Srebrenik is one of the most famous and significant medieval Bosnian towns. Located on the slopes of the Majevica mountain massif, it is situated on a steep and rough mountain cliff approximately 500 meters high. Due to the terrain configuration, the builders were able to build a town that was completely inaccessible and unconquerable. Thus, the town of Srebrenik had a huge geostrategic importance in the defense of the wider area of Usora and as such was the focus of all its lords, who often changed during the Middle Ages, from Bosnian bans and kings to Hungarian kings and the Ottomans. In historical sources, the town is mentioned for the first time on February 15, 1333 in the charter of Ban Stjepan II Kotromanić, by which he ceded Rat, Ston, Prevlaka and the islands around Rat to the Ragusans. The charter clearly states that it was issued in the town below Srebrenik, that is, in the sub-town, as they later stated in the Ragusan chancery (soto Srebrnich). The charter also indicates that Srebrenik was one of the residences of Bosnian Ban Stjepan II Kotromanić.
In a broader territorial and political sense, the town of Srebrenik belonged to Usora and was the main political and military center in this area. In a narrow administrative sense, according to some assumptions, the town was part of the Koraj county, whose existence has not been reliably established. However, according to other understandings, it would still be the Usora county. The area of Usora had great geostrategic importance and as such was the scene of constant conflicts at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century, which left no room for serious economic development. This consequently reduced the chances of a strong economic boom in the mentioned sub-town of Srebrenik. The town of Srebrenik is associated with the origin of the great man Divoš Tihoradić, who commissioned the famous gospel, named Divoš’s Gospel, discovered in 1960, after the name of its commissioner and user. From the town’s history, one episode from the everyday, otherwise extremely difficult life of a medieval Bosnian man has been preserved in Ragusan sources. Namely, in 1370 in Ragusa, a certain Stojna from Srebrenik (de Srebrenich) and her son Tvrtko stated that Pauluško Kudelinović bought them from Vukosav Stjepković for 40 perpers.
The geostrategic importance of the town of Srebrenik in the defense of the northern borders of the Bosnian state is evident from the Hungarian attack in 1363, when King Ludovik, justifying this move with a war against heretics, attacked the Bosnian borders on two occasions. In September, following the king’s unsuccessful siege of Sokol on Pliva, a new army led by Nikola Konta and the archbishop of Ostrogon broke into Usora (in Vzura) and began the siege of Srebrenik. This military campaign was also a complete failure, and it was remembered for one interesting episode. In the commotion that followed the defeat, the Ostrogonian Archbishop Nikola lost a large state seal.
In the late 14th century and early 15th century, Usora and Srebrenik became the site of the Hungarian-Bosnian War. The goal was primarily to place Bosnia under direct rule of the Hungarian crown, in addition to the aspirations for enthroning Hungarian candidates on the Bosnian throne or conquering certain territories. In one such campaign from 1405, which was launched under the pretext of returning the deposed king of Ostoja to the throne, Ivan Morović, the ban of Mačva, ravaged Usora and conquered the fortified Srebrenik, which in the following period became the main Hungarian stronghold for further attacks on Bosnia. The loss of Srebrenik fell hard on the Bosnian side, led by Duke Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić and the new king Tvrtko II, who in the next few years tried to bring the town back under their control, but without any success. For this reason, King Sigismund, in a charter dated February 24, 1409, awarded noble status to the defenders of the town of Srebrenik (castrum Zrebernik). The Hungarians remained in Srebrenik for decades to come, as evidenced, among others, by the episode from 1430 when the Ragusans requested Sigismund to send an army to Matko Talovac in Srebrenik (castri Srebrenica in Usura) during the Konavle War, so that they could exert pressure on Pavlović’s possessions.
Usora was subjected to Ottoman military campaigns aimed at plundering and destabilizing this area during the 15th century.
It is known that in 1426 Ottoman troops ravaged Usora and attacked Srebrenik (Ussore in Srebrnich) on two occasions. Srebrenik was captured by the Ottomans for the first time shortly before 1443. The attack was a major blow to the Hungarian war policy, which seriously threatened its position towards Bosnia and the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman rule over Srebrenik was short-lived, raising questions about its future. In historiography, various explanations have been offered, beginning with the possibility that the town once again came under the rule of the Bosnian king, to the theory that it was ruled by the despot Đurađ Branković, who then ceded the town to the Hungarians in 1452, after making peace with governor János Hunyadi. Furthermore, it remains unclear when did the Ottomans conquer Srebrenik for the second time, whether in 1460 or in 1462. It is known reliably that Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus captured the town from the Ottoman conquerors in 1464 and placed the seat of the newly founded Srebrenica Banate there a year later. Furthermore, it is difficult to confirm the exact date of Srebrenik’s fall to the Ottomans. It is most likely that this occurred between 1510 and 1519.
Today, the Srebrenik fortress is well preserved primarily because of the strength of the walls. Conservation works on the fortress began in 1954 and continued from 1978 to 1980. There are few traces of the town’s medieval appearance left today. The town consisted of three parts, which could be defended separately. In the fort, the gate is located at the lowest level, while the strongest tower with a building and a cistern is located at the highest level. The main defense tower consisted of a ground floor and two additional floors, and the thickness of the walls varied from 1.6 to 1.85 meters. Located next to the tower, the residential building dates back to the Ottoman period, but its location is reminiscent of some older Bosnian towns. In addition, the tower, which the Ottomans converted into a mosque, probably dates back to the Middle Ages. Overall, Srebrenik is an excellent example of using inaccessible cliffs to build an extremely well-fortified town.
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