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The Pilgrim Church — Bogomils
18 January 2015
This article is the fifth of a series in which I share excerpts from the book The Pilgrim Church by E. H. Broadbent. In case you missed them, the previous four articles in the series are:
  1. The Pilgrim Church — Introduction
  2. The Early Centuries of the Pilgrim Church
  3. The Pilgrim Church — Priscillian
  4. The Pilgrim Church — Sergius and Others
I have taken the liberty of editing the following extract for clarity when needed. In my mind, it is more important that the reader understand what Mr. Broadbent was trying to communicate, rather than reproducing each sentence exactly the way he wrote it. All text in purple is emphasis which I have added.

Please note the author’s particular use of the word “primitive”  when referring to the early churches. He is using it in the specific sense of “being the first or earliest of the kind or in existence,” and NOT in the more general sense of “uncivilized, savage, simple, unsophisticated, crude, or unrefined.”

At the end of the previous article in this series, the followers of Yeshua (Jesus) — the Pilgrim Church — were being heavily persecuted by the man-made, satanically-inspired, institutional Orthodox church in Asia Minor, especially in the Armenian Highlands. To escape the persecution, many believers migrated west to the Balkans.
There the immigrants from Asia Minor made converts and founded churches which spread rapidly. They came, over wide areas, to be called Bogomili — a Slavic name meaning “Friends of God,” derived from the phrase, bogu mili, those dear or acceptable to God. Out of a multitude whose very names have been forgotten, the memory of a few has been preserved. One of them is Basil, who, though continuing to practice as a physician, so that by earning his living he set a good example and rebuked the lazy lives of those who made religion an excuse for begging, was for forty years of his life (1070-1111) untiring in preaching and teaching.

Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos
After this long period of uninterrupted ministry, he at last received a message from the Emperor Alexius himself, telling him that he admired his character, was deeply interested in his teaching, and had become desirous of conversion. With it there came an invitation to a private interview in the palace in Constantinople. Basil was entertained at table by the Emperor and a full discussion of doctrine took place, in which Basil spoke with the freedom of one addressing an anxious inquirer.

Suddenly the Emperor, drawing aside a curtain, revealed a shorthand writer who had taken down the conversation (afterwards used as evidence), and ordered servants to put his guest in chains and cast him into prison. There he remained for years, until 1119, having refused to recant any of the doctrines he had taught, he was publicly burnt in the Hippodrome in Constantinople.

The Emperor’s daughter, the accomplished Princess Anna Comnena, describes these events with satisfaction; the preparation for the great day in the Hippodrome, the appearance of Basil, “a lanky man, with a sparse beard, tall and thin”; notes the crackling of the fire, how Basil turned his eyes from the sight of the flame and how his limbs quivered as he approached it.

At this time, many “Friends of God” were “ferreted out” and burnt, or imprisoned for life. The Princess laughed at their low origin, uncouth appearance, and habit of bowing their heads and muttering something between their lips. (They surely had need of prayer at such times!) She was horrified at their doctrines and at their disdain of the churches and church ceremonies. The document drawn up as the result of the entrapping of Basil by the Emperor has not much value owing to the fact that there was no check on what those who published it liked to put in it. The opinions expressed by outsiders about these Christian congregations, both in Asia Minor and in Bulgaria, vary greatly, for while it was usual to speak of them and their doctrine as being indescribably wicked, there were those who judged differently.

The earliest writers appear to have written more as partisans than as historians. They accuse the “heretics” of practicing vile and unnatural fleshly sins, repeat from hearsay what was current about them and include much from Mani and from what was written against him.

The writer Euthymius (died after 1118) says: “They bid those who listen to their doctrines to keep the commandments of the gospel, and to be meek and merciful and of brotherly love. Thus they entice men on by teaching all good things and useful doctrines, but they poison by degrees and draw to perdition.”

Cosmas, a Bulgarian presbyter, writing at the end of the tenth century, describes Bogomils as “worse and more horrible than demons,” denies their belief in the Old Testament or the Gospels, says they pay no honor to the Mother of God nor to the cross, they revile the ceremonies of the church and all church dignitaries, call Orthodox priests “blind Pharisees,” say that the Lord’s Supper is not kept according to God’s commandment, and that the bread is not the body of God, but ordinary bread.

He attributes their asceticism to their belief that the devil created all material things and says: “You will see heretics quiet and peaceful as lambs... wan with hypocritical fasting, who do not speak much nor laugh loud,” and again, “when men see their lowly behavior, they think that they are of true belief; they approach them therefore and consult them about their soul’s health. But they, like wolves that will swallow up a lamb, bow their head, sigh, and answer full of humility, and set themselves up as if they knew how it is ordered in heaven.” The Church Father, Gregory of Narek, said of the Thonraks that they were not accused of wickedness of life, but of free thought and of not acknowledging authority. “From a negative position as regards the church, this sect has taken up a positive line of things and has begun to search out the foundation itself, the Holy Scriptures, seeking there pure teaching, sound guidance for the moral life.”

A learned writer of the tenth century, Muschag, was greatly impressed by the teaching of the Thonraks, regarding it as unchristian and unworthy merely to condemn such people. He thought he found true apostolic Christianity among them. Hearing of a case of persecution which they suffered, he said the fate of these persecuted ones was to be envied.

There is no evidence to support the charge that these Christians, whether called Paulicians, Thonraks, Bulgarians, Bogomils or otherwise, were guilty of wicked practices, and the accounts of their doctrines given by their enemies are unreliable. It was generally admitted even by these that their standard of life, their morals, their diligence at work, were superior to those which prevailed round about them; and it was largely this which attracted to them many who failed to find in the state church that which satisfied them. Byzantine persecution drove many of the believers westward into Serbia, and the strength of the Orthodox Church in Serbia pushed them further, into Bosnia. They continued active on the eastern side of the Peninsula and in Asia Minor.

In 1140, supposed Bogomil error was found in the writings of Constantine Chrysomalus and condemned at a synod held in Constantinople. The teaching objected to was that church baptism is not efficacious, that nothing done by unconverted persons, though baptized, is of any value, that God’s grace is received by the laying on of hands, but only in accordance with the measure of faith.

In 1143, a synod at Constantinople deposed two Cappadocian bishops on the charge of being Bogomils, and in the following century the Patriarch Gemadius complained of their spread in Constantinople itself, where, it was said, they got into private houses and made converts. Their churches continued in Bulgaria.

As late as the 17th century, congregations known as “Pavlicani” (Paulicians) remained in Philippopolis and other parts of Bulgaria, reaching even north of the Danube, who were described by the Orthodox church as “convinced heretics” and who condemned the Orthodox church as idolatrous. Then came Franciscan missionaries from Bosnia and labored with much zeal among them, in spite of many dangers from the wrath of the Orthodox clergy. Taking advantage of the persecution suffered by the Paulicians at the hands of the Orthodox church, the missionaries gradually persuaded them to put themselves under the protection of the Roman Catholic church and so won them for Rome.

Long after this, however, they continued together for a meal in common, but they were little by little assimilated to the Roman practice, received images into their churches, and are now known as Bulgarian Catholics in contrast to the Bulgarians generally, who are either Orthodox, or Pomaks, that is, descended from ancestors forcibly converted to Islam. It was, however, in Bosnia that their greatest development took place. In the twelfth century they were already very numerous there, and spread to Spalato and Dalmatia. Here they came into conflict with the Roman Catholic church.

The title of the ruler of Bosnia was Ban, the most eminent of these being Kulin Ban. In 1180, this ruler was addressed by the Pope as a faithful adherent of the Catholic church, but by 1199 it was acknowledged that he and his wife and family and ten thousand Bosnians had joined the Bogomil or Patarene “heresy” — churches of believers — in Bosnia.

Minoslav, prince of Herzegovina, took the same stand, as did also the Roman Catholic bishops of Bosnia. The country ceased to be Catholic and experienced a time of prosperity that has remained proverbial ever since.

There were no priests, or rather, the priesthood of all believers was acknowledged. The churches were guided by elders who were chosen by lot, several in each church, an overseer (called grandfather), and ministering brethren called leaders and elders. Meetings could be held in any house and the regular meeting places were quite plain — no bells, no altar, only a table, on which might be a white cloth and a copy of the Gospels. A part of the earnings of the brethren was set aside for the relief of sick believers and of the poor and for the support of those who travelled to preach the gospel among the unconverted.
Pope Innocent III definitely
did NOT live up to his name!
Pope Innocent III, with the help of the king of Hungary, brought such pressure to bear on Kulin Ban that, at a meeting in 1203 between the Pope’s envoys and the Ban, accompanied by the magnates of Bosnia, at Bjelopolje, “the White Plain,” where Kulin held his court, the Bosnian leaders agreed to submit to the Roman church.

They promised never again to relapse into heresy, but to erect an altar and a cross in each of their places of worship, and to have priests who should read the mass and listen to confession, and administer the sacrament twice a year.

They agreed to observe fasts and holy days, that the laity should cease to undertake spiritual functions, and that those who ministered in spiritual matters should be the clergy only, who would be distinguished from the laity by wearing cowls and being called brothers, and that when these elected a prior, they would apply to the Pope for confirmation.

Heretics were never to be tolerated in Bosnia. Though under pressure of the threat of war the Ban and rulers of the country made such an agreement, the people entirely refused to accept it or to be bound by it in any way.

Brethren in Bosnia had contact with their fellow believers in Italy, in the south of France, in Bohemia, on the Rhine, and in other parts, reaching even to Flanders and England. When the Pope declared a crusade against the Albigenses, and Provence was being wasted, fugitives found refuge in Bosnia.

Bosnian and Provençal elders consulted together on matters of doctrine. Rumors were current that the spiritual movements in Italy, France, and Bohemia were all connected with a “heretical pope” in Bosnia. This was only imaginary, as no such person existed, but it showed that a strong influence went out from Bosnia.

An Italian Inquisitor, Reniero Sacconi, living during the reign of Kulin, who, having been himself a “heretic,” knew more about them than most, calls them the Church of the Cathatri, or pure-living, a name used from before the time of the Emperor Constantine, and says they extended from the Black Sea to the Atlantic.

The peace which Kulin Ban purchased by yielding to Rome was not of long duration, for he could not compel his people to observe its terms. On his death, the Pope appointed a Roman Catholic Ban, and sent a mission to convert the Bosnians. The churches of the country, however, increased the more, and spread into Croatia, Dalmatia, Istria, Carniola and Slavonia.
King Andrew II of Hungary
Some six years later, the Pope, despairing of converting the Bosnians by other than forcible methods, and encouraged by the success of his crusade in Provence, ordered the king of Hungary to invade Bosnia. The Bosnians deposed their Roman Catholic Ban and elected a Bogomil, Ninoslav.

For years the war went on, with varying fortune. Ninoslav yielded to circumstances and became a Roman Catholic, but no change in their rulers affected the faith and confession of the great bulk of the people. The country was devastated, but whenever the invading armies withdrew, the churches were found still existing, and the hard work of the people quickly restored prosperity.

Fortresses were erected throughout the country “for the protection of the Roman Catholic church and religion”; the Pope gave the land to Hungary, which long ruled it, but its people still holding to their faith, he at length called a crusade of “all the Christian world” against it; the Inquisition was established in 1291 and Dominican and Franciscan brothers competed in applying its terrors to the devoted churches.

Meanwhile, the constant pressure of Islam was becoming an increasing danger for Europe, and Hungary was in the forefront of the fight; yet this did not awaken the Catholic countries to see the folly of destroying a barrier between them and their most dangerous foe. In 1325, the Pope wrote to the Ban of Bosnia:
Knowing that you are a faithful son of the Catholic church, we therefore charge you to exterminate the heretics in your dominions, and give aid and assistance to Fabian, our Inquisitor, seeing that a large multitude of heretics, from many different lands, have flowed together into the Principality of Bosnia, hoping to live in safety there and to cultivate their obscene errors.

These men, inspired with the cunning of the Devil, and armed with the venom of their falseness, corrupt the minds of Catholics by outward show of simplicity and falsely assuming the name of Christians; their speech crawls like a crab, and they creep in with humility, but in secret they kill, and are wolves in sheep’s clothing, covering their bestial fury as a means by which they may deceive the simple sheep of Christ.
The Battle of Kosovo 1389
Bosnia experienced a period of political revival during the reign (1353-1391) of Tvrtko, the first Ban to take the title of king. He and Kulin are the two most prominent of Bosnian rulers. Tvrtko tolerated the Bogomils, large numbers of whom served in his armies, and he greatly extended his kingdom.

Towards the close of his reign, the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 extended the Turkish rule over Serbia and made the Muslim menace to Europe more serious than ever. Even this did not suffice to stop persecution, and the Pope again encouraged the king of Hungary, promising him aid against the Turks and the “Bosnian Manichaeans and Arians.”

King Sigismund of Hungary was successful in destroying the Bosnian army under the successors of Tvrtko, and caused 126 Bosnian magnates, whom he had captured in 1408, to be beheaded and thrown from the rocks of Doboj into the river Bosna. Then the Bosnians, driven to desperation, turned to the Turks for protection. Their chief magnate, Hrvoja, warned the king of Hungary:
So far I have sought no other protection, as my sole refuge has been the king; but if matters remain as they are, I shall seek protection in that quarter where I shall find it, whether I thereby stand or fall. The Bosnians wish to hold out their hand to the Turks, and have already taken steps towards this.
Soon afterwards, the Turks and Bogomil-Bosnians united for the first time, and in 1415 inflicted a heavy defeat on Hungary at the battle of Usora, a few miles from Doboj.

The struggle between Christendom and Islam swayed to and fro on its long battlefront. But whenever the papal party prevailed, persecution in Bosnia began afresh, so that in 1450 some 40,000 Bogomils, with their leaders, crossed the frontier into Herzegovina, where prince Stefan Vuktchitch protected them.

Mohammed II
The capture of Constantinople in 1453 by Mohammed II, which led to the speedy subjection of Greece, Albania, and Serbia under the hands of the Turks, did not cause the negotiations and intrigues for the “conversion” of the Bosnian Bogomiles to cease.

Sometimes their rulers aligned themselves with Rome, but the people never. Therefore, as the end drew near, we find Bosnian kings appealing to the Pope for help against the Turks, which was only given on condition of fresh persecution of the Bogomils.

At last, in 1463, when the Turks, who had been driven back for a time, advanced again on Bosnia, the people refused their king any aid, and preferring the Turk to the Inquisition, made no resistance to the invader. Within a week, the Sultan took possession of seventy towns and fortresses, in a country naturally strong for defense, and Bosnia passed permanently into Muslim hands, to stagnate for four centuries under a deadening system destructive of life and progress. These Friends of God in Bosnia have left little literature behind, so that there remains much to be discovered of their doctrines and practices, which must have varied in different circles and at different periods. But it is evident that they made a vigorous protest against the prevailing evils in Christendom, and endeavored with the utmost energy to hold fast to the teachings and example of the primitive churches as portrayed in Scripture.

Their relations with the older churches in Armenia and Asia Minor, the Albigenses in France, Waldenses and others in Italy, Hussites in Bohemia, show that there was a common ground of faith and practice which united them. Their heroic stand for four centuries against overwhelming adversity, though unrecorded, must have yielded examples of faith and courage, of love unto death, second to none in the world’s histories.

They formed a link connecting the primitive churches in the Taurus Mountains of Asia Minor with similar ones in the Alps of Italy and France. The Bosnians’ land and nation were lost to Christendom because of the inveterate persecution to which they were subjected.
Bogomil Tombs
Scattered over the country, within the confines of the old Kingdom of Bosnia, but nowhere else, are numerous stone monuments, often of great size — Bogomil tombstones. Sometimes one stone stands alone; sometimes they are in groups, which in places may number hundreds. It is estimated that there might be some 150,000 such monuments.

The people call them mramor (“marble”), or stetshak (“that which stands”), or bilek (“a sign or landmark”), or gomile (“an ancient tomb or mound”).

The very few inscriptions on them are in the Glagolitic character. They are remarkable for the absence of crosses or any symbols associated either with Christianity or Islam. Where, as occasionally, such symbols are found, it is evident that they have been added at a later date.

The great majority of the stones are entirely without inscription of any kind. The few with inscriptions give the names of the persons buried there. A few are elaborately carved with figures illustrating the life of the people at that time, warriors, hunters, animals, and varied ornamental designs.

They are most numerous in the neighborhood of Sarajevo, and immense group being found above the fortress, on the road to Rogatitza. One of the larger tombs stands alone on the Paslovatz Hill, near the ruins of Kotorsko — a giant sarcophagus of white limestone, hewn out of one solid block, together with the yet larger flagstone upon which it rests. At a distance it looks like a complete building.
Though they had so long resisted both the Orthodox and Catholic churches, many of the Bosnians yielded to the Turks — who were at the same time their deliverers and their conquerors — and submitted to Islam. Some rose to the highest positions in the Turkish service. The family names of the present Muslim population of Bosnia preserve the record of their origin, while testifying also to the steady process of subjugation to Islam.

Over the window of many a shop in Bosnia, the traveller will find the Bosnian or “Southern Slav” name united with a purely Arabic or Turkish name, which is generally placed before it. There are two distinct words in daily use throughout Bosnia to signify Turk or Moslem, the one meaning a Muslim of real Turkish or Anatolian origin, and the other a person of Slav race who has adopted the religion of Islam.
Caught between the satanically created and motivated Roman Catholic religion on one side — see The Empire Strikes Back — and the satanically created and motivated Islamic religion on the other, the Bosnian followers of Yeshua were hard pressed for many decades, which turned into centuries of persecution. Eventually they succumbed to the intense pressure and surrendered — not to their supposed “Christian brothers” in the Catholic church, but to the Muslims! Because of that relentless Catholic persecution so many years ago, the Bosnians remain under the bondage of Islam to this very day.

During the same centuries that the man-made, institutional, Harlot Church System was persecuting and murdering the Bogomils in Eastern Europe, it was persecuting and murdering their brethren, the Waldenses, in Western Europe. Even though this tragic story had an even more tragic ending, yet the thought of these long-suffering followers of Yeshua thrills my heart. They are part of my spiritual family, my spiritual heritage, long-lost brothers and sisters that I never even knew I had! I strongly identify with them. I am one of them!

Whether they were called Paulicians, Cathars, Albigenses, Waldenses, Hussites, Thonraks, Bulgarians, Bogomils, Patarenes, or whatever other label their enemies in the institutional church decided to give them, there were always true followers of Yeshua spread around Europe and the Middle East throughout the ages.

They followed the Master outside of the Harlot Church system, endeavoring to live by the principles of the New Testament as much as possible. For this crime, for this sin, the Harlot Church — the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and later, even the Protestant religions — mercilessly persecuted and murdered them throughout the centuries.

This is what I find most tragic — not that believers were persecuted and murdered, because the New Testament teaches that that is what followers of Yeshua can expect. What bothers me is that mankind, and especially many “Christians” believe that the man-made institutional “church” is the true Body of Messiah, and that those they killed were demonically-inspired “heretics.” Satan’s lies and propaganda have been VERY effective!

The reality is that the opposite is true. For the most part, the Pilgrim Church has been comprised of the true followers of Yeshua, His Ekklesia. In total contrast, the man-made, institutional “church” has, for the most part, been doing the works of its father, the Devil — see John 8:42‑45. This confusion between the authentic and the counterfeit will continue until the end of the age. Just as I stated in the previous articles in this series, I once again need to make it very clear that just because I included links to Wikipedia articles on this page, this in no way indicates that I endorse those articles or approve of what they say. Throughout The Pilgrim Church, the author explains that the Harlot Church system promoted lies about the true followers of Yeshua, slandering them as immoral heretics in order to justify the persecution and killing of them.

Except for books like The Pilgrim Church, these lies have never been refuted, and are therefore the accepted version of history. The Wikipedia articles I have referenced promote this same false history. That is why it is so vital to get your own copy of The Pilgrim Church so you can read for yourself the true history of Yeshua’s Ekklesia. After wishing for so long that a Kindle version this book were available, I am very happy to report that just three days ago my wish became true! At only $5.99, discovering the history of the Pilgrim Church is more affordable and convenient than ever!
This article is 66th a series of articles on this Web site related to Modern Christianity and the Church which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
9  Nov  2008
27  Nov  2008
12  Jun  2010
9  Sep  2010
10  Sep  2010
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27  Sep  2010
2  May  2011
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18  Aug  2013
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27  Dec  2013
19  Feb  2014
24  Feb  2014
25  Feb  2014
27  Feb  2014
19  Jul  2014
24  Jul  2014
25  Jul  2014
1  Aug  2014
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29  Aug  2014
30  Aug  2014
31  Aug  2014
1  Sep  2014
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9  Sep  2014
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18  Sep  2014
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15  Dec  2014
16  Dec  2014
20  Dec  2014
22  Dec  2014
27  Dec  2014
14  Jan  2015
15  Jan  2015
The Pilgrim Church — Bogomils
18  Jan  2015
26  Jan  2015
3  Mar  2015
19  Aug  2015
4  Sep  2015
Reader Comments
On September 22, 2018, Craig wrote:
Marvellous book am just reading it now. Thanks for sharing the photos . Brave people holding out so long against the ravages of their persecutors. I see Bosnia in a very different light now after reading this.
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