Remains of the medieval fort Mrsinj

Ruthless historical events are the leading cause why there are only a few remains left of once important medieval fortification that was located on the Mrsinj hill near Korenica.

Old Mrsinj

Although we don’t have enough preserved historical data, written or physical, to achieve a more profound understanding of Mrsinj's history, we do have enough to get the larger picture of its fate. Existing data suggest the fort was built over the long period of time, it is believed from the 12th century until the Ottoman conquest when it practically vanished  from the historical record. With its isolated position on the steep stone cliff of the Mrsinj hill and its triangular ground plan, Mrsinj represented a typical medieval defensive fort whose most significant role was connected to the historically important Krbava diocese, which was founded in 1185.

Dear readers, this text is in the process of being updated and refreshed!

Zrinski and Frankopans

The most notable Croatian noble families, the Frankopan and Zrinski, were in possession of numerous forts and estates, the Frankopans were the owners of the nearby historic town of Bihać for a long period of time, and this is a brief account of the end of their era. Heavily affected by increasingly cruel Ottoman attacks, heavy defeats and the loss of many lives, the Croatian Parliament met at the end of 1526 and voted to enter into Treaty of Alliance with Austria and to elect Ferdinand I of the House of Habsburg for the King, who was crowned on 1 January 1527 in Cetin. The same decision was made by Hungary, but the extent to which both states lost their autonomy and their sovereign rights will be confirmed by the tragic events that follow.

The Habsburgs originated in the canton of Aargau, a part of the Duchy of Swabia (today the German-speaking part of Switzerland). Rising from obscure origins, this family with a strong appetite for foreign estates and territories managed to become the hereditary rulers of the Roman Empire and the dominant political family with authority over the largest realm in Europe during the Renaissance. The politics of pretensions, which characterized this family, was loaded with all sorts of agreements to succession, "bad faith" contracts, cunning negotiations and the imposition of their family members for the throne or a marriage of convenience (aka a political marriage). They most often took advantage of complex and difficult geopolitical situations in a particular region or used the danger of war and notorious practice of bribing foreign nobles and politicians to accomplish their goals and take hold of various and numerous estates across Europe.

Leopold I of Habsburg (1640-1705), King of Hungary and Croatia from 1657 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1658, was, among other things, responsible for the end of the two most prominent and powerful families in Croatian history. A series of events that followed the last Ottoman incursion into Europe, when large parts of Croatia were liberated, including Lika and Krbava in 1689, tell us exactly how they used to conduct their “business”. Following victories in the anti-Ottoman offensive during the Great war (1683-1699) and the aid given for the liberation of the Hungarian and Croatian lands, the Habsburgs easily gained favor in the eyes of the Croatian and Hungarian nobles, who in turn recognized the Habsburgs' hereditary right to the Croatian-Hungarian throne in the order of primogeniture (the firstborn legitimate child) in the male line of the house of Habsburg-Lorraine, and even agreed to repeal the Article 31 of the Golden Bull of 1222 which established the right to disobey the King when he acted contrary to constitutional law. The cruel events of 1664 and 1671 will help you to understand the implications of those decisions.

After the defeat of the Turks at St. Gotthard in 1664, Leopold I. made a scandalous Warsaw peace with the Turks allowing them to keep what they have won before the last war. This agreement did not just inflict enormous injustice and damage on Croatia and Hungary, but also hamper every legal means to gain their rights.

In the moments of increased centralistic aspirations of the Habsburgs to the detriment of the position of the Croatian and Hungarian nobility, the only remaining option for the Croatian and Hungarian leaders was to exercise their rights through rebellion. In Croatia, a rebellion was led by Duke Nikola Zrinski, a member of the Zrinski noble family, and in Hungary by Palatine Wesselényi Ferenc. After the tragic death of Nikola, Duke Zrinski was succeeded by his younger brother Peter. It was a tragic irony that Nikola's ancestor and namesake, a famous ban, statesman and military leader, died in 1566 heroically defending the strategically important fortress of Szigetvár against the great Ottoman army led by Suleiman the Magnificent in his second attempt to conquer Vienna. Just before the fall of the fortress Zrinski and his remaining soldiers bravely charged from Szigetvár and died in a direct clash, rescuing Croatia, Hungary and Austria from falling under Turkish rule. Ottoman army had suffered heavy casualties during the siege, Suleiman also died from natural causes, and the Ottomans only managed to conquer one more fort Babócsa before Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha ended the Ottoman conquest. A century later, the heirs of the famous ban fight with the Habsburgs for the rights of Croatia. Young Peter Zrinski and his brother-in-law Duke Fran Krsto Frankopan allied themselves with the main Hungarian leaders and they continued together to fight for the rights of Croatia and Hungary. Unfortunately, the chaos of that time, vile negotiations, bargaining, cheating, plotting, and different ideas and ways of keeping the fight for justice, led to the dissolution of the Croatian-Hungarian alliance and the betrayal of the rebel leaders by a member of the orders.

In 1670, the Emperor Leopold I. deceived the Croatian nobles Zrinski and Frankopan into Vienna under the pretext of reconciliation, but upon their arrival he ordered the immediate arrest and imprisonment in one of the towers of the notorious prison of the Vienna Neustadt.

After nearly a year of investigation, Duke Petar Zrinski and Duke Fran Krsto Frankopan were sentenced to death for treason and insult to the king and the country - they were beheaded by the sword and their right hands were cut off. The same terrible fate befell the Count Erasmus Tattenbach from Styria and the judge Francis Nadasdy to the consternation of Croatia, Hungary and the rest of the Europe. On April 30th, 1671, all the city gates of the Vienna Neustadt were closed, and the execution site was surrounded by armed troops.

Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan awaiting execution

Before his death, Petar Zrinski wrote to his wife Katarina the famous farewell letter "My dear heart". In 1671 due to its tenderness, the letter was translated into several world languages.

Read the famous letter here: Story of Petar and Katarina Zrinski

The two nobles and their families were deprived of the nobility and their property confiscated by the State. Immediately after, the Viennese central government completely looted and destroyed the two greatest families in Croatian history. The certain Venetian envoy wrote: "This is the end of the two most prominent families of the living world. Especially the Zrens was appreciated because the family gave 60 Viceroys or governors to Croatia."

The Ozalj Cultural Circle of the Zrens and the Frankopans disappeared before it could encourage and expand the Croatian written word among the population.

The last written traces of the Mrsinj remains

The ruins were mentioned for the last time in the official report of a man called Vela, a major of Otocac regiment when the data about the dilapidated forts of the Korenica region was gathered. Korenica was then the seat of the Korenica Kumpanija that belonged to the Otocac Regiment of the Karlovac Military Frontier.

Hike up Mrsinj Hill

With the visit of the abandoned Mrsinj-fort by the late Gospic-Senj Bishop Mile Bogović in 2006, as part of the initiative for the revival of the episcopal seats of the Krbava diocese, things started to change for the better. Today there are marked hiking trails leading hikers to the remains of the Mrsinj-fort maintained by the Mountaineering Association "Mrsinj" from Korenica.

Together for Nature

  • explore the countryside and the mountain on foot, bike, horse - give your car a rest and help reduce car emissions
  • take care to place all recyclable items in proper receptacles - recycle
  • please take litter with you - leave no trace
  • bring reusable water bottles - avoid plastic.
  • join our Green Mission!
Explore Local represents a part of our natural and cultural heritage; for a fuller overview of the tangible and intangible heritage, see our Interactive Map under Experiences and Events and Activities Calendar with many suggestions for your itinerary.
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