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A dualist and docetist sect that arose and flourished in mediæval Bulgaria and Macedonia, the Bogomils derive their name from their founder, the priest Bogomil (Theophilus) and their teachings from the Paulicans, a Manichæan group settled in Thrace in the late VIII Century. The earliest description of the Bogomils is in a letter from Patriarch Theophylact of Bulgaria to Tsar Peter of Bulgaria, and the main source of doctrinal information is the work of Euthymius Zigabenus, who says that they believe that God created man's soul but matter was the invention of Satan, God's older son, who in seducing Eve lost his creative power. Because grace could not bind itself to matter, Bogomils believe that Christ had only the semblance of a human body, and they reject the Eucharist and other sacraments, as well as relics and the use of material items in worship. The Bogomils were as ascetical as the Cathars and also rejected marriage and the eating of animal products. Although the group saw the authority of the established hierarchy as invalid, they set up a separate hierarchy. They accepted only the New Testament and Psalms as scripture and were among the first to hold revivals.

From its center in Philippi, Thrace, Bogomilism spread through the Balkans, to Asia Minor, and into Constantinople in the XI Century. Basil the Bogomil is said to have converted mobs in the Byzantine capital and was c. 1110/18 burned at the stake, an event described in Anna Comnena's Alexiad. In the XII Century, the Bogomils influenced the theology of the Cathars in Western Europe, and by the beginning of the XIII Century, the groups had a network of communities that stretched from the Black Sea to the Atlantic.

In 1180, Stephen Nemanja (later St. Symeon) of Serbia began to check Bogomil activity in his kingdom. Suppression of the movement in Bulgaria intensified after a 1211 synod condemned the heresy. Bosnia and Herzogovina became the strongholds of Bogomilism during the XIII Century; in those countries, it was often associated with nationalism. Bogomilism remained the dominant religion in some parts of the Balkans until the Turkish invasions of the XV Century, after which many Bogomils converted to Islam.

Karen Rae Keck


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