Coat of arms of Dušan’s Empire according to Korenić-Neorić Roll of Arms.

Beginnings of the Illyrian heraldic are linked with Petar Ohmučević Grgurić, born in area around Slano near Dubrovnik. Petar or Don Pedro, son of a sailor and wheat merchant, gained fame in Spanish navy, especially after the battle of Lepanto, and rose to the rank of admiral. Naples, where he served in the Spanish fleet, was the center of encouragement for the “Slavic” ideas and liberation movements in the Balkans. Don Pedro, however, had an unresolved issue. His dubious nobility was not recognized in Dubrovnik, so there was no hope it would be recognized by arrogant Spanish nobles and viceroy in Naples.  

Even today, question remains were the Grgurić family from Slano (Ivelja Grgurić, wheat merchant, and his sons: admiral to be Petar, Nikola, Đorđe, Marko and Ivan) in realtion with Ohmučevići, lesser Zachlumia nobility of the XIV and XV century? Aleksandar Solovjev believed they were. He believed, furthermore, that one of the motives for the entire heraldic-genealogy project of Petar Grgurić Ohmučević was the hurt vanity of a true Ohmučević family member, whom administration of Dubrovnik and Spanish court refused to acknowledge authentic and old nobility rights. On the other hand, there are opposing opinions. Mihailo Dinić and Sima Ćirković belive that the first and foremost counterfeit of Don Pedro and his helpers was the transformation of Grgurići in Ohmučevići by using tradition of the Ohmučevići family from Bosnia together with songs and legends about Relja Krilatica.

Genealogical constructions of Petar, son of Ivelja, Grgurić (Ohmučević), introduced into the whole story the historical figure of ćesara (Caesar) Relja from the XIV century, as the alleged ancestor to the admiral. Relja (Hrelja) was nobleman of emperor Dušan and died in 1342 without heirs, as a monk, in monastery of Rila, in Bulgaria. By the XVI century he already gained status of an epic figure from folklore songs (Relja Krilatica, Relja from Kostur, that is, from Kastorije). In any case, Don Pedro used historical data and folklore traditions quite freely to embellish his own family history.

Historical sources regarding family of Ohmučević are completely contradictory, often and on purpose made vague with differing genealogical constructions such as Lorenzo Miniati „Breve discorso genealogico“, or not very reliable Ćelčić book „I conti  di Tuhelj“.

Coat of arms of Dušan’s Empire according to Belgrade Roll of Arms II

As Spanish admiral, Don Pedro was very keen on proving his ancient and rich, prestigious and noble descent. Eight “quartier” (four great grandfathers and four great grandmothers) of nobility, purely Catholic, was, in any case, condition for introduction to the ranks of any of the great Spanish knightly orders, which was don Pedro’s wish. Given that he was unable to attain authentic evidence, Ohmučević started initially to provide the Spanish authorities with oral testimonies of his noble origins which were followed with fictive genealogy and documents. In ninth decade of the XVI century, Don Pedro collected a larger number of charters, genealogies, coats of arms and in 1594 he finally received, from Royal council in Naples, decree of his nobility and confirmation of the false charters. In 1595, if not sooner, as a crown jewel of Ohmučević evidence, roll of arms with over 150 crests appeared. It depicted glory and might of the old Dušan Empire, but also the old and noble ancestry of don Pedro, his cousins and forbearers. Original of this roll of arms is lost today, and it is believed it could have been created as early as 1590. In any case, it was not made later than 1595 when the oldest dated transcription of the roll of arms appears, known as Roll of Arms of Korenović-Neorić.

Coat of arms of Dušan’s Empire according to Split manuscript

Petar Ohmučević, already in 1584, had a falsified genealogical table with eight alleged nobility levels of his ancestors and eight of their crests in color. This is, as Solovjev said, was indication regarding the beginnings of the Illyrian heraldic. It remains a mystery why Petar Ohmučević required roll of arms in1595, when he already, in 1594, through different falsified charters, letters and genealogies managed to achieve his intent and have his nobility recognized by the Royal council in Naples. Accordingly, roll of arms Korenića-Neorića from 1595 is not the oldest roll of arms and was probably not ordered by Don Pedro, but was transcribed from an older protograph (Don Pedro’s – hypothetical lost roll of arms). That oldest Illyrian roll of arms, presumed to exist, must have been created before than 1594 so it could give credence to Don Pedro’s claim. In his work “Contributions for the Bosnian and Illyrian Heraldry”, Solovjev dates this lost protograph, on table of origin for Illyrian roll of arms, to 1590.


Taken from the book: “Illyrian roll of arms and other heraldic works”, author: Aleksandar Palavestra.

Prepared by: Boris Radaković

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