Catherine of Bosnia

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For other people named Catherine of Bosnia, see Catherine of Bosnia (disambiguation).
Catherine of Bosnia
Queen Catherine of Bosnia.jpg
Queen Catherine as depicted on her tombstone, the oldest known reproduction, 1677
Queen consort of Bosnia
Tenure 26 May 1446 – 10 July 1461
Spouse Stephen Thomas of Bosnia
Issue Ishak-bey Kraloglu
Catherine of Bosnia
Father Stjepan Vukčić Kosača
Mother Jelena Balšić
Born 1425
Blagaj, Bosnia
Died 25 October 1478(1478-10-25) (aged 52)
Rome, Papal States
Burial Santa Maria in Aracoeli
Religion Roman Catholic, previously Bosnian Church

Blessed Catherine of Bosnia (Bosnian: Katarina Kosača/Катарина Косача; 1425 – 25 October 1478) was Queen of Bosnia as the wife of King Stephen Thomas. She was a daughter of Stjepan Vukčić Kosača, Grand Duke of Bosnia.

After her husband's death in 1461 she became the queen dowager of Bosnia, but had to flee the Ottoman invasion in 1463. Although she is often called "the last queen of Bosnia", the last to hold the title was actually Catherine's stepdaughter-in-law, Mary of Serbia.[1]


Catherine is presumed to have been born in Blagaj, the seat of her father Stjepan Vukčić, one of the most powerful figures amongst Bosnian nobility. Her mother was Jelena, daughter of Balša III of Zeta. The earliest source that mentions Catherine is the will of her maternal great-grandmother Jelena Lazarević, who left her some jewelry, dated 25 November 1442.[2]

On 26 May 1446, Catherine was given in marriage to the illegitimate son of King Stephen Ostoja of Bosnia, Stephen Thomas, to strengthen the ties between the Bosnian royal house and Bosnia's nobility at the time when Count Herman II of Celje, his distant relative, was poised to claim the Bosnian throne, and the Ottoman threat to Bosnia was looming.

Stephen Thomas was in a difficult position. His own brother, Radivoj Ostojić, supported by the Ottomans, was also claiming rights to the throne, referring to himself as king of Bosnia, while Bosnian nobility considered his origins and marriage to a commoner, Vojača, unfit for a king. Stephen Thomas sought support from Pope Eugene IV, and in exchange for recognition of himself as a legitimate ruler of Bosnia and denunciation of the Bosnian Church, he was crowned in 1445. In another political masterstroke, he married Catherine in a Catholic ceremony in May 1446 ensuring, at least for a short while, the support of the most powerful nobleman in the kingdom and a staunch supporter of the Bosnian Church, Stjepan Kosača.[3]

Having moved to Kraljeva Sutjeska, the seat of Bosnian kings, Catherine gave birth to two children:[3] son Sigismund, in 1449, and daughter Catherine in 1459. During this time, her husband, under pressure from the Catholic Church, embarked on widespread persecution of the followers of the Bosnian Church once again colliding with the Bosnian nobility and people. Some 40,000 followers of the Bosnian Church found refuge in the lands controlled by Catherine's father, who, having received the title of Herzeg from the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III in 1448 and with the blessing of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror, once again found himself on the collision course with his son-in-law.

Tomaš died on 10 July 1461 and was succeeded by his son, Stephen Tomašević, who recognised Catherine as queen mother. Tomašević's wife, Mary of Serbia, replaced Catherine as Queen of Bosnia. Tomašević's reign was short, as he was beheaded on 5 June 1463.

Life in exile[edit]

In 1463, Queen Catherine escaped to Kozograd, and then to Konjic, Ston and Dubrovnik, while her children were taken to Constantinople, and were converted to Islam.[3] It appears that she never heard from them again. Other sources claim it was her half-brother, Ahmed-pasha Hercegović, son from Stjepan Vukčić's marriage to Cecilia and later son-in-law of Bayezid II, who organised for the children to be taken to Istanbul and under whose patronage Catherine's son, now called Ishak-beg Kraloglu (Kraljević), became quite influential. Her daughter Catherine died in Skopje, where Isa-beg Ishaković erected her a tombstone, the Kral Kızı Monument.

Queen Catherine carried with her Bosnian regalia, hoping the kingdom was eventually going to be restored. In Dubrovnik, she is said to have left her husband's sword to be delivered to their son if he comes back from captivity. Having spent some time in Dubrovnik, she travelled back to her parental home in Blagaj, but found her ailing father feuding with her brothers Vlatko and Vladislav. With her father, she, once again, left for Dubrovnik. Stjepan, however, died in 1466 in Novi (today Herceg Novi), and the Queen accepted the invitation of the Pope to move to Rome.[3] She was respected among the Slavs in Rome at the time, but without much funds because her father had cut her out of his will.[3]

The Roman Catholic Church seems to have been the only institution that still recognised Catherine as the 'legitimate queen'. However, her influence through noble connections seems to have been wider, since she is noted to have attended the wedding of Sophia Palaiologina and Russian Duke Ivan III, also known as Ivan the Great, in 1472.[3]

In Rome, she lived in a house near the Church of St Mark until 1477, when she moved to an house in Piazza Scossacavalli in Borgo:[4] In both residences she held her own 'court'. She died there on 25 October 1478. An edict was issued in Rome marking her death. In her will she left the claim to the Kingdom to the Holy See but only should her children 'not return to the Christian faith'.[3]


"Portrait of a young woman", found at the Capitoline Museums, is often said to depict Catherine. The sitter, however, is in her twenties, while Catherine was over 40 when she came to Italy.[2] The sitter is mostly likely Catherine's contemporary, Isabella d'Este.[5][6]

Catherine is buried in the Roman church Santa Maria in Aracoeli.[7] Her tombstone features a life-size portrait with the emblems of the houses of Kotromanić and Kosača to each side. The inscription, originally written in Bosančica,[8][9] but in 1590 replaced with a Latin one,[3] reads:

To Catherine the Bosnian Queen
sister [sic] of Stjepan, Duke of Saint Sava,
born of Jelena into the House of Prince
Stjepan, King Thomas of Bosnia's
wife, who lived 53 years
and died on 25 October 1478

The memory of Queen Catherine, who was beatified after her death, is still alive in Central Bosnia, where Catholics traditionally mark 25 October with a mass in Bobovac 'at the altar of the homeland'. Some of the artifacts belonging to the Queen and the Kotromanić family were taken in 1871 by Josip Juraj Strossmayer from the Franciscan monastery in Kraljeva Sutjeska to Croatia for safekeeping until 'Bosnia is liberated'. They have never been returned.

Family tree[edit]

Vuk Kosača
Karl Topia
Stracimir Balšić
Lazar Hrebljanović
Milica Nemanjić
Hrana Vuković Kosača
Nicheta Topia
Đurađ II Balšić
Jelena Lazarević
Mara Lazarević
Vukac Hranić Kosača
Mara Topia
Balša III Balšić
Đurađ Branković
Stjepan Vukčić Kosača
Jelena Balšić
Lazar Branković
Hersekzade Ahmed Pasha
Vladislav Hercegović Kosača
Katarina Kosača
Stephen Thomas of Bosnia
Ishak Bey Kraloğlu
Catherine of Bosnia
Stephen Tomašević of Bosnia
Marija Branković


  1. ^ Franz Babinger, Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time, Princeton University Press, 1992
  2. ^ a b Hrvatska revija 9 (7-12). Matica hrvatska. 1936. p. 491. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h William Miller (1921). Essays on the Latin Orient. pp. 508–509. Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  4. ^ Borgatti (1926) p. 162
  5. ^ "Galleria dei Ritratti di Isabella d'Este (1474-1539) a cura di Lorenzo Bonoldi". Retrieved 8 June 2013. 
  6. ^ "Ritratto di giovinetta". Retrieved 8 June 2013. 
  7. ^ Thynne, Roger (1924). The churches of Rome. K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & co., ltd. p. 154. Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Original text written in Bosnian Cyrillic inscription


  • Borgatti, Mariano (1926). Borgo e S. Pietro nel 1300 - 1600 - 1925 (in Italian). Federico Pustet, Roma. 
  • Dubravka Nikolic, 'Čijom je naša kraljica?', SARTR, 2005
  • Ibrahim Kajan, 'Katarina, kraljica bosanska', 2004
  • Ibrahim Kajan, 'Tragom bosanskih kraljeva - putopis', 2003
  • Mijo Šain, 'Katrina Vukčić Kosača Kotromanić: 1424-1478', Kraljeva Sutjeska Online, 2004, [2]
  • Bosnian Queen Katarina
  • Klaić, Vjekoslav (1882). Poviest Bosne do propasti kraljevstva (in Croatian). 
  • Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja Bosne i Hercegovine u Sarajevu: Etnologija, Volumes 27-33. Zemaljski muzej Bosne i Hercegovine. 1973. 
  • Meyer Setton, Kenneth (1978). The Papacy and the Levant, 1204-1571: The fifteenth century. American Philosophical Society. Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
Catherine of Bosnia
Born: 1425/6 Died: 25 October 1478
Royal titles
Title last held by
Queen consort of Bosnia
26 May 1446 – 10 July 1461
Succeeded by
Maria of Serbia