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History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073.
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§ 35. The Conversion of the Bulgarians.


Constantinus Porphyrogenitus: Life of Basilius Macedo, in Hist. Byzant. Continuatores post Theophanem. Greek and Latin, Paris, 1685.

Photii Epistola, ed. Richard. Montacutius. London, 1647.

Nicholas I.: Responsa ad Consulta Bulgarorum, in Mansi: Coll. Concil., Tom. XV., pp. 401–434; and in Harduin: Coll. Concil., V., pp. 353–386.

A. Pichler: Geschichte der kirchlichen Trennung zwischen dem Orient und Occident. München, 1864, I., pp. 192 sqq.

Comp. the biographies of Cyrillus and Methodius, mentioned in § 34.


The Bulgarians were of Turanian descent, but, having lived for centuries among Slavic nations, they had adopted Slavic language, religion, customs and habits. Occupying the plains between the Danube and the Balkan range, they made frequent inroads into the territory of the Byzantine empire. In 813 they conquered Adrianople and carried a number of Christians, among whom was the bishop himself, as prisoners to Bulgaria. Here these Christian prisoners formed a congregation and began to labor for the conversion of their captors, though not with any great success, as it would seem, since the bishop was martyred. But in 861 a sister of the Bulgarian prince, Bogoris, who had been carried as a prisoner to Constantinople, and educated there in the Christian faith, returned to her native country, and her exertions for the conversion of her brother at last succeeded.

Methodius was sent to her aid, and a picture he painted of the last judgment is said to have made an overwhelming impression on Bogoris, and determined him to embrace Christianity. He was baptized in 863, and entered immediately in correspondence with Photius, the patriarch of Constantinople. His baptism, however, occasioned a revolt among his subjects, and the horrible punishment, which he inflicted upon the rebels, shows how little as yet he had understood the teachings of Christianity.

Meanwhile Greek missionaries, mostly monks, had entered the country, but they were intriguing, arrogant, and produced nothing but confusion among the people. In 865 Bogoris addressed himself to Pope Nicolas I., asking for Roman missionaries, and laying before the Pope one hundred and six questions concerning Christian doctrines, morals and ritual, which he wished to have answered. The Pope sent two bishops to Bulgaria, and gave Bogoris very elaborate and sensible answers to his questions.

Nevertheless, the Roman mission did not succeed either. The Bulgarians disliked to submit to any foreign authority. They desired the establishment of an independent national church, but this was not to be gained either from Rome or from Constantinople. Finally the Byzantine emperor, Basilius Macedo, succeeded in establishing Greek bishops and a Greek archbishop in the country, and thus the Bulgarian church came under the authority of the patriarch of Constantinople, but its history up to this very day has been a continuous struggle against this authority. The church is now ruled by a Holy Synod, with an independent exarch.

Fearful atrocities of the Turks against the Christians gave rise to the Russo-Turkish war in 1877, and resulted in the independence of Bulgaria, which by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 was constituted into “an autonomous and tributary principality, under the suzerainty of the Sultan,” but with a Christian government and a national militia. Religious proselytism is prohibited, and religious school-books must be previously examined by the Holy Synod. But Protestant missionaries are at work among the people, and practically enjoy full liberty.


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