His Eminence Bishop of Banja Luka Mr Jefrem
Bishop Jefrem (Ephraim) of Banja Luka (worldly name Mile Milutinovic) was born on 15th April 1944 in the village of Busnova near the municipality of Prijedor. In his birth place, he finished six grades of primary school, and the seventh and eighth grade, as well as the Grammar School, in the municipality of Sanski Most.
The City History
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Today's name of Banja Luka was mentioned for the first time on 6th February 1494, in the Charter of Hungarian King Vladislav II Jagelovic, when it was a part of the Banate of Jajce.
Banja Luka's fortress „Kastel“ is a reliable witness that the area of Banja Luka was settled much earlier. A systematic research, conducted in 1974, identified the remains of a Baden settlement and traces of life from the period which connects the Neolithic with the Bronze Age (2000-1800 BC).
The first inhabitants of this region were the Thracians, Illyrians, Celts, Avars, the Romans. The Roman conquest of these territories and life in Roman times are witnessed by the archaeological findings and written sources, which recorded that the Roman general Germanicus conquered the Mezei, which means that there had been struggles waged on the territory of Banja Luka as well, since that Illyrian tribe had lived there. To ensure the expansion and dominance in the newly conquered regions, the Romans built roads, one of which had certainly gone through Banja Luka. A road station, Kastra, with military and civilian facilities, was formed in the area of the town.
Archaeological discoveries at the site of Haniste and the settlement of Gornji Seher (or Srpske toplice, in English: Serbian Spa), as well as an altar dedicated to the god Jupiter, discovered in 1895 during the work on the bridge over the Crkvena River, testify about the ancient settlement in the area of Banja Luka. On a beautifully carved stone, there is an inscription which translates to „To Jupiter, the biggest genius of this place, Sicinije Macrinus, a consular beneficiary of the Province of Gornja Panonija (in English: Upper Pannonia) has fulfilled the vow willingly and with gratitude“.
Later studies showed that the settlement had developed and enriched in the Late Roman period. Remains of a large Roman building with a semicircular apse on the south side of the projection, which is believed to be the Late Roman basilica, were identified in the central part of the Banja Luka fortress.
The Roman town would represent a framework for the formation of a medieval settlement, although the structures of numerous Roman buildings would be destroyed during the barbarian ravages of the Migration Period, and even in the early Slavic period.
SERBIAN PEOPLE AND ORTODOX CHURCH IN BANJA LUKA
ORTHODOX CHURCH IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Slavic tribes immigrated to this region from the Carpathians, in the first half of the seventh century. Local traces of the earlier organization of Christian churches were mostly destroyed in the invasions of the Western and Eastern Goths, as well as in the turbulent years of the Migration Period. Some sources mention two Dioceses in the area of the present Bosnia and Herzegovina – the Bestoen Diocese, as well as the early Christian Diocese Baloienensis, in a place of Baloie, somewhere near the today's Municipality of Mrkonjic Grad or Pecka.
Christianity significantly began to expand and establish in our nation in the ninth century, when the holy brothers Cyril and Methodius translated the ecclesial books from Greek to Slavonic and provided people with liturgy in an understandable language.
The Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (905-959) in his famous book (“De administrando imperio”, in English: „On Governing an Empire”), from the year 950, notes that the Serbian tribes grouped mainly in the mountainous regions from the Sava River to the Pljevlja River in the west, to the Lima River and the West Morava River in the east and from the Cetina River to the Bojana River in the southwest. In the aforementioned book, it is said that in the 10th century much of the territory where the Serbs were settled was under the rule of the Serbian Prince Caslav. Porphyrogenitus says that in the first half of the 10th century, Bosnia was a part of the Serbian state all the way to the Sava River.
During the rule of Ban Kulin (1180-1204), there was only one Diocese in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the time, Prince Miroslav, Ban Kulin's brother-in-law and Stefan Nemanja's brother, ruled in Hum and as the Church sources say, he was known as „a determined and loyal son of the Eastern Church“.
In the third decade of the 12th century, Hungaria managed to conquer Bosnia, but during the rule of Ban Mateja Ninoslav (1232-1250) and Prijezda (1250-1278), some parts of Bosnia regained their independence.
King Tvrtko I (1377-1391) definitely got rid of the Hungaria's tutelage and as a descendant of the Nemanjic dynasty he was crowned in the fall of 1377 in the monastery of Mileseva. This ruler helped and developed orthodoxy in Bosnia and he was a loyal ally to Prince Lazar in Kosovo. Orthodox religion progressed, but Tvrtko I was tolerant toward Roman Catholics as well.
After Tvrtko's death in 1391, an internal fight for power began in Bosnia, several incompetent rulers changed, and in 1463, Bosnia was conquered by the Turks (Turkish people).
Saint Sava and the Independence of Serbian Church
Until the year 1219, Serbian people were not congregated by a unique church organization. One part of them was in the territories under the jurisdiction of the Latin Archdiocese of Split and Bar, occasionally of Dubrovnik, and the other part was subordinated to Dioceses of the Ohrid Church. The border between eastern and western churches was passing through Serbian lands until the 12th century.
Rastko, the third son of the Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja, became a monk on Mount Athos (also known as the Holy Mountain) in 1191, receiving the name Sava. It was him who managed to obtain autocephaly of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1219, from the Emperor Theodore II Laskaris and Patriarch Manojlo Haritopul in Nicaea. The new autocephalous Serbian Church included eight dioceses, where two of them, Dioceses of Zachlumia and Dabar had an important role in the life of the Serbs in the western areas.
Precisely at the time when the Serbian Church gained independence, charges that “the heretics” had taken effect in Bosnia were intensified. The prosecution of “the heretics” was carried out by the Hungarian nobility at the instigation of a Catholic bishop and with the support of the Hungarian king. In fact, these campaigns had political and economic interests, because, in one hand, they allowed the occupation of the Bosnian ruler’s territory and robbing the areas where “the heresy” was allegedly suppressed, in another.
BANJA LUKA DURING THE TURKISH OCCUPATION
The Turks occupied Banja Luka in 1528. The town was strongly developing until 1553, when the seat of the Bey (ruler) of Bosnian Sanjak (district, an administrative division of the Ottoman Empire) was moved from Sarajevo to Banja Luka. The settlement of Donji Seher was a significant town during Ferhat Pasha Sokolovic, especially since 1580 when Bosnia became a Beylerbeylik (a type of country subdivision in the Ottoman Empire), and Banja Luka became an economic and military-political centre of all of today's Bosnian Krajina.
At the beginning of the Turkish occupation, the Muslims lived in the town, while the Christians, especially Orthodox, preferred to stay in villages. The Turks realized that the immigration of the hard-working and capable Orthodox Christians would provide them a comfortable life, so they allowed „the Christians to settle on a desert area on the right bank of the Vrbas River“. Thus, the first Serbian settlement in Banja Luka was founded and it was called Vlah-mahala (in English: Wallach suburb). Between the Kul-mahala and Vlah-mahala, a parish church with a cemetery was built at the settlement of Rebrovac.
During the Austrian-Turkish wars (1683-1739), Austrian troops raided Banja Luka two times, the first time in 1688, when they burned the town and destroyed almost everything that had been created in the years of progress. What they did not destroy during the first attack on Banja Luka, the Austrians finished in 1737, during the famous Battle of Banja Luka.