The turning point of Bosnian emergence and recognition at the regional and European level is the reign of Ban Kulin (1180-1204). Based on his appearance and disappearance in the source material, it is difficult to determine the time period of his reign. Although Kulin is not frequently represented in the sources, it is an era filled with massive upheavals that had far-reaching consequences. With the presence of the Hungarian rulers, Kulin led an independent policy and exercised strong control over the state territory, and achieved the most significant achievements on the international scene. Ban Kulin participated with his army in regional conflicts, his family conducted political marriages with neighbors, he recognized economic models of exchange of goods and economic development, and he displayed maturity as a ruler in his relationships with the Roman Catholic Church. The last two features of Kulin’s reign represent one of the most interesting events in the history of medieval Bosnia. Similarly intriguing is the saying which has been preserved to this day, which refers to the good days of Ban Kulin’s reign.
Ban Kulin is the creator of the first commercial contract among the South Slavs written in the Slavic language. On August 29, 1189, the Bosnian ban reached a famous trade agreement with Ragusan’s Comes Krvaš, which obliged him to protect and assist Ragusan merchants within the Bosnian state, and that they would not be subject to any taxes. Moreover, Kulin agreed to pay from his Treasury all damages that Ragusan merchants would suffer in his country. Ban Kulin’s visionary move to open up his country to the rest of the world through capable Ragusan merchants and their role in land and sea transport proved to be an excellent strategy, which was confirmed by every subsequent Bosnian ruler until the disappearance of the Bosnian state. During the next centuries, business models between Bosnia and Ragusa were transformed and adapted to their respective eras, but Kulin’s charter represents a turning point in Bosnia’s economic development.
The first evidence of religious teaching that does not comply with Catholic church regulations appears during the reign of Kulin. Due to the fact that this method of disqualification would be used in subsequent centuries, the events of the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century represent the beginning of this segment of Bosnian medieval history. These are the accusations of the Dioclea ruler Vukan (1195-1207), who informed Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) in 1199 that heresy was spreading in Bosnia, in which Ban Kulin and his family had been led astray, and he had misled about ten thousand people that he called christianorum. As a result, Vukan requested that the Pope instruct the Hungarian king to exterminate them. These were certainly politically motivated accusations and the discrediting of the Bosnian ban. The Pope’s reaction came in October 1200, when he addressed King Emeric (1196-1204) and said that he had information that the Bosnian Ban Kulin had accepted and provided protection to a large number of heretics who had been expelled from Split and Trogir. Innocent III ordered the Hungarian king to expel the Bosnian ban and the heretics from Bosnia if Kulin could not improve the situation. As described in the chronicle of Toma, archdeacon of Split, the brothers Matej and Aristodije, citizens of Zadar, a painter and a goldsmith, were expelled and excommunicated by Archbishop Bernard for spreading heresy among local residents. Based on this source, the aforementioned brothers often stayed and moved around Bosnia. From Pope Innocent III’s letter to his chaplain Ivan de Casamaris and Archbishop Bernard of Split in November 1202, we follow the continuing events. In the letter, Innocent describes a letter to King Emeric in which he ordered him to compel Kulin to banish and confiscate the property of all those suspected and notorious of heresy. According to the Pope, Kulin’s excuse was that they were Catholics, and he sent some of the accused, along with Ragusan Archbishop Bernard and Archdeacon Marin, to Rome for examination of their faith. Meanwhile, he requested that the Pope send someone to Bosnia to examine their religion and lifestyle. Innocent III entrusted this responsibility to Chaplain Ivan and Archbishop Bernard of Split, ordering them to check what it was about and if it turned out to be heretics to lead them on the right path.
Christians’ statement from April 1203 summarizes the epilogue of the denunciations of heresy and the checks conducted by the emissaries of the Roman Church. According to this source, in the town of Bolino Poilo next to the Bosna River, representatives (priors) of those who called themselves Christiani swore allegiance to the detailed orders of the Roman Church and renounced heresy in the presence of Chaplain Ivan de Casamaris, Ban Kulin and Archdeacon Marin of Ragusa. The same oaths were sworn by two representatives in the presence of Chaplain Casamaris and the son of Ban Kulin in Hungary in front of King Emeric. From the text of the statement in which the Christians renounce their earlier actions and accept certain corrections, it is evident that Casamaris did not find the group of heretics that were supposed to have found refuge in Bosnia earlier, instead, he modeled the specific practices of the clergy in Bosnia and began corrections to the standard religious life that was a part of the official Roman Church. The more striking corrections concerned a kind of Latinization of the Bosnian diocese, which was proposed by Casamaris in his letter to Innocent III. This event has been interpreted by historians in a variety of ways. Despite the fact that the Church’s actions did not result in any significant results, a model was forged through these events which will serve as a permanent legacy of interwoven political and religious relations in the circle made up of Bosnian rulers, Roman popes, and Hungarian kings.
Charter of Ban Kulin 1189, older transcript
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