Catherine of Bosnia
|Catherine of Bosnia|
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|
Catherine of Bosnia
|Father||Stjepan Vukčić Kosača|
Blagaj, Bosnia & Herzegovina
|Died||25 October 1478
|Burial||Santa Maria in Aracoeli|
|Religion||Roman Catholic, previously Bosnian Church|
Blessed Catherine of Bosnia (1425 – 25 October 1478) was Queen of Bosnia as the wife of King Stephen Thomas. She was a daughter of Stjepan Vukčić Kosača, Duke of Saint Sava. In local languages her name is often rendered Katarina Kosača or Kosača-Kotromanić; in Cyrillic: Катарина Косача Котроманић.
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.
She was born c. 1425 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.
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.
Having moved to Kraljeva Sutjeska, the seat of Bosnian kings, Catherine gave birth to two children: 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
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. 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 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. 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.
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.
In Rome, she lived in a house near the Church of St Mark and held her own 'court'. She died 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'.
Catherine is buried in the Roman church Santa Maria in Aracoeli. 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, but in 1590 replaced with a Latin one, 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.
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Kapitolinski portret prikazuje mladu, otprilike dvadesetogodišnju djevojku, dok kraljica Katarina dolazi prvi put u Italiju 1466., dakle u svojoj četrdeset drugoj godini...
- "Galleria dei Ritratti di Isabella d'Este (1474-1539) a cura di Lorenzo Bonoldi". engramma.it. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
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- Original text written in Bosnian Cyrillic inscription
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- Mijo Šain, 'Katrina Vukčić Kosača Kotromanić: 1424-1478', Kraljeva Sutjeska Online, 2004, 
- Bosnian Queen Katarina
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- Meyer Setton, Kenneth (1978). The Papacy and the Levant, 1204-1571: The fifteenth century. American Philosophical Society. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
Catherine of BosniaBorn: 1425/6 Died: 25 October 1478
Title last held byVojača
|Queen consort of Bosnia
26 May 1446 – 10 July 1461
Maria of Serbia