Medieval fortress Vranduk the “Gate of Bosnia”

For 6 centuries Vranduk was known as the “Gate of Bosnia”. It represents one of many medieval Bosnian towns which had a vibrant political, economic and cultural life. Vranduk has a citadel with the main tower and protective wall, surrounding the interior of the medieval town. Today, this fortress serves as a great touristic spot and a reminder of Bosnia’s rich past.

The Vranduk fortress is located approximately 10 kilometers downstream from the town of Zenica. It was built on a rock above the gorge beneath which the River Bosnia, with its round-arched stream, builds a natural decoration and protection. In the Middle Ages, Vranduk was one of several royal cities, where the seat of the Bosnian King Stjepan Ostoja was, and some time later also of the last Bosnian king Stjepan Tomaš, as well as his opponent Radivoje. The first mention of Vranduk dates from the 11th of March 1410, in the appeal of Dubrovnik citizens sent to the Hungarian King Sigismund about the behavior of his soldiers.

In the period of Ottoman Turkish rule the fortress hid dark memories while it served as a political prison, where many of the persecuted died, mostly qadis and muftis. In 1697, during the disastrous rampage of Eugene of Savoy, when almost the whole of Bosnia was left in ashes and smoke, the Vranduk fortress was the only unconquered fortification.

The town and fortress Vranduk for centuries resisted all sorts of enemies, disasters, whether human or natural, but it almost always skillfully persisted living up to it s name as the “Gate of Bosnia”. And the name in itself – Vranduk – which is assumed to be derived from the word branduk (to defend), speaks about the role that it played in the history of Bosnia.

The Old Town Vranduk was probably built in the late 14th century on a strategically very important road. Since its founding until 1463, Vranduk was a ban and then a royal town. It was the only fortified town in the parish Brod, one of the seven parishes of medieval Bosnia. The name Vranduk was first mentioned in 1410. In it, the Bosnian kings received the delegation, signed contracts and issued charters. Brother of King Tomaš, Radivoj, is mentioned in documents as the “Prince of Vranduk”.

A larger commercial and trade settlement situated outside of the walls was built in the village Varošišć, about 2.5 km away from the fortification in Vranduk. Here the Franciscans founded a monastery and in the mid-15th century built the church of St. Mary.

Vranduk fully developed in the 15th century. In the surrounding area of Vranduk, a system of defense facilities developed and within those walls, a small village “sotto Vranduch”. King Tomaš gave special attention to Vranduk: he built the Church of St. Thomas, his protector, below the town, for which he received special privileges from the Pope, he fixed up the town and strengthened its walls.

The Ottoman Empire repeatedly besieged Vranduk. They occupied it in 1463. In his campaign against Bosnia in 1697, Eugene of Savoy, noting the difficulty of the conquest, bypassed Vranduk. At the beginning of the 18th century, the Vranduk Captaincy was founded. In the 18th and early 19th century it served as a prison for political culprits. Austrian troops in 1878 occupied the fort and kept their garrison there until 1890 when it was abandoned.

The Old Town in Vranduk belongs to a type of hill fort. The fortress, despite further restorations, preserved its original form, reminiscent of earlier European fortresses. In the Middle Ages, the main tower was higher and the space of the paddock was divided by a wall. The small tower and the east wall were added later in order to protect the entrance to the fort. Within the paddock were several different facilities serving different purposes, and also some remains of “Dizdar kuća” were found.

Numerous archaeological findings were discovered within the walls of the Old Town from the Middle Ages and the Ottoman period: pots, jewelry, coins, tools, spurs, etc. All the findings are stored in the Museum of the town of Zenica.

Damaged by time, Vranduk was forgotten until 1999. In 1999, Zenica City Museum in co-operation with the government and some local communities begins with the conservation and restoration works on the Old town Vranduk. In 2005, Old town Vranduk has been declared a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Sultan Fatih Mosque

Vrandučka old mosque, also known as the Sultan Fatih Mosque, was built after the Ottomans conquered Vranduk in 1463. Vrandučka mosque was a fortress mosque built right next to the fort. Such mosques usually did not have a fountain, but a well located within the fort.

The mosque belongs to the type of mosque with a wooden double mahfil and a wooden minaret. One of the characteristics of this mosque is its two entrances – to the north and west. The mosque, like all the buildings in Vranduk, had a steep four-necked wooden roof covered with shingles. Lesser mosque interventions changed the slope of the roof and the type of roof covering.

Visiting Vranduk

Nowdays, Vranduk is a place where you have a possibility to be introduced with the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina visiting a museum collection set up in a great tower, where you can taste some traditional Bosnian meals (natural food without genetic modification), where you can spend your time hiking on the nearby hills that offer you view of the scenary, and to rest and relieve your soul and senses on the nearby creeks and water-mills.

During the summertime, you can enjoy the rich cultural life in Vranduk. There are event “Vrandučka ašlama”, festival “Bosnian Kingdom Trails”, theatre performances, concerts, creative workshops (traditional weaving, lace and souvenir handcraft), painting, photography, scientific symposiums and conferences, or you can spend your time with local fishermen in nice ambiance by the river Bosnia-

Ticket price

  • Adults 1.5 euro
  • Children 0.5 euro
  • High school students 1 euro
  • Pensioners 0.5 euro

Fortress Vranduk is open for visits every day from 08:00 to 19:00.

For a visit to Vranduk Fortress, it is best to use a car, from Zenica is just over 10 km and 30 minutes away, from Sarajevo it is 80 km and 1 hour by car via Zenica.