Branimir (879 - 892)

Branimir was arguably one of Croatia's most auspicious and triumphant princes, achieving international recognition of Croatia's independence with the blessing of Pope John VIII (the highest authority in Europe at the time). Following three years of political division culminating in the overthrow of Zdeslav, whom many Croats considered treasonous, the vigorous Branimir elevated Croatia to a position of supreme power and prosperity.

Following Branimir's declaration of loyalty to the Holy Roman Church in 879, the Pope blessed "the Croatian people and their land" and maintained a very close relationship. The Pope often defended Croatian independence at international forums and negotiations, particularly with Byzantium, which was keen to expand its influence following the conquest of Bulgaria. Subsequently, Byzantine Emperor Basil I paid tribute to Croatia, ordering the towns of the Dalmatian thema to pay taxes to the Croatian sovereign. This was a momentous achievement for the Croats given the strength Byzantium wielded under Basil I.

A number of letters between the Pope and Branimir have been preserved and give testimony to the reverence in which Branimir was held by the Holy Roman Church. Forms of address such as "our most dear son", "most illustrious Lord", "famous Knight" and "Your Excellency" were usually reserved for rulers of the highest echelons of European politics. In one letter the Pope informed Branimir of his prayers for Croatia given at St Peter's Basilica on Ascension Day. The letters are kept at the Vatican Library.

In recent times, archaeologists have discovered a number of stone inscriptions bearing Branimir's name and title in Nin, Zdrapanj, Sopot, Otres and Gornji Muc. The last inscription (see picture) formed part of an altar screen at a church built during Branimir's rule. The inscription in full reads:

In the time of Prince Branimir, the 888th year since Christ took the Holy Body from the Holy Virgin, the VI indiction.

Branimir was married to Marusa (Princess of the Croats).

Stone beam from Gornji Muc

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