Demetrius Zvonimir of Croatia

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For other people of the same name, see Zvonimir (name).
Demetrius Zvonimir
Demetrius Sunimirio.jpg
Romantic portrait by Kristian Kreković
King of Croatia and Dalmatia[1]
Reign 1075–1089
Coronation 8 October 1076
Predecessor Peter Krešimir IV
Successor Stephen II
Ban of Slavonia
Reign c. 1064–1075
Predecessor Gojko
Successor Peter[2]
Spouse Helen of Hungary
Issue Radovan
Royal House House of Trpimirović
House of Svetoslavić (?)
Father Stjepan Svetoslavić (?)
Died 20 April 1089[3]
Knin, Kingdom of Croatia
Burial Church of St. Mary, Knin, Croatia
Religion Roman Catholic
The Oath of Zvonimir, Vatican fresco from 1611
Coronation of Zvonimir (Ferdo Quiquerez, painting from 1897)

Demetrius Zvonimir (Croatian: Dmitar Zvonimir, pronounced [dmîtar zʋônimiːr], Latin: Demetrius Sunimirio, died 20 April 1089i[›]) was King of Croatia from 1075 until his death in 1089. He was crowned as king in Solin on 8 October 1076. Zvonimir also ruled as Ban of Slavonia (1064–1074), and was named Duke of Croatia in around 1075. His native name was Zvonimir, while the name Demetrius (Dmitar in Croatian) was adopted at his coronation.

He began as Ban of Slavonia in the service of King Peter Krešimir IV. Afterwards, he was appointed as Duke of Croatia by Peter Krešimir IV, who later declared him as his heir. In 1075, Demetrius Zvonimir succeeded to the Croatian throne.[4] As a vassal of the Pope, his reign is characterized as relatively peaceful; with no extensive war campaigns, and economic and cultural development. He was the last native king who exerted any real power over the entire Croatian state, which he inherited at its height and ruled it from the city of Knin.


Although his exact origin is a speculation, a theory suggests that Zvonimir was most likely a descendant of Svetoslav Suronja and the younger cousin of Peter Krešimir IV. On another note, it is believed that he had no real connection with the Croatian royal family of Trpimirović but was designated by Krešimir IV and later elected (confirmed) by an assembly of nobles (bans).[5] The only few things that are truly known about his background assert that he had a magister (Latin for "teacher") named "Šestak", who also contributed to building monasteries around Croatia, that his maternal uncle was named Streza,[6] and that his family owned some estates near Biograd.

Banate of Slavonia and Croatia[edit]

During the reign of Peter Krešimir IV (his relative through the Orseoli family of Venice), Demetrius Zvonimir ruled in Slavonia, specifically the land between the rivers Drava and Sava, with the title of ban.[7] The term "Slavonia" (Latin: Sclavonia) at the time referred to both modern day Slavonia and North-West Croatia.[8]

The neighbouring Holy Roman Empire under Henry IV invaded Hungary in 1063 to restore Solomon to the throne. Hungary was then ruled by Béla I, whose third daughter Helen was married to Zvonimir. Croatia was also attacked around 1067 by the Carantanian army of Ulric I, who occupied a part of Kvarner and eastern coast of Istria, the March of Dalmatia.[9] Since the Croatian king was preoccupied with rebellion in Dalmatia, due to the prohibition of Slavic liturgy,[5] Zvonimir was compelled to seek protection from Solomon, King of Hungary instead. Géza I and Solomon helped Zvonimir in restoring his rule in the March of Dalmatia. After they jointly repelled the Carantanians from Croatia,[10] Ban Zvonimir sent gifts to Solomon as a sign of gratitude.[11] Shortly afterwards in 1070 Zvonimir is first mentioned as a ban in the service of King Peter Krešimir IV in charters from Zadar.[9][12] Croatian charters at the time were issued in the names of both King Peter Krešimir and Ban Zvonimir.[13]

At the beginning of 1075, Peter Krešimir IV named Demetrius Zvonimir "by the grace of God Duke of Croatia". This title made him not only the ruler of northern Dalmatia, but also the chief advisor of the king and his heir. In that same year, Normans from southern Italy, led by Count Amico, invaded Croatia and captured a certain Croatian ruler whose name is not known, possibly King Peter Krešimir, who died soon after and was succeeded by Demetrius Zvonimir.[5] About the middle of 1075, Zvonimir regained the allegiance of the coastal cities of Dalmatia which had been lost to the Normans.[14]

Reign as king[edit]

Baška tablet, 1100 AD

Demetrius Zvonimir was crowned on 8 October 1076[4] at Solin in the Basilica of Saint Peter and Moses (known today as the Hollow Church) by a representative of Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085).[15][16] Zvonimir took an oath of allegiance to Pope, by which he promised his support in the implementations of the Church reforms in Croatia. After the Papal legate crowned him, Zvonimir in 1076 gave the Benedictine monastery of Saint Gregory in Vrana to the Pope as a sign of loyalty and as an accommodation for papal legates coming to Croatia.[17] The title of Zvonimir was "King of Croatia and Dalmatia" (Latin: Rex Chroatie atque Dalmatie), while his name and title in Croatian language, as found on the Baška tablet, was "Zvonimir, kral hrvatski" (English: Zvonimir, Croatian king), in Glagolitic script zvъnъmirъ, kralъ xrъvatъskъ.

Zvonimir is known for building a three-naved basilica near Knin and the city is today nicknamed "Zvonimir's city". He continued the expansive and pro-Roman policies of his predecessor, maintaining close alliance with the papacy. He instituted the Gregorian reform and made many domestic reforms, such as the abolition of slavery. Following Zvonimir's coronation, the papal legates summoned a church council in Split, which reiterated the ban on the use of Slavic language in liturgy and the condemnation of the Cyrillic alphabet, which the council of 1060 branded as heresy.[18]

Zvonimir sought to gain firmer control of his kingdom by ousting various local nobles (hereditary provincial leaders and landlords) from local administration and replacing them with his own supporters, court nobles and high clerics, since he had close ties with the papacy. The provincial nobles were governing their provinces (županije) with a significant level of internal independence.[19]

At first, he was in a minor conflict with the one of the dukes from Istria (a sevant of emperor Henry II) who was preparing for an attack on Croatia, in which the pope interfered in 1079 and settled the fray on behalf of Zvonimir.[14] The Annales Carinthiæ and Chronica Hungarorum record that Zvonimir eventually invaded Carinthia to aid Hungary in war during 1079/83, but this is disputed. Demetrius Zvonimir also took a hard line against the Byzantine Empire, but, unlike Peter Krešimir IV, he was also an ally of the Normans, with whom he joined in wars against Byzantium. When Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia, invaded the western Balkan provinces of the empire in 1084, Zvonimir sent troops to his aid.[20]

Engagement of Demetrius Zvonimir and Jelena by Celestin Medović (1920.)


There are several versions of Zvonimir's death. The most commonly accepted one, recorded by Thomas the Archdeacon, asserts that Zvonimir died of natural causes.[21][22] Another account, from the Presbyter of Doclea, says that on 20 April 1089, desiring to heal the East-West Schism Pope Urban II asked Zvonimir, his strongest Balkan ally, to come to the military aid of Alexios I Komnenos against the Seljuks. Zvonimir convened the Sabor at Kosovo Polje near Knin that year to mobilize the army on behalf of the pope and the emperor, but the nobility refused him and a rebellion erupted, leading to Zvonimir's assassination at the hands of his own soldiers.[3] His death marked the collapse of Croatian royal power. The myth of the "Curse of King Zvonimir" is based on the legend of his assassination.[23] He was most likely buried in the church of St. Mary in his capital Knin,[14] while his remains were transferred to Solin some time after. An epitaph to his grave was recorded (although, assumed as a forgery from centuries later):


Demetrius Zvonimir was married to his distant relative Jelena, the sister of Ladislaus I of Hungary.[24] Through Helen, he was connected to the royal families of not only Hungary, but also Poland, Denmark, Bulgaria, and Byzantium. She bore him a son, Radovan, who predeceased him, and a daughter, Claudia, who was married to the vojvoda of Lapcani Lika. Since Zvonimir died without leaving an heir from his posterity,[21] he was succeeded by Stephen II, last of the House of Trpimirović. Stephen II died in 1091, at which point Ladislaus became the best candidate for the succession.


In c. 1063 Zvonimir married Helen, daughter of Béla I of Hungary and his wife Richeza of Poland. They had three children:

  • Radovan[25](c. 1065 – 1083/1089), designated heir, but is dead before 1089[26]
  • Claudia, wife of Vonick, Voivode of Lapčani, Lika[27]
  • Vinica, wife of Michael Nelipčić[27]


Monument in Knin

The culturally and historically significant Baška tablet was inscribed shortly after his death and contains references to him and a number of his nobles of the 11th century. For the first time, Baška tablet mentions the title of Croatian Kings in Croatian: kral (kralj in modern Croatian).[28]

"Zvonimir" is today a traditional and quite common Croatian name meaning "sound, chime" (zvoni) and "peace, prestige" (mir),[29] King Zvonimir being the first recorded bearer of the name.

The Grand Order of King Dmitar Zvonimir, which is awarded to high-ranking officials, is named after him.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arhinet - "rex Chrobatorum et Dalmatinorum, rex (tocius) Chroacie atque Dalmacie, Chroatorum atque Dalmatinorum rex"
  2. ^ Hupi - Popis Hrvatskih banova
  3. ^ a b Death of King Zvonimir - problem, sources and interpretation
  4. ^ a b Dominik Mandić, Rasprave i prilozi iz stare hrvatske povijesti, Institute of Croatian history, Rome, 1963, pages 315, 438.
  5. ^ a b c Neven Budak: Prva stoljeća Hrvatske, Hrvatska sveučilišna naklada, Zagreb 1994, p. 31-33
  6. ^ Znameniti i zaslužni Hrvati: te pomena vrijedna lica u hrvatskoj povijesti od 925-1925, str. X, Odbor za izdanje knjige "Zaslužni i znamenti Hrvati 925-1925." Emilije Laszowski, Zagreb 1925.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Ivo Goldstein: Hrvatski rani srednji vijek, Zagreb, 1995, p. 389-390
  9. ^ a b Nada Klaić, Povijest Hrvata u ranom srednjem vijeku, Zagreb 1975., p. 377-379
  10. ^ SS rerum hungaricarum I, p. 364 "Misit itaque rex Zolomerus Dalmacie, qui sororius Geyse erat, nuncios ad regem Salomonem et ducem Geysam, et rogavit eos, ut propria persona eorum contra adversarios suos, scilicet Carantanos ipsumadiuvarent, qui tunc marchiam Dalmacie occupaverant. Rex igitur et dux collecto exercitu iverunt inDalmatiam, et ablatam sibi restituerunt integre."
  11. ^ Ferdo Šišić, Povijest Hrvata u vrijeme narodnih vladara, 1925, Zagreb ISBN 86-401-0080-2
  12. ^ Codex Diplomaticus Regni Croatiæ, Dalamatiæ et Slavoniæ, Vol I, pages 115, 121, 129
  13. ^ John Van Antwerp Fine: The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, 1991, p. 279
  14. ^ a b c Ferdo Šišić, Povijest Hrvata; pregled povijesti hrvatskog naroda 600. - 1918., Zagreb ISBN 953-214-197-9
  15. ^ Demetrius, Duke of Croatia and Dalmatia He was granted the royal title by Gregory after pledging "Peter's Pence" to the Pope.
  16. ^ Tomislav Raukar Hrvatsko srednjovjekovlje, Školska knjiga, Zagreb, 1997. ISBN 953-0-30703-9, str. 49
  17. ^ Florin Curta: Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500-1250, p. 262
  18. ^ Florin Curta: Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500-1250, p. 263
  19. ^ John Van Antwerp Fine: The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, 1991, p. 283
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b Archdeacon Thomas of Split: Historia Salonitana, 17, p. 93.
  22. ^ Marcus Tanner, Croatia - a nation forged in war, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1997 ISBN 0-300-06933-2
  23. ^ Damir K., The Šubići and the Good King Zvonimir. A Contribution to the Research on Use of Legends as a Means of Politics of Croatian Aristocratic Families, Zagreb 2000
  24. ^ Trpimir Macan, Povijest hrvatskoga naroda, Zagreb, 1992.
  25. ^ Monumenta Historiam Slavorum Meridionalium, Vol. VII, Acta, 51, p. 66.
  26. ^ Codex Diplomaticus Croatiæ, Vol. I, CCXI, p. 177.
  27. ^ a b Monumenta Historiam Slavorum Meridionalium, Vol. VII, Acta, 121, p. 146.
  28. ^ Baska tablet - Dr. sc. Mateo Zagar
  29. ^


^ i: This is the date generally given when it comes to the theory of his assassination, as it was reported by many.

External links[edit]

Demetrius Zvonimir of Croatia
Died: 20 April 1089
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ban of Slavonia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Peter Krešimir IV
King of Croatia
Succeeded by
Stephen II