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Bogomils was the name of an ancient Gnostic religious community which is thought to have originated in Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

It is difficult to ascertain whether the name was taken from the reputed founder of that sect, a certain pope Bogumil or Bogomil, or whether he assumed that name after it had been given to the whole sect. The word is a direct translation into Slavonic of Massaliani, the Syriac name of the sect corresponding to the Greek Euchites. The Bogomils are identified with the Massaliani in Slavonic documents of the 13th century. They are also known as Pavlikeni, i.e. Paulicians. This name was derived from their respect for the apostle Paul, rather than from their third leader, the Armenian Paul, as Photius and Petrus Siculus affirm.

It is a complicated task to determine the true character and the tenets of any ancient sect, considering that almost all the information that has reached us has come from their opponents. The heretical literature has to a great extent either perished or been completely changed; but much has also survived in a modified written form or through oral tradition. Concerning the Bogomils something can be gathered from the information collected by Euthymius Zygadenus in the 12th century, and from the polemic Against the Heretics written in Slavonic by St Kozma during the 10th century. The old Slavonic lists of forbidden books of the 15th and 16th century also give us a clue to the discovery of this heretical literature and of the means the Bogomils employed to carry on their propaganda. Much may also be learnt from the doctrines of the numerous heretical sects which arose in Ruthenia after the 11th century.

The Bogomils were without doubt the connecting link between the so-called heretical sects of the East and those of the West. They were, moreover, the most active agents in disseminating such teachings in Ruthenia and among all the nations of Europe. They may have found in some places a soil already prepared by more ancient tenets which had been preserved in spite of the persecution of the official Church, and handed down from the period of primitive Christianity. In the 12th and 13th century the Bogomils were already known in the West as "Bulgari." In 1207 the Bulgarorum heresis is mentioned. In 1223 the Albigenses are declared to be the local Bougres, and at the same period mention is made of the "Pope of the Albigenses who resided within the confines of Bulgaria." The Cathars and Patarenes, the Waldenses, the Anabaptists, and in Ruthenia the Strigolniki, Molokani and Doukhobors, have all at different times been either identified with the Bogomils or closely connected with them.

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From the imperfect and conflicting data which are alone available one positive result can be gathered: that the Bogomils were both Adoptionists and Manichaeans. They had accepted the teaching of Paul of Samosata, though at a later period the name of Paul was believed to be that of the Apostle; and they were not quite free from the Dualistic principle of the Gnostics, at a later period too much identified with the teaching of Mani, by Photius, Petrus Siculus, and other authors. Both Paulicians and Manichaeans were dualists, but the former ascribed the creation of the world to the evil God; the latter, to the good God; and the former held the Scriptures in higher honor. They even condemned Mani, comparing him to Buddha. They rejected the Christianity of the orthodox churches and did not accept the docetic teaching of some of the other sects. Taking as our starting-point the teaching of the heretical sects in Ruthenia, notably those of the 14th century, which are a direct continuation of the doctrines held by the Bogomils, we find that they denied the divine birth of Christ, the personal coexistence of the Son with the Father and Holy Ghost, and the validity of sacraments and ceremonies. They rejected the title of theotokos (mother of God), and refused all veneration to Mary. The miracles performed by Jesus were interpreted in a spiritual sense, not as real material occurrences; the Church was the in-tenor spiritual church in which all held equal share. Baptism was only to be practised on grown men and women. The Bogomils repudiated infant baptism, and considered the baptismal rite to be of a spiritual character neither by water nor by oil but by self-abnegation, prayers and chanting of hymns.

Karp Strigolnik, who in the 14th century preached the doctrine in Novgorod, explained that St Paul had taught that simpleminded men should instruct one another; therefore they elected their "teachers" from among themselves to be their spiritual guides, and had no special priests. Prayers were to be said in private houses, not in separate buildings such as churches. Ordination was conferred by the congregation and not by any specially appointed minister. The congregation were the "elect," and each member could obtain the perfection of Christ and become a Christ or "Chuist." Marriage was not a sacrament. The Bogomils refused to fast on Mondays and Fridays. They rejected monachism. They declared Christ to be the Son of God only through grace like other prophets, and that the bread and wine of the eucharist were not transformed into flesh and blood; that the last judgment would be executed by God and not by Jesus; that the images and the cross were idols and the veneration of saints and relics idolatry.

These Paulician doctrines have survived in the great Ruthenian sects, and can be traced back to the teachings and practice of the Bogomils. But in addition to these doctrines of an adoptionist origin, they held the Manichaean dualistic conception of the origin of the world. This has been partly preserved in some of their literary remains, and has taken deep root in the beliefs and traditions of the Bulgarians, Macedonians and other nations with whom they had come into close contact. The chief literature of all the heretical sects throughout the ages has been that of apocryphal Biblical narratives, and the popes Jeremiah or Bogumil are directly mentioned as authors of such forbidden books "which no orthodox dare read." Though these writings are mostly the same in origin as are known from the older lists of apocryphal books, they underwent in this case a certain modification at the hands of their Bogomil editors, so as to be used for the propagation of their own specific doctrines.

In its most simple and attractive form--one at the same time invested with the authority of the reputed holy author--their account of the creation of the world and of man; the origin of sin and redemption, the history of the Cross, and the disputes between body and soul, right and wrong, heaven and hell, were embodied either in "Historiated Bibles" (Palcyaf) or in special dialogues held between Christ and his disciples, or between renowned Fathers of the Church who expounded these views in a simple manner adapted to the understanding of the people (Lucidaria).

The Bogomils taught that God had two sons, the elder Satanail and the younger Michael. The elder son rebelled against the father and became the evil spirit. After his fall he created the lower heavens and the earth and tried in vain to create man; in the end he had to appeal to God for the Spirit. After creation Adam was allowed to till the ground on condition that he sold himself and his posterity to the owner of the earth. Then Michael was sent in the form of a man; he became identified with Jesus, and was "elected" by God after the baptism in the Jordan. When the Holy Ghost (again Michael) appeared in the shape of the dove, Jesus received power to break the covenant in the form of a clay tablet (hierographon) held by Satanail from Adam. He had now become the angel Michael in a human form; as such he vanquished Satanail, and deprived him of the termination -il = God, in which his power resided. Satanail was thus transformed into Satan. Through his machinations the crucifixion took place, and Satan was the originator of the whole Orthodox community with its churches, vestments, ceremonies, sacraments and fasts, with its monks and priests. This world being the work of Satan, the perfect must eschew any and every excess of its pleasure. But the Bogomils did not go as far as to recommend asceticism.

They held the "Lord's Prayer" in high respect as the most potent weapon against Satan, and had a number of conjurations against "evil spirits." Each community had its own twelve "apostles," and women could be raised to the rank of "elect." The Bogomils wore garments like mendicant friars and were known as keen missionaries, travelling far and wide to propagate their doctrines. Healing the sick and exorcising the evil spirit, they traversed different countries and spread their apocryphal literature along with some of the books of the Old Testament, deeply influencing the religious spirit of the nations, and preparing them for the Reformation. They accepted the four Gospels, fourteen Epistles of Paul, the three Epistles of John, James, Jude, and an Epistle to the Laodiceans, which they professed to have. They sowed the seeds of a rich religious popular literature in the East as well as in the West. The Historiated Bible, the Letter from Heaven, the Wanderings through Heaven and Hell, the numerous Adam and Cross legends, the religious poems of the "Kalflki perehozhie" and other similar productions owe their dissemination to a large extent to the activity of the Bogomils of Bulgaria, and their successors in other lands.


The founder of the sect was a certain Constantine, who hailed from Mananalis, a dualistic community near Samosata. He studied the Gospels and Epistles, combined dualistic and Christian doctrines, and, upon the basis of the former, vigorously opposed the formalism of the church. Regarding himself as called to restore the pure Christianity of Paul, he adopted the name Silvanus, one of Paul's disciples, and about the year 660 founded his first congregation at Kibossa in Armenia. Twenty-seven years afterwards he was stoned to death by order of the emperor. Simeon, the court official who executed the order, was himself converted, and, adopting the name Titus, became Constantine's successor, but was burned to death in 690 (the punishment pronounced upon the Manichaeans). The adherents of the sect fled, with the Armenian Paul at their head, to Episparis. He died in 71], leaving two sons, Gegnaesius (whom he had appointed his successor) and Theodore. The latter, giving out that he had received the Holy Ghost, rose up against Gegnaesius, but was unsuccessful. Gegnaesius was taken to Constantinople, appeared before Emperor Leo III, was declared innocent of heresy, returned to Episparis, but, fearing danger, went with his adherents to Mananalis. His death (in 745) was the occasion of a division in the sect; Zacharias and Joseph being the leaders of the two parties. The latter had the larger following and was succeeded by Baanies, 775.

The sect grew in spite of persecution, receiving additions from the opponents of image-worship. The Bogomil propaganda follows the mountain chains of central Europe, starting from the Balkans and continuing along the Carpathian Mountains, the Alps and the Pyrenees, with ramifications north and south (Germany, England and Spain). In the middle of the 8th century the emperor Constantine Copronymus settled a number of Armenian Paulicians in Thrace. These were noted heretics and were persecuted by the Greek Church with fire and sword. Baanes, an immoral man, was supplanted by Sergius, 801, who was very active for thirty-four years, and received into the number of the saints. His activity was the occasion of renewed persecutions on the part of Emperor Leo V. Obliged to flee, Sergius and his followers settled at Argaum, in that part of Armenia which was under the control of the Saracens. At the death of Sergius, the control of the sect was divided between several leaders.

The empress Theodora killed, drowned or hanged no fewer than 100,000 Paulicians in Grecian Armenia. Under Karbeas, who fled with the residue of the sect, two cities, Amara and Tephrica, were built. His successor, Chrysocheres, devastated many cities; in 867 advanced as far as Ephesus, and took many priests prisoners. In 868 the emperor, Basil I, despatched Petrus Siculus to arrange for their exchange. His sojourn of nine months among the Paulicians gave him an opportunity to collect many facts, which he preserved in his ..." History of the empty and vain heresy of the Manichæans, otherwise called Paulicians"). The propositions of peace were not accepted, the war was renewed, and Chrysocheres killed. In 970 the emperor John Tzimisces, himself of Armenian origin, transplanted no less than 200,000 Armenian Paulicians to Europe and settled them in the neighbourhood of Philippopolis in Thrace, which henceforth became the centre of a far-reaching propaganda. Settled along the Balkans as a kind of bulwark against the invading Bulgars, the Armenians on the contrary soon fraternized with the newcomers, whom they converted to their own views; even a prince of the Bulgarians adopted their teaching. According to Slavonic documents the founder of this sect was a certain priest Bogumil, who "imbibed the Manichaean teaching and flourished at the time of the Bulgarian emperor Peter" (927-968). According to another source the founder was called Jeremiah (or there was another priest associated with him by the name of Jeremiah). This was the beginning of a revival of the sect, which proved loyal to the empire.

The Slavonic sources are unanimous on the point that his teaching was Manichaean. A Synodikon from the year 1210 adds the names of his pupils or "apostles," Mihail, Todur, Dobri, Stefan, Vasilie and Peter. Zealous missionaries carried their doctrines far and wide. In 1004, scarcely 25 years after the introduction of Christianity into Ruthenia, we hear of a priest Adrian teaching the same doctrines as the Bogomils. He was imprisoned by Leontie, Bishop of Kyiv. In 1125 the Church in the south of Ruthenia had to combat another heresiarch named Dmitri. The Church in Bulgaria also tried to extirpate Bogomilism. Several thousand went in the army of Alexius Comnenus against the Norman, Robert Guiscard; but, deserting the emperor, many of them (1085) were thrown into prison. Efforts were again put forth for their conversion; and for the converts the new city of Alexiopolis was built, opposite Philippopolis. When the Crusaders took Constantinople (1204), they found some Paulicians, whom the historian Geoffrey of Villehardouin calls Popelicans. The popes in Rome whilst leading the Crusade against the Albigenses did not forget their counterpart in the Balkans and recommended the annihilation of the heretics.

The Bogomils spread westwards, and settled first in Serbia; but at the end of the 12th century Stephen Nemanya, king of Serbia, persecuted them and expelled them from the country. Large numbers took refuge in Bosnia, where they were known under the name of Patarenes or Patareni. There they were also brought into connection with the indigenous Bosnian Church, which was also considered heretical by the Pope and the Byzantium, but was not actually Bogomil in nature. From Bosnia their influence extended into Italy (Piedmont). The Hungarians undertook many crusades against the heretics in Bosnia, but towards the close of the 15th century the conquest of that country by the Turks put an end to their persecution. It is alleged that a large number of the Bosnian Paterenes, and especially the nobles, embraced Islam. Few or no remnants of Bogomilism have survived in Bosnia. The Ritual in Slavonic written by the Bosnian Radoslav, and published in vol. xv. of the Starine of the South Slavonic Academy at Agram, shows great resemblance to the Cathar ritual published by Cunitz, 1853. See F Rački, "Bogomili i Paternai" in Rad, vols. vii., viii. and x. (Agram, 1870); Dollinger, Beiträge zur Ketzergeschichte des Mittelalters, 2 vols. (Munich, 1890).

Under Turkish rule the Bogomils lived unmolested as Pavlikeni in their ancient stronghold near Philippopolis, and farther northward. In 1650 the Roman Catholic Church gathered them into its fold. No less than fourteen villages near Nicopolis embraced Catholicism, and a colony of Pavlikeni in the village of Cioplea near [ucharest followed the example of their brethren across the Danube.

In the 18th century the Pavlikeni people from around Nicopolis were persecuted by the Turks, presumably on religious grounds, and a good part of them fled across the Danube into, what is today, Romania. They settled in the Banat region that was under the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time. There are still over ten thousant Pavlikeni in Banat today in the villages of Dudestii Vechi, Vinga, Brestea and also in the city of Timisoara and a few in Arad. There is also a village of Pavlikeni in the Serbian Banat called Ivanovo.

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