Katarina was the daughter of Duke Stjepan Vukčić Kosača and Jelena, a princess of the Zeta ruling family of Balšić. As the eldest child of this married couple, she was born in August 1425 at the earliest. There is little information available about Katarina’s upbringing. However, it can be assumed that at her family’s court, with the whole-hearted efforts of her mother Jelena, she received an adequate education and manners of court life worthy of the most powerful noble family in Bosnia at the time. In addition to these benefits, Katarina certainly witnessed numerous and frequent conflicts within the family that occurred in the following decades. The religion in which Katarina was raised during her youth is not known. Following the accession to the throne of the new Bosnian king Stjepan Tomaš in 1443, his conflicts with the then most powerful nobleman Duke Stjepan began. After long-lasting conflicts, reconciliation between the two most prominent individuals and at the same time the most powerful kindred in Bosnia was arranged. Along with the reconciliation, the wedding of Stjepan’s daughter Katarina and the new king Stjepan Tomaš was arranged. It was known in Ragusa in mid-April 1446 that preparations for the wedding were underway, which was to take place in Milodraži in mid-May 1446.

In the reports of the Ragusan representatives who attended the wedding on behalf of their Republic, it is stated that Duke Stjepan arrived at the king’s court in Milodraž “with a lot of beautiful people” and that “the family reunion was performed with the greatest honors”. The wedding rite was apparently performed according to the Catholic rite, considering the fact that in previous years King Tomaš communicated with the Pope of Rome, from whom he asked for the dissolution of his previous marriage. In addition to this, Katarina requested from Pope Eugene IV in the middle of 1447 permission to have two Bosnian Franciscans serve as her chaplains in order to meet her religious needs. During that period, Katarina built a church from her dowry in Vrili near Livno, which undoubtedly demonstrates her religious orientation at that time.

Queen Katarina had two children with King Tomaš, a son Sigismund (born in April 1449) and a daughter Katarina (born around 1460). In July 1461, King Tomaš died and Katarina became a widow. Soon after Stjepan Tomašević assumed the throne, he was Tomaš’s son from his first marriage, and his wife Mara from the Serbian ruling family of Branković became the new queen. The relations between the new king and Katarina were very good and cordial, as evidenced by a letter from Herzog Stjepan in which he states how young Stjepan accepted Katarina as his mother. According to folk tradition, after her husband’s death, Katarina moved to his property in Kozograd near Fojnica.

Sultan Mehmed II led the Ottoman army that made the final attack on the Bosnian state in May and June 1463. On that occasion, the last Bosnian king Stjepan Tomašević was killed, while Katarina’s children, Sigismund and Katarina, were captured. They were not together with their mother in those fateful moments. After the Ottoman occupation of Bobavac and the siege of Jajce, Katarina reached Vrlica near Šibenik on May 29. From there, she went to her father Stjepan, to the Kosača estate. Upon her arrival, she found the family in a quarrel. At that time there was a conflict between her father and younger brother Vladislav. Moving on was inevitable. Katarina had already been on Ragusan territory at the beginning of July when she was visited by Ragusan nobles. While staying on Ragusan territory, Katarina attempted to establish herself as the legitimate heir to the Bosnian rulers’ property. However, the Ragusans refused to pay her the tributes they normally paid to the Bosnian crown, and they refused to give her houses and land also owned by the Bosnian rulers. At the same time as Katarina, Queen Mara, the wife of the murdered King Stjepan Tomašević, was staying in Ragusa at this time. Given that the Ottoman threat on the territory of Kosačas had weakened and taking into account the fact that Stjepan and Vladislav reconciled, at the end of 1463 Katarina returned to her family’s estate in Hum. No details are known about her activities in the next two years. It is known that in the summer of 1465 she was located in the immediate vicinity of Ragusa.

Katarina’s departure to Rome is not described in detail in the sources. It is believed that the penultimate Bosnian queen arrived in Rome in 1466 or 1467. Based on later sources, it is possible to establish that she traveled via Šibenik, where she apparently stayed for some time. Katarina’s arrival in Rome was known in advance. A festive welcome was prepared for her by several cardinals, bishops, abbots and citizens, as well as a group of dignitaries, among whom was Katarina Kaladrino, the sister of Pope Nicholas V. The real reasons for Katarina’s departure to Rome are difficult to decipher, however, among the first there is an ambition to launch a campaign against the Ottomans. Katarina received financial aid from Pope Nicholas V, which enabled her to live a decent life in accordance with her royal dignity while living in Rome. That aid amounted to 100 ducats a month, in addition to the 20 ducats she received for rent. In Rome, Katarina was accompanied by several Bosnian noble families who served as her entourage and courtiers. For many years she was associated with the Franciscan Church of St. Maria Araceli, where she became a member of Franciscan Third Order. The Bosnian Queen Katarina was well respected in Rome, as evidenced by occasional reports referring to her presence at certain events, sometimes in the company of members of the famous Medici family.

Katartina attempted to free her children from slavery during her stay in Rome. Towards the middle of 1470, she sent representatives to the Duke of Milan, Galeazza Sforza, with whom her father was on friendly terms throughout his life. She begged him for financial help to pay for the expedition and to purchase Sigismund and Katarina, but apparently she did not receive significant support. In February 1474, Katarina’s deputies were again in Milan visiting Sforza. This time, the queen had information as she learned that the sultan would release her son, and she decided to travel personally to the Ottoman border to bring her son. She begged the Duke of Milan to help her with this trip with as much money as he could. Even this time, Katarina was unable to achieve her goals.

Katarina once again returned to the territory of the former Bosnian Kingdom, i.e. to the estate of Kosačas in Novi in June 1474 to attend the wedding of Duke Vlatko’s brother and Margarita Margano, the granddaughter of the King of Naples, Ferdinand of Aragon. After this trip, sources from the following years do not provide much information about Katarina’s life. Her will, written on October 20, 1478, has been preserved, and it was handed over together with Tomaš’s sword and some other items to Pope Sixtus IV and the cardinals for safekeeping. According to this will, Katarina leaves the Bosnian kingdom, which at that moment no longer exists, in trust to the Roman Church, if her children do not accept the Catholic faith again. She left 200 ducats for her funeral, as well as some clothing items such as a royal cloak made of gold-woven cloth. She intended certain items for the Slavic guesthouse of St. Jerome. In the hope that her children would return to the Catholic faith, she left them weapons, dishes and silverware in her will. During her visit to Rome, Katarina brought with her relics intended for the church of St. Katarina in Jajce. Five days after the testament was drawn up, on October 25, 1478, Queen Katarina passed away. She was buried in the church of St. Maria Aracoeli, where her tombstone is still located today, moved to one of the walls of the church.

Katarina’s tombstone

Dubrovnik State Archives, Consilium Rogatorum XVII, 217v

Sources and literature:

  1. Arndt Michael, “Die ursprüngliche Grabinschrift der bosnischen Königin Katharina”, Südost-forschungen, no. XXVI, R. Oldenbourg, München 1977, 211-223.
  2. Atanasovski Veljan, Pad Hercegovine, Narodna knjiga-Istorijski institut u Beogradu, Beograd 1979, 100.
  3. Ćirković Sima, Istorija srednjovekovne bosanske države, Srpska književna zadruga, Beograd 1964.
  4. Ćirković Sima, Herceg Stefan Vukčić Kosača i njegovo doba, Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti, posebna izdanja, vol. 376, Odeljenje društvenih nauka, vol. 48, Beograd 1964. 
  5. Ćorović Vladimir, Historija Bosne, Srpska kraljevska akademija, Beograd 1940.
  6. Ćošković Pejo, Bosanska kraljevina u prijelomnim godinama 1443-1446, Institut za istoriju u Banjaluci, Banja Luka 1988.
  7. Draganović Krunoslav, Katarina Kosača bosanska kraljica – Prigodom 500-godišnjice njezine smrti (25.X.1478), Sarajevo 1978.
  8. Fermendžin Eusebius, Acta Bosnae potissimum ecclesiastica cum insertis editorum documentorum regestis ab anno 925 usque ad annum 1752, Zagrabiae 1892, 205.
  9. Goldstein Ivo, “Bizantski izvori o osmanskom osvajanju Bosne 1463. godine”, in: Zbornik radova o fra Anđelu Zvizdoviću, ed. Marko Karamatić, Franjevačka teologija Sarajevo – Franjevački samostan Fojnica, Sarajevo-Fojnica 2000, 229-237.
  10. Kovačević Desanka, “Pad bosanske države prema dubrovačkim izvorima”, Godišnjak Društva istoričara Bosne i Hercegovine, no. XIV, Sarajevo 1964, 205-220.
  11. Lvccari Giacomo di Petro, Copioso Ristretto de gli Annali di Ravsa, Venetia 1605, 108
  12. Mekanović Husein Sejko, “Portret i nadgrobna ploča bosanske kraljice Katarine Kotromanić (1425-1478) u Rimu”, Radovi, no. XVII/3, Filozofski fakultet u Sarajevu (Historija, Historija umjetnosti, Arheologija), Sarajevo 2014, 199-209.
  13. Nagy Iván –Nyáry Albert, Magyar diplomacziai emlekek-Matyas kiraly korabol I, A.M.T. Akadémia könyvkiadó-hivatalaban, Budapest, 1875, 180-181, 364.
  14. Orbin Mavro, Kraljevstvo Slovena, Srpska književna zadruga 1968, 165-166.
  15. Palavestra Vlajko, “Narodno predanje o bježanju kraljice Katarine u Bosni”, in: Povijesno-teološki simpozij u povodu 500. obljetnice smrti bosanske kraljice Katarine održan 24. i 25. listopada 1978. u Sarajevu, Sarajevo 1979, 88-98.
  16. Pandžić Bazilije, “Katarina Vukčić Kosača (1424-1478)”, in: Povijesno-teološki simpozij u povodu 500. obljetnice smrti bosanske kraljcie Katarine održan 24. i 25. listopada 1978. u Sarajevu, Sarajevo 1979, 15-25.
  17. Rački Franjo, “Dubrovački spomenici o odnošaju dubrovačke općine naprema Bosni i Turskoj godine raszspe bosanske kraljevine”, Starine JAZU, no. VI, Zagreb 1874, 1-18.
  18. Ruvarac Ilarion, “Dvije bosanske kraljice”, Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja, no. 3, Sarajevo 1893, 467-477.
  19. Škrivanić Gavro, “Davanje u najam jedna lađe presvetle kraljice Bosne”, Godišnjak Društva istoričara Bosne i Hercegovine, no. XI, Sarajevo 1961, 269-271.
  20. Šunjić Marko, “Trogirski izvještaji o turskom osvajanju Bosne”, Glasnik arhiva i društava arhivskih radnika Bosne i Hercegovine, no. XIX, Sarajevo 1989, 139-157.
  21. Thallóczy Ludwig von, Studien zur Geschichte Bosniens und Serbiens im Mittelalter, München und Leipzig 1914, 110-120.
  22. Theiner Augustino, Vetera monumenta historica Hungariam sacram illustrantia maximam partem nondum edita ex tabulariis vaticanis deprompta collecta ac serie chronologica disposita, tomus secundus ab Innocentio pp. VI usque ad Clementem pp. VII. 1352-1526, Romae 1862, 509-511.
  23. Tošić Đuro, “Bosanska kraljica Katarina (1425-1478”), in: Zbornik za istoriju Bosne i Hercegovine 2, ed: Milorad Ekmečić, Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti, Odbor za istoriju Bosne i Hercegovine, Beograd 1997, 73-111.
  24. Truhelka Ćiro, “Dubrovačke vijesti o 1463. godini”, Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja, no. XXII, Sarajevo 1910, 1-24.
  25. Zelenika Anđelko, “Nadgrobni spomenik bosanske kraljice Katarine Kosača-Kotromanić u Rimu”, Hercegovina, no. 1/9, Mostar 195, 117-128.