In the tumultuous past from the beginning of the XI century, Vrana was a crown property (bona coronalia), after that in the possession of the Benedictines, Templars and Hospitallers, until it was conquered by the Turks at the beginning of the 16th century. It is important to consider and analyze the legal institute, which throughout the Middle and early Modern Age was an integral part not only of Vrana and its numerous estates, but also an important state-law institute of the Croatian and Croatian-Hungarian kings and bans. This institute, known as the Priory headed by the Prior of Vrana, was in fact the supreme administrative and judicial power of many estates of ecclesiastical and secular importance throughout Dalmatia, Croatia and Slavonia, and even Bosnia.
The Vrana Priory played a prominent role in our medieval studies, because in Croatian and Croatian-Hungarian legal history it was a stumbling block to both the Venetian lion and the Turkish red crescent. Vrana as the original crown property, together with its hamlets (villae) and fields (praedia), was a noble estate (curia nobilitaris) that was used to cover the costs of maintaining a "movable" royal court.
This crown property, in addition to its great material obligations, also had a number of rights, such as the right of possession, exploitation, investment, jurisdiction, exemption from public duties and responsibilities, except from military service, pledge, encumbrance, and alienation. Vrana was also the legacy of the pope, and as such included villages, hamlets and fertile fields, which were used to cover the expenses of the pope's envoys who came to Croatia and Hungary to solve various church and church-state affairs.
In addition, signs of royal dignity (insignia regiae dignitatis), which were used by the papal envoys at the coronation of Croatian and Croatian-Hungarian rulers and served as a descensus of the Pope's deputies, were stored in Vrana. True, at first it was only the Crow, Rogovo (above Filipjakovo), Cokovac above Tkon, Tinj, the island of Zirje and other smaller estates in the area, and later the Crows' possessions within its Priory extended beyond this micro-region - new, expanded Dalmatia. The place of Vrana, in the hinterland of the original Dalmatian cities, Thema Dalmatiae (Krk, Rab, Cres, Zadar, Trogir, Split, Dubrovnik and Kotor, including the neighboring Vrgada - Lumbri-catu), also served as the most convenient gateway to the interior of ancient Roman Pannonia, as well as the region of Posavina and Banovina. Vrana, located on the main road between the coast and inland, at the intersection of maritime and land routes, became the center of religious orders, especially during the Crusades, but also one of the most important centers of later state life in the immediate vicinity of the Croatian throne cities.
In the Middle Ages, the term "prior" was understood from the ecclesiastical point of view as a person of charge of religious status, who managed a monastery over several religious brothers. While such a person was called by the Benedictines "the abbot", by the Templars "the great master" (magnus magister), by the Hospitallers he was most often called "the prior" (prior, primus inter pares). After the foundation of the so-called "Language" - area of several Hospitaller monasteries - the prior title was transferred more and more to the manager of the monastery that was at the same time the head of such a religious area.
As the Priory of Vrana stood at the head of the Croatian-Hungarian “Language”, the jurisdiction of the Vrana Priory extended to all its monasteries and estates in Croatia and Hungary. Thus, in the person of the Prior of Vrana, two ecclesiastical functions were unified -one of the elder of the most distinguished monastery, and the other one of the head of all the monasteries and their assets within a certain area.
Almost an analogous institution is also found with the Byzantine administrator of the province of Dalmatia (Thema Dalmatiae) called "the strategist" (catapanus), who was also the Prior of Zadar. Accordingly, the functions of this strategist of the whole of Dalmatia (totius Dalmatiae) were conditioned by the position of the highest municipal functionary of the city of Zadar. True, along with the Prior of Vrana and Zadar, we the city Priors can be also found in other Dalmatian coastal and island cities, as well as in Croatian cities (Biograd, Nin, Šibenik, etc.), but these Priors, unlike the first two, were only the first citizens (prior civitatis) and the highest representatives of the city municipal government within the urban area (inter muros), and only exceptionally within the suburban area (suburbium).
The town of Zadar also included a part of its archipelago - the closer islands of Ugljan, Dugi otok, etc., and later the entire archipelago. The cities that the Croats built upon their arrival (Belogradon - Belgrad - Biograd, Šibenik) were modeled after other Dalmatian cities, headed by the Prior often called "comes", "princeps" etc. Thus, in the charter of the Croatian King Petar Krešimir IV "Mare nostrum" from 1069, among other dignitaries, there is also a mention of the Biograd Prior od the town of Dobra, and after almost 6 decades from the destruction of Biograd by the Venetians in 1125, the Biograd Prior Mele is also mentioned in one of the documents about this destruction.
The fact is that only the Prior of Zadar, who was in the capacity of strategist of the whole of Dalmatia and whose function was exclusively titular, was the only one who in rank corresponded to the Prior of Vrana. While the town priors, including the Prior of the town of Zadar, were chosen by the citizens of the city in question, until then, the choice of the prior of Vrana was made exclusively among the monks of the Priory of Vrana, and exceptionally the regional monasteries of Rogovo and Čokovac, and later by strengthening the order of the Hospitallers and among all their monasteries of the Croatian-Hungarian "Language". Therefore, there were periods when the priors of Vrana were foreign citizens from outside Croatia as well, and as the priors of Vrana became people outside church circles, this gradually led to the secularization of this ancient ecclesiastical function. With the increasing incorporation of this function into the state administration and the linking of the position of the Prior of Vrana with certain positions of state functionaries (unio benefitiorum), the role and significance of the Prior of Vrana in the Croatian legal history have been increasing.
In the earliest times of our state life, the position of the Prior of Vrana had a purely private-legal significance, since this function was exclusively reserved for the ecclesiastical hierarchy. However, with the increasing involvement of the priesthood (eccl. saeculares), most of all the monks (eccl. regulares) in the governance of the state (because it was the most cultural element of the time), church dignitaries, in addition to the Bishop of Nin and the Bishop of Croatia (episcopus croatensis) at the court of the King of Croatia and the bishops in the city agglomerations of Dalmatia in the administration of the cities as the closest associates of the city priors, performed the highest services either court or state. Thus, the highest services in the country were also available to the priors of Vrana as high church dignitaries, and in this connection the position of the Prior of Vrana began to take on more and more public importance.
At the beginning of the 13th century, the priors of Vrana were also found as royal governors, Croatian dukes and bans. Due to the frequent frictions between princes and kings on the one hand and bans and the priors of Vrana on the other, the Croatian kings and bans of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia were appointed by their orders (resolutio regia) at the same time the priors of Vrana, or governors of the Priory of Vrana. This secularisation of the Prior of Vrana was generally approved by the Roman popes for reasons of greater protection of the numerous Priory estates, which were more and more affected by the increasing number of armed conflicts.
The fact is that this ecclesiastical function fell under the jurisdiction of the Roman popes, so they made the appointment of persons from non-church circles subject to the prior approval of the Hospitallers of Rhodes or of Rome. Here we can see a conflict of jurisdiction between the two authorities - the ecclesiastical and the secular, which was resolved in favor of the secular, so that since then the Croatian-Hungarian kings have appointed exclusively domestic priors of Vrana, that is, principles of the Priority of Vrana. Petar Cornuto (1336-1347) was the first prior of Vrana who also performed public-law functions.
However, one of the most famous priors of Vrana in the late 14th century was the famous Ivan Paližna (1378-1391), also known as John Palisna (according to his estate Paližna), a native of Križevci, who as a Croatian ban (Joannes, prior de Aurannae, praelatus noster et banus totius Sclavoniae et Dalmatiae) particularly emphasized as the leader of the rebellion against Queen Jelisaveta and her daughter Maria, the heir to the Croatian-Hungarian king, Ljudevit I. Of no less importance are the priors of Vrana Matko and Ivan Talovac (1436-1439, 1439-1445), who distinguished themselves as Croatian bans, Matko as Ban of Croatia and Dalmatia and of Whole Slavonia, and Ivan as Ban of Croatia and Dalmatia.
Besides Bartol Berislavić (1475-1517), at the end of the 15th century, as the Prior of Vrana distinguished himself Petar Berislavić (1517-1520), Croatian Ban and Bishop of Veszprém. As some of the state functions in Croatia in that time were also performed by the priors of Vrana, this is the reason why the exercise of these secular state functions significantly increased the number of properties of the Vrana priority. Thus, in the period from the 12th to the 16th century, 50 large and small estates in 10 major cities were included under the Vrana Priority, the most important of which were:
- in Dalmatia: Klis, Novigrad, Ostrovica, Sinj, Šibenik and others.
- in Croatia and Slavonia: Apatovac (Križevci), Bela (Varaždin), Božjakovina (Dugo selo), Čakovec, Gacka and Modruša (Lika), Glogovnica (Križevci), Grabrovnica (Đurđevac), Ivanec, Pakrac, Slav. Pozega, Spasovac (Senj), Susedgrad (Zagreb) and others.
- in Bosnia: Dubica na Uni and others.
As a king (donatio regia) as well as a nobleman (breve donations), the Prior of Vrana acquired an increasing number of goods, which he confirmed with the documents authenticated by his seal. The seal of the Prior of Vrana, by virtue of the strength of evidence of the legal transaction, was one of the larger sigila non authentica seals, which were still used by the Archbishop of Esztergom, bishops, the Serbian overlord and Lord Mayors. In fact, these were the stamps of reputable private persons who performed certain services. With their seals, no legal work could be permanently testified, since these seals had probative value only in cases which related exclusively to the service, function and position of their "owners". However, while the Prior of Vrana was at the same time Croatian Ban, he was then entitled to use another, authentic sigila authentica maiora, a seal that enjoyed a special reputation and had to be trusted, since it was validated every fact and every statement of a legal or other nature (habent fidem in alienis negotiis).
Such seals were also used by the king, ban, cathedral capitals and certain monasteries, which, as special authentic places (loca credibilia, testimonialia aut authentica), confirmed the conclusion of all legal, property and other affairs.
The Prior of Vrana also exercised judicial authority with the help of two subpriors (duoviri jure dicundo), who were responsible to the city judges (iudices) in Dalmatian cities. During the absence or in the event of the death of the Prior of Vrana, these assistants pursued the Priory's agenda. The Prior of Vrana was often entrusted with the position of the defender of the state and the people (defensor civitatis et plebis), defending them from the wrongs inflicted by the enemy. He was also entrusted with the task and honour of issuing grants at the inauguration of noblemen (statutio). This inauguration consisted in the fact that the Prior of Vrana, as "homo regius seu banalis," solemnly introduced the gifted into estate in his possession. As the king's or ban's "man" - in addition to the envoy of a credible place (locus credi'bilis) who was regularly a canon of one of the cathedrals, and exceptionally collegiate capitols in Croatia and Slavonia, the Prior of Vrana occupied a presidential position at the inauguration.
Unless he was at the same time a Ban of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia, the Prior of Vrana, unless he was at the same time a Ban of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia, was granted the following privileges: the right of one-time deferral (beneficium annuae prorogationis), which means that he was not obliged for the first year of hi appointment to correspond to the ligitation submissions of his procedural opponents; he had a higher "homogium", that is, he was entitled to a higher fine, so that a delinquent who would commit violence or a similar crime would be punished more severly; he could appoint prosecutors, i.e. assistants to represent him in litigation he led; his oath was worth the oath of ten ordinary noblemen.
As the members of the prelacy, the Piors of Vrana belonged to the nobility class (nobilitas status) as long as they were also its rightful members (unique nobility). The priors of Vrana, who were also Croatian Bans, became nobles and nobility (nobilitas officii). The priors of Vrana that belonged to the secular rank became nobles by profession, and only when and to what extent did they serve as priors or bans. However, there were also priors from noble families who became nobles at their very birth (nobilitas hereditaria), and whose nobility, unlike the above, could not be lost by ceasing to perform the priory functions. The Prior of Vrana, as well as the whole series of Hospitallers such as the land nobility, often became noble predialists (nobiles praedijales), i.e. noblemen who would concede a certain asset (praedium) for exploitation to his citizens (subdites, colons), who would be obliged in return to give at the request of such a Prior of Vrana a certain number of people (regularly 400) under the flag (banderium) of the Hospitaller order for the defense of the state, which he would lead in the battle the Prior of Vrana himself.
In doing so, such land nobility, to which belonged the Prior of Vrana, had established military benefits on their estates. Two of such banderiums were in the possession of the Archbishop of Esztergom, one in the possessio of the Bishop of Zagreb and the Prior of Vrana.
The Vrana Priory had the meaning of dominium - the manor, because there were agricultural settlements on his estates, whose peasants (colons, iobbagiones) fell under the jurisdiction of the Prior of Vrana. Namely, in relation to these peasants - colons, to the Prior of Vrana also belonged certain regal rights (beneficia dominalia, feuda regalium), and as a high-ranking prelate, the Prior of Vrana was exempted from payment of certain dachas - especially the right of mortgage and transport (ius telonii et nauli), the right to fish (ius piscationis) and other such rights (iura regalia minora seu accidentalia), then the customs right (ius tricesimae), the right to mill and hold fairs (ius molae et mundinarum), the right to tithe (ius decimae) and others such rights, and in particular the right to exercise legislative, judicial and executive powers (iura regalia maiora seu essentialia).
Founded in 1492, at the time of King Ladislaus II, the joint Hungarian-Croatian parliament consisting of two chambers - the upper one (House of Lords) under the chairmanship of the Hungarian palatine and the lower one (House of Representatives), chaired by the king's envoy - the Prior of Vrana as senior prelate and often as Croatian ban (banus Croatiae, Slavoniae et Dalmatiae), became a virile member of the upper chamber of the joint assembly, and as a prelate belonged to the right of parliamentary deputies to the state barons and royal advisers of the nobility by title and rank, and to princes, counts and barons by gender. In addition to the royal palatine, the judge of the royal curia, the royal taverna, the Duke of Transylvania, the Ban of Mačva and Severin, the Ban of Croatia and Slavonia, the Prior of Vrana became a full-fledged member of both parliaments. As the higher prelates were divided into real and title (praelati actuales et titulares), so the priors of Vrana were at first real high prelates (praelati actuales), since they managed their subordinate monasteries and all the priory estates in their "Language" area - Priory, while later, since the beginning of the 15th century, with the disappearance of the Hospitaller Order (the Hospitallers) and the increasing transfer of the priory's goods into the hands of the state erar and secular nobility and especially with the founding of the Military Frontier in 1750, their material revenues were significantly reduced.
This was the reason that the priors of Vrana became more and more title and honorary (praelati honorarii seu titulares) of the formerly rich and famous Priory. After the abolition of church ranks, only a small part of the possessions of Vrana, especially in the narrow region of Croatia, remained in the property of the church. According to the document of 25. issued in June 1405, after the abolition of the Order of the Hospitallers, Pope Innocent VII appointed the Zagreb Canon and the Provost of Čazma, Ivan, the first Prior of Vrana. Ferdinand III appointed Benedict Vinković the provost and governor of Vrana. Since then, the position of the Prior of Vrana was mostly in the hands of the laity, until that title was associated with the honor of the Master Provost (praepositus, the canon) of the Zagreb Cathedral on the Kaptol.
In the mid-nineteenth century, after the resignation of Josip Schrott, the Bishop of Zagreb, the Archbishop of Zagreb, Haulik, with the permission of the King and Pope, divided the remainder of the revenue of the Priory of Vrana in favor of the Archdiocesan Seminary, the Diocese of Zagreb and the Priory of Vrana by 1/3, and the title "Prior of Vrana" passed to the canon of the Archdiocese of Zagreb - Assistant Bishop Dr. Franjo Salis-Seewis, Dr. J. Lach and others. Although the Turks lost Vrana as early as the middle of the seventeenth century, when it belonged to Venice and then to Austria, they assigned the title of the beys of Vrana to the descendants of the first Turkish bay in Vrana, Ferhadpašaa Durakbegović (Duraković), who lived in Bosnia. They carried the title until the end of World War II, when all such titles were abolished.
In order to improve agriculture in Vrana and to reclaim its fertile fields around Lake Vrana, in 1752 Venice ceded Vrana with all rights and obligations as a feud (leno) to the family of Franjo Borelli from Bergamo, giving him at the same time the noble title of "Conte di Vrana - Prince of Vrana." The fact is that such a fiefdom still belonged to the feudal lord (dominus feud) - the Venetian government, while the vassal had for himself and his heirs only right in rem. As such, he had to bound to the vassal's allegiance and the performance of obligations. Vassal had the right to permanently inherit goods,which in the event of infidelity (felony) he could even lose, and he could also share his feud with his sub vassals.
The fact is that since then, the new feudal "lord" (vassal) has done much to dry the swampy soil - the "pond". He ordered to ditch the drainage and fertilization channels, but the pressure for new financial expenditures by the state err, who still considered Vrana a fiscal good (bona fiscal), especially after the fall of Venice, had the effect of as early as 1881. The pond of Vrana was bought by ancient Austria, but the heirs of this family were still legally assigned the title until the end of World War II, when such titles were abolished.
The Priory of Vrana, as our legal and historical institute, was a complete reflection of the then feudal system of not only our country but also of Europe at that time. At that time, Vrana represented a distinct and very noticeable phenomenon in our legal history, while to its Priory, as a legal institution that extended beyond the territories of Dalmatia, Croatia and Slavonia, were available top state and church functions.