Sarajevo during the Middle Ages

Sarajevo during the Middle Ages
This article is part of
the History of Sarajevo
Ancient Times
Middle Ages
Early Ottoman Era
Late Ottoman Era
Habsburg Empire
Modern Sarajevo

The Slavs came to Bosnia in the 7th century, but details of their movement and settlement through the country remain a mystery. Some Slavic artifacts remain from the time however, and it is fairly certain that they settled in the Sarajevo valley, replacing the Illyrians. Katera, one of the two original Bosnian towns that were mentioned by Constantine Porphyrogenitus in De Administrando Imperio, was found to the southeast of Sarajevo. By the time of the Ottoman occupation there was little settlement left in the region, leaving the history of the Sarajevo region during the Middle Ages not well understood.

When Bosnia first appeared, it was based on Bosnia proper, which was basically the Bosna river valley, stretching from modern day Zenica to Sarajevo. In 12th century, when Bosnia became a vassal of Hungary, population was mainly members of the Bosnian Church. The area of present-day Sarajevo was part of the Bosnian province of Vrhbosna near the traditional center of the kingdom. Though a city called Vrhbosna existed, the exact settlement of Sarajevo at this time is debated. During the High Middle Ages, various documents make note of a place called 'Tornik' in the region. By all indications, 'Tornik' was a very small marketplace surrounded by a proportionally small village, not considered very important by Ragusan merchants. Even the local fortress of Hodidjed was defended by a mere two dozen men when it fell to the Turks.

Others say that Vrhbosna was a major city located in the middle of modern day Sarajevo. Indeed, Papal documents say that in 1238, a Cathedral to Saint Peter was built in the city. Considering the importance of Saint Peter, this would have to have been a very important cathedral, yet nobody is quite sure where it was. Some have speculated that it was located in the present-day Sarajevo neighborhood of Skenderija, as it is said that during construction in the late 19th century, there were found Roman-style columns dating to sometime around the 12th century.

Even disciples of the famous Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius had stopped by the region, establishing a church at Vrelo Bosne. Perhaps a village existed on the outskirts of the city itself, near present day Ilidža, one of the most attractive regions for settlement in the area, which had been significantly populated for pretty much every other period of its history.

Whether this city was indeed located at modern day Sarajevo or not, an important city called Vrhbosna did indeed exist at the time and the region was of great importance. Still, it is considered somewhat strange that the location of such an important city is unknown. It is not unlikely that the city may have been destroyed sometime between the 13th century and the Ottoman occupation. It is a well-known fact[citation needed] that foreign armies had often made their way to Vrhbosna in wars with Bosnia, and perhaps one of them razed the city, leaving it in the condition that the Turks found it in the mid 15th century.

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