Almost nothing is known about the medieval history of Cazin (Zasyn, Zasin). There is no written record of medieval man living in the area of this town prior to the end of the 15th century. As an overview of Cazin’s history up to the end of the 15th century, it can only be concluded that Cazin was originally part of the Croatian state, if it even existed then, and later became part of the Kingdom of Hungary when it was first mentioned. In the first half of the 16th century it became part of the Habsburg monarchy and was conquered by the Ottomans while under its supreme authority. Cazin, as well as the wider surrounding area, was not exposed to the rule of the Bosnian ruler or certain Bosnian noble families, unlike the nearby Ostrožac, which, albeit for a very short time, recognized the rule of the Hrvatinićs. Therefore, the medieval history of Cazin is inextricably linked to the development of the Hungarian state, which has been shaped by internal conflicts in the 14th and 15th centuries, and then by the increasingly frequent Ottoman threats.
The written history of Cazin begins, based on what we know so far, in 1494, in a document that mentions two nobles – Ivan Dmičić and Mikula Ivanac, who were staying there on that occasion, which also represents the first residents of this town known by name. Certainly, the most significant event from the pre-Ottoman history of Cazin dates back to 1522, when, as a result of the Ottoman conquest of Knin, the Knin diocese seat was moved here. But four years later, the Ottoman army on the Mohacs field dealt a fatal blow to the Hungarian state, which then practically disintegrated, and the Croatian nobles at the Council of Cetinje in 1526-1527 decided to recognize the Habsburg supremacy, which made Cazin a part of the new state. The Bishop of Knin, Andrija Tuškanović, whose residence was mainly in Cazin, took part in the aforementioned Council of Cetinje, which undoubtedly represents one of the turning points in Croatian history. This indicates that the first written traces of Cazin are closely related to the Ottoman threat, when this region gained geostrategic significance and entered the orbit of the Hungarian and Habsburg authorities.
The town of Cazin and its surroundings were not spared from Ottoman raids during the 16th century, which increased in intensity as time progressed. During one such campaign in 1539, Cazin was also conquered, but soon the Ottoman conqueror had to flee before the forces of Ban Petar Keglević. Due to the seriousness of the Ottoman threat, the Austrian authorities stationed a Krajina garrison here in 1553. Ten years later, General Ivan Lenkovic requested that, on top of the twenty already present, as many haramîs, lightly armed infantry whose primary objective was to suppress Ottoman incursions, be brought to the Cazin fortress. Despite all efforts to preserve it, the town could not avoid the fate of the surrounding towns, which had already fallen under Ottoman rule, so on July 18, 1576, the warlike Ferhad-bey Sokolović captured the Cazin fortress and stationed a crew of 50 horsemen there and 130 infantry, which is evident from the Austrian list of Turkish fortifications from 1577 (Zasin, Pfärdt: 50, Füesvolck: 130). In 1577, the Ottoman army retreated from Cazin due to an energetic reaction from the Habsburgs, a large force was sent under the command of Juraj Khevenhüller. However, the Austrian army was soon hit by disease and hunger, which Ferhad-bey took advantage of and definitively captured the town from the Austrian lords in 1578. According to General Ferenberg’s report, the Ottomans began fortifying Cazin immediately after the conquest.
Sources that provide insight into the social, economic, and religious circumstances of medieval Cazin are scarce. We can only form a general picture without many details. The town of Cazin belonged to the diocese of Knin, founded in the 11th century, and according to some assumptions, it was also assigned to the bishop of Knin. Furthermore, it had its own parish, whose pastor was described as an educated man (magister) in 1547. In the administrative sense, Cazin was part of Pset county, which was mentioned by Constantine Porphyrogenet in the middle of the 10th century. The town had a sub-town – varoš (civitas) with a judge and residents. The military crew was commanded by a castellan, one of whom was a certain Stjepan Strezoja. Particularly interesting is the title “špan”, which was held in Cazin in 1547 by a certain Matija. In fact, it refers to a župan (prefect), that is mentioned in historical sources, among others, under that name (supannus, iupanus, zupan, span) and whose powers during the Middle Ages ranged from a head of a family to a royal dignitary to officials of various levels of government. It is reliably known that župan managed the episcopal possessions, and considering that Cazin has been the bishop’s seat since 1522, it is not excluded that župan Matija also performed this work.
The old town of Cazin is located on a hill above the present-day town of Cazin. The structure of the Cazin fortress corresponds to other towns in Pounje that were part of the Hungarian state. Regular geometric shapes are the essence of their design, which represents the influence of late Gothic on these territories. The trapezoidal inner courtyard with three oval rampart towers originates from the medieval period. As there is no main defense tower, it is assumed that it was located on the site of the current mosque, and perhaps there was also a church there in the past. The outer fragmented courtyard was built by the Ottomans. The protection of the fortress has been carried out in 1975, during which the foundations of a square tower or fort were discovered along the southeastern wall of the fortress.
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