What was the Bosnian Church?


Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
Republika Srpska
So, in medieval Bosnia, there existed a heretical church called the Church of Bosnia (crkva bosanska). The presence of this heretical church caused a lot of trouble for medieval Bosnia and even caused a mini-crusade to be led against it. The church of Bosnia was one of the main features of medieval Bosnia that separated it from its neighbours, and it is considered by many that the persecution of the native Bosnian krstjani (adherents of the Bosnian Church) significantly helped later islamization in the Ottoman times. Although this is plausible, by the time the Ottomans conquered Bosnia in 1463, it seems that the Bosnian Church was mostly dead. We do know that the church was considered heretic by both the Catholics and the Orthodox. We have primary sources from the West talking about Bosnian heresy, and also some sources from Serbia (Žitije kralja Dragutina for example) that talk about Bosnian heretics.

However, we know almost nothing about the Church of Bosnia itself, except that it was heretical. The most widespread theory is that the Bosnian Church was Bogomilistic and there is some evidence to that. When Stefan Lazarević took parts of Bosnia, he saw that most of the people there were actually Bogomils. However, some heretics came into Bosnia from Dalmatia, while the centers of Bogomilism were further east, and I have read that there are theories that the Bosnian Church was originally a Catholic church and that the Hungarians who wished to take Bosnia basically spread the tales of Bosnian heresy, though I don't find this likely since the Serbian Church saw Bosnia as a state full of heretics as well. Fine in the book The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Their Historic Development from the Middle Ages to the Dissolution of Yugoslavia claims that the Bosnian Church was not Bogomilistic since they accepted the Trinity, Old Testament, cults of saints etc. We have very little primary sources from the members of the Church itself that would help us determine its origins and teachings. I know that there are some Balkan medievalists on this forum, so...yeah.

What was the Bosnian Church?


Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
Not a medievalist, but I'll give it a try:

The thesis that the Church of Bosnia originates from Bulgarian Bogomils stems from Franjo Rački (Bogomili i patareni, Rad JAZU 7, 8, 10 (1869/1870)). The thesis was unsuccessfully attacked by a number of historians and was finally popularized by Steven Runciman (The Medieval Manichee. A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy, Cambridge 1947) and Alexei Solovyev (Vjersko učenje bosanske crkve, Rad JAZU (1948), 5-46).

We have quite a bit of primary sources. Let's mention some of them:

The Corpora
1. The Hval's Corpus.
2. The Venetian Corpus.
3. The Radosav's Corpus.

The Gospels
1. The Srećković's Gospel.
2. The Grujović's Gospel
3. The Gospel of Čajniče
4. The Batal's Gospel

Other Narrative Sources
1. The Radosav's Ritual Text

Diplomatic Sources
1. The Letter of the Bishop of the Church of Bosnia to the Ragusans (January 8th, 1404)
2. The Document of Elder Mirohna (1427)
3. The Will of the Guest Radin (January 5th, 1466)
4. Ban Stephen II's Charter to Vukoslav Hrvatinić (1321-1330?)
5. Ban Stephen II's Charter to Gregory Stipanić (1321-1330?)
6. Ban Tvrtko's Charter to Stephen Rajković (1370/1374?)
7. Two Duke (Herzog) Stephen's Charters from June 19th, 1453.
8. King Stephen Thomas' Charter to the Dragišić Brothers (August 22nd, 1466)

On top of all of that there is a number of inscriptions, letters and other types of sources.

As I'm feeling really lazy right now I'll just mention that according to the Defter for Herzegovina in 1475/7 less then 1 percent of households belonged to the Church of Bosnia. The villages that were exlusively "Bosnian" were Radešina (near Konjic) and Rastok (near Samobor). There is also a number of people bearing names like Gost and Bogomil that were actually Orthodox/Catholic.
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Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
Republika Srpska
Interesting, but can these sources tell us what the Bosnian Church was?
I found this, and while many of your sources do appear there, I don't think we can deduce what the Bosnian Church was from them, except the mention that Radin was probably Orthodox. I said we don't have primary sources that could help us determine the character of the church, except maybe some documents that contain the symbol of the cross, something not associated with the Bogomils. But, the Orthodox clergy and Orthodox rulers in Serbia clearly mentioned heretics in Bosnia, as I had already mentioned in the OP.

Of course, thanks for your very nice contribution.
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