Ostrožac today represents one of the symbols of Bosanska krajina and is certainly one of the most famous old towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An insight into its tumultuous past shows that even during the Middle Ages, this town had great importance in the processes that shaped the Hungarian and Croatian political scene at the time, and in addition, it entered, albeit for a short period of time, into the orbit of Bosnian noblemen. Located on a cliff that is an integral part of the Una canyon, at about 379 meters above sea level, the town in the Middle Ages controlled the road that went through the Una valley, but also the wider area of its hinterland. The first reliable written evidence of the existence of Ostrožac is a document dated November 2, 1321. This document states that Ostrožac (Ostrosecz) was bought by the princes from Blagaj, Nikola III and Dujam, in front of the Zagreb Chapter, from Dobromer, Stjepan and Vuk, who, according to some assumptions, were members of the noble lineage of Sičan. Approximately nine years later, on December 9, 1330, King Charles I Robert of Hungary granted the Blagaj princes definitive authority over the town (locum castri Ostrosecz). Consequently, Ostrožac came under the control of the famous noble lineage Babonić, whose branch the princes of Blagaj belonged to, a lineage that was one of the most powerful in the medieval Kingdom of Slavonia during the 14th century. It is the Babonić lineage who represent the most famous medieval lords of the town of Ostrožac, so its fate is inextricably linked to the fate of this family.

The rule of the Babonićs over Ostrožac lasted until the end of the 14th century, when this town came into contact with the Bosnian noble lineage Hrvatinić. Namely, in 1395, King Sigismund took Krupa and Ostrožac from the Babonićs and the following year gave them as a reward to Ban Vuk Vukčić Hrvatinić, brother of Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić, who recently became his new ally. Nevertheless, it was a punishment for the Babonićs, who previously collaborated with Bosnian nobles who opposed the Hungarian king. Further, in 1395, Sigismund was planning a military campaign against Bosnia, so it was extremely important for him to take control of these towns, which were located in the Bosnian neighborhood. The loss of Ostrožac and Krupa was hard on the Babonićs, who protested in front of the Zagreb Chapter, but without any results. The campaign to Bosnia in 1395 did not take place, and Ostrožac remained under the control of the Hrvatinićs until 1406 at the latest, when sources mention a royal castellan there. King Sigismund recaptured Ostrožac, most likely in the campaign against the possessions of Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić in 1405, when neighboring Bihać was also conquered. By doing so, Bosnian rule over the town was definitively ended. In 1419, with the charter of the Hungarian king Sigismund to the Babonićs the town of Ostrožac (castri Oztrozecz) again came under their rule, whose rule, with smaller sections, lasted until the Ottoman conquests.

During the 16th century, even Ostrožac was not spared from Ottoman incursions, which forced the Austrian authorities to station a Krajina garrison there. Ostrožac was surrounded by Ferhad-bey Sokolović on November 13, 1577, but the following year he was forced to retreat due to the fierce reaction of the Carinthian chief George Khevenhüller. However, the Austrian army was hit by disease and hunger, which the Ottomans took advantage of and already in the same year (1578) definitely put the town under their control.

Ostrožac had its own sub-town, which is evident from King Charles I Robert’s charter from 1330, where it is described as a fortress (castri) and a place (locum), which clearly alludes to the existence of a village-type settlement where artisans and merchants worked. At the beginning of the 15th century, it is evident from the sources that Ostrožac was a free municipality headed by Judge Smolac. The seal of the municipality of Ostrožac is particularly noteworthy, and its appearance is preserved, although not in its entirety, in a document dated 1403. The seal shows a tower with a crown in the middle, while the inscription “…COMVNIT (ATIS OSTROCENSIS)…” is written on the edges. In Ostrožac, there was the brotherhood of St. Katarina, and it seems that the county church was also dedicated to this saint. Two more churches in the town are also mentioned, the church of St. Mary and the church of St. George.

The architectural features of Ostrožac must be seen within the context of the Hungarian government, which in the sense of fortification gave the town its specific character, and which should again be viewed in the broader context of the Central European way of building. Thanks to restorations made during the beginning and middle of the 20th century, the Ostrožac fortress is in excellent condition, and its walls are among the best in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The fortress stretches in the east-west direction with a length of about 185 meters, while the width varies from 30 to 80 meters. The work of the medieval builders is the kapi-tower and the circular defender-tower, located in the east. There is a carved relief on the defense tower with a representation of a dragon. Next to the tower is a well. Afterwards, the fortification was expanded in a western direction, primarily by the Ottomans. Today’s appearance of Ostrožac owes mostly to the works of Lothar von Berks, who built a neo-Gothic castle in the western part. In terms of architecture, this castle contributes to the medieval appearance of the town. Today, the Ostrožac fortress has a strong cultural and tourist potential.


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