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 lands to the east and small southeastern parts of Herzegovina embraced Eastern Orthodoxy. Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches considered the Bosnian Church heretical. The religious centre of the Bosnian Church was placed in Moštre, near Visoko, where the house of krstjani was founded.
During the later Middle Ages most of Bosnia was Roman Catholic as well, but no accurate figures exist as to the numbers of adherents of the two churches. The Bosnian Church coexisted with Roman Catholicism for much of the later Middle Ages; certain geographic areas seem to have adhered to the Bosnian Church, others to the international Catholic Church, and there was little interchange between the two. The establishment of the Bosnian Church may have been due to intra-Church politics; 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. After 1340 when a Franciscan mission to the country was accepted and the rulers became Catholic, King Ostoja was the sole (probable) exception. Fewer than ten noble families towards the end of the medieval Bosnian state have been connected to the Bosnian Church, but those families included major figures such as Hrvoje Vukčić, the Radenović-Pavlovići, Sandalj Hranić, Stefan Vukčić, and Paul Klešić.
Outsiders accused the Bosnian Church of links to the Patarene heresy, and to the Bogomils, a Manichean sect centered in Bulgaria. This misidentification (either contemporaneous or latterly) is likely with a Dalmatian dualist church called the Ecclesia Sclavonia, some refugees of which ended up in Bosnia. Moreover, "Domestic sources... (Bosnian and Ragusan)... show that the Bosnian Church, unlike the Bogomils, accepted an omnipotent God, the Trinity, church buildings, the cross, the cult of saints, religious art, and at least part of the Old Testament." A further example is that Gost (roughly "Abbot") Radin—a Bosnian Church leader and important diplomat—left a will in 1466 which showed the orthodoxy of his beliefs (and, incidentally, his great wealth). It "begins with a cross, refers to his patron saint, and leaves money to build a church at his grave. He also left money to the Catholic Church in Dubrovnik and sought its prayers for his soul." Relations between Bosnian Church Churchmen and Catholic and Orthodox clergy and states were cordial, an impossibility "had these Bosnians been neo-Manichees," the Bosnian Church Gospels depict John the Baptist—rejected by dualists—favorably, and Hrvoje Vukčić was a member of the orthodox Catholic Order of the Dragon. All of which argue that the Bosnian Church's split was a political-administrative separation, not a theological schism.
It is thought today that the Bosnian Church accounted for the major part of Bosnia's converts to Islam. Some historians now believe that the Bosnian Church had largely disappeared before the Turkish conquest in 1463.
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 strojnići. The monasteries were called hiže (lit. "houses," sing. hiže), and the heads of monasteries were often called gost (lit. "guest") and served as strojnići. The clergy were called krstjani.
The Church was mainly composed of monks in scattered monastic houses. It had no territorial organization and it is not known to have dealt 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 Ostoja had a djed as an advisor at the royal court between 1403 and 1405, and an occasional occurrence of a krstjan 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, but evidence points to the fact that they were erected by members of all three churches alike.
The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Their Historic Development from the Middle Ages to the Dissolution of Yugoslavia.(Review)
Jan 01, 1999; The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Their Historic Development from the Middle Ages to the Dissolution of Yugoslavia. Edited by...