Adherents of a medieval Balkan sect that came into being in Bulgaria, but whose origins go back to mani chaeism via Paulicianism. In the 8th century the Byzantine emperors resettled a number of paulicians in Thrace, and under the influence of these immigrants the heresy called Bogomilism after its founder, Pope Bogomil ("pleasing to God"), was eventually introduced into the Balkans. The first account of this heresy is found in a reply of Patriarch Theophylactus to the Bulgar Czar Peter (c. 950), stating that it was "Manichaeism mixed with Paulicianism" (Μανικαΐσμος γάρ ἐστι, Παυλικιανισμ[symbol omitted] συμμιγής). About 972, the Bulgarian priest Cosmas wrote his Treatise on the Bogomils, denouncing these heretics and emphasizing their refusal to obey any authority, civil or ecclesiastical.
For the Bogomils, the world and the human body were works of Satan; only the soul was a creation of God. The true Christian conquered matter by abstaining from all physical contacts, by abstaining from meat and wine, and by forgoing all earthly possessions. This monastictype ideal was, in practice, possible only for the "Perfect"; the ordinary faithful could sin but they were under obligation to obey the Perfect; they could receive "spiritual baptism" on their deathbeds. The Bogomils accepted only the New Testament and the Psalms, translated into the vernacular. They were Docetists, holding that Christ did not have a human body but only the appearance (δόκησις) of one. Like the Paulicians, they rejected Sacraments, churches, and relics, tithing and church property, but retained a hierarchy of their own.
Bogomilism spread rapidly in the Balkans and even in Asia Minor in the 11th century (as indicated in the Epistola invectiva of Euthymius of Peribleptos). At the same time it spread into Italy and in France, where its adherents were called patarines or cathari (καθαροί in German, Ketzer ). Recruits came largely from among the artisans and peasants oppressed by feudalism, but the nobility, in Provence as in Bosnia, also adhered to this "bargain church" that permitted them to appropriate to themselves the goods of the Catholic Church. About 1110, Emperor John II Comnenus discovered a Bogomil organization in Constantinople headed by a physician, Basil by name, and 12 "Apostles." Basil was burned at the stake, and the monk Euthymius Zygabenus included a description of the heresy in his Panoplia dogmatica. In Serbia Prince Stephen Nemania took stern measures against the Bogomils c. 1180, ordering the burning of their leaders and their books. In Bulgaria, the heresy was crushed by Czar Boril, whose Synodicon of 1211 censures and condemns the Bogomils. But the movement continued to grow in Dalmatia (where it is mentioned
from 1167 on) and in Bosnia, which later became the center of Bogomilism in Europe.
In 1203 the Bogomil leaders of Bosnia allegedly recanted their heresy before the legate of Pope Innocent III (Act of Bolinopolje), but the movement soon spread throughout the entire country, and Pope Honorius III preached a crusade against Bosnia. In 1237 a crusade by Hungarians scored some success, but after the Tatar invasions of Hungary, the whole of Bosnia went into heresy for two centuries. With substantial support coming especially from the nobility, Bogomilism became a national religion. Beginning in 1340, however, the Franciscans preached the Catholic faith in Bosnia and founded friaries there. The barons and kings of Bosnia reconverted to Catholicism, but were for a long time unable to combat the heresy, headed by a dijed (bishop), and by gosti and starcy (elders). At length, in 1450 King Thomas required his subjects to accept Catholicism; 40,000 recalcitrants took refuge with their dijed in Herzegovina, which remained the final bastion of Bogomilism. But in 1463 the Turks easily took Bosnia and in 1482, Herzegovina. Thereafter many of the local population preferred to abandon their superficial Catholicism and adopt Islam, as they found in it some resemblance to their old faith. Such Islamized Bosnians and Herzegovinians were dubbed poturi (those who became Turkish). Some poturi preachers worked among the remaining Paulicians in Bulgaria, evidenced by Bulgarian 17th-century Slavic books that had been written in Bosnia. As late as 1660 the poturi often read the Gospel side by side with the Qur’ān.
No traces of the Bogomils remain in the Balkans, except tombstones—quite numerous in Bosnia and Herzegovina—that bear symbolic decorations (sun and moon, Christ the Vine, the anthropomorphic cross) that hark back to Manichaeism.
Bibliography: m. jugie, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique. Doctrine et histoire, ed. m. viller et al. (Paris 1932–) 1:1751–54. s. runciman, The Medieval Manichee: A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy (Cambridge, Eng. 1947, repr.1955). d. obolensky, The Bogomils: A Study in Balkan Neo-Manichaeism (Cambridge, Eng. 1948). a. schmaus, "Der Neumanichäismus auf dem Balkan," Saeculum 2 (1951) 271–299. a. borst, Die Katharer (Schriften der Monumenta Germaniae Historica 12; Stuttgart 1953). e. werner, "Die Bogomilen in Bulgarien Forschungen und Fortschritte," Studi medievali 3rd ser. 3(1962) 249–278. a. v. soloviev, "Bogomilentum und Bogomilengräber in den südslawischen Ländern," Völker und Kulturen Südosteuropas (Munich 1958) 173–199.
[a. v. soloviev]
Bogomils (bō´gōmĬlz), members of Europe's first great dualist church, which flourished in Bulgaria and the Balkans from the 10th to the 15th cent. Their creed, adapted from the Paulicians and modified by other Gnostic and Manichaean sources, is attributed to Theophilus or Bogomil, a Bulgarian priest of the 10th cent. The movement was intensely nationalistic and political, as well as religious, and reflected resentment of Byzantine culture, Slavic serfdom, and imperial authority. They vanished due to persecution and the expansion of Islam, but bits of their ideas and folklore persisted for centuries in Slavic lands.
See M. Loos, Dualist Heresy in the Middle Ages (1974).