Author: Ibrahim Kajan
Katarina Kosača Kotromanić
Two children of Herzog Kosača, the eldest and the youngest, Katarina and Stjepan, became unforgettable names in the history.
Katarina is the eldest child of Herzog Stjepan Kosača and Jelena Balsic, daughter of the Montenegrin royal house. She was born there in 1424. When she was 25, Katarina married the new king of Bosnia of house Kotromanić, bogumil Stjepan Tomaš. In order to become the queen and for Stjepan Tomaš to be recognised by the Pope as the king - they both, along with his underage son of the same name Stjepan, from his just dissolved marriage with "inappropriate" Vojača, had to give up - she the Orthodox Church and he the Bosnian Church - and had to receive the sacraments of the Holy Roman Catholic church.
The people kept Katarina in the collective memory as a person who has followed the Christian guidance about love among people, who donated many good to churches and occasionally, as tradition says, built them herself. The king had a son Sigismund and daughter Katarina. But someone unknown killed her king in 1461. Franciscan chronicles for centuries were pointing the finger at "potential killers": king’s brother Radivoje and the king's son, an heir, his firstborn, Stjepan Tomašević! Climbing to the vacant throne, with the new short-term king, Tomaševic, Bosnia saw the last queen Jelena, that came from Serbian despotic home of Lazar Branković. Changing her faith, she acquired a new name, Marija.
But in 1463 Bosnia fell under Turkish occupation. The refugees moved to the West. The widow of murdered Stjepan Tomaš found asylum in Rome. Pope was providing her monthly appanage which supported her small court in exile. The children of the murdered King Tomaš, as Muslim historians write, Sigismund and Katarina "entered the tent of Ishak Ishaković" seeking protection from their uncle Ahmed Pasha Hercegović, Katarina’s youngest brother, once called Stjepan. Christian historians recorded that the queen's children were "kidnapped and converted to Islam by force." What is the truth?
It is strange that Katarina writes her testament five days before her death that befell her at the age of 54, on October, 25, 1478. Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia came after the testament, later known as the Pope Alexander VI. In what conditions unhappy Katarina wrote this testament after which will come Cardinal who has "become a father of several children and lived in the open immorality" and "pontificate deserved by bribery", the person who "left stain on the history of the papacy"? Katarina's original testament was never found. There is something called a "transcription", and what worth would it have, when Katarina Kosača Kotromanić was neither de jure nor de facto a Bosnian ruler.
That does not however mean that our Katarina is not an integrative historical figure. Good ones remember her for her good deeds, the Orthodox for the Orthodox origin, the Catholics for love of religion and the Muslims for the destiny of her brother Stjepan (Ahmed) and her own children Sigismund (Ishak Bey Hercegović) and Katarina, whose tomb is in present-day in Macedonian city of Skopje.
Stjepan Kosača – Ahmet Pasha Hercegović
According to all that has been said, Herzog Stjepan, out of all of his children, loved his youngest son Stjepan the best. No wonder: he was a child and did not have time to let him down! He was this way when his father handed him over to the Sultan in 1463. The boy was a living pledge of Kosača’s allegiance, vassalage and pacification of Herzegovina. Stjepan, in Topkakapi’s seraglios became Ahmet Pasha Hersegzade (Hercegović) marked with nobility in origin, and eventually, the Grand Vizier and son-in-law of Sultan Bayezid II. Three times he was named the Grand Vizier, or five, as some claim, leaving a deep mark in the reign of the greatest empires that stretched across three continents. He was also a poet, who is still studied in the Turkish and Bosniak literature.
He never forgot his homeland, neither Blagaj, nor Herzegovina, nor the parish of Dubrovnik - because as a boy, his deceased father bequeathed houses and vineyards in Konavle that his uncle Sandalj "sold" to the people of Dubrovnik. He remembered Bosnian language, dictated logofats and katibs in it, and as well as this one we are transcribing, yellowed, but with a lot of modernity that is timeless. He sent it in April 1488 to the prince and gentry of Dubrovnik. As Herzog’s son, he was a citizen of Dubrovnik, and from the city, as his heritage, orderly received regular annual "income".
His own man and man of the world
To the dear and cherished gentelmen of Dubrovnik, to the Prince, and the squires, from your brother Ahmet Hercegović. Squires, you all know that our Lord Herzog left by will his treasure to us when he died. And that treasure was in your hands. When you gave it to my brother, for the same you asked me. I told you to give - nothing else except the testament is not in your hands. Yes, that is the word of the Great Lord, for them to honour the document.
Squires, I ask of you as my brothers to do your best for our work, as we are doing as much as we can for yours. If you think that I have forgotten about our friendship, God knows, I have not. If you do your best for my work, I will do the best for yours. May God enhance your Lordship.
Translated: Amina Imami