Ključ on the river Sana is one of the most famous old Bosnian towns, whose medieval history is primarily marked by an incident from 1463, when the Ottoman invaders captured the last Bosnian king Stjepan Tomašević. The town is located on steep cliffs on the left bank of the Sana River, at the foot of which the town of Ključ is located today. The medieval town of Ključ, due to its extremely favorable natural position, was well fortified, and in terms of construction and strategy, it was designed in such a way that it could be defended in several phases. There have been different answers offered in historiography to the question of when the written history of this town begins, ranging from 1322 to 1325. Apparently, it was 1325 when Prince Vukoslav Hrvatinić, son of Prince Hrvatin Stjepanić, issued a charter in the town of Ključ (in castro nostro Cluc) on May 25, declaring the illegitimate son of a certain Juraj free. On the other hand, the charter of Stjepan II Kotromanić, issued precisely to Vukoslav Hrvatinić and in which the town of Ključ is also mentioned, was not written in 1322 but a little later, probably in 1326. The town of Ključ also had its own sub-town – Podključ, which is mentioned in the charter of King Stjepan Tomaš, which was issued to the sons of Ivaniš Dragišić on August 22, 1446.
Ključ was under the control of the noble Hrvatinić lineage. Ban Stjepan II Kotromanić, in the already mentioned charter, donated the counties of Banica and Vrbanja with their towns, Ključ and Kotor, as heritage (baština) to Prince Vukoslav Hrvatinić and his heirs. It was a formal act, considering that the Hrvatinićs had previously ruled Ključ, which aimed to introduce this family into a vassal relationship with the Bosnian ban. From the above, it is clear that Ključ in the administrative sense belonged to the county of Banica, the center of which it was. In a broader territorial and political sense, it was part of the Donji Kraji, which represented the home territory of the Hrvatinićs. Certainly, the most famous representative of this noble lineage is Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić, who, among others, also held the title of Prince of Donji Kraji. It seems that the sub-town of Ključ played a more important role in the economic life of this area, given that it was mentioned as a town in the charter of Stjepan Tomaš, which indicates that there was intensive trade and craft activity.
During the 14th century, the town of Ključ was temporarily part of the Hungarian state. Namely, in 1363, Prince Vlatko Vukoslavić, son of Vukoslav Hrvatinić, who inherited the town after his father’s death, ceded it to Hungary in exchange for the Slavonian city Bršljanovac. However, it appears that the town has been again under Bosnian control since 1389. In all likelihood, that year Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić, taking advantage of the difficult conditions in neighboring Hungary, conquered the town of Ključ and stationed his army there. In 1446, King Stjepan Tomaš issued a charter to Ivaniš Dragišić’s sons – Pavle, Marko and Juraj, and on that occasion confirmed their possessions, the towns of Ključ, Glaž and Mrin and about 60 villages in the counties of Banica, Sana, Glaž and Uskoplje.
The capture of the last Bosnian king in Ključ is certainly one of the most impressive and tragic events in Bosnian medieval history. At the time of the Ottoman attack on Bosnia in 1463, King Stjepan Tomašević was residing in the town of Jajce, which was a major royal residence in the last years of Bosnian independence. The Bosnian king realized that serious resistance would be impossible, so he retreated to the western parts of his country to escape the Ottomans. Grand Vizier Mahmud Pasha Anđelović, whose troops were marching towards Jajce, having learned about the king’s movements, followed him and caught up with him at the foot of Ključ, where he defeated his army. The king locked himself away in the Ključ fortress, however, since continued resistance was practically impossible, he agreed to surrender the town on condition that he be free to leave. However, the grand vizier did not adhere to the agreement. He captured Stjepan Tomašević and brought him to Jajce, where the sultan ordered his execution. The king’s death in Jajce symbolically marked the end of the Bosnian state.
It seems that the Ottoman troops did not stay long in Ključ. In the autumn of 1463, the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus launched an offensive against the newly acquired Ottoman possessions in Bosnia. Ključ was probably conquered in these military operations and a year later it was incorporated into the military-administrative system of the newly founded Jajce Banate. The re-establishment of Ottoman rule over the town probably occurred at the end of the 15th century.
According to its type, the town of Ključ cannot be classified as any type of medieval Bosnian town. Most of all, it fits into the group of complex constructions that were strengthened by fortifications, but also by skillful use of terrain, i.e. natural obstacles. The town consists of three parts: the elongated eastern part – also known as Grad (fortress), the central northwestern part – Tabori and in the north of the third part – the Ljubica tower. When you look at the town as a whole, it looks like an irregular triangle that stretches slightly in a north-east direction. Archaeological excavations have shown that there was a fortification here since Roman times. Certainly, the most vivid depiction of the town of Ključ with its sub-town is given in the engraving in Benedikt Kuripešić’s Travelogue from 1531.
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