Monday, July 03, 2006

Bogomils in the Western Balkans. Persecutions there, elsewhere. Bogomili -Ideas Survive

A Persecuted and Forgotten People - Bogomili, Bogomils

Ideology of the Internal Spirit vs. The Creeds:
Creeds Won

For an overview of the persecutions against noncomformists in the 3rd and 4th Centuries CE, and thereafter as creeds overcame loving one's neighbor, see "An Age of Persecution" at :// Cathars arose, opposing the idea that priests had the "power of attorney" to forgive sins - if orthodoxy is not your background, this means that they said people should follow the "holy spirit" within each individual, not dependent on outside interpretation, power structures superseding that individual.

That was opposed by the Paulian followers, of the Apostle Paul, the Paulicians - and Paul won. Bogomili went "underground" - ideas staying alive in many forms.

Unsung here: viewpoints in early religion days where some things heretical then, in some ways look pretty good now. Start with the Christian Bogomils: Bosnia; before "Christianity" took over and compelled its creeds.

This picture is an abandoned church not far from the Bogomil graveyard (the highway goes right through) in Bosnia. The church may not be Bogomil - looking for an identification in addition to its proximity to the graves.

Early sect of Christianity, perhaps gnostic - see They apparently did not see the need for an organized controlling hierarchy and questioned the established church-empire's interpretation of scripture's ambiguities and exclusions and requirements for observances. See fine older (1879) index and chronology at The Bogomils of Bosnia and Bulgaria: The Early Protestants of the East. They developed out of old Thrace, and gained strong footholds in the Balkans, especially Bosnia 1000-1200 AD. See Bosnia Road Ways

The Bogomils saw themselves as pure Christians and could assume local customs and accommodate themselves to others around them.

Orthodoxy and the Roman branch rejected their interpretations of scripture and beliefs. Bogomils denied many of the basic tenets of the established religious institution. They were persecuted for centuries, and finally decimated. They may be related to the Cathars in France and others, deemed to be heretics because they wanted to choose their beliefs rather than merely accept someone else as authority. There are are burial grounds dotted around Bosnia and other Western Balkan areas.

These pictures are from Bosnia, on the road from Sinj in Croatia to Mostar, Bosnia. The highway runs right through them. I understand there have been no significant excavations. Do not know if the abandoned church, also by the roadside nearby, is Bogomil. No signs. How could we tell? Read about the Balkan Slavs, Bosnia and the Bogomil Heresy at

Other sources say the group terminated in the 900's. The sect may have begun in Mesopotamia in the 4th Century, they denied the function of sacraments and believed in spiritual power and prayer as the way to unity of soul and God. Prayer, prayer. Not external control systems, although they followed suit if they had to, to avoid being persecuted. Do read the whole site - I am interested in the evolution of ideas, and this is a thorough start. They saw evil in the world and worked against it. Other names for them: Enthusiasts , from the Greek, full of the god; Euchites or praying people from a Greek translation of an earlier oriental name, or like Marcianists. Or Adelphians - from an original leader - Philadelphia??

A series of Bishops anad other established-establishing types condemned them from Antioch to Constantinople to Ephesus, to Armenia and Syria
They revived under the name of Bogomili but perished in the 9th century." This from, Catholic Forum view, Note that others have them surviving and doing well until the 12th. Like Cathars? Albigensians?

We do know they did not perish in the 9th century. There had to be three crusades launched from Turkey in the 1200's to decimate them. See for more on the persecution and crusades against Bogomils.

Bogomils focused on personal belief, not structure; sounds Quaker-like. This site also calls them "proto-Reformation." The University of Wisconsin site goes on to suggest that the Bogomils felt more of a similarity with Islam than Christianity because of the de-emphasis on ceremony, and their emphasis on core beliefs. For a discussion of their beliefs, that are a far cry from church institutional positions today, see The non-Muslims (who also were not on the front lines, as were these Bosnians) see these Muslims who converted under Christian persecution as descended from "traitors," and the antipathies get extreme. Some did not outright and fully convert. Instead, they accepted refuge among the Turks who permitted a degree of continuing worship the old way. There were Bogomils who managed a degree of independence, as a form of Moslem, in Sarajevo for centuries. See the serbianna site. See

Today: still multiple views on religious topics. See various translations at Go to the home page at the dot edu, and use the later identifications only if helpful. Flavor of what has been the cost of persecutions. Try "The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot," at

Other resources for the curious:

a. The Book of John the Evangelist, at, claiming that book this is rooted in the Bogomils.
b. "What Paul Meant," by Garry Wills, Viking Press. Tracking evolving doctrines, often at odds with the real founders.

Nonreligious folklore, Balkans:

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