Bosnia Essay Research Paper The origin of

Bosnia Essay, Research Paper

The origin of the arms with the argent between 6 fleur-de-lys, which is

now on the flag of the republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, has long puzzled

me, but they are in fact the arms of the Kotromanic family, which ruled

Bosnia in the 14th and 1 5th centuries. Other arms have also been

attributed to Bosnia in the 19th century. I finally thought of a way to

get at this question of the origin of the current Bosnian flag:

numismatics, of course. I found a book by one Ivan Rengjeo, Corpus der

mittel-alterlichen M?nzen von Kroatien, Slavonien, Dalmatien und Bosnien,

Graz, 1959, which is as exhaustive as you can get on the topic (coins from

those regions, that is). I have also consulted an article by Pavao Andelic

on Medieval Seals of Bosnia-Hercegovina, in the monograph series of the

Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia-Hercegovina (Sarajevo, 1970), but

it is in Serbo-Croat, so I can only look at the (numerous) illustra tions.

What follows is a historical/heraldic account, pieced together from these

sources, and a few encyclopedias. Bosnia was dominated alternatively by

Serbia and, from the 12th c. onward, by Croatia (in personal union with

Hungary) until the early 14th c. Typically, the king of Hungary and

Croatia appointed bans, or local governors; and, in typical medieval

fashion, these bans took advantage of any weakness of the central monarchy

to carve out territories for themselves. In the early 14th c., the ban of

Croatia was Pavao (Paul) Subic of Brebir or Breberio (a town in Dalmatia

which was given to the family in 1222): his father and grandfather were

counts or Trau or Trogir, his cousins were counts of Spalato or Split.

This p owerful man titles himself ban of Croatia and dominus Bosniae, and

appoints his brother Mladen I Subic (1302-04) and later his eldest son

Mladen II (1312-14) as ban of Bosnia. His second son Georg was count of

Trau and Split, his third son Pavao was count of Trau. By the third

generation, however, the family had lost its power. This first dynasty of

bans issued byzantine-style coins, with no heraldry. Their seals, however,

show the Subic arms: an eagle wing displayed, and 5 flowers with stems as

crest (mi sread by Siebmacher as ostrich-feathers). The style of the arms

is very German, with the shield tilted to the left, a German helm,

lambrequins, and a crest. There are no tinctures, but a junior branch

issued from Pavao count of Trau, the Subic de Zrin, bo re Gules, two wings

sable (an interesting violation of the so-called tincture rule). Pavao

Subic was forced to cede control of Southern Bosnia to Stjepan Kotromanic

(died 1353); and, in 1314, Mladen II ceded the banate of Bosnia to him.

This established the Kotromanic dynasty in Bosnia. Stjepan styles himself

dei gratia Bosniae banus, whi ch asserts a fair measure of independence.

Stjepan’s brother married Helena, daughter of Mladen II Subic, and his son

Stjepan Tvrtko (1353-91) succeeded Stjepan. In 1377, Tvrtko assumed the

title of King of Racia and Bosnia. His seals show the following a rms: a

bend between six fleurs-de-lys, the helm is a hop-flower on a long stem

issuant from an open crown of fleurs-de-lys. The Kotromanic were close to

the Hungarian kings, and Stjepan’s daughter Elisabeth married Louis I of

Hungary (reigned 1342-82). Trvtko I was succeeded by Stjepan Dabisa

(1391-98) and Stjepan Ostoja (1398-1404, 1409-18). The latter’s seal shoes

different arms, namely an open crown of fleurs-de-lys and the same helm

and crest as before. Tvrtko’s son Tvrtko II (1404-09, 1421-43) used a seal

similar to his father’s, with the arms of the Kotromanic family itself,

which are the bend between 6 fleur-de-lys, a crowned helm with the same

crest. New coins are issued starting in 1436, markedly Western in style,

which display a full-blown achievement: an escutcheon bearing the letter

T, crowned with an open crown of fleur-de-lys. The helm is crowned and the

crest is a hop-flower on a long stem. The letter T seems to stand for the

name of the king. Later, around 1450, impressive new gold coins show the

Kotromanic arms. The last kings are Stjepan Tomas Kotromanic (1444-61)

and Stjepan Tomasevic Kotrmomanic (1461-63). The kingdom disappears in

1463 when he is killed by the Turks. In the southern region called Hum or

Chelm, a local ban called Stjepan Vukcic Kosaca (died 14 66) had

proclaimed himself duke or herceg in 1448, and is recognized by the Holy

Roman Empire as duke of Saint-Abbas or Saint-Sava in some texts (whence

the name Hercegovina for that area). Siebmacher says that the family was

descended from the Byzantine Comneno. The Vukcic family arms appear on

the seal of Stjepan Vukcic, and his successors Vladislav Hercegovic (died

1489), Vlatko Hercegovic (died 1489) and Stjepan Hercegovic (died 1517).

namely Gules, three bends argent, crest: a lion issuant holding in its two

paws a banner gules with a double cross argent (the Hungarian state banne,

according to Siebmacher). The same arms appear on coins issued by a

self-proclaimed duke of Split in the early 15th c., namely on a bend

between two crosses, three fleur-de-lys ben dwise. The remaining question

is: where did the fleur-de-lys in the Kotromanic (and the Vukcic) arms

come from? One distinct possibility is Byzantium, whose style the first

Bosnian coins imitate closely. Byzantine emperors started using the

fleur-de-lys on their coinage soon after the creation of the empire of

Nicaea, after the fall of Constantinople in 1204. But more realistically,

the connection would be with the Hungarian dynastic struggle which broke

out in 1302 with the end of the Arpad dynasty. The kings of Naples claimed

the throne, and it was during the struggle that, by pledging alliegance to

one side and to the other, the Bosnian bans managed to carve out their

independent fief. The Bosnian dynasty became quite close to the Angevins,

and the daughter of Stjepan, king of Bosnia, married Louis I, king of

Hungary. The kings of Naples were the Anjou fami ly, a junior branch of

the French royal family, and bore France differenced with a label gules. I

can well imagine the Kotromanic adopting, or being granted, fleur-de-lys

on their coat of arms as reward for taking the Angevin side. For the

moment, Bosnian history books are hard to come by, so I can’t easily

confirm my hunch. For some reason, these arms were forgotten after the

16th century. A 18th c. French genealogy of the Angevin kings of Hungary

blazons the arms of Louis’ wife as: Or, issuing from the sinister flank an

arm embowed proper, vested Gules, holding a sabre Arge nt. These are also

the arms attributed by the Austrians to Bosnia-Hercegovina after it was

annexed from Turkey in 1908. However, a number of 19th century

encyclopedias give yet another coat of arms (for example, the French

Larousse), namely: Gules, a cres cent Argent beneath an 8-pointed star of

the same. The crown over the shield is an Eastern crown, i.e. with

“spikes”. These arms recall the old symbol of Croatia on its early

coinage. They are also the arms attributed to the old kingdoms of Illyria

and Bo snia in Siebmacher. There is some evidence for a medieval use of

the shield with the arm holding a saber. William Miller, in Essays on the

Latin Orient (Cambridge, 1921, p.510) describes the arms displayed in Rome

on the tomb of Catherine (died 1478), da ughter of Stjepan Vukcic duke of

Saint-Abbas, and married in 1446 to Stjepan Tomas Kotromanic, last king of

Bosnia (d. 1461): his description is unfortunately imprecise, but he

mentions two horsemen (which he says is the Kotromanic emblem) and a

“mailed a rm with a sword in the center” (which he says represents

Primorje, or the Coastland).


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