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Bosnian Church: Wikis


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The Bosnian Church (Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian: Crkva bosanska Latin: Ecclesia bosniensis) is historically thought to be an indigenous branch of the Bogomils that existed in Bosnia during the Middle Ages. Adherents of the church called themselves simply Krstjani ("Christians"). The church no longer exists and is thought to have disappeared completely after the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[citation needed] The church's organization and beliefs are poorly understood, because few if any records were left by church members, and the church is mostly known from the writings of outside sources, primarily Roman Catholic ones.



Bosnia was on the boundary between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. The Croats to the West and Hungarians to the North embraced Roman Catholicism, while the Serbian lands to the east and small southeastern parts of Herzegovina embraced Eastern Orthodoxy.

The Bogumils (sect) of Serbia were killed and expelled by Stefan Nemanja in the 12th century; the remaining took refuge in the Byzantine autonomous region of Bosnia were they were initially called "Patareni", the founders of the so-called Bosnian Church.[citation needed]

During the later Middle Ages most of Bosnia was nominally Roman Catholic as well[citation needed], but no accurate figures exist as to the numbers of adherents of the two churches. The Bosnian Church coexisted uneasily with Roman Catholicism for much of the later Middle Ages. Part of the resistance of the Bosnian Church was political; during the 14th century, the Roman Church placed Bosnia under a Hungarian bishop, and the schism may have been motivated by a desire for independence from Hungarian domination. Several Bosnian rulers were Krstjani, but some of them embraced Roman Catholicism for political reasons.

Outsiders accused the Bosnian Church of links to the Patarene heresy, and to the Bogomils, a Manichean sect centered in Bulgaria. The Inquisition reported about a dualist sect in Bosnia in the late 15th century and called them "Bosnian heretics", but this sect was according to some historians most likely not the same as the Bosnian Church. The historian Franjo Rački wrote about this in 1869 based on Latin sources.

It is thought today that the Patareni, who were persecuted by both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, were entirely converted into Islam. Some historians now believe that the Bosnian Church had largely disappeared before the Turkish conquest in 1463.

The religious centre of the Bosnian Church was placed in Moštre, near Visoko, where the house of krstjani was founded.[1]


The Church had its own bishop and used the Slavic language in liturgy. The bishop was called djed (lit. "grandfather"), and had a council of twelve men called strojnici. The monasteries were called hiža (lit. "house"), and the heads of monasteries were often called gost (lit. "guest") and served as strojnici.

The Church was mainly composed of monks in scattered monastic houses. It had no territorial organization and it did not deal with any secular matters other than attending people's burials. It did not involve itself in state issues very much. Notable exceptions were when King Stephen Ostoja of Bosnia, a member of the Bosnian Church himself, had a djed as an advisor at the royal court between 1403 and 1405, and an occasional occurrence of a krstjan elder being a mediator or diplomat.

The monumental tombstones called stećci (plural) / stećak (singular) that appeared in medieval Bosnia and Herzegovina are identified with the Bosnian Church, however some few evidence point to the fact that they were erected by members of all three churches alike.

Bosnian Church scholarship

The phenomenon of Bosnian medieval Christians has been attracting scholars' attention for centuries, but it was not until the latter half of the 19th century that the most important monograph on the subject, "Bogomili i Patareni" (Bogomils and Patarens), 1870, by eminent Croatian historian Franjo Rački, had been published. Rački argued that the Bosnian Church was essentially Gnostic and Manichaean in nature. This interpretation has been accepted, expanded and elaborated upon by a host of later historians, most prominent among them being Dominik Mandić, Sima Ćirković, Vladimir Ćorović, Miroslav Brandt and Franjo Šanjek. However, a number of other historians (Leon Petrović, Jaroslav Šidak, Dragoljub Dragojlović, Dubravko Lovrenović, and Noel Malcolm) stressed theologically the impeccably orthodox character of Bosnian Christian writings and claimed that for the explanation of this phenomenon suffices the relative isolation of Bosnian Christianity, which retained many archaic traits predating the East-West Schism in 1054.

John Fine, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, revolutionized the scholarship around the Bosnian Church with his pivotal work,The Bosnian Church. In that work, he argues that the Bosnian Church was not related to the Bogomils or other dualist groups. Instead, he asserts that the church was actually founded by Franciscan Monks from the Catholic Church.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Old town Visoki declared as national monument. 2004.
  2. ^ Fine, John. The Bosnian Church: Its Place in State and Society from the Thirteenth to the Fifteenth Century: A New Interpretation. London: SAQI, The Bosnian Institute, 2007. ISBN 0863565034

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