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Title: Paulicianism  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Early Gnosticism, Byzantine Empire, Dualism, Bogomilism, Gnosticism
Collection: Christian Terminology, Paulicianism
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Paulicians (Classical Armenian: Պաւղիկեաններ, Pawłikeanner; Greek: Παυλικιανοί;[1] Arab sources: Baylakānī, al Bayālika)[2] were a Christian Adoptionist sect, also accused by medieval sources of being Gnostic and quasi-Manichaean Christian. They flourished between 650 and 872 in Armenia and the eastern themata of the Byzantine Empire. According to medieval Byzantine sources, the group's name was derived from the 3rd century Bishop of Antioch, Paul of Samosata.[3][4]


  • History 1
  • Doctrines 2
  • See also 3
  • Additional reading 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The sources show that the majority of the Paulician leaders were Armenians.[5] The founder of the sect is said to have been an Armenian by the name of Constantine,[6] who hailed from Mananalis, a community near Paytakaran. 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.

According to Christian historian and scholar Samuel Vila:[7] " ... in the year 660 [ Constantine ] received a deacon in his house, who put in his hands a precious and rare treasure in those days before the invention of the printing press: a New Testament. Upon reading the same he came to know about the whole salvation in Christ; and upon sharing said good news with others, he formed a group of sincere believers; later on, of preachers ... who became known as Paulicians ..."

Regarding himself as called to restore the pure Christianity of Paul (of Tarsus), 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 arrested by the Imperial authorities, tried for heresy and stoned to death.[8] Simeon, the court official who executed the order, was himself converted and adopting the name Titus became Constantine’s successor. He was burned to death (the punishment pronounced upon the Manichaeans) in 690.[8]

The adherents of the sect fled, with Paul at their head, to Episparis. He died in 715, 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 Leo the Isaurian, 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 in 775. The sect grew in spite of persecution, receiving additions from some of the iconoclasts.[8] The Paulicians were now divided into the Baanites (the old party), and the Sergites (the reformed sect). Sergius, as the reformed leader, was a zealous and effective converter for his sect; he boasted that he had spread his Gospel "from East to West. from North to South".[9] At the same time the Sergites fought against their rivals and nearly exterminated them.[9]

The massacre of the Paulicians in 843/844, from the Madrid Skylitzes.

Baanes was supplanted by Sergius-Tychicus in 801, who was very active for thirty-four years. His activity was the occasion of renewed persecutions on the part of Leo the Armenian. Obliged to flee, Sergius and his followers settled at Argaun, 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, as regent to her son Michael III, instituted a thoroughgoing persecution against the Paulicians throughout Asia Minor,[10] in which 100,000 Paulicians in Byzantine Armenia are said to have lost their lives and all of their property and lands were confiscated by the State.[11]

Paulicians under their new leader Karbeas fled to new areas. They built two cities, Amara and Tephrike (modern Divriği). By 844, at the height of its power, the Paulicians established a State of the Paulicians[12][13] at Tephrike. In 856 Karbeas and his people took refuge with the Arabs in the territory around Tephrike and joined forces with Umar al-Aqta, emir of Melitene (who reigned 835-863).[14] Karbeas was killed in 863 in Michael III's campaign against the Paulicians, and was possibly with Umar at Malakopea before the battle of Lalakaon.

His successor, [17] According Theophanes, the Paulicians of Armenia were moved to Thrace, in 747, in order to strengthen the Bulgarian frontier with a reliable population.[18]

In 871, the emperor [17] When the Crusaders took Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade (1204), they found some Paulicians, whom the historian Gottfried of Villehardouin calls Popelicans.

According to the historian Yordan Ivanov, some of the Paulicians were converted to Orthodoxy and Islam, the rest to the Catholic faith during the 16th or 17th century.[19]

At the end of the 17th century, the Paulician people still living around Nikopol, Bulgaria were persecuted by the Ottoman Empire, after the uprising of Chiprovtsi in 1688, and a good part of them fled across the Danube and settled in the Banat region.

There are still over ten thousand Banat Bulgarian in Romania today: in the villages of Dudeştii Vechi, Vinga, Breştea, and also in the city of Timişoara, with a few in Arad. However, they no longer practice their religion, having converted to Roman Catholicism. Their folklore is specific.[20][21] [22] After Bulgaria's liberation from Ottoman rule in 1878, a number of Banat Bulgarians resettled in the northern part of Bulgaria and reside there to this day in the villages of Bardarski Geran, Gostilya, Dragomirovo, Bregare, and Asenovo. There are also a few villages of ex-Paulicians in the Serbian part of Banat, especially the villages of Ivanovo and Belo Blato, near Pančevo.

In [17]


Little is known of the tenets of the Paulicians, as we are confined to the reports of opponents and a few fragments of Sergius' letters which they have preserved. Their system was dualistic,[23] although some have argued that it was actually adoptionist in nature.[24][25]

In it there are two principles, two kingdoms. The Evil Spirit is the author of, and lord of, the present visible world; the Good Spirit, of the future world.[3] Of their views about the creation of humanity, little is known but what is contained in the ambiguous words of Sergius. This passage seems to teach that Adam's sin of disobedience was a blessing in disguise, and that a greater sin than his is the sin against the Church.

The Paulicians accepted the four Gospels; fourteen Epistles of Paul; the three Epistles of John; the epistles of James and Jude; and an Epistle to the Laodiceans, which they professed to have. They rejected the Tanakh, also known as the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, as well as the Orthodox-Catholic title Theotokos ("Mother of God"), and refused all veneration of Mary.[3] Christ came down from heaven to emancipate humans from the body and from the world, which are evil. The reverence for the Cross they looked upon as heathenish. Their places of worship they called "places of prayer." Although they were ascetics, they made no distinction in foods, and practiced marriage.

The Paulicians were not a branch of the Jews, Mohammedans, Arians, and Manichæans it's likely that their opponents employed these appellations merely as term of abuse.[27] They call themselves Christians[28] or "True Believers".[2] Armenians always formed the majority in the provinces where the Paulicians were most influential and successful in spreading their doctrines.[5]

Frederick Conybeare in his edition of the Paulician manual The Key of Truth concluded that "The word Trinity is nowhere used, and was almost certainly rejected as being unscriptural."[29]

See also

Additional reading

  • Herzog, "Paulicians," Philip Schaff, ed., A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd edn, Vol. 2. Toronto, New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894. pp. 1776–1777
  • Nikoghayos Adontz: Samuel l'Armenien, Roi des Bulgares. Bruxelles, Palais des academies, 1938.
  • (Armenian) Hrach Bartikyan, Quellen zum Studium der Geschichte der paulikianischen Bewegung, Eriwan 1961.
  • The Key of Truth, A Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia, edited and translated by F. C. Conybeare, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1898.
  • S. B. Dadoyan: The Fatimid Armenians: Cultural and Political Interaction in the Near East, Islamic History and Civilization, Studies and Texts 18. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1997, Pp. 214.
  • Nina G. Garsoian: The Paulician Heresy. A Study in the Origin and Development of Paulicianism in Armenia and the Eastern Provinces of the Byzantine Empire. Publications in Near and Middle East Studies. Columbia University, Series A 6. The Hague: Mouton, 1967, 296 pp.
  • Nina G. Garsoian: Armenia between Byzantium and the Sasanians, London: Variorum Reprints, 1985, Pp. 340.
  • Newman, A.H. (1951). "Paulicians". In Samuel Macaulay Jackson. New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge VIII. Baker Book House, Michigan. pp. 417–418. 
  • Vahan M. Kurkjian: A History of Armenia (Chapter 37, The Paulikians and the Tondrakians), New York, 1959, 526 pp.
  • A. Lombard: Pauliciens, Bulgares et Bons-hommes, Geneva 1879
  • Vrej Nersessian: The Tondrakian Movement, Princeton Theological Monograph Series, Pickwick Publications, Allison Park, Pennsylvania, 1948, Pp. 145.
  • Edward Gibbon: 'History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' (Chapter LIV).


  1. ^ New Advent Catholic Encyclopaedia
  2. ^ a b Nersessian, Vrej (1998). The Tondrakian Movement: Religious Movements in the Armenian Church from the 4th to the 10th Centuries. London: RoutledgeCurzon. p. 13. ISBN 0-900707-92-5.
  3. ^ a b c (Armenian) Melik-Bakhshyan, Stepan. «Պավլիկյան շարժում» (The Paulician movement). Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia. vol. ix. Yerevan, Armenian SSR: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1983, pp. 140-141.
  4. ^  
  5. ^ a b Nersessian, Vrej: The Tondrakian Movement, Princeton Theological Monograph Series, Pickwick Publications, Allison Park, Pennsylvania, 1948, p.53.
  6. ^ Constantine-Silvanus." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Accessed 2 September 2008.
  7. ^ "A las fuentes del cristianismo", p. 203, 5th Ed. 1976, Tell; 1st Ed. 1931
  8. ^ a b c CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Paulicians - New Advent:
  9. ^ a b Petrus Siculus, "Historia Manichaeorum", op. cit., 45
  10. ^ Leon Arpee. A History of Armenian Christianity. The Armenian Missionary Association of America, New York, 1946, p. 107.
  11. ^ Norwich, John Julius: A Short History of Byzantium Knopf, New York, 1997, page 140
  12. ^ Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World. State of the Paulicians
  13. ^ Masis Panos. The Paulicians: A timeline & map
  14. ^ Digenis Akritas: The Two-Blooded Border Lord. Trans. Denison B. Hull. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1972
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b c New Advent article on the Paulicians
  18. ^ Nersessian, Vrej: The Tondrakian Movement, Princeton Theological Monograph Series, Pickwick Publications, Allison Park, Pennsylvania, 1948, p.51.
  19. ^ (Bulgarian language) Йордан Иванов. Богомилски книги и легенди, С., 1925 (фототипно изд. С., 1970), с. 36 (Jordan Ivanov. Bogomil Books and Legends, Sofia, 1925, p. 36 ( or in: Ivanov, Ĵ. Bogomil Books and Legends. Paris, Maisonneuve et Larose, 1976).
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Treadgold, Warren (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford: University of Stanford Press. p. 448.  
  24. ^ Garsoian, Nina (1967). The Paulician Heresy: A Study of the Origin and Development of Paulicianism in Armenia and the Eastern Provinces of the Byzantine Empire. The Hague: Mouton. 
  25. ^ Fine, John Van Antwerp (1991). The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century. Michigan: University of Michigan Press. p. 173.  
  26. ^ Charles L. Vertanes. The Rise of the Paulician Movement in Armenia and its Impact on Medieval Europe. Journal of Armenian Studies, NAASR, Cambridge, 1985-86, vol.II, No.2, p. 3-27.
  27. ^ John Goulter Dowling. A letter to S. R. Maitland. On the Opinions of the Paulicians, London, 1835. p. 50.
  28. ^ John Goulter Dowling. A letter to S. R. Maitland. On the Opinions of the Paulicians, London, 1835. p. 16.
  29. ^ The Key of Truth. A Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia. Page xxxv Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare "The context implies that the Paulicians of Khnus had objected as against those who deified Jesus that a circumcised man could not be God. ... The word Trinity is nowhere used, and was almost certainly rejected as being unscriptural."

External links

  • Paulicianism article at Medieval
  • Leon Arpee. Armenian Paulicianism and the Key of Truth. The American Journal of Theology, Chicago, 1906, vol. £, p. 267-285
  • L. P. Brockett, The Bogomils of Bulgaria and Bosnia - The Early Protestants of the East
  • Full text of "The key of truth, a manual of the Paulician church of the Paulician church of Armenia
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