As great-grandson of king Stefan Dragutin, who ruled Usora and Soli (contemporary north Bosnia) from 1284 – 1316, and after extinction of dynasty of Nemanjići, Tvrtko claimed the Serbian throne. After territorial expansions of his state, Tvrtko acquired a part of core Nemanjići lands with monastery of Mileševa and grave of St. Sava found within it, while at the same time being blood related with Nemanjići family. Serbian Church credited Saint Sava with rise of the Serbian state into the rank of kingdom and the first written Serbian genealogy was created just before Tvrtko crowned himself with crown of Nemanjići thus trying to emphasize the relation between Tvrtko and Nemanjić dynasty. Understanding of St. Sava as some sort of eternal heavenly guardian of the kingdom belonging to dynasty of Nemanjići was recorded at this time. Tvrtko, who refers to Nemanjići as his ancestors inherits their traditions and can have no holier place for his coronation than the gravesite of Saint Sava. All of this provided him with legitimacy to inherit Serbian throne and crown himself as a king in 1377.
King Tvrtko I Kotromanić, after his coronation as king of Serbs, marked his reign with creation of golden coins, for now, the only known Serbian golden money from medieval period. Gold coins of king Tvrtko were found in fortress Mileševac, located just above the monastery of Mileševa. Coin in question was found completely new, as if just coming out of the mint, which implies it was probably forged in that place and also that it was forged in honor of royal coronation.
Tvrtko crowned himself with “sugobim vijencem” which means he crowned himself with two crowns, Serbian one (Rascian) and Bosnian one. With his coronation, he entered into traditions of Nemanjići, given he was crowned as them, took the rulers name of Stefan and took traditional attitude of the Nemanjići house towards the Orthodox Church. In accordance with this tradition, which instructed Serbian rulers should be crowned on days marking more important Christian saints, Tvrtko was crowned on St. Demetrius day.
After coronation, Tvrtko refers to himself, in his title, as king of Serbs, Bosnia, Primorje and so one. We can see he placed his new title in the first place, unlike, for example, emperor Dušan who, in his own title, leaves Serbs in first position wishing to make his foreign and usurped title Serbian by proclaiming he is first and foremost emperor of Serbs.
In 1390, cities of Split, Trogir and Šibenik with islands of Brač, Hvar and Korčula, submit to rule of king Tvrtko and after having thus achieved reign over majority of Dalmatia and Croatia, he adds to his royal title from 1390 – 1391 Dalmatia and Croatia as well.
Between inhabitants of Bosnia and Rascia there was no ethnic divided as between Serbs and Greeks, thus Tvrtko had no reason to suppress his new title and emphasize Bosnia in first place. In other words, ruler of Serbs or “Serbian land” had ancient and legitimate right to carry the royal authority and kingly crown.
After royal coronation, Stefan Tvrtko places on coat of arms of Kotromanići depiction of lilies as symbols of royal authority granted by God. Before the coronation act, Kotromanići coat of arms did not include lilies. There is no doubt that lilies were taken from Rascia after coronation with crown of Nemanjići given that royal crown of Nemanjići itself was crown of lilies. Symbol of lilies appears on Nemanjići coins, clothes, frescoes, churches and monasteries. On fresco from church of St. Demetrius in Peć Patriarchy, which depicts emperor Dušan and his son Uroš with Saint Sava, royal crown depicted on Uroš is crown made of lilies.
Sources: Rade Mihaljčić, Charter of king Stefan Tvrtko I Kotromanić to knyaz and voyevoda Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić, Old Serbian archive, 1, Belgrade, 2002.
Literature: M. Blagojević, Serbian statehood in medieval period, Belgrade, 2011; M. Dinić, Imperial title of emperor Dušan in the eyes of his contemporaries, Anthology in honor of six hundred anniversary of creation of Dušan’s Code, Belgrade, 1951; M. Dinić, From history of Serbian Middle Ages, Belgrade, 2003; N. Radojčić, Coronation ceremony of the Bosnian king Tvrtko I, Belgrade, 1948; S. Stanojević, All Serbian rulers, Belgrade, 1989, 43.
Author: Boris Radaković
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