The Course Of The Church Through The Centuries
1071 to 1143 AD
In spite of this, the message of freedom in Christ kept extending farther and farther. In the year 1071 there arose in Ukraine a first church of the gospel of Christ; the severe persecutions of the decades between 1150 and 1180 in Bulgaria and Servia drove the untiring messengers of the savior farther to the north and west. In 1115 they emerged in Albania, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, and Dalmatia; a few years later the first churches of Christ were established in northeast Italy. They were to record the seemingly greatest success in Bosnia, where at the turn of the 13th century, according to the population professed "Bogomilism" and the Catholic Bishop Daniel of Poili had himself baptized in Bosna in 1198, and the strong churches of the eastern and western state churches stood empty.
Here at the boundary of the Byzantine and Roman circles of culture also a new designation of the old evangelical church now appeared, at first used only by the people, then—although very unwillingly—by the officialdom of the Inquisition: Katharoi, i.e., "the Pure". The term crossed over through the Italian gazzari to become in German the loan-word Ketzer (i.e., Heretic). But the Roman Catholic counter-propaganda liked much better to designate the churches of God with the name of Pataria, i.e., "Riffraff". All imaginable false doctrines and abominable deeds were ascribed to them and even though the Mendicant Orders contended emphatically that they were guilty of "unspeakable crimes" in their secret assemblies, yet they were but committing the "crimes" of not acknowledging the clergy and the sacraments given out by them under magical formulas, showing their preference for the New Testament over the Old Testament, and rejecting all confessions of faith formulated by the religious councils, and making their plea for the Word of God alone. In the Roman catholic church history and also in the Protestant reference works, in many cases without inspection, these brethren were haunted by the false and stealthy accusations of the Catholic mission preachers. Not until the year 1927 did the Dictionary of Catholic Theology feel constrained to confess:
The accusations against the Catharists of the 11th century are precisely the same as those that were raised against the Christians throughout the Roman empire in the second century: immorality, ritual murder (worship of a grotesque idol).
Several crusades were waged against unfortunate Bosnia by the booty-greedy Croatian, Hungarian, and Venetian magnates, but these miscarried because of the brave resistance of knights and great landowners of the nation who did not belong to the churches of Christ. This region by the papal legate the Twertko Ban of 1373 was named "the cave of bandits into which all the heretics of the eastern land take refuge". Not until the cooperation of the Turkish and Catholic armies was effected in the year 1446 did Bosnia succumb. But 40,000 left their homeland that had fallen into the hands of the unbelievers and of the superstitious, and emigrated into the inaccessible mountains of Herzegovina, where the last surviving small congregations of Christ were not annihilated until the year 1942 by bands of Nazi Vstacha.
The last report of the old congregations around Thessalonika got to Central Europe in the year 1550 when messengers of the Christians residing there came to Moravia in order to be convinced of the rumors that had found their way to the church that believers in the truth of the New Testament were permitted to live there in peace. Shortly after that the church in Thessalonika fell victims to a slaughter which the Mohammedan volunteers who were returning from the wars in Turkey waged against the "unbelievers" of Old Thessalonika. Only in the plateau of Witosch near Sofia were there still living in 1939 some families of the "Bogomil" faith, beloved by the poor and the unfortunate because of their unselfish willingness to help, but spied upon and persecuted by the government and the church because of their uncompromising profession of the principles of the Sermon on the Mount.
The itinerant preachers who worked in Venetia (later Venice) from about 1150 came mostly from Macedonia (Salonica), Albania (Koritza), and Dalmatia (Dragavitza), but even 70 years later in Brescia and Viterbo there were congregations of several hundred; in Milan, Ferrera and Florence, churches of several thousand members. Even the Catholic Dictionary of Addis and Arnold was forced to acknowledge:
These teachers manifested a great simplicity of behavior, of dress, and way of living. They directed their attacks against the worldliness of the clergy, and there was also too much truth in their censure; thus their hearers were also willing to believe everything else that they said, and to despise what they despised.
The Reformed church historian states:
It is impossible to be more exclusively filled with religious interest than the Catharists were…The Catharists have seen goodness in all its shining fullness. One cannot speak of the good God more sublimely and more persuasively than they have done. …These people received the "kiss of God"…as death was already named by them …with greatest rejoicing while striding towards the time beyond, time full of blessed intoxication of death.
In spite of monstrous cruelties, or really through the monstrous cruelties with which church and state tried to oppose the further diffusion of the truth of salvation, the message of redemption by grace was quickly spread across the Alps. There they found the surviving churches, which were once brought to life by the activity of the disciples of Priscillian and the Irish-Scottish messengers, but had been almost exterminated by severe persecutions.
In the year 1052 Emperor Henry the Third had executed in Goslar "Manichean heretics" whose crime consisted in that they had preached before monks that everything which belonged to the world of the Babylonian beast must be avoided, and that only that was genuine fasting which Christ demanded of us. In 1118 Gregory Grimm was tortured in Ensisheim in Alsace as a "Patarene" and put to death, because he had been baptized by his grandfather, who on his part had been baptized by immersion for the forgiveness of sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit by a traveling merchant from Venetia of the church, which according to his words was the only church of the saints.
The Course Of The
Church Through The Centuries