Paulicians ( _hy. Պավլիկյաններ) were a Gnostic and Manichaean Christian group which flourished between 650 and 872 in Anatolia, Armenia and the Eastern Themes of the Byzantine Empire. According to medieval Byzantine sources, the group's name was derived after the third century Bishop of Antioch, Paul of Samosata.hy icon Melk-Bakhshyan, Stepan. "«Պավլիկյան շարժում»" (The Paulician movement). Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia. vol. ix. Yerevan, Armenian SSR: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1983, pp. 140-141.] [cite book
last =Nersessian
first =Vrej
title =The Tondrakian Movement: Religious Movements in the Armenian Church from the 4th to the 10th Centuries
publisher = RoutledgeCurzon
date = 1998
location = London
pages =pp. 14-15
isbn =0-9007-0792-5


The founder of the sect is said to have been an Armenian by the name of Constantine, [ [ Constantine-Silvanus] ." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Accessed September 2, 2008.] who hailed from Mananalis, a community near Samosata. 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.

Regarding himself as called to restore the pure Christianity of Paul, 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 stoned to death by order of the emperor.Fact|date=October 2008 Simeon, the court official who executed the order, was himself converted and, adopting the name Titus, became Constantine’s successor, but was burned to death (the punishment pronounced upon the Manichaeans) in 690.Fact|date=October 2008

The adherents of the sect fled, with the Armenian 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, 775. The sect grew in spite of persecution, receiving additions from the opponents of image-worship.Fact|date=October 2008 The Paulicians were now divided into the Baanites (the old party), or 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" [Petrus Siculus, "Historia Manichaeorum", op. cit., 45] . The Sergites meanwhile fought against their rivals and nearly exterminated them. [Petrus Siculus, "Historia Manichaeorum", op. cit., 45] .

Baanes being supplanted by Sergius, 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 Argaum, 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 Micheal III, instituted a new persecution, in which a hundred thousand Paulicians in Grecian Armenia are said to have lost their lives.Fact|date=October 2008 Paulicians under their new leader Karbeas, who fled with the residue of the sect, two cities, Amara and Tephrike (modern Divrigi), were built. In 856 he and his people took refuge with the Arabs in the territory around Tephrike and joined forces with Amr ibn Ubayd Allah, emir of Melitene (who reigned 835-863). ["Digenis Akritas: The Two-Blooded Border Lord." Trans. Denison B. Hull. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1972] Karbeas was killed in 863 in Michael III's campaign against the Paulicians, and was possibly with Amr at Malakopia at the time.

His successor, Chrysocheres, devastated many cities; in 867 advanced as far as Ephesus, and took many priests prisoners.Fact|date=October 2008 In 868 the Emperor Basil I dispatched Petrus Siculus to arrange for their exchange. His sojourn of nine months among the Paulicians gave him an opportunity to collect many facts, which he preserved in his "History of the empty and vain heresy of the Manichæans, otherwise called Paulicians". The propositions of peace were not accepted, the war was renewed, and Chrysocheres killed. The power of the Paulicians was broken. Meanwhile other Paulicians, sectarians, but not rebels, lived in communities throughout the empire. Constantine V had already transferred large numbers of them to Thrace. [New Advent article on the Paulicians [] ]

In 970 the emperor, John Tzimisces, transferred some of them to Philippopolis in Thrace, and, as a reward for their promise to keep back the Scythians, granted them religious freedom. This was the beginning of a revival of the sect; but it was true to the empire. Several thousand went in the army of Alexius Comnenus against the Norman, Robert Guiscard; but, deserting the emperor, many of them (1085) were thrown into prison. Efforts were again put forth for their conversion; and for the converts the new city of Alexiopolis was built, opposite Philippopolis. When the Crusaders took Constantinople (1204), they found some Paulicians, whom the historian Gottfried of Villehardouin calls Popelicans. The emperor Alexius Comnenus is credited with having put an end to the heresy. During a stay at Philippopolis, Alexius argued with the sect bringing most if not all, back to the Church (so his daughter: "Alexias", XV, 9). The Paulicians after this episode practically disappear from history. [New Advent article on the Paulicians [] ]

In the 18th century, the Paulician people from around Nicopolis were persecuted by the Turks, presumably on religious grounds, and a good part of them fled across the Danube and settled in the Banat region that was part of the Austrian Empire at the time, and became known as Banat Bulgarians. There are still over ten thousand Banat Bulgarians in Banat today in the villages of Dudestii Vechi, Vinga, Brestea and also in the city of Timişoara, with a few in Arad; however, they no longer practice their religion, having converted to Roman Catholicism. There are also a few villages of Paulicians in the Serbian part of Banat, especially the villages of Ivanovo and Belo Blato, near Pančevo.

In Russia after the war of 1828-29 Paulician communities could still be found in the part of Armenia occupied by the Russians. Documents of their professions of faith and disputations with the Gregorian bishop about 1837 (Key of Truth, xxiii-xxviii) were later published by Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare. It is with Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare publications of the Paulicians disputations and "The Key of Truth" that Conybeare based his depiction of the Paulicians as simple, godly folk who had kept an earlier (sc. Adoptionistic) form of Christianity (ibid., introduction). [New Advent article on the Paulicians [] ]


Little is known of the tenets of the Paulicians, as we are confined for information to the reports of opponents and a few fragments of Sergius' letters which they have preserved. Their system was dualistic, [cite book
last =Treadgold
first =Warren
title =A History of the Byzantine State and Society
publisher = University of Stanford Press
date = 1997
location = Stanford
pages =p. 448
isbn =0-8047-2630-2
] although some have argued that it was actually adoptionist in nature. [cite book
last =Garsoian
first =Nina
title =The Paulician Heresy: A Study of the Origin and Development of Paulicianism in Armenia and the Eastern Provinces of the Byzantine Empire
publisher = Mouton
date = 1967
location = The Hague
pages =
isbn =
] [cite book
last =Fine
first =John Van Antwerp
title =The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century
publisher = University of Michigan Press
date = 1991
location = Michigan
pages =p. 173
isbn =0-4720-8149-7

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. Of their views about the creation of man, 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 Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, as well as the Marian title "Theotokos" ("Mother of God"), and refused all veneration of Mary. Christ came down from heaven to emancipate men from the body and from the world, which are evil. The reverence for the Cross they looked upon as heathenish. The outward administration of the sacraments of the Lord's Supper and baptism they rejected. 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 Manichæans,Fact|date=September 2008 as Photius, Petrus Siculus, and many modern authors have held. Both sects were dualistic, but the Paulicians ascribed the creation of the world to the evil God and held the Scriptures in higher honor, unlike the Manichæans. They even condemned Manes, the Manichæan prophet, comparing him to Buddha.Fact|date=October 2008 Gieseler and Neander, with more probability, derive the sect from the Gnostic Marcionites. Muratori, Mosheim, Gibbon and others regard the Paulicians as the forerunners of the Cathars, but the differences between them in organization, ascetic practices, etc., undermine this opinion.Fact|date=September 2008

See also

* Albigensians
* Bogomilism
* Tondrakians
* Novgorod Codex


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, Pp. 63.
* R. M. Bartikian: "Quellen zum Studium der Geschichte der paulikianischen Bewegung", Eriwan 1961 (in Armenian)
* "The Key of Truth, A Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia", edited and translated by Fred 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.
* Herzog: "Paulicians". In 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.
* 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.
* Edouard Selian: "Le dialect Paulicien", In: The Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Armenian Linguistics, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1995. Publisher: Caravan books, Delmar, New York, 1996, 408 pp.

External links

* [ Paulicianism article at Medieval]
* [ Paulicianism article at The Catholic Encyclopedia,]
* [ Paulicianism article at]

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