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Paweł Cholewicki

LAHRI Postdoctoral Fellow
Areas of expertise
The Franciscan Order, The Observant Movement, Medieval Bosnia, Late Medieval Religious Life, The Bosnian Church, James of the Marches
Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute

I completed my PhD thesis in 2023 at the Institute of Medieval Studies, University of Leeds, entitled: The Franciscan Observance in Bosnia and the problem of structural integrity: the disintegration of the Bosnian vicariate (1444-48) and the downfall of the Bosnian-Dalmatian province (1469). I also hold an MA from Central European University, completed in 2017. Religious life in the Medieval Bosnia is the focus of academic expertise, and I am primarily interested in the Franciscan Order. I have also presented conference papers on the “heretic” Krstjani of the Bosnian Church.

Religious life in Medieval Bosnia remains understudied in the West, despite its remarkable originality, mainly manifested in the rise of the heresy. It attracted attention of the South Slavic scholars, yet it is often absent from discussions of European heresy, in spite of its influence and relative longevity. Another side of the coin is the orthodox aspect of Bosnian religious life, represented by the Franciscans. To these competitors for souls, we should also add the Serbian Orthodox Church present in some parts of the Bosnian medieval state, and finally, Islam brought with the Ottoman expansion. It was rare to have this much diverse religious influence in one place in medieval Europe. Some remarkable cross-faith interactions took place in Bosnia in very peculiar circumstances, deserving more attention than they have received thus far. I am also interested in similar cross faith interactions in other places of the Medieval Europe, mainly the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

My doctoral thesis delves into the relationship between the development of the Franciscan Observant movement and the problem of the Bosnian vicariate’s disintegration, as well as the downfall of the Bosnian-Dalmatian province. Existing historiography lacks a comprehensive study of the problem that would examine the stages of withdrawal of the Bosnian vicariate’s jurisdiction from different geographical areas and establish their relationship with the expanding Observance. My study also aimed to integrate the findings of Western Medieval Studies about this late medieval reform movement with the local historiographic traditions. The main research question of the thesis is the extent to which the Observance played a role in the vicariate’s disintegration, and what significance did it have for the later downfall of the Bosnian-Dalmatian province? The thesis deals with the foundation and territorial expansion of the Bosnian vicariate, as well as the problems of adoption and adaptation of the Observant identity. Then it examines the retreat of the vicariate’s jurisdiction from three areas, Southern Hungary, Apulia and Dalmatia, and its relationship to the developing Observance. Finally, I have dealt with the Bosnian-Dalmatian province and the problem of its downfall.

My work demonstrates that this twofold structural collapse was directly related to the development of the Observance. The problems of obedience and religious conduct, both central topics of the Observance, kept re-emerging, and they fractured the vicariate into various conflicted families, representing its different parts, and caused discord between the friars in Bosnia and their Cismontane superiors. Internal clashes broke down the Bosnian vicariate across its constituent elements and later led to the downfall of the Bosnian-Dalmatian province. Finally, my thesis establishes the Bosnian vicariate in the framework of Observance’s internal diversity and demonstrates that the story of the Franciscan Observance is not complete without Bosnia. It also clarifies some previously confusions based on my archival research in Dubrovnik State Archive.

I am currently working on publishing a monograph based on my thesis. I believe it will be a significant contribution to existing scholarship on Bosnian Franciscans and will open up this remarkable part of the medieval world to an Anglophone audience. Additionally, I am developing projects intended to study the adoption of Bosnian Franciscans to Ottoman rule and to examine the role of the Franciscan Observants in the Christianization and Catholicization of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

During my doctoral study period, I taught at the University of Leeds, serving as a tutor for the modules “Medieval and Renaissance Europe” and “The Cult of Saints in Medieval Europe c.400-c.1500.”

Conference papers

2024    (Forthcoming) Just as Lamiae Breastfeeding Their Brood: Portrayals of the Heresy in Bosnia by Written Sources at: International Medieval Congress, Leeds

2023    Writings of the Bosnian Vicar Bartholomew of La Verna and Repression of the Krstjani in 1459-60 at: International Medieval Congress, Leeds

2023    Franciscan Bosnian vicariate embraces Observance: change or continuity? at: MECERN biennial conference, Continuity and Change in Medieval Central Europe, Bratislava

2021    The significance of the itinerary of St. James of the Marches for East Central Europe, 1432–1440 at: Temporal and Spiritual Journeys in Europe, 1432-1763, Dublin

2021    The Disintegration of the Bosnian Vicariate (1444–1448): Factors, Course and Consequences at: MECERN biennial conference, Networks – Cooperation – Rivalry, Gdańsk

2020    Heartland and Peripheries of the Franciscan Bosnian Vicariate at: International Medieval Congress, Leeds

2018    Late medieval Bosnia and Poland: channels, connections, parallels and individuals, at: International Conference “Bosnia and its neighbours in the Middle Ages", Sarajevo

2018    Court of King Stjepan Tomaš (1443-61) between the Roman and the Bosnian faith, at: International Conference Heretical Self Defense, Nottingham


2023    “Travels by St James of the Marches in East Central Europe, 1432– 1440” in Path to Salvation Temporal and Spiritual Journeys by the Mendicant Orders, c.1370–1740, ed Benjamin Hazard (Lausanne: Peter Lang, 2023), 83-116

2019   “Late Medieval Bosnia and Poland: Dimensions of the Interaction” in Bosna i njeni susjedi u srednjem vijeku: pristupi i perspektive [Bosnia and its neighbours in the Middle Ages: Approaches and Perspectives], eds. Elmedina Duranović, Enes Dedić and Nedim Rabić (Sarajevo: Institut za historiju - Univerzitet u Sarajevu, 2019), 273-304

2019   “The role of the Franciscans in the kingdom of Bosnia during the reign of King Stjepan Tomaš (1443-1461)”, in CEU Annual of Medieval Studies, vol. 25, ed Ildikó Csepregi (Budapest: Archaeolingua Foundation & Publishing House, 2019), 107-20


 MECERN – Medieval Central Europe Research Network