Return to the Table of Contents

Croatia Proper, Slavonia, Dalmatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Dubrovnik, Kotor and Vojvodina all had the same source or influence of grants of nobility. Croatia was ruled and influenced by Austria, Hungary, Turkey and Venice and her nobility can be best illustrated as follows:

                             A) 0ld Croatian hereditary nobility

                             B) Austrian-Hungarian grants

                             C) Venetian grants to Dalmatian nobility


A further detailed breakdown of the various parts of Croatia and the years involved would be as follows:


Croatia Proper

                             I.  Hereditary nobility;

                             2. Feudal nobility;

                             3. List of nobility or grant of Coat of Arms - 1438;

                             4. Habsburg nobility grants - 1527-1740;

                             5.  Austrian or Hungarian - 1740-1806;

                             a. Start of military orders or grants to Croatians                                            

on the Military Frontier;

                             6. Austro-Hungarian-Croatian - 1806-1918.


                             1. Old Dalmatian nobility and those escaping from Bosnia recognized by Venice 1409-1520;

                             2. Venice granted titles to those who fought the Turks and gave others the title of Count - 1520-1718;

                             3. Majority of Dalmatian arms were granted in this period -1718-1797;

                             4. Austria occupation recognized all Venetian-Dalmatian nobility - 1797-1806;

                             5. French occupation took away some privileges  1806-1813;

                             6. Austrian occupation recognizes only 20% of Dalmatian nobility - 1814-1918.



                             1. Old Croatian hereditary titles;

                             2. Feudal nobility - 1377-1463;

                             3. Hercegovinian nobility to 1482.



The original grants were lands given to the nobility under a strict feudal system. Later Coats of Arms were granted, then finally lists were published as Nobility Lists or Rolls of Nobility.


Titles of Nobility


Titles of the nobility varied somewhat due to the influence of foreign rulers and the time period involved. For the convenience of the American reader, the below outlines the titles in English, Croatian, French, Italian and German:


          English       Croatian               French                 German      Italian


          Prince         Knez                     Prince                   Furst           Principe               

Duke           Vojvoda                 Duc                      Herzog        Duca

          Marquis      Margrof                 Marquis                Markgraf     Marchese

          Count         Grof                      Comte                   Graf            Conte

          Baron          Barun                   Baron                   Frei herr     Barone

          Knight        Vitez                     Chevalier,             Ritter          Cavaliere

          Noble          Plemic                  Noble                    Edler           Nobile


The titles were somewhat different in various parts of Croatia:


Old Croatian Hereditary Nobility



Velikasa--High Nobility


Bosnian Nobility


Knez -- Prince




Habsburg - Austria Period










Dalmatian Cities


Vlastela--High Nobility









The study of Croatian coats of arms and other historic sciences on the professional level started in Croatia in the seventeenth century, particularly with the works by Pavao Ritter Vitezovic from Senj. The contributions have been especially notable since the nineteenth century. Ivan Bojnicic published “Der Adel von Kroatien und Slavonien” (The Noblemen of Croatia and Slavonia).  Beside Bojnicic the most prominent expert in this field in the 20th century was  Bartol Zmajic. Bartol Zmajic was born in 1907 in Susak, now the eastern part of Rijeka, Republic of Croatia and died in 1984 in Zagreb. He was a baron, a descendant of a reputable noble family. Although being a lawyer by profession, he spent his whole working life of forty years in the Croatian State Archives in Zagreb as an archivist and a senior archivist, mostly of earlier historic records. Beside his usual archivist activities Zmajic particularly indulged in studies of several auxiliary historic sciences - numismatics, heraldry, sphragistics and genealogy. He published a series of works in these fields, distinguishing himself as an expert in money of the antique Roman Empire period (on the territory of today's Croatia) and in the history of Croatian heraldry. It was he who published, among other works, the first detailed insight into the development of Croatian heraldry; he described the coats of arms of several noble families (e.g. the princes of Krk - Frankopans, beside the Subic-Zrinski family the most reputable Croatian noblemen) and gave also encyclopedic presentations of the heraldry in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He also produced  surveys of genealogy and sphragistics in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and many other works.


Union of Hungary with the Twelve Croatian Clans


The twelve chief Croatian clans, presumably descendants of the original tribes that had taken possession of the country in the sixth or seventh centuries, were the Kacic, Svacic, Subic, Kukara, Gusic, Cudomiric, Mogoric, or Muric, Karinjani-Lapcani, Polecic, Lacnicic, Jamometic or Jamonstic, and Tugomiric or Tudomiric. Croatia had no male heir. It was with the head families of these clans that the Hungarian king entered into discussions as to the terms on which he was to ascend the throne of the Trpimirovici. Some or all of the clans may have opposed the Hungarians at first in the territories between the Gvozd and the Neretva river. But by 1102 at latest they were all ready to acquiesce in the recognition of Koloman as their sovereign. The basic condition that the clans appear to have laid down to the Hungarian ruler was that the Croatian nation in general should retain full possession of Croatian territory and national property; more particularly the twelve noble families or clans named, who ruled between the Gvozd and Neretva, were confirmed in their possession of this territory.


Turopolje Nobility


In mid winter of 1249 the Mongols rode across the frozen Danube river, and, in pursuance of their usual tactic of following to the death the king of any force which dared to oppose them in the field, part of their army set out to run Bela to earth. The Hungarian king at this time ennobled the entire community of Turopolje near Zagreb for its services in his defense and in supplying him and his entourage with food and other necessities. But Zagreb could not be held against the Mongol storm and the king made for the coast with the Mongol ponies almost on his heels. Zagreb itself was largely destroyed.


Free Communities


A certain number of plemina (clans) and bratsva remained free. They came to constitute free communities which operated under the general aegis of the lords of the surrounding territories. Sometimes these communities acquired titles of group nobility, Plemenite opcine. Often, too, they had serfs of their own. Communities of this kind such as those of  Turopolje, Pokupje, Draganic, Domagovic, Cvetkovic, and of the Korana region, occupied entire villages and succeeded in conserving their privileges until 1848.


Austrian Military Grants


Nobility grants (Nobilitationen), 1636-1753. These include the bestowal of certain rights of nobility in return for special military service such as thirty years of service or valor in the face of the enemy.


Croatian Arms


Croatian Arms were also granted by the Austrian and Hungarian Crowns and the Republic of Venice.



One of the most common devices found on Hungarian-Croatian shields is a symbol of the many Turkish invasions of Croatia and Hungary: the head of a Turk with a black moustache wearing a turban, blood dripping from the neck. Also popular were the griffin, bear, sun, moon, stars, horses, men on horseback, swords and a green dragon with a red cross on its body. A coronet often replaces the wreath above the helmet. The mantling is often a combination of more than two tinctures, the most common being blue and gold on the dexter side and red and silver on the sinister. Hungarian-Croatian heraldry also employs a clan system instead of individual arms. The arms of the old kingdom of Hungary included St. Stephen's cross, lions' heads, eagles and a six-pointed star representing the old kingdoms and provinces of Bosnia, Croatia, Dalmatia, Hercegovina, Slavonia and Transylvania.


Both countries share the same characteristics in heraldry. Eagles, with one or two heads, are prominent in both German and Austrian-Croatian arms.


Although the heater shield is common in Italian arms, the more ornate jousting shields are often also used. A commoner's helmet is steel-colored, the visor lowered, seen in profile. Crests are rarely used.


Science of Heraldry


Family Coat of Arms

The basic components of any armorial achievement are the shield, crest and motto. Of these three the shield is the most important since the arms are depicted on the it. The crest, when it exists, surmounts the arms and is usually shown on a wreath of the two main colors of the shield. Historically, the crest was attached to the top of the knight's helmet and acted as an additional form of identification in battle. Mottoes were often a  war-cry or slogan used in battle, and later adopted by the clan. They are not hereditary and no one is compelled to bear one, nor is any authority needed to adopt a motto, the matter is left purely to the personal pleasure of the individual. When a motto exists it is usually shown on a scroll beneath the shield. Though not necessarily part of the coat of arms, three additional features of the heraldic achievement deserve mention, namely, the helmet, mantling and wreath. The helmet serves to remind us of the turbulent days of Europe's middle ages, out of which heraldry was born. The mantling, which generally displays signs of having been hacked and torn on the field of battle was a long cloak, attached to the helmet by means of a twisted cord or wreath. By the thirteenth century it became fashionable to decorate this cloak or surcoat with the heraldic devices displayed on the owner's shield. Hence the origin of the term; Coat of Arms. In all the shield, crest, motto, helmet, mantling and wreath form a truly colorful and romantic achievement commanding admiration.


Heraldic Colors

Heraldry in its origin and purpose was a visual art. Its main tinctures or colors were: gules or red, symbol of martial fortitude and magnanimity; azure or blue, symbol of loyalty and truth; sable or black, symbol of constancy and grief; vert or green, symbol of hope and joy; and purpure or purple, symbol of royalty and justice. The chief metals used were or (gold), depicted as a bright yellow, symbolizing generosity and elevation of mind, and argent (silver) depicted as white indicating peace and sincerity. The furs of heraldry signify a mark of dignity, in addition to the symbolisms attached to their various colors. The furs are: ermine, ermines, erminois, pean, vair, countervair, potent and counter-potent. Simple coats of arms are usually the most ancient, often consisting of a single division of the shield into two colors or one color and a metal.


Heraldic Symbols

From its simple and practical origins, Heraldry gradually developed into a highly sophisticated art. As the number of coats of arms multiplied, an ever increasing number of objects, animals, birds and even mythical creatures began to be depicted on shields. These devices were often symbolic of some glorious deed or praiseworthy act of the owner and were founded on fact or tradition appertaining to the bearer's or his ancestors. Sometimes, religious symbols or devices forming a play on the bearers name or occupation were used.



Anon.          Vojvodina Heraldry. Novi Sad: 1975. Coat of Arms of Vojvodina.

Atlagic, M. Grbovi Plemstva u Slavoniji 1700-1918. Cakovec, 1982. Croatian Arms in Slavonia.

Banac, I. Grbovi Biljezi Identiteta. Zagreb, 1991. Arms are Identification.

Bojnicic, Ivan. Der Adel von Kroatien und Slavonien. Nurnberg: Bauer and Raspe, 1899. Coats of Arms of Croatia and Slavonia. Part of Siebmachers Wappenbuch.

Bojnicic, I. “Grbovnica Kraljevine Slavonije.” Hrvatskog Arheoloskog Drustva Zagreb (1895). Arms from Slavonia.

Brajkovic, V. Grbovi, Grbovnice, Rodoslovlja. Zagreb, 1976. Arms and Genealogy in the Croatian Historical Museum.

Buffalis, Jerko. Trogirski Grbovnik. Trogir: Buffalis, 1776.

Csergheo, G. von. Der Adel von Ungarn samt den Nebenlandern der St. Stephanskrone. Nurnberg: Bauer and Raspe, 1893. Includes Croatian Arms. Part of Siebmacher Wappenbuch.

Csergheo, G. von. Der Adel von Ungarn samt den Nebenlandern der St. Stephanskrone. Nurnberg: Bauer and Raspe, 1894. Includes Croatian Arms. Part of Siebmacher Wappenbuch.

Despot, Zvonimir. “Hrvatsko Genealosko Drustvo.” Vecernji List, February 12, 2002. First Croatian Genealogical and Heraldic Society in immigration organized by Adam S. Eterovich.

Dolcetti, Giovanni. Il Libro D' Argento delle Famiglie Venete. Italy: Arnaldo Forni, 1922. Has Croatian arms.

Duisin, V.A. Zbornik Plemstva u  Hrvatskoj, Slavoniji, Dalmaciji. Zagreb, 1938. Croatian Arms in Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia

Dujsin, Viktor. “Poviest Hrvatskog Plemstva i Heraldika.” Hrvatska Domovina I (1943). History of Croatian Heraldry.

Eterovich, Adam S. Croatian and Dalmatian Coats of Arms. San Francisco: Ragusan Press, 1978. Family coats of arms.

Eterovich, Adam S. Croatian Popes and Saints and the Croatian Checkered Arms. San Carlos: Ragusan Press, 1998. Contains all forms of family and state arms with the Croatian checkered arms. Thirteen Popes had similar Arms.

Eterovich, Adam S. A Guide to Croatian Genealogy. San Carlos, Calif.: Ragusan Press, 1995.

Fine, John. The Bosnian Church: Columbia University Press, 1975. Has list of Bosnian nobility.

Fojnica. The Genealogy of a Bosnian or an Illyrian and Serbian Ruler. Fojnica, Bosnia: Monastery, 1340. Hand painted Arms.

Galvani, F.A. Il Re d' Armi di Sebenico. Venice, 1884. Coats of arms in Sibenik.

Gigante, R. Blasonario Fiumano. Rijeka, 1938. Heraldry of Rijeka.

Granic, M. “Plemstvo, Grbovi i Rodoslovlja Paske Vlastele u XVIII st.” HAZU Zadar (1993). Nobility, Arms and Genealogy.

Ivancevic, Vinko. “Prilog Poznavanju Kamenih Grbova u Gradu Korculi.” Jugoslavenske Akademije Znanosti i Umjetnosti, 1978. Stone carved family heraldry on the Island of Korcula.

Jukic, Ivan. “The Fojnica Crest Collection.” Danica Ilirska, 1842 1842.

Jukic, Ivan. “The Fojnica Crest Collection.” Bosanski Prijatelj (1851).

Knezevic, Anto. “The Fojnica Crest Collection.” Zvijezda Zadarska (1863).

Kolumbic, J. “Grbovi Zadarski Plemickih Obitelji Pocetkom Druge Austrijske Vladivine Dalmacijom.” JAZU u Zadar (1979). Coats of Arms in Zadar.

Korjenic-Neoric. Croatian Coats of Arms. Zagreb: University Library, 1595. Hand drawn Croatian Family Arms.

Labas, Ivan N. Manuscript of 626 Croatian Coats of Arms in Color. Zagreb, 1840.

Miagostovich, Vincenzo. I Nobili e il Clero di Sebenico nel per la Fabbrica della Cattrdrale. Sibenik, 1910. The Nobility of Sibenik.

Mosin, V. “Fojnica Crest Collection.” Cirilski Rukopisi,  1955.

Orbini, Mavro. Il. Regno degli Slavi. Venice ?, 1601. Kingdom of the Slavonians.

Petrinovic, Mirko Ed. Grbovi Plemenitih Obitelji Ilirskih. Sarajevo: Oslobodenje, 1972. Fojnica Family Arms collection.

Racki, F. Stari Grb Bosanski. Zagreb: Rad JA, 1890. Bosnian Arms.

Rietstap, J. B. Armorial General. London: Rolland, 1903. Displays 1000's of family Coats of Arms.

Rosenfeld, Heyer von, Carl. Der Adel des Konigreichs Dalmatien. Nurnberg: Bauer and Raspe, 1873. Coats of Arms of the Kingdom of Dalmatia. Part of Siebmacher's Wappenbuch.

Skac, M. Grbovi Nase Obale. Zagreb, 1985. Arms on the Adriatic.

Solovjev, A. “Prinosi za Bosansku i Ilirsku Heraldiku.” Glasnik Zemaljskog Muzeja Sarajevo (1954). Bosnian and Illyrian Heraldry.

Thalloczy, L. Sudslawische Heraldische Studien. Munich, 1914. South Slav Heraldry.

Vitezovic, P. Stemmatographia Sive Armorum Illyricorum Delineatio. Zagreb, 1701. Croatian Illyrian Arms.

Vitezovich, Pavao. Banologiji. Zagreb, 1710. Has 54 Croatian coats of arms.

Vladimirovic, Luke. De Regno Bosniae. Venice, 1781. The Kingdom of Bosnia. Lists nobility of Bosnia.

Zmajic, B. “Grbovi Zagrebackih Biskupa i Nadbiskupa.” Kulturno Poviestni Zbornik Zagreb (1945). Arms of Zagreb Bishops and Archbishops.

Zmajic, B. Heraldika, Sfragistika, Genealogija. Zagreb, 1971. Lists and illustrates Croatian family heraldry.

Zmajic, Bartol. Heraldika, Sfragistika, Genealogija, Veksilologija, Rjecnik Heraldickog Nazivlja.  Zagreb: Golden Marketing, 1996.

Zmajic, B. “Razvitak Heraldike u Banskoj Hrvatskoj.” Vjesnik Drzavnog Arhiva XII Zagreb (1945). Heraldry in Croatia.