A Gnostic Christian sect in the Middle Ages, known for its rejection of the established church and social norms.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Bogomilism
Founder: Priest Bogomil
Founded: 10th century
Ended: 15th century
Location: Balkans, Eastern Europe

Bogomilism emerged in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 10th century, founded by a priest named Bogomil under the reign of Tsar Peter I. It primarily developed in the region of Kutmichevitsa, now part of North Macedonia, and was characterized by its Christian neo-Gnostic and dualist beliefs. The Bogomils viewed the material world as created by the devil, thus denouncing physical matters such as eating meat, drinking wine, and marriage. Their practices included fasting, dancing, and other forms of self-cleansing, considering their bodies as temples. Unlike orthodox Christianity, they did not use the Christian cross or build churches​​.

The movement’s name, Bogomil, means “dear to God,” a compound of Slavic words for “god” and “dear,” and might also relate to the Greek name Theophilos, meaning “loved by the gods.” This name reflects the sect’s aspirations and its founder’s teachings. Bogomilism’s resistance to both state and church authorities enabled it to spread rapidly across the Balkans, reaching as far as Kievan Rus’, Dalmatia, Serbia, Italy, and France, where it influenced the Cathar movement​​.

The core teaching of the Bogomils was based on a dualistic worldview, positing a universe created by an evil entity. This belief led them to reject many Christian doctrines, including the incarnation and the sanctity of the Eucharist. Their moral code was strict, forbidding marriage, meat consumption, and wine drinking due to these activities’ material nature. Despite this, their moral rigor was often acknowledged even by their most vehement critics​​.

During the 11th and 12th centuries, Bogomilism spread widely within the Byzantine Empire, reaching Constantinople and causing significant concern among both secular and religious authorities. The movement’s spread to western parts of Europe marked a significant chapter in medieval religious history, showing connections between Eastern and Western Christian heresies. By the 13th century, the dualist communities, including the Bogomils and later the Cathars, had established a network stretching from the Black Sea to the Atlantic. This extensive spread led to numerous conflicts with orthodox Christian authorities, contributing to the Bogomils’ persecution and eventual decline in influence​​.

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