Law for the Vlachs of Cetina (1436)

The castle Klis where Bulat Kustražić recieved a confirmation of the old nobility of the House of Kustražić on the 18th March 1436.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen. We, Prince Ivan Frankopan, Prince of Krk, Prince of Modruš, Prince of Cetina and Prince of Klis and further Ban of Dalmatia and Croat give to see to every man whom it pertains by our open charter, that good and honest men came before us, the former loyal and true servants of Ban Ivaniš Ivanović, all the good Vlachs: Viganj Dubravčić, Ninoje Sanković, Tomaš Ročević, Matijaš Vukčić, Milić Ostojić, Dragić Prodanić, Blaž Kočić, Hrelja Golešević, Vukat Vojinović, Ivaniš Grobačić, Budanj Grubišić, Biloslav Dražević, Jelovac Draživojević, Radivoj Vitković, Bulat Kustražić, Ivan Poznanović and all the good Vlachs asking for their good and fair laws, which were during the former lord and Ban Ivaniš Ivanović and his father Prince Ivan. And We, seeing the right and suitable wanting of them welcomed them, the good men, former faithful servants of Ban Ivaniš, as our servants and the servants of our descendants, and we granted, gave and confirmed their just and good laws, the laws which were the best and most rightful for them and their former lord Ban Ivaniš and his father Prince Ivan, and which laws were used by their elders; and these are the good laws:

1. Firstly, that no prince forces himself upon them.
2. In agreement with us, they are free to change a prince whom they find detestable.
3. Those Vlachs that have villages are free to tax.
4. Those who do not have a villages, these are to go on horseback with shield and sword, but also with arrows and swords.
5. The ones who do not go to battle and are commanded, pay six libars, from this a tenth goes to the Vlach duke.
6. That their horses are not taken away for any wrongdoing.
7. That they do not go to battle from the feast of St. Stephen’s until the feast of St. Martin.
8. And when they go to battle, that two-thirds of the soldiers go, and a third follows them with flour and cows.
9. And that above them no Croat is duke, rather that one among them is duke who commands them and makes agreements with the Prince.
10. And that their court is beneath Sinj and that no Croat is prince or judge on their courts.
11. That the prince and judges are to visit two times a year the Vlach lands of the above mentioned.
12. And that no one is robbed by force, except what is declared by justice.
13. From every sentenced fine that a third is left, and the judge receives a tenth of the sentenced fine.
14. And from our earnings the prince also receives a tenth.
15. Who receives sentence in fines, a sheep is taken for a libar, and a cow for six libar.
16. That there is a deadline of twenty days to pay and return them, if he does not pay until then, it is forfeit.
17. That every village is to give a ram or a sheep of the feast of St. George, and a lamb and cheese by who is poor, and who does not have cheese is to give small coin.
18. And a ducat, by the law is worth seventy and four bolanča for those who have kulse (?) and thirty brav (?) and who is poor two ducat and imri (?) and in autumn on the feast of St. Martin they are to give by their law from every kulse a dinar the catunars and the courtier.
19. That in Cetina they pay no tax on their commerce.
20. That no one can be hanged for any wrongdoing.
21. And that the above mentioned men, the good catunars, keep half of the income made by their people, as it was during the former lord and Ban Ivaniš.
22. A Vlach can not sue another Vlach for one a hundred libar who himself does not have a hundred libar.
23. That a mercenary or stableman cannot sue his lord.
24. And that a Serb may not sue a Vlach, and a Vlach not a Serb.
25. And that he cannot (unreadable) nor witness nor jury, nor anyone who is not a officer.
26. And that he may not testify in court under four bolanča.
27. That they do not give tax for the mountain valley, neither in winter, nor there where they did not give during the time of Ban Ivaniš.
28. And that the Croats do not hold Vlachs, except one shepherd.

So, the Prince of the Vlachs and all the above mentioned good men, all the catunars tied their faith and their soul so that they will serve us and our descendants, and We promised to them and accepted with our lordly word that We wish to confirm all the above written laws and keep through the ages the just laws of them and their descendants, as long as they serve us justly and faithfully. And to this we gave them our open charter, because all the above mentioned good men catunars, with their brothers and their counties and their municipalities, promised and tied to us their faiths and souls, that Us and Our descendants they and their descendants will to serve with their heads, their treasure and all their power and not to leave us and our descendants against any men.

Written on Klis on the month of March on the 18th day of the year 1436 since the birth of Jesus Christ. And to all this written above we hold true and further what was said and given with good will.

The oldest transcription of the document is found in the Monastery of Our Lady of Trsat in Rijeka, Croatia where the father of Prince Ivan VI Frankopan, Prince Nikola IV Frankopan († 1432) is buried

The tombstone of prince Nikola IV Frankopan ban of Dalmatia and Croatia located in the Franciscan monastery of Our Lady of Trsat in Rijeka, Croatia.

The privileges granted to this coalition of Vlach nobleman speak enough on their own of the antiquity and respectability of these noble houses. The fact that the catunars had the ability to elect their own prince and dukes from among their ranks shows that the noble houses from which they descended were of ancient lineages, and that their ancestors held higher noble titles such as knez (prince) and vojvoda (duke or warlord) although they were not hereditary as the titles of katunar. Several of the noble houses mentioned in the document have their coat of arms preserved, while some are lost.

The coat of arms of the House of Vojinović bears on the middle flag the same star-moon-star symboly configuration as is found on the tombstones of the House of Kustražić

One such name is catunar Vukat Vojinović who was a member of the noble House of Vojnović which originated from Serbia. The first traceable ancestor of the House of Vojnović was duke Vojin (fl. 1322) who was a grandson of King Stefan Dečanski († 1331) and was therefore related to the House of Nemanjić. This house was very influential in the Principality of Hum and later became a part of the Dubrovnik aristocracy. It is of great interest that the star-moon-star symbol, found on the tombstones of both catunar Jerko Kustražić and catunar Bulat Kustražić are also found on the coat of arms of the Vojinović family that is on the middle flag. The coat of arms appears also in other Illyrian Armorials with a fleur-de-lis symbol instead of the star, which is also interesting to notice since the coat of arms of Bosnia and France share the symbol. The following families also bear in their coat of arms symbols akin to these which would signify their direct connection to Bogumil heresy and to the Bosnian Church.

The document mentions two catunars who were related, these are catunar Ninoje Sanković who
House of Bogopanković House of Draživojević (Dražojević) House of Sanković (Senčević) was a member of the notable House of Sanković (Senčević) and catunar Jelovac Draživojević a member of the House of Draživojević (Dražojević). Both of these noblemen shared a common ancestor of Vlach origin which was called Bogopanec (Bogopanković) and who was the progenitor of the noble House of Bogopanković, the parent house of both the House of Draživojević and Sanković. Bogopanec is mentioned in a folk tale along with Relja Krilatica who was an ancestor of the famous House of Ohmučević, a nobleman who built the Orthodox Monastery of Rila. One of his descendants was called Dražen Bogopenec (fl. 1306) and held the title of župan (Slavic: prince) in the Principality of Hum. His son was župan Miltjen Draživojević († c. 1343) whose first mention is in 1322 along with the Ban of Bosnia Stephen II Kotromanić and in 1334 with Emperor Dušan Nemanjić († 1355). Miltjen Draživojević was the progenitor of the House of Draživojević (Dražojević) which would later rise to prominence in the Principality of Poljice. His sons were Sanko Miltenović (fl. 1335). The line formed through Sanko Miltenović would become the House of Sanković (Senčević) through his son Bjeljak Sanković († 1391) which became one of the richest families from the Principality of Hum. The family is a great example of how a noble house would change it’s own surname through a single generation. We see that the name of the father is taken and from it a new surname is generated in this way Bogopenec becomes Bogopanković, Dražen becomes Dražojević and Sanko becomes Sanković. The latter is the only exception since the Senčević variation of the surname Sanković is derived from Senco, the Latin transcription of the name of Sanko Miltenović. Thus, we can conclude that the different transcriptions must be taken into serious account as they often represent the same family and noble house under a slightly different name as we shall see in other cases among the nobleman mentioned in the “Law for the Vlachs of Cetina” written on 18th March 1436 by Prince Ivan VI Frankopan.

Seal of the House of Sanković

The House of Sanković used an enigmatic symbol as their seal, the meaning of which has not been fully understood in academic circles. This symbol has the features of a horn which was without a doubt a symbol connected to the Bosnian Church. In the Illyrian Armorials the House of Sanković (Senčević) is depicted with a stag rising above the helmet which is a symbol of pre-Christian origin depicted very often on the stećak (standing tombstones). We may, also conclude that the symbol was a stylised form of antlers, perhaps even an indirect reference to the antlered god Veles (or Volos) who is connected to the name Vlach and which could be the same antlered pagan deity Cernnunos given that the Vlachs are a people of Celtic origin.

Catunar Milić Ostojić was a member of the House of Ostojić. This noble house belonged to the ancient noble House of Krstić (Križić). The first traceable ancestor of the House of Krstić is known as ban Jerolim of Usora from 1273. Another noble family which belonged to the ancient noble House of Križić was the House of Šimraković. This is visible since both the House of Ostojić and Šimraković have the same escutcheon. The noble House of Krstić (Križić) from which the House of Ostojić and the House of Šimraković descended received its name from Prince Ostoja of Rama (✶ c. 1340) who was the illegitimate son of King Stephen Tvrtko I of Bosnia (✶ c. 1338 – † 1391). The House of Križić received in 1244 a confirmation of their nobility from King Bela IV of Hungary which was sadly destroyed by the Ottomans according to a grant of nobility later given in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. How or when the House of Šimraković branched from the House of Križić is unknown, however the name Šimrak from which the Šimraković cadet branch came into being suggesting it was a person called Šimrak Krstić. To understand the connection to the Vlachs one must look to another part of Croatia where the Vlachs live even today i. e. a village called Šimraki where the Greek Catholics of Žumberak are found. These are former Orthodox Vlachs converted to the Catholic faith during the era of the Habsburg Monarchy and the most famous of them is Dr. Janko Šimrak (✶ 1883 – † 1946) and this family and village could be related to the historical House of Šimraković since both are of Vlach origin. Members of the family served on the courts of the kings from the House of Kotromanić and held the title tepčija (Old Slavic: scribe). The symbolism of the escutcheon is clearly related to the Kingdom of Bosnia and the Bosnian Church. The star and moon are repeated in a different manner along with the fleur-de-lis. This family received confirmation of their old nobility by the Republic of Venice and settled in Trogir where it flourished.

Catunar Budanj Grubišić was a descendant of the noble House of Grubišević (Grubišić) which hailed from Olovo in Central Bosnia. The earliest recorder ancestor of this noble family was Grubiša who held the title peharnik (Slavic: cup-bearer). He is mentioned in 1234 in a charter from Ban Matej Ninoslav († c. 1250). The branch which stayed in Bosnia eventually died out while another branch moved to the Makarska Riviera and settled in Tučepi similarly like the House of Bulat which moved to Zaostrog. This family received confirmation of their old nobility and branched into the House of Brnjaković while some of the family members moved to the Kingom of Hungary.

Coat of arms of the House of Vlatković

Catunar Radivoj Vitković was a nobleman from the House of Bogavčić-Radivojević-Jurjević-Vlatković. This can only be ascertained given that the original Law for the Vlachs of Cetina did not survive and that a transcription was made where Vlatković became Vitković. The first traceable ancestor of the family Bogavac, a Vlach whose first son was called Radivoje Bogavčić (fl. 1358). The following generation was Juraj Radivojević (fl. 1371) who was married to Vladika the granddaughter of King Stephan Dabiša (fl. 1395) which is important since the village Dabešin is located close to Zavala, the old feudal estate of the other branch of the House of Radulović which would later migrate to Italy and acquire the title marquise of Polignano and would make a family armorial. His son Vlatko Jurjević (fl. 1435) was the progenitor of the House of Vlatković (Vitković). The son of Vlatko Jurjević was called duke Ivaniš Vlatković († c. 1482) acquired the hereditary title of Duke of Hum in 1404 while the family had estates in the northern hinterlands of Biokovo where the necropolis of Cista Provo is found and the tombstone of catunar Jerko Kustražić. One of his known brothers was Radivoj Vlatković (fl. 1452) since it was a old custom among the nobility to give the name of the grandfather to a son. This would mean that Radivoj Vlatković received his name from Radivoje Bogavčić. This house wanted to create its own semi-independent state. After failing to do so the family regained much of its former estates in 1408 and were confirmed as their hereditary owners in a charter from 1417 King Stephen Ostoja of Bosnia († 1418). During the conflict with Grand Duke Sandalj Hranić (✶ 1370 – † 1435) they sided with Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg (✶ 1368 – † 1437) but were later forced to accept the rule of his oldest nephew grand duke Stjepan Vukčić Kosača (✶ c. 1404 – † 1466). It is perhaps for this reason why the coat of arms of this notable and powerful house is not found among the Illyrian Armorials.

Catunar Matijaš Vukčić was most likely a son of Prince Vukac Vukotić (fl. 1419) from whom he recieved the surname. This noble house belonged to the ancient house of Crijepović which held the title prince of Foča and established a trade route with the coast. Very little information remains preserved about this family as is the case with many Bosnian noble houses whose genealogy and ancestry was destroyed and heavily damaged during the Ottoman invasions.

The remaining surnames of the mentioned catunars, whose parent houses are for now not ascertained, but they are also most likely relatives of each other and descendants from the nobility of the Kingdom of Bosnia and the Principality of Hum. The following segment will analyse a quartered coat of arms of the House of Radulović taken from the families Illyrian Armorial of Modena where several of the mentioned noble houses have their escutcheons along with the one of the House of Radulović so as to signal the ancient ancestry of the House of Radulović. As mentioned before the House of Radulović also made in their own armorial a quartered coat of arms which included some of the families mentioned in the ‘Law for the Vlachs of Cetina‘ such as the House of Sanković (Senčević) and the House of Ostojić with whom the family had relations in the past. Since no genealogy of the early years of the family during the 12th & 13th century survives, this could be considered the only proof of the families earlier relations.

It is interesting to notice that a descendant from the noble House of Vojinović, whose name was dr. Kosta Vojnović Užički (✶ 1832 – † 1903) was in contact with Gajo Filomen Bulat (✶ 1836 – † 1900) who was mayor of Split and member of the Imperial Council. Together they worked for the preservation of the native language and culture in Croatia and against the forced Hungarisation in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They laboured in Split, the city of King Demetrius Zvonimir († 1089.).

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