From Pagan to Christian and Back Again

Saint Paul

From Pagan to Christian and Back Again

Roman ruins are everywhere in the Balkans.

Roman street in Sofia, Bulgaria
Recently discovered Roman street in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The Romans, after the Batonnian Uprising, repopulated the province of Illyricum with their own people.  

The region was first pagan, and St Paul himself preached through Illyricum.  By the year 300, 10% of the Roman empire was Christian.  In the last gasps of a pagan majority, the Diocletian Persecution was particularly severe in the Balkans – even killing the Bishop of Sirmium.

The martyrdom of Irenaeus of Sirmium
The martyrdom of Irenaeus of Sirmium

But within ten years Christianity was fully legal.  Within twenty the Roman government was sponsoring Christian conferences like the First Council of Nicea.  

Roman church in Sofia, Bulgaria
A small Roman church recently discovered in Sofia, Bulgaria

Christianity became fully integrated within the Roman empire. 

And then the Slavs came.  The Christian Balkans became pagan again.  

Until they were again Christian.

Religion in the Balkans has been a hot button issue from the beginning.  From the development of a proto-Hephaestean cult amongst the Illyrians in the area of what is now Vukovar, Croatia, to the Roman decimation of the Illyrians, to the take-over of Christianity, the reversion to paganism, and the re-baptism into Christianity, the stage was set for two thousand years of religious strife.

Schisms in the Christian church, crusades in Bosnia, and conversion to Islam followed; just proving the Balkans have always been the laboratory for the belief systems of Europe.  

More on the Roman Empire in the Balkans:

Becoming Christian, Becoming Pagan

The Very Balkan Roman Emperors

The Illyrian Revolt


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