Serb uprising of 1596–1597

The Serb uprising of 1596–1597[a], also known as the Herzegovina uprising of 1596–1597, was a rebellion organized by Serbian Patriarch Jovan Kantul (s. 1592–1614) and led by Grdan, the vojvoda ("duke") of Nikšić against the Ottomans in the Sanjak of Herzegovina and Montenegro Vilayet, during the Long Turkish War (1593–1606). The uprising broke out in the aftermath of the failed Banat Uprising in 1594 and the burning of Saint Sava's relics on April 27, 1595; it included the tribes of Bjelopavlići, Drobnjaci, Nikšić, and Piva. The rebels, defeated at the field of Gacko (Gatačko Polje) in 1597, were forced to capitulate due to a lack of foreign support.

Serb uprising of 1596–1597
Part of the Long Turkish War
Map of the Serb Uprising of 1596–97.jpg
Map showing the revolting tribes and key towns
DateLate 1596 — after April 10, 1597[b]
Eastern portion of the Sanjak of Herzegovina and parts of the Montenegro Vilayet
Result Ottoman victory;
Rebellion suppressed by the Ottoman Empire

Civil flag of Serbia.svg Serb rebels

Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1844).svg Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Organized by
Visarion and Jovan Kantul
Dervish Bey


The burning of Saint Sava's remains after the Banat Uprising provoked Serbs in other regions to revolt against the Ottomans.[1]

In early 1594, the Serbs in Banat rose up against the Ottomans.[2] The rebels had, in the character of a holy war, carried war flags with the icon of Saint Sava.[3] The war banners were consecrated by Patriarch Jovan Kantul,[4] and the uprising was aided by Serbian Orthodox metropolitans Rufim Njeguš of Cetinje and Visarion of Trebinje (s. 1590–1602).[5] In response, Ottoman Grand Vizier Koca Sinan Pasha demanded that the green flag of the Prophet Muhammed be brought from Damascus to counter the Serb flag and ordered that the sarcophagus containing the relics of Saint Sava be removed from the Mileševa monastery and transferred to Belgrade via military convoy.[3][4] Along the way, the Ottoman convoy killed all the people in its path as a warning to the rebels.[3] The Ottomans publicly incinerated the relics of Saint Sava on a pyre atop the Vračar plateau on April 27, 1595, and had the ashes scattered.[3][4]

The incineration of Sava's relics provoked the Serbs, and empowered the Serb liberation movement. From 1596, the center of anti-Ottoman activity in Herzegovina was the Tvrdoš Monastery in Trebinje, where Metropolitan Visarion was seated. Many of the Orthodox bishops appealed to the Archduchy of Austria for help in liberating their lands. The Uskoks, irregular soldiers in Habsburg Croatia, supported Austria, being scattered over the whole area between Senj and Ragusa (modern-day Dubrovnik). With a daring raid on April 8, 1596, the Uskoks even managed to occupy the Klis Fortress, though they were unable to hold it. At one point, Austrian officials considered taking military action in Bosnia, where Dalmatian-born Maltese knight Franjo Brtučević was in their service. However, they did not have the strength to fight the Ottomans in Bosnia. Earlier, Austrian forces had gone to great lengths and still barely managed to resist the Ottomans in Hungary.[6]


Patriarch Jovan Kantul and Pope Clement VIII

In 1596, the liberation movement spread into Ottoman Montenegro and the neighbouring tribes in Herzegovina, especially those under the influence of Metropolitan Visarion.[5] Of the priests, Patriarch Jovan depended mostly on Visarion, and of the chieftains, mostly on Grdan, the vojvoda ("duke") of Nikšić.[7] A Ragusan document from the beginning of 1596 claimed that the metropolitan and many Herzegovinian chieftains gathered in the Trebinje Monastery where they swore oath "to give up and donate 20,000 heroes to the [Austrian] emperors' light."[8] The rebels sought help from the Austrians, and asked to be handed an Austrian flag to show the Ottomans that they had at least symbolic Austrian support.[8] Shortly thereafter, on April 8, 1596, Klis was captured by the Uskoks, prompting a wave of excitement among Christians from Lika to Herzegovina.[8] At the end of 1596, after the outbreak of the Himara Revolt, Serbs began to rebel against the Ottomans.[6] The uprising, led by Grdan, broke out in Bjelopavlići, then spread to Drobnjaci, Nikšić, Piva, and Gacko.[6] Save for the Brđani, the Montenegrin tribes did not participate in the uprising.[9] At the time, Dervish Bey, the sanjak bey of Montenegro, threatened the Montenegrins through the provveditore ("overseer") of Kotor.[9]

Two Serbian monks, Damjan Ljubibratić and Pavle, were dispatched by Patriarch Jovan Kantul to Pope Clement VIII in 1597.[10] Patriarch Jovan assured the pope of his "loyalty and obedience" to the Church of Rome, and sought help "to liberate the Serb people from the Ottomans".[10] The monks made an exhibition to the papal curia on Serbian history and, among other things, petitioned the pope to send an army to Herceg Novi, which would aid vojvoda Grdan on the land;[6] the tribes of Zupci, Nikšić, Piva, Banjani, Drobnjaci, and Gacko would rise up in arms.[5] From there, they would go to Onogošt (Nikšić), where all chieftains of Montenegro, Dukađin, and the nearby lands, would gather.[6] In the case of action, they could count on 100,000 fighters.[6] It was said that since the Ottomans took Saint Sava from the Serbs "God does not help them any more, Christians kill them from every side".[6] The curia then accused the monks, of "[praying] to God for our Evil."[6] The monks asked the pope, with the support of Serb spiritual and secular leaders, to send a respectable Christian to oversee them.[6]

Field of Gacko.

The Archbishop of Ohrid, Atanasije, after his movement had largely failed in Albania, was now in Rome.[6] The Serb uprising had no better luck; the Herzegovinian tribes, Drobnjaci, Nikšić, and Piva began fighting, but were defeated at the field of Gacko (Gatačko Polje) by Dervish Bey[6] sometime in 1597.[b] According to the Venetian Lazzaro Soranzo (1599), the Piperi, Kuči, Klimenti, Bjelopavlići, and others tried to liberate themselves from Ottoman tyranny, and upon hearing the false claim[11] that Sultan Mehmed III lost the battle and his life at the Siege of Eger, "they all rose up under the command of vojvoda Grdan and there was a great slaughter of Turks who were on their land. As I tried to find out more, I heard the contrary, that they unhappily withdrew into their mountains";[12][13] Montenegrin historian Gligor Stanojević, based on Soranzo's account, which he described as "the most interesting and most contradicting note on the movement of the Brda and Herzegovina tribes in this time", believed that the rebellion did not have the scale of a national uprising.[10]

[There were] spontaneous uprisings or rebellions which often erupted caused by some event and quickly died away. Such disturbances, insurrections or rebellions took place earlier and later in all parts of the Balkans, and the Turks very quickly and efficiently reacted to them. If those rebellions did not lead to anything, they were another drop of hatred between the conquerors and the people.[13]

— Gligor Stanojević, Jugoslovenske zemlje u mletačko-turskim ratovima XVI–XVIII vijeka

When the talks between the rebels and the papacy led to nothing and no foreign support arrived, the rebels were forced to capitulate to the Ottomans.[14][10] Ahmed-paša Dugalić, the beylerbey ("governor") of Bosnia, pardoned Grdan of his crimes,[13] and did not even strip him of his lands in Nikšić.[15]

The rebels were challenged before any real action could be realized. Austria was not able to move towards Buda, let alone Bosnia or Serbia; the papal curia did not choose to aid the rebels; and Spain had their own problems. The diplomats—various adventurers, though well-meaning—were amateurs, and had wrongfully and colourfully painted the picture to both sides. To some they promised more than they could do, and to others they presented opportunities as being more mature than they were. Many false reports were made. [The rebels] naïvely thought that the messages and promises they received would give them greater success than they had. The only lesson learnt was for them to be more cautious. The Ottomans, occupied in Hungary, Croatia and the coast, were willing to somewhat leave them alone for the moment being. At this time, none of the prominent leaders in the Ottoman Serb regions were hurt.

— Vladimir Ćorović, Preokret u držanju Srba[6]

Aftermath and legacyEdit

After the failure of the uprising, many Herzegovinians moved to the Bay of Kotor and Dalmatia.[16] The earliest more significant Serb migrations took place between 1597 and 1600.[17] Grdan and Patriarch Jovan would continue to plan revolts against the Ottomans in the coming years.[5] Jovan contacted the pope again in 1599, without success.[5] Serbian, Greek, Bulgarian, and Albanian monks visited European courts to solicit help.[18] The first decade of the 17th century saw some successful Montenegrin battles against the Ottomans under Metropolitan Rufim. The tribe of Drobnjaci defeated the Ottomans in Gornja Bukovica on 6 May 1605. However, Ottomans retaliated the same summer and captured the duke Ivan Kaluđerović, who was eventually taken to Pljevlja and executed.[19] From the assembly in Kosijerevo monastery, on 18 February 1608, Serb leaders urged the Spanish and Neapolitan court for final energetic action. Preoccupied, Spain could not do much in Eastern Europe. However, the Spanish fleet did attack Durrës in 1606. Finally, on 13 December 1608, Patriarch Jovan Kantul organized an assembly in Morača Monastery, gathering all the rebel leaders of Montenegro and Herzegovina. The assembly officially negotiated with Emmanuel I to send a force for the liberation of the Balkans, in exchange for "the Crown of Macedonia", at the same time requesting that Pope Paul grant the Serbian Orthodox Church special privileges. "In our parts," they demanded, "we do not want any Jesuits, or anyone else, who intends on turning the Christian folk to Roman law."[18] Jovan assured him that an army of 20,000, 25 guns, and weapons for 25,000 more to be distributed in the Balkans would overwhelm the Ottoman sultan.[18][6] After years of planning, nothing concrete resulted in it, because such an operation "required Spanish naval and logistical support". The rebellion slowly faded through 1609 towards the end of 1610.[18] The 1596–97 uprising would stand as a model for multiple anti-Ottoman uprisings in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the coming centuries.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^
    It has been called the Herzegovina Uprising (Serbian: херцеговачки устанак) and Uprising in Herzegovina (Serbian: Устанак у Xерцеговини). Other names include Patriarch Jovan's Uprising (Serbian: устанак патријарха Јована) Grdan's Uprising (Serbian: Грданов устанак) and Grdan's Rebellion (Serbian: Грданова буна).
  2. ^
    The timespan of the revolt was from the late or end of 1596 until sometime in 1597. In 1599, Lazzaro Soranzo claimed that the rebels rose up during the Siege of Eger,[13] which lasted from September 20 to October 12, 1596. One of Jovan Kantul's petitions to the Pope was presented by his emissaries on April 10, 1597.[20][21]


  1. ^ a b Bataković 1996, p. 33.
  2. ^ Veselinović 1966.
  3. ^ a b c d Nikolaj Velimirović (January 1989). The Life of St. Sava. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-88141-065-5.
  4. ^ a b c Mitja Velikonja (5 February 2003). Religious Separation and Political Intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Texas A&M University Press. pp. 75–. ISBN 978-1-58544-226-3.
  5. ^ a b c d e Editions speciales. Naučno delo. 1971. Дошло ]е до похреаа Срба у Ба- нату, ко]и су помагали тадаппьи црногоски владика, Херувим и тре- бюьски, Висарион. До покрета и борбе против Ту рака дошло ]е 1596. године и у Цр- иэ] Гори и сус]едним племенима у Харцеговгаш, нарочито под утица- ]ем поменутог владике Висариона. Идупе, 1597. године, [...] Али, а\адика Висарион и во]вода Грдан радили су и дал>е на организован>у борбе, па су придобили и тадапньег пеЬког патри^арха 1ована. Ова] ]е папи Клименту VIII послао писмо, у коме каже да би се, у случа^у када би папа организовао напад на Нови, дигла на оруж]е и херцего- вачка племена: Зупци, Никшипи, Пивл>ани, Банъани, Дробшаци, Рудине и Гацко. Пошто ]е папа одговорио само уви]еним рщ'ечнма, патри- ]арх тован му се поново обрайао 1599. године, али без успеха.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Ćorović 2001, Преокрет у држању Срба
  7. ^ Samardžić 1993, p. 323.
  8. ^ a b c Istorisko društvo Bosne i Hercegovine (1959). Annuaire de la Société historique de Bosnie et Herzégovine. Istorisko društvo Bosne i Hercegovine. из Дубровника из почетка 1596 тврди да су се многи херцего- вачки главари са митрополитом састали у требшьском манастиру и заклели »да Ье се дати и поклонити светлости импературови су 20 тисуЪа ]унака«. Устаници траже помоЬ или бар симболично аустриску заставу као доказ везе са Аустри]ом. Ускоро ^е дошло до ускочког осва^ан>а Клиса (8 IV 1596) што ]е изазвало силно узбзфеиье од Лике до Херцеговине. Ускоци су ако развили сво^е походе; на бедемима дубровачким ста^але су отсечене главе цоги- нулих харамбаша"). Шпанско-папска флота била ^е у Месини и очекивала наре1>еNoе за удар против турских обала3"). На новом збору у Требин>у владиха Висарион и главари упутали су Доминика да оде у Грац и Праг. Избавили су да чекану »заповест за устанак«; тада ]е Клис ]ош био ускочки. Из Граца ]е стигао агент Михо ЗлатариЬ те ...
  9. ^ a b Историски записи. с.н. 1959. У покрету против Турака крајем XVI века не учествуЈу Црногорци, већ само Брђани. То је било у време када је Дервиш- бег Сарвановић претио которском провидуру Црногорцима. 3) Црном Гором влада у духовним стварима ...
  10. ^ a b c d Samardžić 1993, p. 324.
  11. ^ The Ottomans conquered Eger after a siege that lasted from September 20 to October 12.
  12. ^ Marko Jačov (1997). I Balcani tra impero ottomano e potenze europee (sec. XVI e XVII): il ruolo della diplomazia pontificia. Periferia. sotto il commando di Gardan Vaivoda
  13. ^ a b c d Stanojević & Vasić 1975.
  14. ^ Trevor W. Harrison; Slobodan Drakulic (31 August 2011). Against Orthodoxy: Studies in Nationalism. UBC Press. pp. 99–. ISBN 978-0-7748-2096-7.
  15. ^ Kočić 1936, p. 55.
  16. ^ Jovan Cvijić (1987). Sabrana dela: Balkansko Poluostrvo. Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti. p. 145. ISBN 9788639100445.
  17. ^ Radovan Samardžić (1990). Seobe srpskog naroda od XIV do XX veka: zbornik radova posvećen tristagodišnjici velike seobe Srba. Zavod za udžbenike i nastavna sredstva. ISBN 9788617015631.
  18. ^ a b c d Gregory Hanlon; University Research Professor Gregory Hanlon (22 February 2008). The Twilight Of A Military Tradition: Italian Aristocrats And European Conflicts, 1560–1800. Routledge. pp. 86–. ISBN 978-1-135-36143-3.
  19. ^ "О ДРОБЊАКУ И ДРОБЊАЦИМА" (PDF). (in Serbian).
  20. ^ Miomir Dašić (1986). Vasojevići: od pomena do 1860. godine. Narodna knjiga. ISBN 9788633100847. Из pannje спомин>ане представке Kojy су 10. априла 1597. године у име пепког патри^арха Дована предала папи Клименту VIII два српска калуфера, види се да се рачунало и на устанак становништва у Горн>ем Полимл^у („Хас ...
  21. ^ Историски записи. Vol. 39. с.н. 1986. p. 36. Будимљанску жупу, односно нахију Будимља. То потврђује и молба од 10. априла 1597. године, који су ерпски калуђери Дамњан и Павле, у име пећког патријарха Јована, никшићког војводе Грдана и осталих српских старјешина, предали папи Клименту VIII у Риму, у којој је тражено да се папа заложи да хришћански владари западних држава пошаљу војну помоћ хришћанима покорених наших зе- маља ради вођења борбе за ослобођење од Турака. Найме, у тој молби се набрајају крајеви и области који су спремни за дизање на устанак, почев од Новог преко Оногошта до Сјенице и Новог