After the death of Ban Kulin, the unknown Ban Stjepan is mentioned with the title of ban. Information about his reign is preserved in three letters from Pope Gregory IX dated August 8, 1236. According to the first letter, the pope took under his protection Sibislav, the prince of Usora, son of the former Bosnian Ban Stjepan. With the second document, Gregory IX accepts Ancila, the widow of Ban Stjepan, under his protection, and with the third document, the pope asks the Ostrogonian archbishop not to allow the harassment of Ancila, the widow of the Bosnian Ban Stjepan. Based on these data, it appears that Stjepan was no longer alive when this document was written. Historiography makes a hypothesis between Ban Stjepan and Kulin’s son, who is known to have stayed with the Hungarian king Emeric together with Bosnian church elders during April 1203. Then Kulin’s son, together with the delegation, pledged to the Hungarian king and the Kaloch archbishop that they would not tolerate and defend heretics. Due to the lack of data, it is difficult to confirm whether Ban Stjepan, who is mentioned in the aforementioned letters from August 1236, was really Kulin’s son who succeeded his father and ruled Bosnia in the first two decades of the 13th century. According to the letter in which it is emphasized that Sibislav and his mother were exceptionally faithful to the Roman Church among the Bosnians, Pope Gregory IX personally took them and their goods under his protection while being in the “middle of the perfidious people”. The data clearly demonstrate that Ban Stjepan and his successors did not have a strong foothold among the people, and that their own weakness and necessity compelled them to seek support from the Roman Curia. Another fact about the unstable rule of Ban Stjepan is illustrated by the fact that he failed to transfer power over Bosnia to his son Sibislav, who with the title of prince, ruled in the areas of Usora and Soli, which were under Hungarian protection. The implication is that father and son, or both, lost their foothold in Bosnia in the years preceding the issuance of this charter. At this time, Bosnia was very notorious in the papal Curia due to the increased spread of teachings that the Roman Church characterized as heretical. With unlimited powers, the papal legate Acontius was sent to Bosnia, and the pope wrote to him in a letter dated December 1221 that heretics in Bosnia publicly profess their faith “as lamias nurse their puppies with their bare breasts.” As a result, he invited King Andrew and all of the Hungarian bishops to take powerful actions to eradicate them. A letter of approximately the same content was sent shortly thereafter by Pope Gregory IX to Ostrogonian Archbishop Ivan. When Acontius arrived in Bosnia via Split, he soon ended the work he had begun due to illness, and returned to Dalmatia. The spread of heretical teaching in Bosnia at this time is also evidenced by Gregory’s letter to the Ragusans in 1222, in which he called on them to elect an archbishop as soon as possible, in order to suppress the heresy in Bosnia and from Bosnia, which was gaining momentum.
- Ćirković Sima, Istorija srednjovekovne bosanske države, Srpska književna zadruga, Beograd 1964.
- Ćorović Vladimir, Historija Bosne, Srpska kraljevska akademija, Beograd 1940.
- Perojević Marko, “Ban Stjepan” in: Poviest hrvatskih zemalja Bosne i Hercegovine od najstarijih vremena do godine 1463, Hrvatsko katoličko društvo Napredak, Sarajevo 1942.
- Smičiklas Tadija, Codex diplomaticus regni Croatiae, Dalmatiae et Slavoniae, vol. IV (1236-1255), Academia scientiarum et artium slavorum meridionalium auxilio regiminis Croat., Dalm. et Slav., Zagrabiae 1906.