Petár Berislavić came from an old 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 was 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. His career accelerated when he became the secretary at the Hungarian king’s court in 1504.
After the year 1507, he was appointed 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 relations between Hungary and Venice, Beriszló was against this plan. Petár thought that Venice only wanted to conquer Dalmatia, Bosnia, and Croatia. Let us remember 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 participated 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 of Trau and Šibenik were royal lands of the Hungarian king. Pétar had excellent diplomatic skills, so it is not surprising that he was sent on missions to Venice, France, and Poland. He appeared at the court of Emperor Maximilian and also paid several visits to Rome.
Each time he asked for help against the dangerously expanding Ottoman Empire. He never underestimated this threat, it was the focus of his work. Beriszló became Bishop of Veszprém in 1513, and in the spring he was appointed Bán (Duke) of Croatia – Dalmatia – Slavonia. He soon proved his military talent on the battlefield.
The battle at Dubica, 1513
When Sultan Selim came to the throne, the Ottomans tried to take the Croatian capital of Knin in early 1513. Beriszló asked Pope Leo X for help when the threat was imminent. In the early summer of 1513, about 7,000 horsemen 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 come later. They were wrong.
When Beriszló heard that the invaders were coming, he gathered an army that included the father of the hero of Szigetvár Castle, Zrínyi III Miklós ( Nikola III Zrinski) and Frangepán (Frankopan) Mihály. Beriszló Ferenc, Petár’s brother, who was the Duke of Jajca, also took part in the battle.
The Ottoman Turks attacked and besieged Blinja near Petrinja. The Croatian army marched along the left bank of the Száva River, crossed it at Jasenovác, and camped near Dubica on August 15. The enemy saw this and quickly reinforced their camp, but when they learned of the smaller numbers of the Christian enemy, they attacked them the next day. We have no details about the battle. We only know that Beriszló’s army pushed them into the Száva and Una rivers.
We know that the Turks suffered a crushing defeat, sources make their losses between 2,000 and 7,000 men. (Captured or killed.) The Croatians freed the Christian prisoners, then they pursued the enemy, took captives, and killed many. Of the five Beys who led the Ottoman army, four were killed and one was captured. The news of the victory spread quickly and the Pope sent a beautifully decorated sword to Beriszló, a real “holy sword”.
King Ulászló promoted Beriszló to the Chief Comes of Dubica and the leader of Vrána. However, the Ottoman attacks did not stop, the next year they made a new but unsuccessful attempt to conquer Knin. Upon 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 against the Ottoman Turks. As a Duke (“Bán”), he considered the organization of the southern border as his greatest task. Since it required a lot of work, he delegated his relative, Statileo János, to take over the leadership of his ecclesiastical duties in his absence. Beriszló was appointed captain of Zengg and prior of Vrána in 1514. Then in 1516, he became the treasurer of the Hungarian king and also served as the Duke (Bán) of Jajca Castle. Here you can read more about the history of Jajca Castle:
In 1514 his troops relieved the besieged castle of Knin. Duke Beriszló was able to get even more help from the Pope. He also managed to get Venice to support his struggle. 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 because he led his men to victory again in 1517.
Together with Zrínyi (Zrinski), he drove the Bosnian Pasha Mustapha from the walls of Jajca Castle. A year later he managed to defend the castle again. It was also in 1518 that he invaded Bosnia, but this campaign did not bring much success. However, he was able to defend Skardona (Skardin), which served as an important passage to the sea.
Petár wanted to become the bishop of Zagreb, but unfortunately, Bakócz undermined his efforts. Instead, he was given the supervision of the diocese of Trogir. The Kingdom of Hungary was in a serious financial situation and very little or no money was sent to the southern defenses. However, in 1520 Petár was able to obtain some funds for the defense of the castles of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade) and Jajca. He was able to do this only by letting it be known that the Croatian nobility would allow the Ottoman Turks to invade Lower Austria and Italy if they were not paid.
He repulsed several Ottoman attacks, but his biggest battle took place on May 20, 1520, on the Korbáv field. It is near the Bihács castle, the place is also called Korenica. The Croats defeated 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 or Petár Berislavić during his lifetime. He was buried in the lower church of St. Mihály Cathedral in Veszprém. It was believed 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 gravestone was recently discovered, it was carved in 1525.