At the end of the first quarter of the tenth century a very difficult socio-economic situation developed in Bulgaria, which gave rise to a new anti-clerical and anti-feudal movement influenced by the teachings of Mani. After the death of the Bulgarian Tsar Simeon (927), several invasions of the Magyars (the medieval Hungarians) led the country to face many social problems, particularly during the rule of his son, Tsar Petar the First (927-69).

The first information concerning the Bogomils is given in a letter of the Ecumenical Patriarch Theophilact of Constantinople to the Bulgarian monarch regarding the question as to how to handle the heretics in the kingdom. According to Theophilact, the new heresy is a mixture of Manichaeism and Paulicianism.

Today most of the scholars follow the statement of Theophilact of Constantinople. For example, Harold O. J. Brown – who, in his book, Heresies, writes: “The Bogomil’s movement appears to have began as a radical dualism, teaching two eternal principles, evil and good, like Persian Zoroastrianism; later it was modified into a less radical form (probably around eleventh century), which understood the world as (being the) result of the rebellion of one of God’s eldest son, Satanael.”

According to the most important source on Bogomilism, namely, the Tractat on the Bogomili of Cosmas the Priest from tenth century, it is a difficult heresy from Manichaeism which is said to have originated from Bulgaria: “It began in the years of the faithful Tsar Petar in Bulgaria when a priest, Bogomil, or better Bogonemil (“Bogomil” is Bulgarian for the “beloved of God” and “Bogonemil” denotes the one who is “not beloved of God”) started to preach the new heresy…”

Three centuries later in the Synodicon of Tsar Boril of Bulgaria the names of the disciples of Pop Bogomil – Michael, Todor, Dobri, Stephan, Vasiliy and Petar – are given with confirmation that the movement started in the days of Tsar Petar I, who was a very pious orthodox monarch, and had been influenced by the Bulgarian tenth century hermit saint, Ivan of Rila (ab. 876-946). St. Ivan (John) was an anchorite who had started the local hermit movement in the 10th century. His cult became very popular, not only in the Balkan peninsula, but also among the Eastern Slavs. Soon after his death, one of the greatest monasteries in the Balkans was founded on the site of his voluntary reclusion. Being a powerful cultural and religious centre, the monastery continues to attract pilgrims and, due to the miracles of St. Ivan of Rila, veneration.

At the end of the ninth century, the mission of the Paulicianists/ Paulicians and Massalians was extremely strong and spread in the Bulgarian kingdom. The beliefs were that all natural things were evil and the work of the devil (the Satan was the eldest son of God and a brother of Christ). [1] Bogomil are called a Manichean sect in Vindobonensis hist. Gr., 73. In J. Guillard’s Synodicon (p. 59) we find an anathema against the Bogomil among the anathemas against the teaching of the eleventh century Byzantine philosopher Jean Ital.

The Armenian-Gregorian Church as well as the Armenian nation has, through the centuries, suffered cruel persecution and several attempts at systematic extermination. There is a tradition for Armenians of looking for asylum in Bulgaria. The last two waves of Armenian immigrants to Bulgaria were after the repression in Turkey in the first half of the 20th century and after the fall of the Soviet Union and the civil wars in the ex-Soviet republics.

The Paulicians were the medieval successors of the early Christian Gnostics and of the Manicheans. Paulicianism originated as a mixture of Manichean and Marcionite teachings. The Paulicianists held that St. Paul was the only true Apostle. They rejected the old Testament and claimed that the world was created in a spirit of war with the God of the New testament. They also had strong iconoclastic tendencies (anti icon-worshipping), smashing images and even crosses whenever they could.

At the end of the seventh century, the province of Armenia was a part of Byzantium. The Byzantine Emperor Constantine V Copronyme (741-75) moved some of these Paulicians from Armenia to Thracia, near the city of Philippopolis (the present days Plovdiv in the South of Bulgaria).  Again in 778 another group was settled in the same region by Emp. Leo IV Hasar (775-80). Paulist propaganda began to spread from Thracia to the Balkans, primarily in the neighboring country, Bulgaria. At this time paganism was the official religion both in the form of the cult of Tangra of the proto-Bulgarians (they came from ancient China) and of the various cults of the Southern Slavic tribes. The teaching, called Thracian Orphism, was a very strong influence in the region, and was the characteristic feature of the Thraco-Pelasgian ethno-cultural community before and after the Trojan War. The Orphic path to the divine is through concentration and contemplation.

Orpheus was born in the mountain of Rhodopae and was from Thracian toots. Spartacus was a Thracian nobleman. He and his followers created a kind of religious syncretism which owed much to the beliefs of the ancient Thracians.

Later, in the province of Macedonia (the present day Republic of Macedonia) another group was settled from Armenia by the Emperor Vasillios II Bulgarophigon (Greek for the “killer of Bulgarians”, who ruled 976-1025). 

Source: Gramatikov, Petar. The Dualism of the Bogomils – New religion or a sect. – In: Identity in Conflict. Classical Christian Faith and Religion Occulta (Essays in Honour of Prof. Johannes Aagaard), Munishiram Manoharal Publishers Pvt. Ltd. /New Delhi/, Dialogcentret, Aarhus, 1998, pp. 133-140.





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