What first and foremost determined the viewpoint to religion was the time of building of the churches in this region. Following the research pursued by Dr. Kosta Balabanov in the monograph Complex Studies of the Mountain of Bistra, i.e. Culture and Art Monuments in the Period from X to XIX century in the wider Bistra Region, the oldest church object in the village of Lazaropole, St.George’s Church, whose frescoe-painting was completed in 1751.19F In all other villages the churches were built in the middle of XIX century. The church of St.Petka in the village of Galičnik originates from the end of XIX century, whereas the central church of Ss. Peter and Paul was built in 1931.20F The church of St.Ilija’s Ascension in the village of Selce was finished in 186721F, and St.Peter and Paul Church in Tresonche village was built in 1844. 22F In the same village, St.Nikola’s Church was frescoe-painted in 1873. 23F, while the church of Virgin Mary in the village of Gari, in 1856. 24F In Osoj village, St.George’s Church was frescoe-painted in 1887. 25F
These data overtly point to the fact that Miaks cherished Christianity, but in a thoroughly different form – through Bogomilism, i.e. within themselves they had constituted a personal relation to religion and God and they felt no need for intermediaries from the institution – church. Therefore, the churches were built so late, in the period of consecutive pressure by Turkish Empire for turning the subjugated peoples into Muslims, at the moments when the strength of Bogomil thought started to decline so that the church would reduce the pressure for converting the people to Muslims.
The continued existence of the Monastery of St.Jovan Bigorski from XI century till present days is not a negation of the vigour of Bogomil thought among Miak tribe. Its emergence, at least according to written documents found so far, was not linked to the history of this tribe, while at the time of Turkish conquest, the church had a very positive role in the evolvement of national awareness and simultaneously in the opposition to conversion into Muslims, so the Monastery became a centre of religious and national self-awareness of the tribe.
The fact that, on the contrary, leads to the authority of Bogomilism in this tribe is the existence of a specific place in almost every house – a shrine. It was a small separated space serving for a personal prayer. Sequestered from the other people’s looks, solitary, the man established his relation to God. The first shrine was built on Priest Bogomil’s tombstone, and then following the example and memory of their first leader, they built such shrines in their homes. Apart from that, what the Bogomils accepted according to Matthew’s Gospel was the recommended “hidden’ prayer room in their homes because they did not have respect for God’s temples as places for prayer, nor believed that they needed mediators in spiritually addressing God. For a long time the shrine was a room without any signs or representations, particularly icons, which the Bogomils did not revere, yet in the ultimate century, with the reception of Orthodoxy, people started putting icons.
It is worth mentioning that except for Miaks houses, the shrine was rarely seen in Macedonian traditional houses, except in some parts of western Macedonia, where the operation of Bogomilism survived longest in the turmoil of the Middle Ages and under the Turkish rule. It is one more evidence pointing to the profound influence of Bogomilism in the development, work, spirit and culture of the tribe.
Miak flag is also a fascinating element for analysis. We have already dealt with the interpretation of its symbolics so far. The fact that most vehemently denies the hypothesis set by interpreters, about used symbols of the conquerors of this region, about the angles of the flag, is the position of the moon with its angles turned upwards. This symbol is purely Bogomil, and it found its place on Miak’s flag, by which they showed and highlighted their nationality. Much later, the Turks took over the sign, modified it, and put it on their flag as a nationality sign.26F
#3 Miak Flag
All these elements openly speak of and confirm the laid hypothesis about the power of Bogomil thought which for years and centuries inspired the life and work of this tribe. Not only did they recast their inclination to Bogomilism in their work but also they highlighted it, for instance, on the flag. Feeling all the positive influences born by the cherishing of this religion, and perhaps much more a social stream, they found a peculiar way of materialising the few adored symbols.
The exceptional affinity of Miaks towards artistic trades – icon-painting, carving, and building, was due to the many-century embracing of Bogomil movement, which led to eradication of the restraints imposed by the institution Church, and to liberation of the individual and his topmost creative and intellectual potentials. This is the reason why the key influence on the growth of creative and high intellectual aptitude of Miaks was found in the movement that, liberating the individual, left space for increase of its deep inner potential. The verification of this thesis is found in many elements of the material evidence. Deeply rooted in their being this movement and religion left marks in every element of their work despite the temporal distance between its emergence and its active functioning. In essence, the material evidence shows that within this tribe Bogomilism existed longer than anywhere else and became an inseparable part of their manner of thinking and living, i.e. to a great degree it defined their being.
Translated by: Kristina Zimbakova
19. Balabanov K., KOMPLEKSNITE proucuvanja na planinata Bistra, Spomenici na kulturata I umetnosta na stanati od periodot OD X DO XIX vek vo posirokiot region na planinata Bistra, p. 80
20. Balabanov K., the same, p. 79
21. Balabanov K., the same p.79
22. Balabanov K., the same, p.71
23. Balabanov K., the same, p.74
24. Balabanov K., the same, p.72
25. Balabanov K., the same, p.72
26. Matkovski A., GRBOVITE NA MAKEDONIJA, p. 62