Katarina Kosaca was a strong and religious woman and the last queen of the Bosnian Kingdom. The time of Medieval Bosnia was marked by powerful rulers of Bosnian aristocracy, but also by bold and important women like Katarina Kosaca.
Her life and tragic destiny portrayed in books and theatre plays are teaching our next generations about the time of the Bosnian Kingdom. And her statues scattered around Bosnia and Herzegovina remind us every day about the life of one influential woman.
Katarina as a symbol of multiculturalism
Whenever I walk the main Tito street in Sarajevo, I can’t pass without admiring the beautiful statue of the last Bosnian queen on the top of Napredak Palace, a headquarters of the Croatian Cultural Association “Napredak” close to the Eternal Flame monument.
Situated in the main core of Sarajevo, close to the Catholic and Orthodox church, mosque, and Jewish synagogue, statue of Katarina Kosaca represents one more symbol of multiculturalism in the capital town of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Throughout centuries, this noble family has accepted many different cultures. Katarina Kosaca was born as a Bogomil, and when she became a wife of King Thomas she embraced Roman Catholicism. The arrival of Ottomans marked an end of the Bosnian kingdom forever. When her daughter and son got captured by Ottomans and taken to Constantinople, they converted to Islam.
The queen was born in the powerful House of Kosaca in today’s Blagaj town in Herzegovina, back then known as Hum or Zachlumia land. Her father Stjepan Vukcic Kosaca was a big supporter of the Bosnian Church. The Bosnian Church was a unique form of Christianity in medieval Europe influenced by the 11th century split between the Orthodox and Catholic churches. The followers of this unique church have often been called Bogomils and proclaimed to be heretics from both Orthodox and Catholic churches.
Last Bosnian queen united Bosnia and Herzegovina
Katarina Kosaca came in the region of today’s central Bosnia in 1446 by her marriage to King Thomas.
Having failed to strengthen royal authority by force, King Thomas saw marriage to Kosaca’s daughter Katarina as a great way to pacify the kingdom. This meant an end of the civil war between Kosaca and Thomas, and the union of Bosnia and Zachlumia (Herzegovina) region.
King Thomas, a member of the famous House of Kotromanic, after the death of King Tvrtko II, succession the throne as the deceased king’s cousin, and an illegitimate son of King Ostoja. But, his accession to the throne wasn’t recognized by the most powerful nobleman Stjepan Vukcic Kosaca, who proclaimed himself a semi-independent ‘herzog’ (translated by the English ‘duke’) of Saint Sava (medieval South Slavic state which existed shortly before the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans), ‘lord of Hum and coast’, and ‘grand duke’. Kosaca forced the Bosnian king Thomas to recognize him as such. All this led to a civil war between the two most powerful men in medieval Bosnia.
Eventually, Stjepan Vukcic Kosaca recognized Thomas as a king, and peace was sealed with a marriage of King Thomas and Stjepan’s daughter Katarina.
An influential woman loved by locals
Queen Katarina left a deep trace in the history of this nation and a huge impact on the lives of locals. She initiated and financed the construction of many churches throughout Bosnia. There are many stories about how she used to teach young girls to write and read, to sew and knit, and behave like ladies.
For 17 years queen Katarina lived between Kraljeva Sutjeska and Bobovac Fortress, the royal residence and fortification in central Bosnia, one hour and a half drive north of Sarajevo. With the arrival of the Ottomans and the fall of Bobovac in 1463, she escaped and shortly found refuge in Dubrovnik town, back then known as Ragusa. Eventually, the last Bosnian queen settled in Rome where she died in 1478. There are stories that she yearned for her homeland, eager to return to Kraljeva Sutjeska until the day she died.
The women of Kraljeva Sutjeska even today wear black scarves as a part of traditional dress in mourning and respect for the last Bosnian queen. Every 25 October, the day she passed away, there is a traditional Mass in the monastery and the church in Kraljeva Sutjeska in the name of Queen Katarina.