The Full Wiki

Christianization of Bulgaria: Wikis

Advertisements
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Christianization of Bulgaria was the process of converting 9th-century medieval Bulgaria to Christianity.

Contents

Background

When Khan Boris began his reign in 852, the international situation was very complicated. The conflict with the Byzantine Empire for the rulership over the Slavic tribes in modern-day Macedonia and Thrace was still far from being resolved. In the middle Danube region, Bulgaria's interests crossed with those of the newly created kingdom of the East Franks and the principality of Great Moravia. It was about that period when Croatia emerged on the international scene, carrying its own ambitions and demands for territories in the region.

On a more global scale, the tensions between Constantinople and Rome were tightening. Both centres were competing for the Christianization that would precede the integration of the Slavs in South and Central Europe. The Bulgarian Khanate and the Kingdom of the East Franks had established diplomatic relations as soon as the 20s and 30s of the 9th century. In 852, at the beginning of the reign of Khan Boris, a Bulgarian embassy was sent to Mainz to inform Louis II for the change in Pliska, the Bulgarian capital. Most probably this embassy was also to renew the Bulgarian-German alliance.

Advertisements

Initial setbacks

Part of the series on
Eastern Christianity
00058 christ pantocrator mosaic hagia sophia 656x800.jpg
Eastern Christianity Portal

History
Nasrani
Byzantine Empire
Crusades
Ecumenical council
Christianization of Bulgaria
Christianization of Kievan Rus'
East-West Schism
By region
Asian - Copts
Eastern Orthodox - Georgian - Ukrainian

Traditions
Eastern Catholic Churches
Eastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodoxy
Syriac Christianity

Liturgy and Worship
Sign of the cross
Divine Liturgy
Iconography
Asceticism
Omophorion

Theology
Hesychasm - Icon
Apophaticism - Filioque clause
Miaphysitism - Monophysitism
Nestorianism - Theosis - Theoria
Phronema - Philokalia
Praxis - Theotokos
Hypostasis - Ousia
Essence-Energies distinction
Metousiosis

Some time later, Khan Boris concluded an alliance with the Great Moravian Knyaz Rastislav (846-870). The inspirer for this move was the King of the West Franks, Charles the Bald (840-877). The German Kingdom responded by attacking Bulgaria. Bulgaria was defeated and Khan Boris was forced to re-establish his alliance with the German king. This alliance was, however, directed against Great Moravia, which was a Byzantine ally. The situation held great risk for the Bulgarian state.

Another conflict with the Byzantines started in 855-856. The Empire wanted to regain its control over some fortresses on the Diagonal Road (Via Diagonalis or Via Militaris) that went from Constantinople, through Philippopolis (Plovdiv), to Naissus (Niš) and Singidunum (Belgrade). The Byzantine Empire was victorious in the conflict and reconquered a number of cities, with Philippopolis being among them.[1]


Khan Boris' alliance with the Germans threatened Great Moravia, which sought help from Byzantium (862-863). It was exactly in the same time that a Byzantine mission to Great Moravia was taking place. The purpose of this mission (led by Cyril and his brother Methodius) was to draw Great Moravia towards Constantinople and strengthen the Byzantine (Orthodox Christian) influence there.

What made the mission very interesting for Khan Boris was the fact that the two brothers Cyril and Methodius brought the first Slavonic alphabet to Knyaz Rostislav. Bulgaria was extremely interested in the implementation of a Slavonic alphabet because it saw it as means to stop the cultural influence of its enemy, the Byzantine Empire.

In the last months of 863, Bulgaria was once again attacked by the Byzantines. The most probable reason was that Boris had informed the German king that he wanted to accept Christianity. Byzantium had to take measures because a Roman Catholic Bulgaria, standing in the hinterland of Constantinople, was viewed as a threat to the Byzantine Empire's immediate interests.

Byzantine demand

The baptism of Boris I

This time Byzantium did not demand territories, as the conditions for peace were: the Bulgarian representatives were to convert to Christianity, followed by the rest of the Bulgarian people. Such an offer would be unacceptable in other circumstances.

The two sides concluded a "deep peace" for a 30-years period. In the late autumn of 863, a mission from the Patriarch of Constantinople came to Pliska and converted the khan, his family and high-ranking dignitaries.

Reasons for the Christianization

Following the conquests of Khan Krum of Bulgaria at the beginning of the 9th century, Bulgaria became an important regional power in Southeastern Europe. Its future development was connected with the Byzantine and East Frankish Empires. Since both of these states were Christian, pagan Bulgaria remained more or less in isolation, unable to interact on even grounds, neither culturally nor religiously.

After the conversion of the Saxons, most of Europe was Christian. The preservation of paganism among the Bulgars and the Slavs (the two ethnic groups that formed the Bulgarian people) brought another disadvantage — the two ethnic groups' unification was hampered by their different religious beliefs. Lastly, Christianity had its roots in the Bulgarian lands prior to the formation of the Bulgarian state.

Reaction

The Bulgarians pray to God for a famine to go away

Naturally, the German King Ludowic was not satisfied with Boris's plan to convert to Orthodox Christianity, although things did not escalate to open conflict.

The Christianization of Bulgaria was carried out simultaneously with the destruction of the old pagan holy places. There was opposition in the conservative aristocratical circles.

In 865, malcontents from all ten administrative regions (komitats) revolted against Boris (now titled Knyaz), accusing for giving them "a bad law". The rebels moved towards the capital with the intention to capture and kill the knyaz, then restore the old religion.

Nothing is known about the conflict, except that Knyaz Boris gathered the people loyal to him and suppressed the revolt. 52[1] boyars who had taken the lead of the revolt were executed "along with their whole families", but the commonfolk that "wished to do penance" were allowed to go without harm.

This harsh measure should not simply be regarded as something normal in that age. Until the end of his life, Knyaz Boris was haunted by suspicions about the moral price of his decision in 865. In his later correspondence with Pope Nicholas I, the knyaz asked whether his actions had crossed the borders of Christian humility. The pope answered:

... You have sinned rather because of zeal and lack of knowledge, than because of other vice. You receive forgiveness and grace and the benevolence of Christ, since penance has followed on your behalf.

Of course, it was not zeal or lack of knowledge that caused the knyaz to execute almost half of the most dignified representatives of the Bulgarian aristocracy. From a practical point of view, all these murders were the high price of ending the conflict once and for all.

This revolt was caused mostly by the fear that the Byzantine Empire would spread its influence through Christianity and destroy Bulgaria. In this part of the Middle Ages, for Bulgarians "Christians" was equal to "Byzantines" or "Greeks", as they were most often called. Many Bulgarians thought that along with the religion, they would be forced to accept the Byzantine way of life and morals.

Choice between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism

Knyaz Boris realized that the Christianization of his subjects would result in the spread of Byzantine influence, as the liturgy was carried out in the Greek language, and the newly established Bulgarian Church was subordinate to the Church of Constantinople. The revolt against the new religion prompted the Knyaz to request that the Bulgarian Church be granted independence by Constantinople.

Prior to the middle of the 9th century, in the practice of the formally still united Church, there were no precedents of creating national churches among the newly converted peoples. It was Bulgaria that created this precedent and set the example for others to follow.

After Constantinople refused to grant the Bulgarian Church independence, Knyaz Boris turned to the Pope. In the end of August 866, a Bulgarian mission arrived in Rome, carrying a list of 115 questions by Knyaz Boris, regarding the Christian way of life of the newly converted Bulgarians and the organization of a future Bulgarian Church under Rome's jurisdiction. On 13 November 866, the Bulgarian knyaz was presented with the Pope's 106 answers. Formosa from Portua and Paul of Populon were leading the Pope's mission. At the same time, the Pope sent other emissaries to Constantinople.

The arrival of the Roman clerical mission concluded the activity of the Byzantine mission, which was ordered by the Knyaz to leave Bulgaria. This was viewed as an official change of Bulgarian orientation from Constantinople to Rome. The German mission that had arrived in the meantime also left Bulgaria after seeing Rome's emissaries were already there.

The banishment of Byzantium's clergymen naturally irritated Emperor Michael III. In a letter to Knyaz Boris, the Byzantine emperor expressed his disapproval of Bulgaria's religious reorientation and used offensive language against the Roman Church. The old rivalry between the two Churches burned with new power. In less than two years, Bulgaria's name became widely known in Western Europe.

In Constantinople, people nervously watched the events taking place in their northern neighbour, because a pro-Roman Bulgaria threatened Constantinople's immediate interests. A religious council was held in the summer of 867 in the Byzantine capital, during which the Roman Church's behaviour was harshly condemned. As a personal culprit, Pope Nicholas I was anathematized.

Without losing time, Knyaz Boris asked the Pope to appoint Formosa of Portua as Bulgarian Archbishop. Unfortunately for the Roman Church, the Pope refused. It is likely that Nicholas I had some personal reasons for this, because his official argument that Formosa already had an eparchy of his own was untrue.

The Pope then ordered new leaders of the mission to be sent to Bugaria — Dominic of Trivena and Grimwald of Polimarthia. Pope Nicolas I died soon after. His successor Pope Adrian II (867-872) turned out to be even more disinclined to comply with Knyaz Boris' demand that a Bulgarian archbishop be appointed by him.

The Knyaz proposed another candidature for Bulgarian archbishop, the Pope not sensing how important the moment was, refused again. Instead, he suggested a cleric named Silvester, who stood so low in the hierarchy that he was not even allowed to carry out liturgy by himself. After a three-day stay in Pliska, Silverster was sent back to Rome, accompanied by emissaries carrying a rather impolite letter by Knyaz Boris. The Knyaz saw these refusals and delays as an insult and a sign of unwillingness that the decision for Bulgarian archbishop be coordinated with him.

As a result, Knyaz Boris began negotiations Constantinople, where he now expected more cooperation than he had been shown in the past. Things might have easily taken a different turn, had Constantinople's attention not been turned in another direction.

On 23 September 867, Emperor Michael III was killed by his close acquaintance Basil, who started the Dynasty of the Macedonians that ruled the Empire until 1057. Patriarch Photius was replaced by his ideological rival Ignatius (847-858; 867-877), which caused a change in the relations with the Roman Church.

With the new rulers of the Empire, the tensions between Constantinople and Rome were quickly eased. Pope Adrian II needed the help of Basil I against the Arabs' attacks in Southern Italy. In the same time, Byzantium expected the Pope's support for Patriarch Ignatius.

Result

As a result of the agreements reached, a Church Council was held in Constantinople. After the end of the official conferences, on 28 February 870 Bulgarian emissaries arrived in Constantinople, sent by the Knyaz and lead by the Ichirguboil (the first councilor of the Knyaz) Stasis, the Kan-Bogatur (high-ranking aristocrat) Sondoke, the Kan-Tarkan (high-ranking military commander) among others.

Few people suspected the real purpose of these emissaries. On 4 March Emperor Basil I closed the Council with a celebration at the Emperor's palace. The Bulgarian Kavkan (roughly a vicekhan or viceknyaz) Peter was also invited, and after he greeted the representatives of the Roman and Byzantine Churches (the Roman being first), Kavkan Peter asked them under whose jurisdiction the Bulgarian Church should fall. This question came as a surprise to the Roman representatives, who were not prepared to discuss this matter.

Apparently, there was a secret agreement between the Byzantine Patriarch, the Emperor and the Bulgarian emissaries, because the fathers immediately asked the Bulgarians whose clergy they had found when they came to the lands ruled by them. Naturally, the answer was "Greek". Then the Orthodox fathers declared that the right to look over the Bulgarian Church belonged only to the Constantinople Mother Church, which had held its jurisdiction on these lands in the past.

The protests of the Pope's emissaries were not taken into account. With the approval of the Knyaz and the Fathers of the Council, the Bulgarian Church was declared an Archbishopric. The Archbishop was to be elected among the bishops with the approval of the Knyaz.

The creation of an independent Bulgarian Archbishopric was unprecedented in the practice of the Churches. Usually, independent were those churches that were founded by apostles or apostles' students. For a very long period, Rome had been challenging Constantinople's equality to Rome, on the grounds that the Church of Constantinople had not been founded by a student of Christ.

Nevertheless, Knyaz Boris had been granted very quickly (just six years after converting to Christianity) a national independent church and a high-ranking supreme representative (the Archbishop). In the next 10 years, Pope Adrian II and his successors made desperate attempts to reclaim their influence in Bulgaria and to persuade Knyaz Boris to leave Constantinople's sphere of influence.

The foundations of the Bulgarian national Church had been set. The next stage was the implementation of the Cyrillic alphabet and the Slavonic language (Old Bulgarian) as official language of the Bulgarian Church and State in 893 AD — something considered unthinkable by most other European Christians.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Gjuzelev, p. 130

References

  • Gjuzelev, V., (1988) Medieval Bulgaria, Byzantine Empire, Black Sea, Venice, Genoa (Centre culturel du monde byzantin). Published by Verlag Baier.

Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message