The old Serbian family of rulers and noblemen, Kosača, coming from a village bearing the same name, near Goražde, was a link, tying the Serbian Orthodox Christian aristocracy in the hard times after the Battle of Kosovo. They were related to the Lazarević family in Serbia and the Crnojević one in Montenegro. In 1435, Stefan Vukčić Kosača succeeded his uncle, Sandalj Hranić, a Duke of Hum, who soon seceded his lands from Bosnia. During the crowning ceremony at the Mileševa Monastery, he added the words “of St Sava“ to his name, wishing to emphasise the continuity of the Nemanjić’s state. During the hard times for all the Serbian lands, Herzeg Stefan lead treacherous politics towards his Bosnian, Serbian and Zeta neighbours, wishing to ensure a safe existence for his lands. Under his rule, the St Sava’s Dukedom, i.e. Herzegovina, spread from the Mileševa in the east to Omiš in the west, and to Novi (Herzeg-Novi) in the south. After 1465, Hum and the Drina Region gradually fall under the Turkish rule, Venice conquers the Neretva Frontier Region, while the Herzeg now has only a narrow strip around Novi, and when in 1482 it finally fell, Turkish rule was fully established in Herzegovina.
The word herzeg is of German origin (herzog), meaning the duke. Stefan, Stjepan or Šćepan is the same name, differently pronounced in different dialects. The name comes from Greek stefanos – a wreath, and is actually the name of the first Christian martyr for his faith, Archdeacon Stephen.
RELIGION AND TRADITION
Herzeg Stefan was a true Orthodox Christian, related to the Serbian Monastery of Mileševa, where he had his own priest, Father David. He was crowned at the monastery – over the remains of St Sava. Herzeg Stefan was the Ktetor of numerous monasteries and a contributor to the St Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai.
While the Herzeg Stefan’s seat was in Novi – he wanted to make it a commercial centre, opening a weaving mill – in summer he used to retreat to the Soko Fortress, located at the very Montenegro and Herzegovina border. He built the Zagrađe Monastery below the fortress, and the monastery has been restored recently. A little farther down, above the place where the Piva and the Tara rivers join forming the Drina (the place called a ‘junction’ (stave, sastavci), was a mediaeval town with a square. Today it is Šćepan-polje, with various tourist facilities.