The Stecci of the Bogomils

Bosnian history from the middle ages to the present day, pre-slavic Bosnia, arrival of the Slavs, Turkish conquest, Austro-Hungarian occupation, Bosnia as a part of Yugoslavia, world war 2, bloody war and genocide 92-95.

The Stecci of the Bogomils

PostPostao/la Administrator » Pon stu 24, 2014 8:55 pm

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The Stecci of the Bogomils

History; Posted on: 2008-02-09 19:26:58 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
"And in the room in which I was sitting, there was a window, beyond it was eternity. And I was staring at the ground persistently."

by Kalina Yankova

This epitaph from 1258 was discovered on one of the stecci, unique Medieval Bosnian gravestones. There are at least three theories about the origin of these graves.

The most popular and striking of the legends is that the graves belonged to the Bogomils, a Christian sect which originated in Bulgaria. During the Middle Ages it spread to Bosnia and Herzegovina in a scale quite annoying for the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and penetrated as far as Western Europe.

One of the early defenders of this version is the Hungarian writer Janosh Asboth. In the 1880s he devised a whole system of explanations which connected the Bogomils to the unique reliefs on the gravestones. According to him, the floral motifs, the animals and the human figures imprinted on them depict religious scenes.

In recent years, however, moderately romantic historians are re-evaluating Bosnia's history and question not only the theory about the Bogomilist essence of the Bosnian Christian church but also the connection between the Bogomils and the stecci.

"During the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when many of these stones were made, a significant part of the population of Bosnia proper was Catholic, and a large part of the population of Herzegovina was Orthodox…" British historian Noel Malcolm wrote in Bosnia: A Short History.

Contemporary historians seem to prefer a more prosaic explanation: namely that the language written on the stecci was a symbolic language that developed in the region. Some of the reliefs reflect barbaric scenes while others depict scenes from the lives of Slavic and Vlach nobility. Or, as Noel Malcolm sums it up, they may have the more trivial function of a most mundane decoration.

The epitaphs remain remarkable. A gravestone from 1094 reads: "You, who are honouring my stone, may have gone to the stars. And you came back because you found nothing there except, again, yourself."


From a Western Voices reader:

The Bogomils were a major heretical group that spread across Medieval Europe and in some places their faith and practice sparked civil war. In what is now southern France they were called the Cathars, and counted high ranking nobles among their followers. The Bogomil/Cathar heresy was descended from Gnostic beliefs, holding that all matter was evil. As a result, they rejected the eating of meat, and abjured marriage. Because marriage resulted in children (thus more "fleshly sin"), they were accused of homosexual behavior by their enemies, which is how the English word "bugger" (derived from "Bogomil") for a perverse sex act or someone who practices that act, entered the English lexicon.

Bogomil/Cathar beliefs threatened the delicate social balance of the Middle Ages, and in the Languedoc Catholic forces launched a bloody Cathar Crusade (1209–1229) which eventually wiped the Cathars out, often indiscriminately. Simon de Montfort was a leader of the Crusade, who was killed by the Cathars. The famous Vietnam war saying, "Kill them all, let God sort them out," originated with him. (More properly, "Kill them all, God will know his own").

In the Balkans, as in Western Europe, Bogomilism attracted aristocratic support from nobles burdened by tithes and Church oversight. Some historians believe that today's Bosniaks, white Muslims whose forebears converted to Islam under Ottoman occupation, are descended from families who had retained Bogomil sympathies. Similar sympathy for Islam from heretics was also seen in Spain, many of whose aristocratic families were followers of the Arian "Judaizing" heresy, and who fought alongside the Muslim Moors who invaded Spain beginning in 711 AD.

As white people, the story of the Muslim Bosniaks, like that of the Albanians, is part of our collective history as a people.
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Re: The Stecci of the Bogomils

PostPostao/la Administrator » Pon stu 24, 2014 8:56 pm

Medieval Haiku on Bosnia’s Mystical Graves


Text by Kalina Yankova | Photographs by Albena Shkodrova

"And in the room in which I was sitting, there was a window, beyond it was eternity. And I was staring at the ground persistently." This epitaph from 1258 was discovered on one of the mystical stećci– unique Bosnian gravestones, dating from the period between the eleventh and the fifteenth centuries.
There are at least three theories about the origin of these graves, whose writings contain simultaneously the grace and the laconism of the Japanese haiku.

The most popular and striking of the legends is that the graves belonged to the Bogomils – a Christian sect which originated in Bulgaria. During the Middle Ages it spread to Bosnia and Herzegovina in a scale quite annoying for the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and penetrated as far as Western Europe, inciting the creation of the first universities.

One of the early defenders of this version is the Hungarian writer Janosh Asboth. In the 1880s he devised a whole system of explanations which connected the Bogomils to the unique reliefs on the gravestones – according to him, the floral motifs, the animals and the human figures imprinted on them depict religious rituals.



In recent year, however, moderately romantic historians are re-evaluating Bosnia’s history and question not only the theory about the Bogomilist essence of the Bosnian Christian church but also the connection between the Bogomils and the stećci.

“During the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when many of these stones were made, a significant part of the population of Bosnia proper was Catholic, and a large part of the population of Herzegovina was Orthodox…to identify all stecci as such with Bogomilism is to replace one mystery with another – the mystery of non-existent Catholic or Orthodox gravestones,” British historian Noel Malcolm wrote in Bosnia A short history.

Contemporary historians seem to prefer a more prosaic explanation: namely that the language written on the stećci was a symbolic language that developed in the region – some of the reliefs reflect barbaric myths and rituals while others depict scenes from the lives of Slavic and Vlach nobility. Or, as Noel Malcoms sums it up, they may have the more trivial function of a most mundane decoration.

The beautiful mystery may have been crushed by pedantic historians but the epitaphs remain remarkable. A gravestone from 1094 reads: “You, who are honouring my stone, may have gone to the stars. And you came back because you found nothing there except, again, yourself.”
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Postovi: 2392
Pridružen: Sub pro 29, 2012 12:46 pm


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