The earliest mention of a Catholic bishopric in Bosnia dates from 1089 (i.e. from the 11th century). It was called Bosnian Bishopric, and its center was in Vrhbosna (today's Sarajevo).
|Deep traces were left by the Bosnian Franciscans, present on Bosnian soil since 1291 (only 80 years after the foundation of the Franciscan order). They were beloved by people, for being educated and humble, for keeping the national and religious identity of the Croats. In 1376 they had 35 Catholic monasteries and about 400 missionaries (the Fojnica (Hvojnica) monastery is on the photo on the left;|
|on the right is the famous Visovac monastery on the Krka river, founded in 1445 by Bosnian Franciscans from Kresevo, middle Bosnia; shelled by the Serbs in 1991). In Turkish time, by a special Charter (Ahdnama, 1463) from the Sultan, the Bosnian Franciscans and their Croatian Catholics had a guaranty to live in peace and freedom in his Empire. However, in reality it was rather different. Three Franciscan bishops in Bosnia had been killed by the Turks despite ostensible protection: in 1545, 1564, 1701, not to mention priests and ordinary people. From 1516 to 1853 a decree was issued by the Turks that Catholics are not allowed to build new churches, but only to repair those built before 1463.||
Even some of Catholic churches built before 1463 were transformed into Muslim mosques (for example in Foca, Bihac, Jajce, Srebrenica, etc.). So in 18th century only three monastic Catholic churches were left (in Fojnica, Kraljeva Sutiska and in Kresevo), and two small churches (in Podmilacje and Vares), see [Gavran, IV, p. 103.
An outstanding European intellectual of his time was Georgius Benignus (Juraj Dragisic, ?1454 - 1520), a Croat born in Bosnia, in the town of Srebrenica.
Today the richest library in Bosnia-Herzegovina is in the Franciscan monastery of Mostar (bombed by the Serbs in 1992). The most famous Croatian Franciscan is St. Nikola Tavelic (born in Sibenik about 1340-1391), a missionary in Bosnia and Yerusalem, a martyr whom Pope Paul VI proclaimed a Saint in 1970. We should also mention another Franciscan-capuchin, St. Leopold Mandic (1866-1942), who was a forerunner of today's Ecumenism.
The Franciscan province in Bosnia was called Bosna Srebrena (Bosnia Argentum).
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