While Počitelj is now considered one of the Bosnia’s most famous old towns, little is known about its medieval history primarily due to the lack of historical sources. Until 1463 and the collapse of the Bosnian state, only three mentions of the town were preserved in written sources, where it was mentioned as the possession of Stjepan Vukčić Kosača. The first written trace is the one in the charter of the King of Naples, Alfonso V of Aragon, dated February 19, 1444 (Posichell, Vdobranah castello con lo contato), by which he introduced Duke Stjepan into a vassal relationship and placed his possessions under his protection. Ten years later, the contract between the King of Naples and the herzog was renewed, and in the charter issued on that occasion in Naples, on June 1, 1454, the town of Počitelj (cititate Positell) was also mentioned. Between these two events, on January 20, 1448, i.e. the same year Stjepan Vukčić Kosača took the title of Herzog, the German king Frederick III issued him a charter confirming his possessions, where he mentions Počitelj (castrum Beczitel), among others.
The town of Počitelj was founded on a very inaccessible and rocky hill, at the westernmost point of the medieval county of Dubrava, on the left bank of the Neretva River. Today, the archaeological remains of Počitelj are located in Čapljina. By all accounts, there was no sub-town under the town, therefore the town appeared here only after the Ottoman conquest, which was visited and described by the famous travelogue writer Evliya Çelebi in the 17th century. It is unknown who built the town and when it was built. The purpose of the construction, however, is quite obvious. The guards in Počitelj were supposed to be responsible for controlling the approach to the Neretva valley, i.e. the road that ran through this area from Gabela to Blagaj and Stolac.
After the collapse of the Bosnian kingdom in 1463, due to a combination of circumstances, there are proportionally more source data about Počitelj compared to the previous period. The Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus, after capturing part of the Ottoman-conquered Bosnian state and establishing the Jajce and Srebrenik Banate, directed his war efforts towards the sea and Ragusa. Thus, Počitelj, which previously served as a defense for the entrance to the lower Neretva, became one of the primary focuses of Hungarian war policy. In 1465, according to an earlier agreement with Herzog Stjepan, the King of Hungary stationed his troops in this town, appointing Prince Pavle as commander, and thereby taking responsibility for the defense of the Herzog’s possessions. The Ragusans, led by Paskoje Miličević, were also involved in the supply and additional fortification of the Počitelj fortress, whose builders also built a wooden bridge over the Neretva near the town for the army’s needs, and in addition they regularly sent help in the form of weapons, money, nails, boards, food, etc. Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus personally requested Ragusan’s assistance, as can be seen in his letter, dated December 27, 1466, addressed to the Ragusan government, in which he requested that food be delivered, above all, for the troops in Počitelj (castrum Pochythel). Two years later, on February 6, 1468, the king informed the Ragusans that he had received 200 gold forints from them to support the Počitelj troops (castri nostri Pochitel). Along with the Ragusans, Herzog Vlatko Kosača also financed Počitelj’s defense.
The year 1469 was particularly difficult for the defenders of Počitelj, therefore Duke Ivaniš Vlatković had to react, which forced the Ottoman attacker to retreat before his troops. Two years later, the Ottoman attack on the town intensified, and the defenders requested assistance from Ragusa. The Ragusan government responded positively, but this help was of no use since on September 20, 1471, news arrived in Ragusa that Hamza Bey had captured Počitelj. On that occasion, the Ragusans presented Hamzabeg’s envoy with textiles worth 40 perpers as a sign of congratulations. The Ottomans strengthened their positions east of the Neretva following the conquest of Počitelj, and were able to conduct military operations more easily in the west as a result. Meanwhile, the Hungarians had no choice but to retreat to Koš.
In its development, the town of Počitelj went through three phases: medieval, early Turkish and late Turkish. From the medieval period, which lasted from the town’s establishment until 1471, modest remains have been preserved. These include the lower part of the main tower, a small square-shaped tower located to the left of the entrance, and part of the western wall, where the fortress cistern is located further south. In the early Turkish phase, the Počitelj fortress preserved its medieval appearance with no major alterations. In the last phase, at the end of the 17th century due to the Venetian threat, the main tower was additionally strengthened and thus acquired the form still visible today. At the bottom of Počitelj, an oriental town developed, with elements of the Mediterranean type of construction, which reached its peak in the 18th century, only to experience a total decline in the following centuries. And yet, in the second half of the 20th century, the town revived again, albeit in a different way, driven by economic-tourist and cultural-historical reasons.
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