Medieval and Ottoman town of Sokolac

The historic site of Sokolac was declared a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2007.

Stari grad Sokolac

The old town is located on a steep limestone cliff of the Debeljaca Hill near Bihac. The above photograph shows a very nice view from the town.

Prehistoric Ruins

The prehistoric citadel with dimensions of  670 x 170 m, occupied the entire upper plateau of the Debeljaca Hill in southeast (SE) northwest (NW) direction, at the same place where the town of Sokolac was later built.

Numerous ceramic dishes from the prehistoric times were found at the Sokolac site and are now stored in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo

The analysis of the hand-made pottery indicates that the findings belong to the 10th–9th centuries BC.
At that time, this wider area was inhabited by the Illyrian tribe lapodes (or lapydes). In a nearby Ripač, Illyrians had built an interesting settlement, wooden houses by/on the river Unanatively called sojenice. Unfortunately, not existing anymore.

Turbulent Middle Ages

Turbulent times, frequent ownership changes, and leases, have prevented the the quality preservation of written historical documentation, but some have been preserved and archived throughout Europe. 
In medieval documents, the fortress Sokolac is mentioned under different names as Sokol, Zokol and Sokolatz. During that period, kings often donated it to the respected Croatian nobles.

The oldest charter in which Sokol is mentioned as a royal town, with castellans Ivan and Grgur Ethene, dates from 1395.

In charters from 1431 and 1434,, the Croatian-Hungarian King Sigismund gave the royal towns of Bihac and Sokol with associated land over to his supporters, the dukes of Krk - the Frankopans, who held it more than a half-century. (Neo register. Acta, fasc. 483, no. 24, before in Archives in Zagreb, now in Budapest)

With the loss of the larger fortress Bihac, the Frankopans lost Sokol too. In 1490, both fortresses came under the ownership of the Croatian ban János (Ivaniš) Corvinus (Korvin), Hungarian aristocrat, Duke of Slavonia and Croatian ban (1495 - 1498 and 1499 - 1504), whose wife Beatrica was of the noble family Frankopan.
After Ban's death in 1504, Sokol and Bihac were again under the royal authority in 1505.

A new change in ownership came in 1510, when the King Vladislav awarded Sokol to the old Croatian nobles Orlović of Ripča and Čavke, whose merits in the defense of Croatia against the Ottomans the King publicly praised.

During a very long time, Croatia served as a Habsburg outpost in the defense of central Europe against the Ottomans! 
What a terrible fate that was!

After the Orlović family, one of the more prominent Croatian nobleman who owned Sokol was Ladislav Kerecen around 1534.

Old Town of Sokolac

A relatively calm period for Sokol ended with the growing pressure and invasion of the Ottoman army. Due to its important geostrategic position, Sokol played an important role in the defense of the main fort - Bihac.

For that reasonthe Croatian-Hungarian King Ferdinand ordered in 1538 to the Bihac's Captain Peter Keglevic to gain control of the town.

Krajina administration held Sokol under lease from August 1549, the town was already strongly fortified, and soon a military guard under the command of Bihac's Captain was set up in Sokolac.

In 1550, a lease agreement was concluded between the King Ferdinand and Ladislav Kerecen, the owner at the time. But in 1553, before the lease expired, Ladislav Kerecen gave the full ownership of the town to the King Ferdinand in the interest of defense against the Turks. (Lopašić R .: Monuments of the Croatian Krajina, I, pp. 10 and 17)

Ottoman Period

The Ottoman attacks and conquests lasted for a very long time and came in waves, fightings were permanent, and the victims and the sufferings were horrible. Already in 1537, the Ottomans managed to conquer a territory below the town. Part of the indigenous croatian population took shelter inside the walls of the town of Sokol, many were killed or taken into slavery, some converted to Islam or fled.

The attacks lasted until 1592 when Hasan-Paša Predojević managed to break the defense of Sokol and Bihac, placing the forts under Ottoman rule.

There is not much information about the town from the period of the Ottoman rule. It is known that the town of Sokolac, along with other settlements on the right bank of the river Una, were annexed to the Sanjak of Bosnia, the administrative divisions of the Ottoman Empire.
It is assumed that somewhere between the fall of Bihac in 1592 and 1620, Sokol became a part of newly founded Sanjak of Bihac.

In the 18th century the Sanjak of Bihac was one of the five sanjaks in the Bosnian pashaluk (the Ottoman district), and in 1711 it was definitively abolished.

In this period, there were just a few nefers (soldiers) and two cannons in the town of Sokolac.

Old Town of Sokolac - Future Tourist Attraction

The implementation of the first phase of the restoration and conservation works on the old town and the 15 meters high tower Sokolac started in 2015.

Make sure to visit this historic site and discover more about the turbulent history of this region.
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