Његово Преосвештенство Епископ бањалучки Г. Јефрем

Епископ бањалучки Јефрем (у свијету Миле Милутиновић) рођен је у селу Буснови код Приједора, 15. априла 1944. године. Шест разреда основне школе завршио је у мјесту рођења, а VII и VIII разред у Санском Мосту, гдје потом похађа гимназију.


Служба Св. Свештеномученику Платону

Храм Христа Спаситеља Бања Лука

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.






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.




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.


Serbian Borough


After the victory over the Austrians, Turkish authorities, bringing Serbs to their homes, allowed them to settle on the left bank of the Vrbas River as well, east of Mema-Mahala, populated exclusively by the Muslim population. Thus, a Serbian borough was founded and it was located between the Serbian Orthodox cemetery and Jelic-polje (in English: Jelic’s Field) from one side, and the today’s Srpska Street from the other.


The Serbs also established their own cemetery, where they still bury people, but they did not have the Orthodox Church. They had to go to the Church of Rebrovac, which miraculously had remained intact after the aforementioned Battle of Banja Luka in 1737.




Along with the commercial and economic development, there was the construction of modern shops, residential houses and other buildings. The town slowly lost its oriental style and seemed more like a progressive, European town. The symbol of that new, citizenish Banja Luka was undoubtedly Gospodska Street (in English: Gentle(wo)man’s street), which has retained the primacy and remained as a hallmark of the city to this day.


Chroniclers note that the name of the street was given back in 1878 when a prominent merchant, Tomo Radulovic, attached a big panel on his house, by then called “Pivara” (in English: Brewery), in the main street, where he had personally hand written “Gospo(d)ska Street” (in English: Gentle(wo)man’s street).


Two master Toma’s houses in Gospodska Street had great significance for the cultural life of the Serbian people in Banja Luka: the first, built in 1855 at the beginning of the street, was at the site of the present City Assembly and the Serbian Primary School was located in it. It is exactly this building where Pelagic’s Theological Seminary worked at the time of its foundation in 1866.


At the other end of Gospodska Street, known as Kastel's corner, Tomo Radulovic built a building called “Albania“ in 1863. On the ground floor of that building, there was a storehouse for goods and on the first floor there was the Kasa's Reading Room where the Serbian intelligence was gathering.


Whatever it was called, Gospodska Street was and has remained the heart of the citizenish Banja Luka, a place where most of the cultural life of the town took place during the Austro-Hungarian rule. There is still a building standing there, the former Serbian Home, as a memory of that time.


The decision on the construction of the Serbian Home was made in March 1907. Due to the lack of funds, the construction did not happen. The idea came to life again in 1936, so the construction began on 1st July 1938, and in June 1939, the new Serbian Home was opened and the Serbian Reading Room was located in it. Soon after that, the Second World War happened and the latter authorities “forgot” who owned the building, which still stands in Gospodska Street to this day.


Hotel “Balkan“


The “Balkan” building, owned by the Church community, was the so called “corner building” (in local: “uglovka”) since its east facade was in Gospodska Street, and the north one linked Gospodska Street with the Imperial Road (in local: Carski drum).


Chroniclers record that the Serbian Reading Room was located under the arches of this building, specifically in the back building of the hotel. Thus, hotel “Balkan” became the gathering centre for Banja Luka’s Serbs, mostly intellectuals and merchants. Among them, there was also Petar Kocic, who used to stay at this elite Banja Luka hotel. A building for the Ban Administration would be built at the site of the hotel in 1930/1931 and it would represent the architectural emphasis of this part of the town.




The first news on the existence of an Orthodox Church in Banja Luka comes from the 16th century, which does not mean that there weren’t any before that. The data indicate that the Serbs in this town had their own Church very early and that it was on the left side of the Crkvena River, where they had established a little Christian settlement. In 1596, Idriz Pasha gave permission for building an adobe Church in Banja Luka.


Petar (Ivancevic), an abbot of the monastery of Mostanica (about 1870-1914), noted that the Serbs in Banja Luka had built another Church and a school within it in the town, in Milicev sokak (in English: Milic’s Alley), but it burned in the uprising in 1851.


The original drawing of the Church in Banja Luka, from 1853, signed by Jovo Naumovic, the ordering party for the Church construction project, is one of the rare and precious testimonies about Orthodox Churches in Banja Luka, preserved in the archives of the Banja Luka parish.


Pelagic’s Cell Church


Cell churches, built during the Turkish times, had a distinctive look. They were not supposed to be built of bricks, but of wood and they were not allowed to be constantly covered. When constructing, one could not use iron or any colours what so ever. The first was not allowed so the cells would be strong and long-lasting, and the latter so they wouldn’t be colourful and beautiful.


Seeing that the people of Sarajevo succeeded to gain permission from the Porte to build their magnificent Cathedral, the leader of the Serbian people in Banja Luka, through the Patriarchate of Constantinople, referred to the same address with a desire to be allowed to construct a Church of a designated size, that corresponds to the town and the number of worshippers. In the late 1859, the Porte gave permission to “Banja Luka’s rayah to raise a house of prayer of a designated size” which was confirmed by the imperial firman.


Thinking that everything was resolved, the Serbs from Banja Luka and the surroundings began to collect construction materials. But they were wrong. Even with the imperial firman, the construction of an Orthodox Church in Banja Luka did not happen, as well as in 1863, when the Turks prevented them again.


People from Banja Luka built the Cell Church as a temporary solution, continuing to seek permission to construct a big and beautiful Church.


A document that reveals some, so far unknown, facts was retained in this Church. It was a baptismal certificate of Josif Radulovic who was born on 1st May 1869 and baptized on 15th May of the same year. The baptism was performed “at the Church of the Holy Trinity Temple in Banja Luka, Bosnia” which means that the Cell Church was dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit. The document was issued on 20th August 1882 and signed by Parson Vid Kovacevic. The document is also valuable because it has a very clear stamp of the Temple of the Descent of the Holy Spirit.


The Church of Rebrovac


In an Annex of the magazine “The Source of Bosnia and Herzegovina” (in local: “Bosansko-hercegovači istočnik”) for 1888, there are valuable data on the Parish of Rebrovac and its Church. In this parish, there was an old wooden Church, called the Church of Rebrovac, which was set on fire with a riot and burned in 1876, with all of its possessions and notes. A new Church started to be built from solid materials in 1885 and by 1888 it was only walled up and covered. The Church was dedicated to the Nativity of the Theotokos.


In 1798, the Serbs gained permission from the Turkish government to renew the Church, destroyed during the uprising, from the beginning and of the previous dimensions. A Commission examined the wreck and found that “the Church should be reconstructed from the foundation” and pointed out that the repair must be done “without any extensions, but of the previous size”.


The Church of Rebrovac was built by a construction worker Antun Cerovic, who, as it was recorded, worked on getting the job done as thoroughly as possible and he succeeded. The Church of Rebrovac was consecrated on the feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, on 1st October (by Julian calendar) 1889, and the Episcopal liturgy was served by the Most Reverend Metropolitan Djordje Nikolajevic.


The religious divine service was attended by numerous dignitaries of the government, including the county mayor Baron Lazarini, local military general Leopold Gustav, with the officers’ corps, the town mayor Mr Tartalja and outer district mayor Taberi, as well as close to 3000 people.




In Banja Luka and Krajina in general, there were no Serbian schools until 1831/32. Living without any schools, the people were condemned to illiteracy and backwardness. The first, and for a long time the only schools for Serbian children, were the monasteries like the Monastery of Gomionica, for example, but not many of the children were able to attend them.


There are two documents on the establishment of a Serbian primary school in Banja Luka, from the first half of the 19th century. A Turkish record shows that the Turkish government allowed the opening of a Christian school in 1831. Four years later (in 1835), a firman came from Constantinople giving permission for opening a school for Christian children, but it remains unknown whether the school was opened or not.


Mitar Papic wrote: “It is known for a fact that Serbian-Orthodox primary school has worked in Banja Luka since 1856. Since then we can regularly follow the life of this school”.


In 1862, the school worked in a one-floor building owned by the Church community and it was located near the Cell Church. In 1864, the school was moved from that building to the Radulovic-Opujic house, which was bought by the Church community from the merchant Opujic from Trieste and used for the Theological Seminary and Serbian Primary School.


In the first arrangement of the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitanate of Banja Luka and Bihac for 1901, it is said that male primary school was established in 1864 and that it had 143 students. In the female primary school, founded in the same year, there were 14 964 students.


The new building of the Theological Seminary was built in 1871 at the Imperial Road (opposite of the today's main post office, on the corner where the City Assembly is set), so the Serbian Primary School had its own space in this spacious building, the largest building in Banja Luka at the time.


Before the uprising in 1875, there were about fifty Serbian schools in Krajina, although their work was constantly interrupted by the Turkish authorities. During the uprising, the Theological Seminary and the Serbian Primary School were banned. After the uprising, the Theological Seminary has never been restored in Banja Luka, and the Serbian Primary School moved back under the vaults of its building and continued working on 1st October 1879.


In 1881, at the former Theological Seminary building, the than Serbian Primary School, the Church and school community put a panel saying SERBIAN ORTHODOX PRIMARY SCHOOL, written in big Cyrillic letters.


Aware that the new occupying power, in contrast to the last Turkish one, wanted to enslave the soul of the Serbian people, as well as the body, the Serbs struggled for the national, cultural, educational and humanitarian institutions. Relying on the Church community, they reopened the Serbian Primary School, built a Church (in 1879), and then started to renew the Serbian Reading Room, establish the Serbian Singing Association “Jedinstvo” (in English: “Unity”) in 1893, Charity Cooperative of Banja Luka’s Serbian Women (1900), the Serbian Cultural and Educational Society “Prosvjeta” (1902), organize Saint Sava’s sayings, etc.




Wanting to show itself to the world as a cultural reformer, the Austrian government made the peoples inherited in the occupied areas some small concessions that did not cost much, knowing that they could often achieve a lot without jeopardizing their own political interests. The government allowed the establishment of cultural, educational and humanitarian associations with national prefix.


Serbian singing associations, which were cultural, social and national centres in Serbia and Vojvodina, had an immense importance in preserving the national consciousness of the Serbian people under a foreign rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


The end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century in Bosnia and Herzegovina was the era in which singing associations were founded on the confessional and ethnic lines. At that time, Serbian Singing Association “Njegus” (1866) was founded in Tuzla, as well as “Vila” (1887) in Prijedor, “Gusle” (1888) in Mostar, “Sloga” (1888) in Sarajevo and “Jedinstvo” (1893) in Banja Luka. While these associations were developing, the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian patriots helped them strengthen.


The few preserved documents indicate that the Serbian Orthodox Church Community in Banja Luka, an important cultural and spiritual centre of the Serbian nation, founded the Serbian Orthodox Church Singing Association, the latter Serbian Singing Association “Jedinstvo”, on the day of the Presentation of the Holy Theotokos, 4th December 1893.


The Serbian Orthodox Church Singing Association “Jedinstvo” and the Serbian Reading Room were the guiding stars of the Serbian people during the Austro-Hungarian occupation. Realizing that the power of all, especially the small nations, was in preserving the culture and the tradition, the Serbian Reading Room and “Jedinstvo” rose above their basic functions and became agents of the Serbian spiritual revival. During the First and Second World War, the Association was banned, and after the liberation, the communist authorities did not allow its reconstruction.




By the decree of King Alexander I Karadjordjevic, from the 6th January 1929, the former Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was divided into nine regional units (banates), and on 3rd October of the same year, it changed the name into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The reason for that was a constant political and economic turmoil in the previous country.


One of the nine banates was the Banate of Vrbas, with Banja Luka as its centre and headquarters. Of the total population of the Banate of Vrbas, 88 percent lived in rural areas. A large number of the illiterate, lack of primary schools and experts in all areas complemented a pretty bleak picture that greeted the first Ban, Svetislav Tisa Milosavljevic, on 8th November 1929 when he arrived to Banja Luka. Well informed and having an enviable military and ministerial career, as well as remembering well the words of King Alexander when he addressed him to this duty that “the Serbs there are the majority, and they are the best of the Serbs”, and that there was some important national work pending, the ban immediately accepted the job. Ban Milosavljevic, a visionary and master builder as Banja Luka had never seen before, built the administrative buildings of the splendid palace of the Ban Headquarters and the Ban Court, clerical buildings, roads, schools, parks and hospitals, the House of King Peter I the Liberator, Sokolski dom (sport-gymnastic club) of King Alexander I the Unifier, established the theatre and the museum, helped companies, launched the “Vrbas Newspaper”, significantly contributed to the completion of the monumental Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity in the city centre and was its patron at the consecration in 1939, regenerated Banja Luka and turned it into a modern European city.


In addition to the calvary that the city had suffered in World War II, the city suffered destruction even in the post-war period, but that time by a catastrophic earthquake on 22nd October 1969. After the earthquake, the city was rebuilt and has taken on a look that still adorns it.


Today, Banja Luka is the administrative, cultural and spiritual centre of the Republic of Srpska.

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