Petár Berislavić / Beriszlói Péter (1475-1520)
Petár Berislavić came from an ancient Croatian noble family. (We, Hungarians call him Beriszlói / Beriszló Péter) He was born in Trau (Trogir) in Dalmatia, in 1475. His father was Ivan Berislavić, his mother was Sztatileo Magdolna. With the help of his relatives, the young man joined the court of Archbishop Váradi Péter of Kalocsa. He served as the Prebend of Kalocsa between 1500 / 1501 and 1512. He was also the Archdeacon of Bodrog. Petár filled the position of the Provost of Hajszentlőrinc between 1502 and 1507.
When he became a secretary in the Hungarian king’s court in 1504, his career speeded up.
After the year 1507, he was appointed as the Provost of (Székes)Fehérvár. In the beginning, he supported Archbishop (later Cardinal) Bakócz Tamás but then, a debate about Venice developed between them. While Bakócz wanted to strengthen the connections between Hungary and Venice, Beriszló was against this plan. Petár thought that Venice just wanted to seize Dalmatia, Bosnia, and Croatia. Let us recall that Hungary and Croatia were in a “personal union” where their monarch was the same as the Hungarians but the Croats had the freedom to run their country according to their laws and customs.
Beriszló took part in the Diet of Tata in 1510 where he tried to persuade King Ulászló II to join the League of Cambra against Venice because the Dalmatian towns, namely Trau and Šibenik were royal to the Hungarian king. Pétar had excellent diplomatic skills so it is no wonder that he was sent to missions to Venice, France, and to Poland. He appeared in the court of Emperor Maximilian and he has also paid several visits to Rome. Each time, he was asking for help against the perilously expanding Ottoman Empire. He has never underestimated this threat, it was the focus of his work.
Beriszló became the Bishop of Veszprém in 1513, and soon he was appointed as Bán (Duke) of Croatia – Dalmatia – Slavonia in the spring. Shortly after this, he proved his military talent on the battlefield.
The battle at Dubica, 1513
As Sultan Selim gained the throne, the Ottomans were trying to take the Croatian capital, Knin at the beginning of 1513. Beriszló asked for the aid of Pope Leo X when the threat was imminent. In the early summer of 1513, about 7,000 riders of the Bosnian Sanjak led by Agha Junuz and five Ottoman beys attacked the lands between the Una and Kulpa rivers. They knew that Beriszló would launch an attack but they thought it would be coming later. They were wrong.
Hearing the coming of the raiders, Beriszló collected an army where the father of the hero of Szigetvár Castle, Zrínyi III Miklós (aka Nikola III. Zrinski) was there as well as Frangepán (Frankopan) Mihály. Ferenc Beriszló, the brother of Petár was the Duke of Jajca, he was fighting in the battle, too.
The Ottoman Turks attacked Blinja, near Petrinja, besieging it. The Croatian army was marching along the left bank of the Száva River and crossed it at Jasenovác and made camp near Dubica on 15 August. The enemy has seen it and quickly reinforced their own camp but when they came to know the lower numbers of the Christian enemy, they attacked them the next day. We have no details of the battle. All we know is that Beriszló’s army pushed them into the Száva and Una rivers.
We know that the Turks have suffered a crushing defeat, sources make their losses between 2,000 and 7,000 men. (Captured or killed.) The Croatians freed the Christian captives, then they were chasing the enemy, took captives, and killed many. Out of the five beys who led the Ottoman army, four were killed and one was captured. The news about the victory soon spread out and the Pope sent a nicely decorated sword to Beriszló, a real “sacred sword”. As for King Ulászló, he has promoted Beriszló to Chief Comes of Dubica and leader of Vrána. Yet, the Ottoman attacks have not been stopped, next year they made a new but unsuccessful attempt to gain Knin. Hearing the news of the victory, Pope Leo X sent him more gunpowder, firearms, food, and money (7,000 gold Ducats).
Seven more years of his heroic fight
Beriszló spent the rest of his life (7 more years) fighting the Ottoman Turks. As a Duke, he regarded the organization of the southern border as his greatest task. As it required lots of work, he delegated his relative, Statileo János to take over the leadership of his church-related duties in his absence. Beriszló was appointed as Captain of Zengg in 1514 and became the Prior of Vrána. Then, he became the Treasurer of the Hungarian king in 1516 and also served as the Duke of Jajca castle. Here is more history about Jajca castle:
In 1514, his troops relieved the besieged castle of Knin. Duke Beriszló was able to get even more aid from the Pope. Moreover, he managed to make Venice support his fight. By this time, Venice had experienced the Ottoman threat in earnest. Szabatkay Mihály, the Hungarian chronicler called Beriszlói an “angry Duke-priest” in his song. He deserved this name, as he led his men to victory in 1517 again. At that time, he and Zrínyi (Zrinski) chased Pasha Mustapha of Bosnia away from the walls of Jajca castle. A year later he managed to defend the castle again. It was also in 1518 that he broke into Bosnia but this campaign did not bring much success. However, he could defend Skardona (Skardin) which served as an important passage to the sea.
Petár wanted to gain the office of the Bishop of Zagreb but unfortunately, Bakócz undermined his efforts. Instead of this, he was given supervision over Trogir’s diocese. The Kingdom of Hungary was in a grave financial situation and very little or no money at all was sent to the southern defenses. Yet, Petár was able to get some finances in 1520 for the defense of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade) and Jjca castles. He could achieve it only by letting everybody know that the Croatian noble estates would allow the Ottoman Turks to invade Lower Austria and Italy if they were not paid.
He was repelling several Ottoman raids but his biggest battle took place on 20 May 1520 at Korbáv-Field. It is near Bihács castle, the place is also called Korenica. The Croats were defeating the enemy again but Petár was killed while he and his men were chasing the running enemy.
Many songs were written about the heroic deeds of Beriszlói Péter aka Petár Berislavić even during his life. He was buried in the lower church of the Saint Mihály Cathedral of Veszprém. It was thought that only he could have saved Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade) in 1521. His biography was written by Marnavich Tomkó János in the middle of the 16th century, its title is „Vita Petri Berislavi Bosnensis…”. His tombstone has recently been discovered, it was carved in 1525.
Sources: Szibler Gábor and http://HM Hadtörténeti Intézet és Múzeum
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