subjugate Bosnia until Stephen was able to convince the Pope of his loyalty to the Church, as Ban Kulin had done so before him. He was succeeded by his nephew, Tvrtko who, in 1377, became the first Bosnian ruler to adopt the title "king." Stephen's example of religious toleration, of seeing Bosnia's strength as one of unity in diversity, of refusing to privilege one way to God over others became characteristic of how Bosnians understood the nature of their society as one in which "the right road lay in dialogue based on the acceptance of the faiths of all participants."[2] Long after Stephen's time, in the late twentieth century, this polity proved to be an affront to the mono-religious way in which Bosnia's neighbors constructed their identities, which denied that a multi-religious state could thrive resulting in the Bosnian War to destroy this heritage. Yet, as human society becomes more and more religiously and culturally pluralist, this legacy may have lessons to teach about how creative exchange between different cultures in society can lead to mutual enrichment. Only when what is of value is no longer seen as exclusive to any single tradition will efforts by some to dominate or to destroy others cease to divide person from person in the emerging global community.


Exile and return

Stephen's father, Ban Stephen I ruled from 1287 until 1290 with his brother Prijezda II then until 1314 as sole ruler, under Hungarian suzerainty. His family, the Kotromans[3] are believed to have been of German origin. His reign was marked by conflict with Paul Šubić of Croatia, who appointed his own brother, Mladen I as Ban of Bosnia in 1299. In the resulting war, Mladen was killed by members of the Bosnian or Bogimil Church which he tried to suppress. Paul them proclaimed himself Ban and invaded Bosnia. Paul died in 1312 and his successor, Mladen II claimed the titles of Ban of Croatia and of Bosnia. When Stephen I died in 1314, Stephen II who in theory inherited the Banate, fled with his brothers and mother, Jelisaveta, and into exile to the Republic of Dubrovnik. Mladen, however, was not popular in Bosnia and had numerous opponents, not least of all those who favored the House of Kotroman. Mladen took the unusual decision to appoint Stjepan Kotromanić as his vassal in Bosnia, sure that he would be better liked there than he was himself. The House of Šubić, formerly enemies of the House of Kotroman, now became their protectors. Mladen thought that he could keep Stephen under a firm grip and use him to eradicate the Bosnian Church, so he arranged a marriage between Stephen and a Princess from the family of the Count Meinhard of Ortenburg that ruled in Carniola. The Pope was against the marriage, since both families were of same German roots, but it would give Stephen certain advantages, so he convinced the Pope to allow it.


Mladen's plight

A number of Bosnian cities rebelled against Mladen's over-lordship, choosing to recognize instead the supreme rule of Venice. Unable to crush these revolts, Mladen's army instead burned the surrounding fields and cut the nearby vineyards and fruit groves. In the Spring of 1322, Mladen called a Council to compel the Croatian nobility to help him crush the rebellion. However, the Croatian nobles refused to comply, which led to numerous accusations of treason by Mladen. This created a huge rift between Mladen and his subjects and seriously threatened his rule. This disorder helped Stephen II gain effective control of Bosnia. His supreme liege, Charles I Robert of Hungary, too, had plans of his own. Charles Robert went on a campaign to eradicate the Croatian nobility in order to become the sole ruler of this realm. Towards the end of 1321, he confirmed Stephen's title as Ban of Bosnia, not as Mladen's vassal. Aided by the ruler of Slavenia Stephen II then encircled and isolated Croatia. Stepan II was now under King Charles Robert's direct command. This was useful to him for the time being. Once he was free of the Šubićs, he could rule Bosnia almost entirely by himself because his Hungarian Liege would be too far away to watch his every move. In addition, he was able to expand his influence in Croatia. The decisive battle took place near Mladen's capital Skradin in 1322, where the Croatian nobility defeated him decisively. Mladen fell back to Klin in Dalmatia where he thought that Charles Robert would come to his aid, blindly believing that the King would aid him because he had helped the King during his own rise to power. The King did go to Knin but instead of helping Mladen he imprisoned him, then sent him to a dungeon in Hungary where he died.

Early reign and other marriages

Stephen now confirmed as Ban (hence his ban-ship officially started in 1322) was able to support his uncle Vladislav II of Syrmia to regain all Serbia. This proved unsuccessful but Stephen did add the region of Usora and Soli to his own territory. When Vladislav II died, he gained some parts of his realm of Syrmia.

After this, Stephen spent the first years of his reign in relative peace. He gave numerous privileges to the local nobility to increase his own popularity. One of the most famous was the edict in which he gave some Zhupanates[4] to Prince Vukoslav. In the edicts he refers to his brother Vladislav with the title "Prince of Bosnia" sharing equal rule, although as Ban Stephen was real ruler.

In 1323 King Charles Robert, in a move to increase his own influence over Stephen II offered him the hand of his wife's distant relative, Elizabeth, daughter of Duke Kazimir. Accepting this offer, Stephen was also confirmed as lord of the lands Usora and Soli in the north and ceded land to the West as well. The marriage was legalized by 1339.

Nelipac's plight

Following Mladen's imprisonment, King Charles Robert placed Ivan Babonežić of Slovenia as the new Ban of Croatia. However, as soon as he had returned to Hungary the most powerful Croatian nobleman, Prince Nelipac, rebelled and took Knin from the Royal Forces, supported by Mladen II's brothers, Paul, George and Juraj (later Juraj II Šubić). Responding, Charles Robert ordered Nikola Omodijev of Slovenia and Stephen II of Bosnia to launch a joint offensive against Nelipac in Croatia. This expedition eventually failed. However, during the campaign, Juraj Šubić also rebelled against Nelipac, as did the princes of several other leading Croatian cities. This movement wanted to return the Šubić dynasty to power in Croatia, with Juraj Šubić on the Throne. Stephen also changed allegiances, switching his support to the Šubićs. It eventually turned into an all-out war when the armies of Prince Nelipac and Juraj Šubić clashed near the waterfalls of Krka in the summer of 1324. Stephen gave considerable support to the Šubićs, but he did not dare become personally involved in the fight, which proved to be fortuitous. The Šubić's party was massacred near Knin and Juraj II Šubić himself was captured shortly afterwards by Prince Nelipac. Stephen tired to liberate Juraj from imprisonment, but failed.

Prince Nelipac immediately targeted Stephen II. He managed to conquer the city of Visuć but Stephen's wooing of the nobility paid off as Vuk of Vukoslav, a vassal, helped him to retake the city. Stephen continued to wage war against the enemies of the Šubićs. His target was the City of Trogir, which was one of the major supporters of Nelipac's campaign. Stephen adopted a harsh tactic: his forces raided caravans from Trogir, which eventually forced its people to sign a peace treaty recognizing him as the free ruler and master of Bosnia, Usora and Soli and many other places and Prince of the Hum.

After realizing that Nikola Omodejev could not defeat Prince Nelipac, Charles Robert deposed him, appointing in his place one of his most trusted men, Mikac Mihaljević. Ban Mikac advanced to Croatia in the summer of 1325. This time, Stephen II of Bosnia sent squadrons of troops to assist him in his offensive, re-aligning himself with Hungary. In 1326, Mikac took the cities of the Babonežić family and advanced deeper into Croatia, meeting with Stephen's reinforcements. In the end, though, the expedition enjoyed little success. Mikac sent a portion of his army to Bihać to serve as a defense against Nelipac's possible counterattacks, then retreated to Hungary.

War against the Serbs

Medieval Bosnia with Herzegovia. Bosnian during Ban Kulin 1180-1204, founder of the state.
Bosnian state during king Tvrtko 1353-1391, Stephen's heir.
Borders of Bosnian state in second part of 15th century
Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 19th century

Stephen II now turned his attention to the territory known as Hum or Zahumlje, which roughly corresponds with Herzegovina. Officially part of Serbia, a rogue noble family, the Branivojević had usurped control and were tyrannizing the people, ruling ruthlessly. In 1326, Stephen II attacked Hum in a military alliance with the Republic of Dubrovnik and conquered a substantial part of this region gaining access to the Adriatic Sea. This territory was mainly Orthodox and its acquisition changed the religious balance in Bosnia where the Bogumils (alternatively spelled Bogimils) lost their majority. The Serbian king has no wish to be seen defending the Branivojević so he did not intervene at this time, although he later demanded the return of his lands. Subsequently, Stephen II became the ruler of all the lands from Cetina to Neretva with the exception of Omiš which was taken by the Hungarians. In 1329, Stephen again pushed another military attempt into Serbia, assaulting Lord Vitomor of Trebinje and Konavli, but the main portion of his force was defeated by then Prince Dušan, who commanded the forces of his father, Stefan of Dečani at Pribojska Banja. Stephen's horse was killed in the battle, and he would have lost his life if his Vuk of Vukoslav had not given him his own horse. By doing so, Vuk sacrificed his own life, and was killed by the Rascians in open battle. However, Stephen did gain some additional territory.

Although the Zachlumoi mostly accepted the Ban's rule, some resisted, such as Peter of Tolien who ruled the Seaside from his capital in Popovo. Peter raised a rebellion, wishing either more autonomy or total independence and the eventual restoration of the conquered territories to Serbia. He lost a battle against Stephen, was imprisoned and put in irons. Stephen later had him thrown with his horse off a cliff. Peter survived for a full hour after the fall.

The Ban's vassal that governed the Hum then started to raid Dubrovnik's trade routes, which naturally caused a break in the Bosnia-Dubrovnik relations that had been very positive during the conquest of Zahumlje. To make matters worse, Stephen asked Dubrovnik to pay him an old tax that had traditionally been paid to Zahumlje and to Serbian rulers, even asking it recognize his own supreme rule. Dubrovnik refused outright.

The Ban's edicts
Scanned copy of the Charter of Stephen II of Kotroman from 1333: the underlined word translates as "Serbian" and is possibly a reference to his Serbian mother, stressing his wish for peace with Serbia.

Stephen's willingness to compromise and even to retreat from a position he had adopted is evidenced by his Edicts of 1333, in which he withdrew all demands to the Republic and guaranteed future friendships between the Banate of Bosnia and the Republic of Dubrovnik. In the edict he called his people Bošnjani, or Bosniaks.)

Religious polity

While the Bogimils had been a majority in the old Banate, Catholics predominated in the new territories to the West and North formerly under Croatia and Orthodoxy in Hum, formerly under Serbia. The states of Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and Bosnia formally under Hungarian suzerainty were also caught up in tension and competition between the Catholic East and the Orthodox West. They were also beginning to assert their freedom and all would become independent Kingdoms. With Serbia already identifiably Orthodox and Croatia safely Catholic, Serbia was ripe for Catholic domination, especially because the Bogimils were considered heretics. Fabian of the Franciscan Order was appointed Inquisitor in the region (in initiated in 1291) and given the task of rooting out heresy in Bosnia. In 1327 the Dominicans and Franciscans had argued over who would be granted the task of burning the heretics. Although Fabian eventually took over the leadership of the inquisition or crusade, he utterly failed. The Pope then wrote to the Hungarian King for a military intervention in Bosnia.

Papal Intervention

In 1334, the Catholic Bishop Peter in charge of Bosnia died and dispute followed over his successor. Charles Robert managed to secure support for his own candidate but it would take until 1336 for his appointment to be confirmed. Pope Benedict XII lost all patience and eventually accepted the offer of Prince Nelipac of Croatia in 1337, who not only wanted to regain Croatian control of Bosnia, but to take revenge against Stephen II for the past. The still Šubić family, still powerful in Croatia opposed this and began talks with Stephen about combing their Houses into one were taken. An arranged marriage was made between Stephen's brother, Vladislav and the sister of Mladen III Šubić, Jelena in 1338. Mladen's wife was Jelena of Nemanjić, sister of the Serbian King Stefan Dušan, so this created a strong dynastic alliance of three families: the House of Kotroman]], the House of Šubić and the House of Nemanja united against Prince Nelipac's reign. The first to fall to Nelipac's hand were the Šubićs who were, despite constant help from Stephen II, forced to sign a peace treaty with Prince Nelipac and compensate him for the war. The Charles Robert did not watch easily as his subjected lands were being torn apart by war. He was preparing to move to Croatia and depose Nelipac. Stephen II seized the opportunity and pushed against Nelipac, taking some of his lands for himself.

In 1339, during Franciscan General Gerard's stay at the Hungarian Court of King Charles Robert, Gerard paid a visit to the Bosnian Ban to negotiate an arranged prosecution of Bosnia's Bogimils. At first, Stephen II thought that it was time to bow to the Roman Catholic Church; but he realized that the neighboring Orthodox Christians might stand up to him if he moved against the Bogimils, their allies. In addition, Serbia wanted a reason to involve itself in a conflict against Bosnia in order to regain possession of Hum. Stephen therefore did not carry this through. Nevertheless, Stepan's diplomatic efforts convinced the Pope that he was a loyal Roman Catholic in February 1340, once again saving Bosnia. He may have converted by 1347 but this appears to have been more strategic than a sincere conversion. [5] Ban Kulin, too, founder of the Bosnian State, has formally declared allegiance to Rome but almost certainly this had been a "tactical move, as the Bosnian Church continued to flourish after his death in 1304."[6] Donia comments that Stephen never interfered either with the religious practices of Catholics or of Orthodox in his realm although he gave permission for Franciscan missionary activity and "built the first Franciscan monastery in 1340".[7] In 1342, he allowed the founding of the Franciscan Vicarate.[5] However, Velikonja says that the influence of the Bogimils increased under Stephen.[8] Although urged by the Papal Legate to do so, he "refused to pursue a policy of actively persecuting the Bosnian Church."[9] Subsequent Bosnian kings, though, with the exception of King Ostija (1398-1404; 1409-1418) were Catholic and the last king, Tomasevic, who implored the Pope to help him against the Ottomans, was crowned by the Papal Legate.[10]

The Harmonia Abrahamica

The policy of the early Bans and Kings of Bosnia appears to have been to try to encourage members of the different Christian traditions to live together in harmony.[11] Former Bosnian Vice-President, Rusmir Mahmutćehajić argues that this policy continued under Ottoman rule when Jews also found Bosnia a place of refuge from persecution elsewhere, producing what he calls a "harmonia Abrahamica"; thus "the three religions of Bosnia - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - can be seen as different but doctrinally complete esoteric expressions of one and the same Reality."[12] Bosnian or Bosniak identity is therefore characterized by "consciousness of the essential unity of all sacred traditions." He describes the ancient Bogimils as an effort to mediate between competing Christian traditions; "The distinct Church of Bosnia, which ceased to exist with the coming of the Ottoman Empire, represents a desperate attempt to unite these differences in the face of the aggressive designs of surrounding churches."[13]

Changes in the throne

In 1342 Hungarian King Charles Robert died. This gave rise to a new idea of formally detaching Bosnia from the Kingdom of Hungary. Stephen immediately sought help from Hungary's greatest foe, the Republic of Venice. In the summer of 1343 he sent an emissary to Venice, proposing an alliance. The Venetians wanted to act only if victory was certain, so they looked to recruit another member of this alliance and looked to Serbia, with whom they enjoyed close relations. Unfortunately, the Serbian King was busy with other matters. Venice was also about to wage war against Nelipac of Croatia, so it only agreed to arm and help build up Bosnia's military, and begged Stephen not to move against Hungary without it. It became evident that the Venetians only wanted to push Stephen of Kotroman against Nelipac for additional support.

In 1344 Croatia's Prince Nelipac unexpectedly died; so the new Hungarian King, [[Louis I of Hungary|Louis I], Charles Robert's son, ordered the Slavonian Ban Nikola to move and take Knin from Nelipac's widow Vladislava and his son Ivan. Vladislava initially decided to cede to all Regal demands when she saw the Royal Hungarian Army in front of Knin. She did attempt to negotiate help from Venice, but the Croatian nobility stopped her from this because of traditional hostility between Croatia and Venice. The Hungarian King became impatient, so commanded Ban Nikola to move to Knin immediately and Stephen II of Bosnia to send him help. Leading his own forces, Stephen responded. A large 10,000 strong Army gathered near Knin as only the first wave as the main part of the Army was still arriving, headed by the Hungarian King himself. This time Princess Vladislava had no choice but to accept his demands. The Hungarian King planned the shape of his coastal territories in the new order that he would create. He annexed several cities from the Nelipac family of Croatia, but left two of the largest until Stephen II gave the Cetina region to Croatia. Stephen of swore an Oath to respect the treaty in front of his Twelve Knights, an order he had just formed out of the most valiant and experienced of the Bosnian Nobility to assist him in his reign. In the middle of 1345 the new order was ratified in Bihać. The Hungarian King subsequently issued a proclamation in Zagreb accepting Ban Stephen II as a member of his family, and returned with his 30,000 men to Hungary before attempting to reconquer the coastal cities taken by the Venetians.

Louis I of Hungary was now massing forces for a new strike against the Venetian positions, but both parties chose Stefan Dušan, now King of Serbia, to assist Stephen II to form a mediation party to decide a truce between the two warring sides. Eventually, all agreements failed. In the spring of 1346 the Hungarian King arrived with his vast Royal Army of 100,000 men, of whom more than 30,000 were Horsemen and Men-at-Arms and 10,000 were soldiers under Stephen II. The Venetians had attempted to bribe several Hungarian Generals, including the Bosnian Ban, who gave away the positions of Hungarian troops for a handsome sum of money. This earned him the nickname the Devil's Student. On July 1, 1346 a fierce clash followed, which the Hungarian side eventually won only due to numerical superiority although more than 7000 Hungarian troops killed in battle. The Hungarian King naturally lost trust in Stephen but, losing confidence as well, returned to Hungary.

Stephen continued to play tactically between Venice and Hungary, ruling Bosnia more and more independently, initiating a conspiracy with some members of the Croatian and Hungarian nobility against his Hungarian Liege. In 1348, the Hungarian King, realizing that he lost war the war, made peace. Stephen II's relations with Venice started to improve, as the Bosnian Bishop Peregreen was a notable Venetian member of the Franciscan Order.

More wars against the Serbs: annexation

Stefan Dušan of Serbia constantly demanded the return of Hum, but Stephen II always refused. From 1346, Stefan called himself Emperor (Tsar), being considered the founder of the medieval Serbian Empire which lasted from 1346 until 1371.

Ban Stephen's Bosnia, however, was weaker than Dušan's Serbia, so he asked Venice, as a mutual ally to act as a mediator. Eventually the Serbian Emperor accepted a three-year non-aggression pact because he was busy with his conflicts with the Byzantine Empire. The Bosnian Ban immediately proceeded to war preparations and went to construct a Fortress in the Hum near the river of Neretva. He also attempted to convince the Venetians to give him naval support in the case of war with the Serbs. The Venetians had discouraged him from building a Fort, but he constructed it anyway. The distant wars of Stefan Dušan have gave Stephen II the chance to act first. In the Christmas of 1349, he moved quickly, proceeding all the way across Konavli which he raided heavily until he reached the Bay of Kotor. Trebinje, Rudine and Gacko were razed during his military operations. Venetia attempted to make another peace between the warring sides, but the Serbian Emperor agreed only to stall his counterattack a little.

In October of 1350, Stefan Dušan crossed the river of Drina with 50,000 Horsemen and 30,000 infantry. Stephen II did not have enough troops to meet this Army in open battle, so he decided to use guerrilla tactics. Using trees, he blockaded all major roads in Bosnia and slowly withdrew his forces into forests, mountains and forts that were easier to defend. He planned the defense of Bosnia, splitting his forces enough to defend every possible entryway into his realm. His plan soon collapsed, as Dušan had bribed a number of his most trusted servants who crossed over to the Serbian side.

Losing control over the conflict, Stephen II was shocked. Not knowing what to do, he retreated with his men to the most unreachable mountains of Bosnia. He no longer knew who he could trust, so regularly dismissed men then recruited new men to serve him. His older daughter Jelisaveta hid from Dušan in Bosnia's strongest fortification of Bubovac. Dušan's forces easily defeated the scattered Bosnian squadrons and went on a campaign to slowly conquer Bosnia. Bubovac was besieged but Dušan failed to seize it, so he ordered his armies to raid Bosnia. After he had created a strong foothold of his forces in Bosnia, he sent a portion of his Army on raiding quests towards Cetina and the other to Croatia towards Krka, while he returned with the rest of his troops to Serbia to resolve new conflicts with the Byzantines in Macedonia.

The failed siege of Bubovac and the retreat of Dušan's from Army from Bosnia gave Stephen new hope. He then managed to win the war, even though he actually lost all the battles. This encouraged the Ban to refuse all suggestions from Dušan to share Hum as a common area under joint rule. Dušan ordered his forces to retreat to Hum, and capture it. Stephen, however, was able to launch a new military campaign to conquer all the territories that he had previously lost to Dušan. The Republic of Dubrovnik, enraged by the war over the Hum because it greatly damaged their trade, backed up by the Venice, suggested a peace to Dušan that would constitute a marriage between the Emperor's son King Uroš and Stephen's daughter, Jelisaveta. The Peace Treaty also required the recognition of Stephen's rule in Hum but under Serbian over-lordship. Stephen, though, had better plans for his daughter, so he refused the agreement. Stephen's gamble was that a large multi-ethnic Empire ruled autocratically by one man could not succeed. He was eventually proved right, as he witnessed the first traces of demise of Dušan's Empire and retook control over Bosnia.

Later reign

The rest of Ban Stephen II reign passed mostly in peace. The only conflict that he had was a dispute with Venice and Dubrovnik when his men raided their trade caravan. He gave his sister or niece, Marija, in marriage to Count Ulrich of Helfenstein, which was sanctioned by the Hungarian King. He sent his daughter Catherine (some sources link Catherine as daughter of Stephen's brother Vladislav) to marry Count Herman I of Celje, but the actual marriage happened long after Stephen II's death.

Elisabeth of Poland, the mother of the Hungarian King had heard that Stephen II had a little daughter (Jelisaveta), and she insisted immediately to bring her to the Hungarian Court for fosterage. Stephen was reluctant first, but eventually dispatched Jelisaveta. After three years of life on the Hungarian Court, Jelisaveta fell in love with king Louis I of Hungary and the King's mother immediately invited Stepan II of Kotroman to Hungary and arranged a marriage so that she would become the King's third wife. The first queen, a Polish princess died earlier without children. The Bosnian Ban became heavily ill and could not present the actual wedding. June 20, 1353 Stephen II of Kotroman's younger daughter Jelisaveta married with the Hungarian King himself, achieving a huge diplomatic success. It was discovered that Jelisaveta and the Hungarian King were related in fourth degree through a common ancestor, a Duke of Kujavia in Poland (some have also insinuated a link through a branch of the House of Nemanja), so the Roman Catholic Church regarded the marriage be in prohibited degree of consanguinity and some ecclesiastics were tempted to curse the couple. Later the same year Pope Innocent IV wrote to the Bishop in Zagreb granting a dispensation for the marriage and forgiving the sin.

After Stephen II's death, his daughter Elisabeth, Queen of Hungary gave birth to Stephen's three granddaughters (one died young), of whom Mary I of Hungary was to succeed her father as co-Queen of Hungary with her mother, and Jadwiga was to succeed Louis as reigning Queen of Poland. Elisabeth of Bosnia acted as the Regent of Hungary from 1382 onwards on behalf of her daughter Queen Mary, but was murdered in 1387. However, these girls proved unable to have surviving children, so Elisabeth's progeny (of Kotroman blood) went extinct with the death of Jadwiga, the last surviving of them, in 1399.


Stephen II Kotromanić died in September of 1353. He was ceremonially buried in his own foundation, the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Nicholas of the "Little Brother" in Mile, near Visoko. Upon his death his nephew, Tvrtko, son of Stephen's brother and co-regent Prince Vladislav inherited the title of Ban of Bosnia as Stephen II of Kotroman had previously arranged. Although, Tvrtko was still too young to rule, so Prince Vladislav asserted the actual rule over Bosnia. Tvrtko would become first Bosnian king, being crowned in Mile, where his uncle, Stjepan II, was buried.

Marriages and children

Stephen II Kotromanić was married three times:

  • daughter of Count Meinhard of Ortenburg in Carniola (concluded from sources, this remained an engagement only, the couple not having come to live together)
  • daughter of a Czar of Bulgarians, unclear which tsar, up to 1329 (historical connections place this marriage during the Serbian activities of Michael Asen III of Bulgaria, but the bride's identity and parentage remains unclear - she most probably was not Michael's daughter, but possibly a daughter of his some predecessor, or a female relative of his)
  • Elisabeth of Kujavia, daughter of Duke Casimir, nephew of Ladislaus the Short, king of Poland, since 1339

He had three children:

  • Vuk, who died during his life
  • Elisabeth of Bosnia, who married Hungarian King Louis I the Great on June 20, 1353. Having become the Regent of Hungarian kingdom, she was murdered in 1387. Born c. 1340.
  • Katerina, who married Herman I of Celje in 1361. She was mother of Herman II, Count of Celje and died on March 21, 1385. Born c. 1336.


Through a turbulent period of history when neighboring states, their over-lord the King of Hungary as well as the Republic of Venice and the Byzantine Empire were all vying for influence, autonomy or supremacy, Stephen not only enlarged his state but effectively ceased to be a vassal becoming ruler of a sovereign state. Formally, this was not achieved until his successor Tvrtko was crowned king of Bosnia in 1377. He laid solid foundations for his nephew to further consolidate the Bosnian state. He expanded his territory to the North and South, established the port of Nov and "in the last two years of his reign called himself king of Croatia and Dalmatia" as well as of Bosnia having annexed additional territories in 1382 after the death of Louis I of Hungary.[14] From 1377 he styled himself "King of Serbs, Bosnia and the Seaside." Building on the tradition already established by Ban Kulin, Stephen continued a policy of allowing religious liberty. While he did patronize the Franciscans, he resisted privileging any single Church. In the midst of war and intrigue, he also managed to encourage learning and trade, opening tin silver mines which paved "the way for Bosnia's economic development and increasing its commercial contacts with the coast".[5]Tvrtko continued the policy of religious freedom, "tolerating and even supporting the Bosnian Church"[8]

On the negative side, animosity between the Bosnia and Serbian and Croatian entities resurrected hundreds of years later. In the late twentieth century, Serbia and Croatia claimed portions of Bosnia that had belong to their medieval predecessors before Stephen II followed by his nephew annexed this territory. In the war that followed, an attempt was also made to deny that a multi-cultural society had ever thrived in Bosnia, because this gave the lie to the claim that Croatians and Serbs could live peacefully and prosper alongside Bosniaks. Mahmutćehajić says that the real tragedy of this denial of Bosnia's right to exist was that it also set out to destroy and devalue the heritage that Stephen and all the Bans and Kings of Bosnia nurtured, the tradition of "unity in diversity" which, he suggests, is of "paradigmatic importance for the entire world."[15]

Preceded by:
Stephen I Kotroman
Bosnian Ban
Succeeded by:
Stefan Tvrtko


  1. The title "ban" was originally used in Croatia for the provincial administrator of a "Banat" (province). It was later used by the rulers of Bosnia, who, although vassals of Hungary, were not directly appointed by the King of Hungary and enjoyed considerable autonomy. Until 1377, Bosnia was known as the banovina of Bosnia. The term can also be translated as viceroy. The bans enjoyed the same status as a Duke or prince. The first Ban of Bosnia was appointed in 1154.
  2. Rusmir Mahmutćehajić. 2000a. The denial of Bosnia. (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 9780271020303), 120.
  3. The first member of this dynasty to rule Bosnia was Prijezda I from 1254.
  4. semi-autonomous feudal regions.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Robert J. Donia and John V. A. Fine. 1994. Bosnia and Hercegovina: a tradition betrayed. (New York, NY: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231101608), 21.
  6. Tim Clancy. 2007. Bosnia & Herzegovina: the Bradt travel guide. (Chalfont St. Peter, Bucks., UK: Bradt Travel Guides. ISBN 9781841621616), 136.
  7. Mitja Velikonja. 2003. Religious separation and political intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina. (College Station, TX: Texas A & M University Press. ISBN 9781585449897), 36.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Velikonja, 33.
  9. Velikonja, 35.
  10. Velikonja, 39.
  11. Mahmutćehajić, 2000a, 120.
  12. Rusmir Mahmutćehajić. 2000b. Bosnia the good tolerance and tradition. (Budapest, HU: Central European University Press. ISBN 9780585395326), 81-82.
  13. Mahmutćehajić, 2000b, 30.
  14. Clancy, 195.
  15. Mahmutćehajić, 2000b, 83.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Clancy, Tim. 2007. Bosnia & Herzegovina: the Bradt travel guide. The Bradt travel guide. Chalfont St. Peter, Bucks., UK: Bradt Travel Guides. ISBN 9781841621616.
  • Donia, Robert J. and John V. A. Fine. 1994. Bosnia and Hercegovina: a tradition betrayed. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231101608.
  • Friedman, Francine. 1996. The Bosnian Muslims: denial of a nation. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. ISBN 9780813320977.
  • Mahmutćehajić, Rusmir. 2000a. The denial of Bosnia. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 9780271020303.
  • Mahmutćehajić, Rusmir. 2000b. Bosnia the good tolerance and tradition. Budapest, HU: Central European University Press. ISBN 9780585395326.
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