Siege of Novo Brdo (1440–41)

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Siege of Novo Brdo
Part of the Ottoman wars in Europe and Serbian-Ottoman Wars
Novo Brdo Castle 07.JPG
Remnants of the Novo Brdo Fortress
DateOctober 1440 – 27 June 1441
42°36′N 21°26′E / 42.600°N 21.433°E / 42.600; 21.433
Result Eventual Ottoman victory
Novo Brdo temporarily captured by the Ottomans
 Ottoman Empire Despot of Serbia.png Serbian Despotate
St. Blaise - National Flag of the Ragusan Republic.png Republic of Ragusa
Commanders and leaders

Ottoman Empire Murad II

Ottoman Empire Hadım Şehabeddin

Despot of Serbia.png Đurađ Branković

Despot of Serbia.png Voivode Prijezda
Casualties and losses
Unknown heavy casualties of the population of Novo Brdo

The Siege of Novo Brdo was a military blockade of Novo Brdo, an important fortified mining town in the Serbian Despotate, by the forces of the Ottoman Empire. The siege began in 1440 and lasted until the capture of the fortress on 27 June 1441. During the siege, the Serbian garrison was supported by the local community of citizens of the Republic of Ragusa.


Novo Brdo was one of the largest cities in the Balkans,[1][2] and because of its rich gold and silver mines it was the most important non-coastal city in the Balkans in the 14th and 15th centuries.[3] The Ottomans unsuccessfully besieged it in 1412 and in 1427[4] when they used cannons constructed for the 1422 siege of Constantinople.[5]

In 1439 Ottoman forces led by sultan Murad II attacked the Serbian Despotate. Serbian Despot Đurađ Branković fled to Hungary to seek support for the defense of his realm, organized by his son Grgur. Smederevo was the capital and the most important city of the Serbian Despotate. During the siege of Smederevo in 1439, Murad II ordered the marcher-lord Ishak-Beg, who was on his return from Mecca, to join forces with Hadım Şehabeddin and besiege Novo Brdo. On 6 August 1439 the Ottoman forces under Ishak-Beg defeated Serbian forces near Novo Brdo.[6] The Ottomans captured Smederevo on 18 August 1439 which reduced the territory of the Serbian Despotate to Zeta and a region around Novo Brdo. The forces under Murad II joined Ishak-Beg to attack Novo Brdo, but its garrison successfully repelled their attacks. The Ottomans realized that it would be difficult to capture the well-defended Novo Brdo, so Murad II ordered for retreat and a stay in Skopje during the winter. Before they did so, they robbed caravans of Ragusan merchants,[7] while Murad II went to Adrianople.[8] The Ottomans allowed Grgur Branković to govern his father's former estates in southern Serbia, as Ottoman vassal.[9] During spring and summer of 1440 the Ottomans again besieged Belgrade, cannons cast in Smederevo captured a year before, but without success.[10]


The layout of the Novo Brdo Fortress

In 1440, after the failure at Belgrade,[11][12] the Ottoman forces commanded by beylerbey or Rumelia Hadım Şehabeddin,[13][14] again besieged Novo Brdo.[6]

The garrisoned Serbian forces were also supported by citizens of the Republic of Ragusa,[15] Ragusa having instructed their subjects in Novo Brdo to help defend the town. Ragusans, who were predominantly merchants, were practically forced to resist the Ottomans because otherwise their property in Novo Brdo would be confiscated, like it was in the case of Ragusan merchants who happened to be outside of the town when the siege began and refused to return to it.[16]

Despot Đurađ Branković and his wife traveled from Hungary to Zeta, accompanied with several hundred cavalry and vojvoda Petar Spani.[17] They first went to Zagreb, to Đurađ's sister Katarina who was the wife of Ulrich II, Count of Celje.[18] Then Branković arrived at Ragusa (Dubrovnik) at the end of July 1440 and after several days he continued his journey toward his coastal towns of Budva and Bar[19] which became the new capital of the remaining part of his despotate. In the period between 1 July 1440 and his arrival at Bar, the Ottoman forces defeated some military units from Novo Brdo in a battle near Makreš (a village near modern-day Gnjilane).[20][21]

In August 1440 Branković arrived to Bar where he stayed until the end of the winter 1440–41.[9] There he tried to mobilize forces to recapture the territory of the Serbian Despotate he lost to the Ottomans.[9] At the same time, Branković maintained communication with the garrison in Novo Brdo[22] and his son Grgur, who at the time was an Ottoman governor. That was one of the main reasons why the Ottomans, probably justifiably, accused Grgur for treason and dismissed him from his governorship in April 1441. On 8 May 1441, both Grgur and his brother Stefan were blinded, based on the order of Sultan Murad II.[23][24] Branković faced another disappointment in Zeta where he found out that the Crnojevići rebelled against vojvoda Komnen, the governor of Zeta.[9][23] Branković left Zeta in April 1441[25] and resided in Ragusa for a while. This angered the Ottomans who requested, through their envoy Agub, that Ragusa should hand over Branković. Ragusans refused this request and explained in a letter to Ishak-Beg and Hadım Şehabeddin that Ragusa has not accepted Branković because he was an enemy of the sultan but because it was a free city that accepts anybody who seeks shelter in it. They also emphasized that Branković being in Ragusa is the best guarantee that he would not undertake any action against the Ottomans.[26] Ragusans wanted to send their diplomats to Hadım Şehabeddin and requested his written guarantee for their safe conduct. On 13 June 1441 Hadım Şehabeddin, who was in Vučitrn at the time, issued the requested guarantee to the Ragusans.[26]

During the siege of Novo Brdo its population suffered heavy casualties.[27] On 27 June 1441[A] Novo Brdo surrendered to the Ottoman forces, who then robbed and burned the captured town.[28][12]


Đurađ Branković received the news about the fall of Novo Brdo when he was in Zeta. Stephen Vukčić, who was an Ottoman vassal at that time, used weak position of the Serbian Despot and tried to capture Zeta. After he successfully penetrated into Zeta highlands, Venetian Republic captured Zeta's coastal cities and regions based on agreement with despot Branković that they will protect his possessions from falling under Ottoman control.[29] Branković realized that he lost all of his territory and power base which supplied him with troops necessary to secure his suzerainty, so he moved to his estates in Hungary. Eventually, Zeta fell under control of the local tribes, with the Crnojevići noble family trying to assert their dominance.[9] The Ottomans made significant efforts to again raise Novo Brdo and gave substantial privileges to people who settled in it and worked in its mines[30] while its Serb citizens were awarded with trading privileges.[31] Within next three years the Ottomans re-established the mint in Novo Brdo[32] which began to strike akçe for the first time.[33]

In 1444, during the Crusader Long Campaign, Novo Brdo was recaptured from the Ottomans and again became a part of the reestablished Serbian Despotate until it finally fell to the Ottoman control on 1 June 1455.[1] Among the survivors of the siege was Dimitrije Kantakouzenos.[34] In 1455, the Ottomans forced the besieged to surrender because they used heavy artillery. All men of any distinguished rank or importance were decapitated under orders of sultan Mehmed II. An estimated 320 boys were taken to become janissaries (devşirme). Approximately 700 girls and young women were given to Ottoman soldiers and their commanders.[35] The siege and its aftermath were described in Memoirs of a janissary, written in 1490—1501 by Novo Brdo resident Konstantin Mihailović, who was one of the boys taken. In 1455 the last voivode of Serbian despot in Novo Brdo was Lješ Spanović.[36]


  1. ^ Some Ottoman chronicles gives 1439 as year of Ottoman capture of Novo Brdo, while scholarly consensus accept the other primary sources and Serbian chronicles which set 1441 as a date of the fall of Novo Brdo.


  1. ^ a b Setton 1978, p. 58.
  2. ^ Singleton, Frederick Bernard (1970). Yugoslavia; the country and its people. Queen Anne Press. p. 92. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the settlement of Novo Brdo, near Pristina, was described as "the largest and finest city in all the Balkans".
  3. ^ Babinger 1992, p. 126.
  4. ^ Panić-Surep, Milorad (1965). Yugoslavia: Cultural Monuments of Serbia. Turistička štampa. p. 149.[better source needed]
  5. ^ Lēv, Yaacov (1997). War and Society in the Eastern Mediterranean: 7th - 15th Centuries. BRILL. p. 354. ISBN 90-04-10032-6.
  6. ^ a b Jefferson 2012, p. 165.
  7. ^ Glasnik Muzeja Kosova i Metohije. Muzej. 1956. p. 263. Posle toga, uvidevái da ce im biti tesko da osvoje bógate i dobro branjeno Novo Brdo, Turci presreéu karavane Dubravcana i pljaëkaju ih i zauzimaju vazne prilaze ka Novom Brdu. Тек 1440 godine Turci su ponovo napali Novo Brdo i posle ...
  8. ^ Šolajić, Dragutin (1954). Ratna prošlost Beograda. Beogradske novine. p. 47. Мурат је са осталом војском кренуо у помоћ Исак-бегу под Ново Брдо. Међутим, јуначка посада Новог Брда одолевала ...
  9. ^ a b c d e Fine 1994, p. 531.
  10. ^ Parry, Vernon J.; Yapp, Malcolm (1975). War, technology and society in the Middle East. Oxford University Press. p. 185.
  11. ^ Setton, Kenneth M.; Hazard, Harry W.; Zacour, Norman P., eds. (1989). A History of the Crusades, Volume VI: The Impact of the Crusades on Europe. Madison and London: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 287. ISBN 0-299-10740-X. Following his unsuccessful attempt on Belgrade in 1440, Murad had taken Novo Brdo with its valuable silver mines in 1441, while Turkish raiding parties plundered as far as Belgrade before being defeated by Hunyadi, who pursued them to ...
  12. ^ a b Vojni muzej JNA (1957). Vesnik. Belgrade. p. 223. Tek 1440 godine Turci su ponovo napali Novo Brdo i posle jednogodisnje opsade uspeli su da ga zauzmu 21 juna 1441 godine ... Posle toga Novo Brdo su opljaökali i popalild.
  13. ^ Angold, Michael (17 August 2006). The Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 5, Eastern Christianity. Cambridge University Press. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-521-81113-2. Şihabeddin Pasha was the commander of the Ottoman armies which conquered Novo Brdo in 1441.
  14. ^ Imber, Colin (1990). The Ottoman empire: 1300–1481. Isis. p. 119. ISBN 978-975-428-015-9. Serbian annals record, in July, 1441, §ihabeddin Pasha captured Novo Brdo, the centre of the silver-mining district of southern Serbia.
  15. ^ Sedlar, Jean W (1 March 2011). East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500. University of Washington Press. p. 384. ISBN 978-0-295-80064-6. In 1441 it participated in the defense of Novo Brdo in Bosnia, the principal source of Serbian silver; and twice it gave asylum to the Serbian Despot George Brankovic when Turkish pressure forced him into exile. In 1444 Dubrovnik's fleet ...
  16. ^ Božić 1952, p. 83.
  17. ^ Glas. SANU. 1983. p. 72.
  18. ^ Slavisticheskiĭ sbornik. Matica. 1989. p. 100. ... жене Улриха Целског, а потом у Бар (Зету је jош сачувао од Турака).
  19. ^ Povijest Bosne i Hercegovine: od najstarijih vremena do godine 1463. Hrvatsko kulturno društvo Napredak. 1998. p. 497. ISBN 978-9958-840-00-5.
  20. ^ Novaković, Stojan (1966). Iz srpske istorije. Matica srpska. p. 184.
  21. ^ Mijatović, Čedomilj (1907). Despot Đurađ Branković. p. 295. Негде између 1-ог јула и доласка Деспотова у Бар Новобpдска се војска тукла с турском код Макреша.
  22. ^ Božić 1952, p. 86.
  23. ^ a b SKA (1929). Godišnjak. 38. SKA. p. 286.
  24. ^ Новаковић, Стојан (1972). Из српске историје. Matica srpska. p. 201. .. и како их је 8. маја ослепио, а потом како је јуна те године Хадом-паша узео Ново Брдо и све српске градове.
  25. ^ Odjeljenje društvenih nauka. Društvo za nauku i umjetnost Crne Gore. 1975.
  26. ^ a b Božić 1952, p. 88.
  27. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 104.
  28. ^ Setton, Kenneth M.; Hazard, Harry W.; Zacour, Norman P. (1 June 1990). A History of the Crusades: The Impact of the Crusades on Europe. Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 267. ISBN 978-0-299-10744-4. The Ottoman conquest of Novo Brdo, a center of silver production, took place on June 27, 1441; see JireSek, Geschichte der Serben, II, 178.
  29. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 134.
  30. ^ Hercegovine, Istorisko društvo Bosne i (1954). Godišnjak. p. 72.
  31. ^ Božić 1952, p. 87.
  32. ^ Hillenbrand, Carole (2000). Studies in Honour of Clifford Edmund Bosworth, Volume II: The Sultan's Turret: Studies in Persian and Turkish Culture. Brill. p. 117. ISBN 978-90-04-11075-5.
  33. ^ Balkan studies. Édition de lA̕cadémie bulgare des sciences. 1988. p. 111. The mint at Novo brdo (in Turkish "Novar"), was the first to start striking Ottoman akçe — as early as 1441, when Murad Il's military commander, the eunuch Sibab ed-Din pasa captured the town, which had the greatest silver deposits and the ...
  34. ^ Serbian poetry from the beginnings to the present. 1988. p. 32. As a child, Dimitrije Kantakuzin experienced the siege of Novo Brdo by the Turks, which lasted for two years after the fall of Smederevo, until 1441. He saw the town fall to the Turks, and the citizens rise up again and resist. And, in 1455, when ...
  35. ^ Dusan T. Batakovic, "Kosovo and Metohija Under the Turkish Rule" (in English)
  36. ^ SANU 1980, p. 57.