Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in the Languedoc
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A Cathar Glossary

Where did Catharism come from ?


From a few certain pieces of evidence and a mass of circumstantial evidence, it seems likely that Catharism represented a very ancient Dualist belief from the East. 

Perhaps the easiest way to trace the origins of the Cathar Church is to work back from the Languedoc.  Catharism appeared in Western Europe in the eleventh century.  Cathars beliefs seemed to have popped up around the same time in many countries, not only the Languedoc but also France, the Netherlands and various German states.  They almost certainly spread from Northern Italy, carried by travellers, merchants and probably Cathar preachers - Parfaits.  Certainly the Cathar Church was already well established in Northern Italy.  (This Occitan speaking area would later provide a refuge for Cathars from the Languedoc obliged to flee their homeland during the Cathar Wars (or Albigensian Crusade).


How did the Cathar Church get to Northern Italy ?  It came via Croatia from the Balkans, around the area we know as Bulgaria.  This area was part of the Byzantine Empire at the time, and imperial records mention the Dualist heresy.  A priest called Bogomil was recorded as having introduced this so-called heresy, which explains why believers were called Bogomils.  (The Cathars never called themselves Cathars or talked about Catharism.).  Bogolism became influential in Bulgaria during the reign of Peter the First (927-928).  The religion flourished in the Balkans for centuries, until it was wiped out by (or incorporated into) Islam after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.  A Bogomil bishop is known to have attended a Cathar Council in the Languedoc.

The next question is how the religion got to Bulgaria.  The answer is that it probably spread from the Eastern Part of the Byzantine Empire to the Western Part.  It may have originated in a form of Manichaen belief, itself a melange of Persian Zoroastrianism and early Christian Gnostic Dualism, but it is more likely that it represented a separate strand of early Christian Gnostic Dualism.  Early Christianity possessed three main strands: the Jewish one (led by James, Jesus' brother), the Pauline one (created by Paul himself and now represented by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches), and the Gnostic one (at least some of whom followed St John, the disciple).  It is well within the bounds of possibility that Catharism represented this early tradition.  Certainly the Cathars favoured the John Gospel over all other scripture.

The Catholic Church for a long time regarded Cathars as neo-Manichaeans, but they were almost certainly wrong (as the Catholic Encyclopedia now recognises), since the Cathars shared only Gnostic Dualist ideas - not any of the distinctive Manichaen ideas. (Even so one of the leading scholarly books on the Cathars (by Sir Steven Runciman, published in 1982) recording translations of primary records is entitled "The Medival Manichee")

Many clues in Cathar belief and practice point to extremely early origins (they often retained early Christian beliefs and practices that other strands of Christianity abandoned). Medieval chroniclers seems to have been aware of the antiquity of Cathar belief. As Walter Mapp writing around 1182 says:

Everywhere among Christians they have lain hidden since the time of the Lord's Passion, straying in error.


Walter Mapp was the Chancellor of the Bishop of Lincoln. Here he is referring to "Publicans or Patarnes", names by which Cathars were known to Roman Catholic authorities. The quotation is from his "Courtier's Trifles, De nugis curialium edited by Montague R James (Anecdota oxoniensa..., medieval and modern series, XIV (Oxford, 1914) pp 57-59. English translation from Wakefield & Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages, §42B, p254.




St Augustine of Hippo - an ex Manichaean
Sometimes called the "Father of the Inquisition"




Eastern (Uyghur) Manichaeans writing.
8th or 9th century Manuscript from Gaochang, on the northern rim of the Taklamakan Desert in what is now Xinjiang, China


Tours of Cathar Castles & Cathar Country


Medieval image of St Augustine of Hippo, an ex Manichaean,
confounding devilish heresies


Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse














You can join small exclusive guided tours of Cathar Castles
led by an English speaking expert on the Cathars
who lives in the Languedoc
(author of and )

Selected Cathar Castles. Accommodation provided. Transport Provided.

Cathar Origins, History, Theology.
The Crusade, The Inquisition, and Consequences

Click here to visit the Cathar Country Website for more information



Bogomilism was a Dualist sect founded in the First Bulgarian Empire by a priest called Bogomil during the reign of Tsar Peter I in the 10th century. It arose in what is today the region of Macedonia in opposition to the Bulgarian state and the church. This helped the movement spread quickly in the Balkans, gradually expanding throughout the Byzantine Empire and later reaching Kievan Rus, Bosnia, Dalmatia, Rascia, Italy, France, the Languedoc and Aragon.

Bogomils called for a return to early Christianity, rejecting the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and their primary political tendencies were resistance to the state and church authorities. They were Dualists, believing the world was created by the Abrahamic God - an evil demiurge - not the God of Light.. They did not use the cross or build churches, preferring to perform rituals outdoors.

The term Bogomil in free translation means "dear to God". It is impossible to ascertain whether the name was taken from the reputed founder of that movement, the priest Bogomil, or whether he assumed that name after it had been given to the sect itself. The word is an Old Church Slavonic calque of Massaliani, the Syriac name of the sect corresponding to the Greek Euchites. Bogomils are identified with the Messalians in Slavonic documents from the 13th century.

Members are referred to as Babuni in Church Slavonic documents, which originally meant "superstitious person" and may be derived from a place name. Toponyms which retain the word include the river Babuna and the mountain Babuna in the region of Azot today in central Republic of Macedonia - not far from "the Bogomila Waterfall" and village "Bogomila", suggesting that the movement was once active in the region.

Much of their literature has been lost or destroyed by the mainstream Christian Churches. The earliest description of the Bogomils is in a letter from Patriarch Theophylact of Bulgaria to Tsar Peter of Bulgaria, and the main source of doctrinal information is the work of Euthymius Zigabenus, who says that they believe that God created man's soul but matter was the invention of Satan, God's older son, who in seducing Eve lost his creative power.

Concerning the Bogomils, something can be gathered from the polemic against the the Bogomils written in Slavonic by Cosmas the Priest, a 10th-century Bulgarian official. Old Slavonic lists of forbidden books of the 15th and 16th century alsoprovide a clue to this literature. Something may also be inferred from the doctrines of the varieties of Bogomilism which spread in Medieval Kievan Rus' after the 11th century.



Paulician Christian dualism originated in Armenia in the mid-7th century, when Constantine of Mananalis, basing his message solely on the New Testament, began to teach that there were two gods: the good God who had made men's souls, and the evil God who had created the entire physical universe including the human body. His followers, who became known as Paulicians, were not marked by extreme deviance in lifestyle compared to contemporaries, despite their belief that the world was evil, and were renowned as good fighting men.

In 970 the emperor John I Tzimiskes transplanted no less than 200,000 Armenian Paulicians to Europe and settled them in the neighbourhood of Philippopolis (today's Plovdiv in Thrace).

Under Turkish rule, the Armenian Paulicians lived in relative safety in their ancient stronghold near Philippopolis, and further northward. Linguistically, they were assimilated into the Bulgarians, by whom they were called pavlikiani. In 1650, the Roman Catholic Church gathered them into its fold. No less than fourteen villages near Nicopolis, in Moesia, embraced Catholicism, as well as the villages around Philippopolis. A colony of Paulicians in the Wallachian village of Cioplea near Bucharest also followed the example of their brethren across the Danube.

Bogomilism was apparently influenced by the Paulicians who had been driven out of Armenia.


In spite of all measures of repression, Bogomilism remained popular until the fall of the Second Bulgarian Empire in the end of the 14th century.

The Slavonic sources are unanimous on the point that Bogomil's teaching was Manichaean. A Synodikon from the year 1210 adds the names of his pupils or "apostles", Mihail, Todur, Dobri, Stefan, Vasilie and Peter. Bogomil missionaries carried their doctrines far and wide. In 1004, scarcely 25 years after the introduction of Christianity into Kievan Rus, we hear of a priest Adrian teaching the same doctrines as the Bogomils. He was imprisoned by Leontius, Bishop of Kiev. In 1125, the Church in the south of Rus had to combat another Bogomil named Dmitri.

The Church in Bulgaria also tried to extirpate Bogomilism. Efforts were made to secure 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 Geoffrey of Villehardouin calls Popelicans.

The Legend of Saint Gerard discloses that followers of Bulgarian Bogomilism were present during the early 11th century in Ahtum's realm, which comprised present day Banat.

Bogomils spread westwards and settled in Serbia, where they were to be known as Babuni. At the end of the 12th century Serbian Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja and the Serbian council deemed Bogomilism a heresy, and expelled them from the country. Large numbers took refuge in Bosnia and Dalmatia where they were known under the name of Patarenes (Patareni).

Threatened by the pope with dispossession for his acceptance of Bogomilism, 1199 Bosnian ruler Ban Kulin accepted Catholicism. During his reign, Bogomilism began to attract followers in Bosnia, ( Bosnian principalities may have adopted Bogomilism in order to offset the influences of its Catholic and Orthodox neighbours). In addition to Kulin, the prince of Herzegovina and the Roman Bishop of Bosnia followed him in his beliefs. Altars and crosses were removed, the distinction between clergy and laity disappeared. A fixed amount of believers’ income was set aside for alms and the support of itinerant evangelists.

In 1203, Pope Innocent III, with the aid of the King of Hungary, forced an agreement of Ban Kulin to acknowledge Papal authority and religion, though in practice this was ignored. On the death of Kulin in 1216 a mission was sent to convert Bosnia to Rome but failed. In 1234, the Catholic Bishop of Bosnia was removed by Pope Gregory IX for allowing heretical practices. In addition, Pope Gregory called on the Hungarian king to lead a crusade against the Bogomils. However, Bosnian nobles were able to expel the Hungarians.

Following Pope Nicholas IV's Bull Prae cunctis in 1291, a Franciscans led Inquisition was imposed on Bosnia. Bogomilism was eradicated in Bulgaria and Byzantium in the 13th century, but survived in Bosnia and Herzegovina until the Ottoman Empire gained control of the region in 1463.

From Bosnia, their influence extended into Italy (Piedmont). The Hungarians undertook many crusades against the heretics in Bosnia, but towards the close of the 15th century, the conquest of that country by the Turks put an end to their persecution.

Few or no remnants of Bogomilism have survived in Bosnia. The Ritual in Slavonic written by the Bosnian Radoslav, and published in vol. xv. of the Starine of the South Slavonic Academy at Agram, shows great resemblance to the Cathar ritual published by Cunitz, 1853.

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 Timisoara, with a few in Arad; however, they no longer practice Bogomolism, 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 Pancevo.

The existence of older Christian heresies in the Bulgarian lands (Manichaeism and Paulicianism), which were Dualistic, influenced the Bogomil movement. Manichaeism’s origin is related to Zoroastrianism; that is why Bogomilism is sometimes indirectly connected to Zoroastrianism.

They regarded every material being to be the work of Satan. They also opposed established forms of government and church. Bogomils were both Adoptionists as well as Dualists . They accepted the teaching of Paul of Samosata, though at a later period the name of Paul was believed to be that of the Apostle. They apparently did not accept the docetic teaching of some sects.

The Bogomils taught that God had two sons, the elder Satanail and the younger Michael. The elder son rebelled against the father and became the evil spirit. After his fall he created the lower heavens and the earth and tried in vain to create man; in the end he had to appeal to God for the Spirit. After creation Adam was allowed to till the ground on condition that he sold himself and his posterity to the owner of the earth. Then Michael was sent in the form of a man; he became identified with Jesus, and was "elected" by God after the baptism in the Jordan. When the Holy Ghost (again Michael) appeared in the shape of the dove, Jesus received power to break the covenant in the form of a clay tablet (hierographon) held by Satanail from Adam. He had now become the angel Michael in a human form; as such he vanquished Satanail, and deprived him of the termination -il = God, in which his power resided. Satanail was thus transformed into Satan. Through his machinations the crucifixion took place, and Satan was the originator of the whole Orthodox community with its churches, vestments, ceremonies, sacraments and fasts, with its monks and priests. This world being the work of Satan, the perfect must eschew any and every excess of its pleasure.

They held the "Lord's Prayer" in high respect as the most potent weapon against Satan, and had a number of conjurations against "evil spirits". Each community had its own twelve "apostles", and women could be raised to the rank of "elect". The Bogomils wore garments like mendicant friars and were known as keen missionaries, traveling far and wide to propagate their doctrines. Healing the sick and exorcising the evil spirit, they traversed different countries and spread their apocryphal literature along with some of the books of the Old Testament, deeply influencing the religious spirit of the nations, and preparing them for the Reformation. They accepted the four Gospels, fourteen Epistles of Paul, the three Epistles of John, James, Jude, and an Epistle to the Laodiceans, which they professed to have. They sowed the seeds of a rich, popular religious literature in the East as well as the West. The Historiated Bible, the Letter from Heaven, the Wanderings through Heaven and Hell, the numerous Adam and Cross legends, the religious poems of the "Kaleki perehozhie" and other similar productions owe their dissemination to a large extent to the activity of the Bogomils of Bulgaria, and their successors in other lands.

For Bogomils "the Logos was not the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Eternal Word incarnate, but merely the spoken word of God, shown in the oral teaching of Christ". Although Bogomils regarded themselves as "Trinitarian", anathemas against Bogomils (circa 1027) charge Bogomils with rejection of the Trinity.

Its followers refused to pay taxes, to work in serfdom, or to fight in conquering wars. They ignored the feudal social system, which was interpreted by their enemies as suggesting disorder if not the destruction of the state and church.

Karp Strigolnik, who in the 14th century preached the doctrine in Novgorod, explained that St. Paul had taught that simpleminded men should instruct one another; therefore they elected their "teachers" from among themselves to be their spiritual guides, and had no special priests. There is a tradition that the Bogomils taught that prayers were to be said in private houses, not in separate buildings such as churches. Ordination was conferred by the congregation and not by any specially appointed minister. The congregation were the "elect", and each member could obtain the perfection of Christ and become a Christ or "Chlist". Marriage was not a sacrament. Bogomils refused to fast on Mondays and Fridays, and they rejected monasticism. They declared Christ to be the Son of God only through grace like other prophets, and that the bread and wine of the eucharist were not physically transformed into flesh and blood; that the last judgment would be executed by God and not by Jesus; that the images and the cross were idols and the veneration of saints and relics idolatry.

In the 12th century Bogomils were already known in the West as "Cathars" or in other places as "Bulgari", i.e. Bulgarians. In 1207 the Bulgarorum heresis is mentioned. In 1223 the Albigenses are declared to be the local Bougres, and in the same period mention is made of the "Pope of the Albigenses who resided within the confines of Bulgaria" (a reference to Nicetas, Bogomil bishop). The Cathars and Patarenes, the Waldenses, the Anabaptists, and in Russia the Strigolniki, Molokani and Doukhobors, have all at different times been either identified with the Bogomils or closely connected with them.

A French and consequently an English word emerged based on mistaken perceptions of the Bogomils by the Catholic Church. The words "bouguer" and "bugger" emerged, by way of the word "bougre" in French, from "Bulgarus (Lat)" (Bulgarian). "Buggery" first appears in English in 1330 with the sense "abominable heresy". "Bugger" in a sexual sense is not recorded until 1555.


The Secret Book is a Macedonian feature film combining the detective, thriller and conspiracy fiction genres, based on a fictional story of the quest for the original Slavic language "Secret Book", written by the Bogomils in Bulgaria and carried to Western Europe during the Middle Ages



Considerable scholarly debate has arisen about the relationship between Dualist heresies that arose in different places and at different times across medieval Europe, questioning whether it was indeed a single movement or belief system which was spread from one region to the next, or if multiple heretical movements arose independently in different parts of Europe. Adding to the confusion is the fact that medieval sources, including the papal Inquisition, would often assume that contemporary Dualistic heresies were directly connected to previous heretical movements in different regions. Inquistors often described 13th century Cathars as surviving Manichean dualists from previous centuries (by the same logic, Inquisitors who encountered pagan religions in the fringes of Europe would accuse them of worshiping "Apollo and Mercury").


In Foucault's Pendulum, a novel by Umberto Eco, the plot concerning a widespread secret and mystic conspiracy has its ground in the disappearance of the Bogomils after the fall of the Second Bulgarian Empire under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.


Bogomil Cove is a 970 m wide cove indenting for 770 m the west coast of Rugged Island off the west coast of Byers Peninsula of Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. It is entered north of Kokalyane Point and southof Ugain Point. The cove is named after the Bulgarian religious reformer Pop (Priest) Bogomil (10th Century AD). Bogomil Cove is located at 62°37'56"S 61°17'30"W, Coordinates: 62°37'56"S 61°17'30"W.












In the fifth century Manichaeism was one of the most widespread religions in the world.

The reigion was founded by a Persian nobleman called Mani (210-276 AD). He lived in Babylon, which at the time was a province of the Sassanid Persia. Mani taught that two natures existed from the beginning: light and darkness. The realm of light lived in peace, while the realm of darkness was in constant conflict with itself. The universe we know is the result of an attack by the realm of darkness on the realm of light. In other words Manichaeism is a Dualist religion.

A corollary of Mani's teaching is that there is no omnipotent good power, and therefore no problem in explaining how an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenificent god could have allowed evil to enter his creation - a major unresolved philosophical problem for educated Jews, Christians and Moslems to this day.

Human beings provided the main battleground for the two opposing powers: the good part is the soul (which is composed of immaterial light) and the bad part is the body (composed of dark material). The soul defines the person and is incorruptible, but in human beings it is under the domination of a foreign power. Humans are said to be able to be saved from this power (the power of matter) if they come to know who they are and identify themselves with their soul.

One of the tenets of Manichaeism was that it presented the complete version of teachings revealed only partially by teachers such as Zoroaster, Hermes, Plato, Buddha, and Jesus. Mani was also influenced by Mandaeanism.

He began preaching at an early age. He claimed to be the 'Paraclete of the Truth', as promised in the New Testament: the Last Prophet and Seal of the Prophets that finalised a succession of men guided by God. Buddhist influences were significant in the formation of Mani's religious thought, and the transmigration of souls became a Manichaean belief.

Manichaeism spread rapidly throughout both the east and west. To the east the religion spread to Northern India, Tibet, and Western China, where it was known by the second half of the sixth century. The religion was adopted by the Uyghur ruler Bugug Khan (759-780 AD), and it remained state religion for about a century before the collapse of the Uyghur Empire. It spread along trade routes as far as Chang'an, the capital of the Tang Dynasty in China. In its last organised form appears to have died out before the 16th century in southern China

To the west it reached Rome through the apostle Psattiq by AD 280. He was also in Egypt in 244 and 251 and Manichaeism is known to have been flourishing in the Fayum area of Egypt by 290 AD Manichaean monasteries are known in Rome in 312 AD, during the time of Pope Miltiades. By 354 AD, Hilary of Poitiers was writing that the Manichaean faith was a significant force in southern Gaul - exactly the area where later Gnostic Dualists that we now know as Cathars were to appear in the Middle Ages.

Third and Fourth century Christian writers such as Hippolytus and Epiphanius mention a certain Scythianus, who visited India around 50 AD. From there he is said to have brought "the Doctrine of the Two Principles". According to these writers, Scythianus' pupil Terebinthus presented himself as a "Buddha" Terebinthus went to Palestine and Judea where he met the Apostles, and ultimately settled in Babylon, where he transmitted his teachings to Mani, thereby creating the foundation of Manichaeism.

The Manichaean faith was widely persecuted. In 381 AD Christians requested the Emperor Theodosius I to strip Manicheans of their civil rights. By the following year the devout Christian emperor had decreed death for Manicheans.

From now on Christians who showed any sympathy for Dualism would be heretics and liable to execution. The first victims appear to have been the Christian bishop Priscillian and his followers, soon afterwards. They appear to have attempted to adapt what they thought were valuable parts of Arian Christianity and Manichaeism into Catholic Christianity. Priscillian was beheaded at Trier in 385, with the approval of the Catholic Church synod that met there in the same year. He has been called the first Christian martyred by Christians, but it is probably more accurate to describe him as the first mainstream Christian martyred by the Catholic Christians

For a thousand years the faith maintained a patchy existence in the Christian Roman Empire including Mesopotamia, North Africa, the Iberian peninsular, Gaul, North Italy, and the Balkans, It flourished for a time in the land of its birth (Persia) and for a while at least was tolerated. In the 9th century the Muslim Caliph Ma'mun tolerated a community of Manicheans.


An image of Mani (source unknown)


Eastern (Uyghur) Manichaeans writing.
8th or 9th century Manuscript from Gaochang, on the northern rim of the Taklamakan Desert in what is now Xinjiang, China


Saint Augustine
Manichaean Ideas and Christianity


Manichaean ideas undoubtedly had a major effect on the development of Christianity.

In particular Gnostic Christians held similar Dualist ideas. The Pauline line of Christianity that developed into what we now call the Orthodox and Catholic Churches was also influenced. It absorbed a number of characteristic Manichaean ideas that are not generally recognised as such. A few examples are the God of Light locked in battle with the "god of this world", along with their armies of light and darkness respectively, with human beings as combatants on either side.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) Augustine was a "hearer" of Manichaeism for nine years, but he failed to make any progress in the hierarchy of his chosen faith. Soon after Christian persecution of his faith started in earnest he dropped it and adopted Christianity, becoming a critic of his earlier faith. According to his Confessions of St. Augustine, he converted to Christianity from Manichaeism in the year 387, possibly sensing greater opportunities given his failure to progress, and the ascendancy of the Christian Church. The Emperor Theodosius I, prompted by Christians, had issued a decree in 382 AD imposing the death penalty for Manicheans, and in 391 he was to declare Christianity to be the only legitimate religion in the Roman Empire.

.Despite his hostility it is apparent that Manichaean ways of thinking had an influence on the development of Augustine's ideas, even after his conversion to Christianity. Some of his Manichaean ideas that were later considered mainstream (but were not mainstream before his time) include the polarised nature of good and evil (Good/Bad; Light/Dark; Heaven / Hell; Immaterial/Material; eternal/corruptible); the separation of people into elect, hearers, and sinners; the hostility to the flesh and a horror of sexual activity. His novel idea of Origin Sin, by which sin became a sexually transmitted disease, owes much to his fundamentally Manichaean outlook.

Augustine's writings documented some Manichaean beliefs and when later Christians encountered Dualist ideas they tended to assume that they represented a survival or re-emergence of Manichaeism, and thus heresy. This is unfortunate, not only for the Dualist who were persecuted as heretics, but also for modern scholars. Whenever medieval Christian chroniclers recorded the discovery of Manicheans it is generally impossible to determine whether they really were Manicheans or whether they were other Dualists branded as Manicheans and with Manichaean beliefs falsely imputed to them.

Intriguingly there are also links with the Essenes. Comparisons between Manichaean myths and the Book of Enoch reveal that they both recognised the same "King of Glory", also referred to in other Dead Sea Scrolls.


Saint Augustine of Hippo - an ex Manichaean
Sometimes called the "Father of the Inquisition", debating about death of living creatures with the Manichaeans (Augustine, La Cité de Dieu, Books I-X (translation from the Latin by Raoul de Presles), Paris, Maître François (illuminator); c. 1475-1480. Volume II: Nantes, BM, fr. 8 Fol. 25r, Book 1, 20)



Augustine sacrificing to an idol of the Manichaeans

Unknown artist, circa 1480-1500,
now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands


Saint Augustine of Hippo, an ex Manichaean, trampling other Manichaeans underfoot




Manichaeism and Catharism.


It has been extensively argued that the Bogomils, Paulicians, and the Cathars were deeply influenced by Manichaeism. Scholars hold varying opinions on this as the evidence is ambiguous - or in the case of Medieval Christian Chroniclers, unreliable. On balance the majority view is that all three groups were inheritors of the Manichaean tradition, a view based largely on the amount of detail that accords. One example they held identical views in interpreting the word superstantial which occurs in the Lord's Prayer. Another is the close resemblance to Manichaean principles of Church organisation. On the other hand their religious cosmology from what we know does not appear to match.

Regardless of its historical accuracy the charge of Manichaeism was levelled at Cathars by contemporary Catholic opponents, who routinely tried to match contemporary heresies with those recorded by the Church Fathers such as St Augustine.

Manichaeism continued to spread with extraordinary speed through both the east and west. It reached Rome through the apostle Psattiq by AD 280, who was also in Egypt in 244 and 251. It was flourishing in the Fayum area of Egypt in AD 290. Manichaean monasteries existed in Rome in 312 AD during the time of the Christian Pope Miltiades.

The spread and success of Manichaeism were seen as a threat to other religions, and it was persecuted in Hellenistic, Christian, Zoroastrian, and Buddhist cultures.

In 291, persecution arose in the Persian empire with the murder of the apostle Sisin by Bahram II, and the slaughter of many Manichaeans. In AD 296, Diocletian decreed against the Manichaeans: "We order that their organizers and leaders be subject to the final penalties and condemned to the fire with their abominable scriptures", resulting in many martyrdoms in Egypt and North Africa. By AD 354, Hilary of Poitiers wrote that the Manichaean faith was a significant force in southern Gaul. In AD 381 Christians requested Theodosius I to strip Manichaeans of their civil rights. He issued a decree of death for Manichaean monks in AD 382.

Augustine (AD 354–430) converted to Christianity from Manichaeism, in the year 387. This was shortly after the Roman Emperor Theodosius I had issued a decree of death for Manichaeans in AD 382 and shortly before he declared Christianity to be the only legitimate religion for the Roman Empire in 391. According to his Confessions, after nine or ten years of adhering to the Manichaean faith as a member of the group of "hearers", Augustine became a Christian and ant adversary of Manichaeism (which he expressed in writing against his Manichaean opponent Faustus of Mileve), seeing their beliefs that knowledge was the key to salvation as too passive and not able to effect any change in one's life.

I still thought that it is not we who sin but some other nature that sins within us. It flattered my pride to think that I incurred no guilt and, when I did wrong, not to confess it... I preferred to excuse myself and blame this unknown thing which was in me but was not part of me. The truth, of course, was that it was all my own self, and my own impiety had divided me against myself. My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think myself a sinner. (Confessions, Book V, Section 10)

Some modern scholars have suggested that Manichaean ways of thinking influenced the development of some of St Augustine's ideas, such as the nature of good and evil, the idea of hell, the separation of groups into elect, hearers, and sinners, and the hostility to the flesh and sexual activity.

How Manichaeism may have influenced Christianity continues to be debated. Manichaeism may have influenced the Bogomils, Paulicians, and Cathars.









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Author: James McDonald MA, MSc.
Title: Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in the Languedoc
Date last modified: 8 February 2017


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