Georgi Vasilev



The predominant number of writings about the propagation of the Bogomil-Cathar heresy seem to treat England culturally as an island, isolated from this pan-European phenomenon. Few authors have studied Bogomil-Cathar influences on the English literature of the Middle Ages. Most of the studies date back to about a hundred years ago and have been almost fully forgotten. The omission should be corrected and the names of a number of scholars saved from oblivion.

Two are the early references to embarcations of the heretics in England about the year 1162. The first belongs to William of Newbury (Guillemus Novoburgensis) and has been commented upon by the well-known historian Stephen Runciman. He has pointed out that the visitors came from Germany on the crest of the heretical wave, mentioned by Eckbert, later Benedictine abbot of Schonau1. ArnoBorst and Milan Loos also mention the tragic fate of this group: most of the heretics were put on trial at Oxford, branded, chased away, or starved to death2. Thus we are left with the impression that the heresy failed to get a foothold in England.

The other view, upholding the idea of the serious penetration of the Bogomil-Cathar heresy in England, was expounded by Alexander Veselovsky, Moses Caster and Ivan Franko. The facts analysed by them are from after the 14th century3. They study mainly how themes from the heretical apocrypha were taken over and interpreted in English culture. The central one of these themes is the "Harrowing of Hell" which reproduces chapter eighteen of Nicodemus Gospel, the favourite reading of the dualists. Gaster and Franko discuss the influence of Nicodemus Gospel on the miracle plays and Lahgland's Piers Plowman. The proofs are numerous. It is really surprising that these finds have been overlooked by serious authors like M. R. James, E. Chambers and E. Partridge, thus completely isolating medieval English literature from contacts with the heresy. Even Dmitri Obolensky's abundant commentary, which proves that the numerous apocrypha which spread all over Europe were, if nothing else, used by the dualists, have been neglected4.

Some change of attitude is marked by A. Baugh and K. Malone who point out that the apocrypha were brought over to England via France in the 13th c.5 They also note


1 Runciman, S. The Medieval Manichee. A Study of Christian Dualist Heresy. CUP, 1947, p. 122.

2 Loos, M. Dualist Heresy in the Middle Ages. Academia-Praha, 1974, p. 117.

3 Veselovski, A. Solomon i Kitovras. Sanct Peterboorg, 1872 -in Russian (Веселовски, А. Соломонъ и Китоврасъ. Санктъ Петербургъ, 1872); Gaster, M. Ilches-ter Lectures on Graeco-Slavonic Literature and Its Relation to the Folklore of Europe During the Middle Ages. London, 1887.

4 0bolensky, D. The Bogomils (A Study in Balkan Neomanichaeism). CUP, 1948, 273-274.

5 Baugh, A. (with K. Malone). The Middle English Period (1100-1500). A Literary History of England. Vol. 1. London, 1967.

7 Etudes balkaniques, 1



the important presence of Nicodemus Gospel. In our opinion the presence of the "Harro-wing of Hell" theme in the Exeter Book (10th c.) can be seen as a heretical influence. In this scene Jesus delivers from Hell not only Adam and Eve, "but a countless multi-tude of folk" which is typical of the Bogomil-Cathar vision. The "Fall of Lucifer" and his angels found in the Caedmon Ms is another typical dualistic theme.

The odyssey of the dualistic apocrypha in England has not found a satisfactory explanation and raises an important question: was the heretical presence durable enough so that it could propagate a type of non-orthodox culture, standing apart and often op-posed to the official Church; could it create a milieu which could produce its own con-ceptions of life and patterns of behaviour in the general cultural development? Put in the terms of sociology, we shall have to find whether the heresy could create its own social and cultural infrastructure in England.

As a historical reality the heretical communities of the Lollards of the 14th and 15th centuries have been well documented. They took part in John Ball's rebellion and were connected with the reformist efforts of JohnWycliffe6. However, the Lollards have been regarded as a local phenomenon, though their very name suggests a continental origin.

Before they appeared in England to become the source of new ideas which provoked their consistent persecution by the church authorities, the Lollards were well known in Germany and Flanders. One of the explanations of the origin of their name is that it is connected with the German verb "lollen" which means "mumble", "mutter" becau-se of their habit to hum permanently their prayers.

A number of documents about the Lollards in Germany have been collected by I.von Doellinger and Charles Lea and they need not be quoted in detail. The Encyclopae-dia Britannica (1970) also points to their European roots: "The term comes from Middle Dutch 'lollard', a 'mumbler' or 'mutterer'; it had been applied to the Flemish Beg-hard and other continental groups suspecting of combining pious pretentions with he-retical belief."7

To enlarge upon this information we have consulted older dictionaries which sug-gest a typology of the ideas connected with the Lollards. The respectable Du Cange, who used 14th c. chronicles, describes the Lollards as heretics from Germany and Bel-gium and adds that "in pluribus partibus regni Angliae latitabant" ("they hide in many parts of the English kingdom"). John Oldcastle is referred to as "Lollardus". Du Cange provides us with the important reference to a chronicle from 1318 according to which "Lollardus quoque dicitur haereticus Valdensis"8 ("they called the Lollard also a Val-densian"). Thus, the outlined spiritual kinship between the Lollards and Waldensians directs our attention to the roots of the Waldensian doctrine which lie in Catharism. In fact Valdo adopts from the Cathars their social vision and organisational model but abandons their complicated dualist mythology.

In his Dictionnaire historique the erudite Louis Moreri (17th c.) also points to the German-Flemish-English triangle by referring to older sources, which he carefully names, and which reveal the beliefs of the Lollards; "These sectarians said that Lucifer and the angels that followed him were condemned wrongly, that rather Archangel Michael and the good angels deserved this punishment. They (the Lollards) added inadmissible blasphemies against St Mary,they said that God does not punish us for the faults we commit here. The authors (of the sources) say that a girl, member of this unhappy sect condemned to perish on the stake, when asked whether she was a virgin, answered that she was one on earth but would not be under it. They (the Lollards) taught also


6 One of the sessions of the Commons received the name "The Lollard Parliament", Cou1ton, G. G. The Medieval Panorama. Cambridge, 1949, p. 490.

7 Encyclopaedia Britannica. Vol. 14, 1970, p. 256.

8 Du Cange. Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis. T. V, p. 134.



that the Mass, baptism and the extreme unction are useless; they also denied penance and refused to obey the Church and the secular authorities."9 In his Encyclopedie des sciences religieuses F. Lichtenberger mentions also the Lollard prediction that "Lucifer and the demons unfairly chased away from Heaven will some day be restored there."10

From this we can conclude that the Lollards professed a dualistic creed marked in some cases by Luciferianism. It is hard to say though whether these allegations were the result of accidental contacts with continental Luciferians or came from the official Church which sought to discredit the Lollards by presenting them as having a greater affinity for Lucifer than for God. The Luciferian turn is not typical of the English Lollards.

We shall go a step further in asserting that there is a great similarity of doctrines between the Lollards and Bogomil-Cathars which can be proved by comparing their writings. We have used excerpts from the scripts of the Norwich heresy trials (1428-31)11, as well as quotations from other documents which reveal a commonness with Bogomil writings on the following topics:

I. Beliefs and Rituals of Bogomils and Lollards

1. Common Myths — The fall of Lucifer; Satan as creator and ruler of the visible world

2. Ritual practices ~- baptism in the Holy Spirit; preference for the prayer Pater Noster; direct confession to God; negation of Hell and Purgatory

II. Social Ideas

1. Disobedience to the feudal system

2. Negation of legal authority and oath taking; condemnation of bloodshed

III. Anti-clericalism

1. The official Church is seen as a community of Herod or of the Anti-Christ

2. Church buildings are thought of as synagogues, cross-roads or wastelands

IV. Rejection of the official Church ritual:

1. Negation of Transubstantiation

2. Negation of the Crucifix

3. Negation of icons (images) and relics of saints

4. Refusal to worship the Virgin and the saints.

On comparing the texts one might well ask whether it is possible that phrases written in Bulgaria or Asia Minor in the lOth-11th c. can be repeated in England in


9 Moreri, L. Dictionnaire historique ou melange curieux de 1'histoire sacree et profane, M. DCC. XL, t. V, p. 213.

10 Encyclopedie des sciences religieuses, publ. sous la direction de F. Lichtenberger. Paris, 1880, t. VIII, p. 347. Both Moreri and Lichtenberger quote the popular etymology of the appellation "Lollard" as derived from the name of the heresy leader Walter Lollard, burnt in Cologne in 1323. It is possible that Lichtenberger got his note from Moreri. Another piece of interesting but unchecked information is given by Moreri: a Lollard called Basnage who had preached in Piemont had later immi-grated with his followers to England.

11 Heresy Trials in the Diocese of Norwich, 1428-31, ed. Norman Tanner. Camden Fourth Series, Vol. 20. London, 1977, mentions some episodic connections of English Lollards with the continent. Johannes Fynche de Colcheser admits to have been in connection with Laurence Tyler, a Dutchman (p. 185); another defendant speaks of a book that "iam nuper venit de partibus ultramarinis ad istas partes" (p. 75).



the 14th-16th centuries. An explanation lies in the habit of medieval thinking concerning religious writings which relied on stereotypes. It is interesting to note, however, that the heretical writers, who also use such phrases, were allowed to adapt, change and interpret them. Unlike the official religious texts, these formulae were used as aphorisms to initiate the novice and could be developed and retold from a personal point of view. This important point was made by M. D. Lambert in his Medieval Heresy. Popular Movements from Bogomil to Hus12.

In the pages that follow we shall compare parts of Bogomil (Cathar) and Lollard texts13. The former come from the Tract against the Bogom'ils by Prezviter Kozma, the Secret Book of the Bogomils and the Panoplia Dogmatica by Euthymius Zygabenus. Some of the material also comes from the collection Sources of Bogomilism in Bulgaria, Byzantium and Western Europe1..


I. Beliefs and Rituals of Bogomils and Lollards

/. Common Myths

A) The Fall of Lucifer and his Angels


. . . et traxit (Sathanas) cum cauda

tertiam partem angelorum Dei, et

projectus est de sede Dei et de

vilicatione coelorum . ..

(Interrogatio Johanis, The Secret Book of Carcassone)


. . . diabolos qui ceciderent cum

Lucifero di celo, qui quidem cum

cadendo in terram intrarunt in

ymagines stantes in ecclesiis, et

eisdem continue habiturunt adhuc

habitant latinantes . . . (Depositiones contra Margeritam, uxorem

Willemi Baxter)16


B) Satan as Creator and Possessor of the Visible World




Magnum regem dicunt nunc esse diabolum, ut mundi principem

(Euthymii Zigabeni, Panoplia dogmatica § 40, Patrologia Gracca)


Quod Deus debet obedire diabolo. (John Wycliffe)18 (Euthymii Zigabeni, Panoplia dogmatica § 40, Patrologia Graeca)

2. Ritual Practice

A) Baptism in the Holy Spirit


Baptismum nostrum Joannis baptismum esse dicunt, per aquam enim


That the sacrament of Baptem doon in water in fourme custumed of


12 Lambert, M. D. Medieval Heresy. Popular Movements from Bogomil to Hus. London, 1977, p. 269.

13 I would like to thank Dr Lydia Denkova and Mrs Bojka Sokolova for their help with the La-tin and Middle English texts.

1 Angelov, D., B.Primov, G.Batakliev. Bogomilstvoto v Bulgaria, Vizantia i Zapadna Evropa v izvori. Sofia, 1967 - in Bulgarian (Ангелов, Д., Б. Примов, Г.Батаклиев. Богомилството в България, Византия и Западна Европа в извори, С., 1967)

15 Heresy Trials . . ., p. 49. The heretic Margeria mixtes up the fall of Lucifer with another be-lief of the Bogomils — that the devils dwell in the churches and about the icons made in their honor


16 Fasciculi Zizaniorum, ed. by W. Waddington Shiriey. London, 1858, p. 278. The commitment between Wycliffe and the Lollards seems to be mutual. In their message to the Parliament the Lollards mention his work "Trialogus".



fieri, suum vero Christ i, per Spiritum enim Jieri, ut ipsis videtur. (Zig. §16)

the Churcheys litell to be pondred for as muche as whan the child cometh to yeres of discrecion and receyvyth Cristis lawe and hys comrnaundments he is sufficiently baptized and so he may be saved withowtyn ony other baptem (Depositions of Richard Grace of Beccles)17

B) Preference for the Prayer "Paler noster"


Solam precationem appellant quam Dominus tradidit in Evangeliis, id est, Pater noster. (Zig. §19)


. . . item quod nulla oracio dicenda est nisi tantum Pater noster (Depositions of Johannes Baker alias Ussher de Tunstale)18

C) Direct confession to God


The heretics confess and absolve themselves although they are chained by the devil. So do not only man but women and that is to be blamed (Tract against the Bogomi'ls, Priest Kozma)18


Also that every good man and good woman is a prest (Depositions of John Sky Jan de Bergh)20

Item quod omnis confessio soli Deo est facienda, et non alteri sacerdoti. (Depositions of Matilda uxor Ricardi Fleccher de Beccles)-''21

D) Negation of Hell and Purgatory


Item dicunt, non esse purgatorium (Pilozi za povjest bosanskih patarena}22

At qui sint ejusmodi, eos negant mori, sed tanquam in somno transmutari, et sine ullo labore coenosum hoc carnis in dumentum exuere, atque immortalem ac Divinam Christi stolam induere, idemque corpus et formam eamdem


Item quod Ricardus Belward docuit istum quod iste mundus est locus purgatorii. et omnis anima quamcito egressa fuerit de corpore statim sine medio transit ad celum sive ad infernum et adeo frus-tra fiunt oraciones vel misse dicte vel facte pro defunctis. (Depositiones de John Burell, famulus Thome Mone)23

17 Heresy Trials .... p. 121.

18 Ibidem, p. 69.

"Prezviret Kozma, Beseda protiv Bogomilite - in: Stara bulgarska literatura. II. Oratosrska proza. Sofia, 1982, p.54 - in Bulgariaх (Презвитер Козма, Беседа против богомилите - в: Стара българска литература. II. Ораторска проза. C., 1982, c. 54.

20 Heresy Trials . . ., p. 147.

21 Jbidein, p. 131.

22 Racki, F. Prilozi za povjest bosanskih patarena. — Starine 1869 (1), p. 139. Also in;

Bogomilstvoto v Bulgaria... p. 221. On this subject see also A Neglected Byzantine Notice on Bogomils by Jv. Dujcev in his book Prouchvania varhu srednovekovnata bulgarska istoria i cultura. Sofia, 1981 - in Bulgaria: (Проучвания върху средновековната българска история и култура. София, 1981). Dujcev discovers this notice in a polemical tract published in London in 1624, also published in Constantinople in 1627.

The dualists explained the negation of the purgatory in this way: this world is the kingdom of Satanael), so this world is a place of suffering, a purgatory (even a hell in itself: "Item dicunt, in hoc niundo infernum esse, i.e. hie ease ignem et frigus et omnem rnalum, et non est alius infernus, nec fuit, nec erit." Salve Burce, Supra stella in D o 1 1 i n g e r, Ign. v. Dokumente vornehmlich zur Ge-schichte derValdesicr und Katharer. Aliinchen, 1890, p. 327. So the existential aim of the adept is to free himself, to cut the relations with this world for he can return to the Father in Heaven.

23 Heresy Trials . . ., p. 74.




 induere, et praeeuntibus angelis et apostolis in Pains regnune admitti, corpus autem, quod exuerint, in cinerem pulveremque dis-solvi, numquam amplius surrecturum (Zig. § 23)




II.Social ideas

1.Disobedience to the feudal system



They scold the rich, they teach their own folk to disobey the masters, they detest the king, they blame the boyards, they suppose that people working for the king are odious to God and they instruct any servant to stop working for his lord. (Tract against Bogomils)


Also that the temporal lordis and temporal man may lefully take alle possessions and temporel godys from alle man of holy Churche, and from alle bysshops and prelates bothe hors and harneys, an'd gyve thar good to pore puple. (Depositions of Hawisia Moone, uxor Thome Moone de Lodne)24



2.Negation of the legal authority ant oath-taking . Condemnation of bloodshed



Neque per Hierosolymam, inquit jura-veris, quonam civitas est magni regis. Magnum regum dicunt nunc esse diabo-!um, ut mundi principem. (Zig. §40) Item dicunt quod non sit licitum alicui deferidere se ita, quod invasor possit laedi. Item dicunt quod nula potestas terrena possit uti gladio materiali in vindictam malefactorum26".



Also that is no leful to slee a man for any cause, ne be processe of lawe to damp-ne ony traytour or ony man for ony tre-zon or felonie to deth, ne to putte ony man to deth for ony cause, but every man shiild remitte all vengeance only to sentence of God (Depositions of Hawisia Moone)25


Quod homicidium per bellum vel prae-tensam legem justitiae pro temporal; causa sine spirituali revelatione, est ex-presse contraria Novo Testamento; quod quidem est lex gratiae et plena misercordiarum27.



The next item shows that the anti-clerical vocabulary of the Bogomils, Cathars and Lollards was rich in repetitions — the anger of the heretics generated a vivid language which travelled almost unchanged across countries and centuries and was later borrowed by the Protestants for their discourse with Rome.


24 Ibidem, p. 141. The redistribution of the property of the Church done by the lords in favor of poor people is a kind of softened Utopia, being in line with the union of Wycliffe and the king against the pope authority and wealth. John Ball offers a more radical variant. In "his famous sermon at Blackheath he had declared servitude a thing displeasing to God," he recommended even to kill chief lords, the lawers "and finally remove from their land any one who in future proved hurtful to the commonalty." Gairdner, J. Lollardy and the Reformation in England. Vol. I. London, 1908, p. 16. As far Ball abandons the Bogomil-Lollard requirement to condemn bloodshed he transformes himself in a revolutionary.

26 Ibidem, p. 142.

26 God. Cassat. A. IV. 49. f. 287 (Errores haereticorum Catharorum). — Dцllinger, Ign. v. Op. cit., p. 323.

27 Sequntur Conclusiones Lollardorum in quidam libello porrectae pleno parlamentp regni Angliae, regnante illustrissimo principe Rege Ricardo secundo, anno ejus circiter XVIII, in: Fascicui Zizaniorum, p. 366.




III. Anti-clericalism

1/. The official Church is seen as a community of Herod, or of the Anti-Christ


Nostram antem Ecclesiam Herodem in-terpretatuntur, quae Verbum apud eos natum conetur occidere. (Zig. §28)


Item quod papa Romanus est Antechristus, ac episcopi et alii prelati Ecclesie sunt discipuli Antechristi, et quod papa non habet potestatem ligandi et solvendi in terra. (Depositions of Johannes Skylly de Flixton)28


2. Church buildings are thought of as synagogues, crossroads and wastelands


They call the churches crossroads and the holy mass and other divine services done in the churches they treat as garrulity (wasted words) (Tract against Bogomil')


Item quod omnes ecclesie materiales sunt nisi synagoge, ac medicum vel nichil deberent haberi in reverencia quia Deus exaudit preces orantis in campo tarn bene sicut preces orantis in tali synagoga. (Depositions of John Godesell, parchemyn-maker)29


IV. Rejection of the Official Church Ritual

/. Negation of Transubstantiation (the transformation of the eucharist into Christ's body)


The eucharist is not commended by God, rather is God's work, as you tell, but is like every other food. (Tract against Bogomils)



. . . sed quod postern verba sacramentalia a sacerdote rite ordinato prolata in sacramento altaris remanet panis purus et materialis (Depositions of Johannes Warden de Lodne)30

Quod substanti'a panis materialis et vi-num maneat post consecrationem in sacramento altaris (John Wycliffe)31


2. Negation of the Crucifix


Because the Jews, crucified on it the son of God, so the cross is really offensive to God. If somebody has killed the son of the king with a cross of wood should this wood be pleasant to the king? (Tract against the Bogomil')


. . . and no more worship ne reverence oweth be do to the crosse than oweth be do to the galwes whiche man be hanged on (Depositions of Willelmus Hardy de Mundham, tayllour)32


28 Heresy Trials . . ., p. 53.

29 Ibidem, p. 61.

30 Ibidem, p. 33.

             31 Fasciculi Zizaniorum, p. 277.

32 Heresy Trials . . ., p. 154. The letter of Germanus Patriarch of Nicaea (1222-1240) to the residents of Constantinople contains an anathema against those who call "the resuscitating and honorable cross gallows". We cite this text from the Bulgarian version, included in: (Bogomilstvoto v Bulgaria, Vizantia i Zapadna Evropa...(in Bulgarian: Богомилството в извори в България, Византия и Западна Европа Eapona . . .), p. 131. One more detail — on negating the cross cross the Bogomils and the Lollards admit the same excess. Priest Kozma informs his readers about heretics "that cut up crosses to make tools out of them". In one of the recorded proceedings of Norwich is written: "Quam crucem iste Johannes Burell percuciebat cum dicto fagothook"—Heresy Trials.. .,p.76.



3. Negation of icons (images) and. relics of saints


Venerandas enim imagines aspernantur et idola gentium appellant, argentumque et aurum et opera manuum hominum. (Zig. §11)


...quomodo beatorum Patrum reliquiis inhaerent daemones. (Zig. § 12)


. . . quod nullus honor est exhibendus aliquibus ymaginibus sculptis in ecclesiis per manus hominum ...• (Depositiones tions of Johannes Burrel . . .)33

Item quod relique sanctorum scilicet carnem et ossa hominis mortui, non debent a populovenerari, nec de monumento fetido extrahi, nec in cap is reponi.
(Depositiones of Johannes Skylly de Flixton)34



4. Refusal to worship the Virgin and the Saints

. . . they do not venerate the glorious and pure Mary, the mother of our God Jesus Christ and say malignant gossips against her. (Tract against Bogomils) . . . Item quod nullus honor exhibendus quibus ymaginibus crucifiixi, Beate Mariae vel alicuius alterius sancti (Depositions of Johannes Reve de Becles, (Tract against Bogomils) 35


The great number of coincidences can be enriched even further. The appellation "good man" (boni homini), "good Christian" (boni christiani) is the title of the Perfecti, the spiritual leaders of the Bogomils and Cathars. This address is unique in the whole spectrum of medieval heresies and is typical only of the dualists.

In the records of the Norwich heresy trials (1428-31) this formula can often be found. We read that "every good man or good woman is a prest" (p. 142) or, the variant phrase "good Christian man" (p. 153), and, again, the expanded version "every man and every woman being in good lyf" (p. 142). Even the well known Latin appellation of the liders of the dualists — perfecti exists in the proceedings of Norwich: the "moost holy and moost perfit ... is very pope" (p. 141). Another Latin version is "Item quodlibet bonus Christianus est sacerdos" (p. 177) and the same sentence is also given in English translation: "Also that every good Christene man is a prest" (p. 179). To these the Latin paraphrase "fidelis homo" (p. 205) can be added.

In the proceedings an explanation of this appellation is provided which brings us back to the well-known Bogomil assertion that only the "good people" who have acquired by virtuous moral life the power to be priests should be allowed to teach, because a priest with an imperfect moral life can corrupt his disciples. The defendant Edmund Archer maintains "that every good Christian man is a good prest, and had as muche poar as ony prest ordered, be he a bysshop or a pope" (p. 166). The same assertion can be found in paragraph II of the address of the Lollards to Parliament (Conc- lusiones Lollardorum) and is confirmed by Wycliffe: "Item quod si episcopus vel sacerdos existat in peccato mortali: non ordinant, conficit, nec baptizat"36.



33 Heresy Trials . . ., p. 73.

34 Ibidem, p. 53.

            35 Ibidem, p. 108.

            36 Fasciculi Zizaniorum, p. 278. 



In addition of the proceedings of the Norwich trials Norman Tanner gives detailed and convincing reconstruction of the beliefs of the Lollards. He, however, does not comment on the phrase "good man", "good Christian" which might be due to the fact that he is not aware of its specific doctrinal meaning. It is clear that even to the clerks of the Inquisition "good man" had not been very clear and sometimes they rendered it descriptively. Thus, for example, in the depositions of John Skylly de Flixton we find such a descriptive version of the phrase: "Item quod quilibet homo existens in vera caritate est sacerdos Dei et quod nullus sacerdos habet maiorem potestatem at minis-tranda aliqua sacramenta in Ecclesia quam habet aliquis laicus non ordinatus"37. Here instead of "good man" one comes across the descriptive "homo existens in vera caritate" which echoes precisely the Cathar meaning of the word "caritas" — love. Rene Nelli stresses on the lack of "caritas" as the sign of the visible world of Satan in which the absence of love causes the annihilation (Fr. neantisation) of Satan's creatures38.

There exists yet another link between John Skylly's words and the practices of the Bogomil-Cathars. In stressing the spiritual authority of the "aliquis laicus non or-dinatus" he reproduces the radical position of the Bogomils according to which the clergy is superfluous (Euthymius of Peribleptos). Moreover, in giving the right of women to become perfecta (spiritual leader), the Bogomils, Cathars and Lollards are unique in the Middle Ages for allowing women the same spiritual function as men, an emancipation forerunning the ideas of social equality which appeared much later.

John Thomson proposes a successful interpretation of the appellation "good man":

"Some held that every good Christian or a man who was living in charity was a priest of God, and this was carried to its logical conclusion by those who held that the true vicar of Christ was the best man."39 The author obviously takes the expression literally, without relating it to its continental history. In this way he removes it from its religious context, and intuitively reveals the basic cultural characteristics of the heresy, the fact that it enables its followers to abandon to some degree the religious myth by presenting them with an objective of self-perfection, an element anticipating the rise of Rensaissance rationalism.

The rationalist overthrow of the Orthodox ritual as undertaken by the Bogomils is parallel to the rationalist attack of the Lollards against the Catholic church. There are records proving that among the favourite occupations of the advanced learners were the literary and philosophical activities. M. D. Lambert notes the spontaneous formation of reading circles40. He mentions as an example the cultivated tastes of Sir Richard Sturry who "had a copy of Roman de la Rose and was acquainted with Chaucer and Froassard"41. Lambert's list can be continued with the impressive documentation collected by Margaret Deanssly in The Lollard Bible42.

Another comparison is also pertinent in speaking about the rationalism of the heretics. The approach used by the Bogomils for explaining Christ's miracles is similar to the objections raised by the Lollards against the magic scenery of the Catholic service.



They do not believe that the people were nourished in the desert with five loafs super only. They say these were not loafs but


Quod exorcismi et benedictiones facte super vinum, panem, aquam, et oleum, sal, ceram, et insensum, lapidem altaris


37 Heresy Trials . . ., p. 52.

38 Nelli, R. Le phenomene cathare (perspectives philosophiques et morales). Toulouse, 1988, p. 32, p.39.

39 Thomson, J. The Later Lollards 1414-1520. Oxford University Press, 1965, p. 248.

40 Medieval heresy . . ., p. 240.

41 Ibidem, p. 242.

42 Deanesly, M. The Lollard Bible (And Other Medieval Versions). Cambridge, 1920/1966.




the gospels of the four Evangelists and taris, et ecclesiae muros, super vesti-the fifth — the Acts of the Apostles.

(Tract against the Bogomils)

eecclesiae muros, super vestimentum, calicem, mitram, crucem et tica necromantiae potius quam sacra theologiae. (Conslusioncs Lollardorum)43



John Thomson has underlined the rationalist way of thinking of the Lollards44 and Norman Tanner has paid attention to the fact that the heretics tried at Norwish "were accusing the Church of using magic, thus reversing the roles played in the trials of witches"45.

These almost perfect coincidences and astonishing similarities point to the common roots of Bogomilism and Lollardy. Yet, it is surprising that given the well-studied problem concerning the views and beliefs of Lollards, there has been no attempt to trace down their Bogomil-Cathar roots. Here we would like to present the results of our survey and analysis.

First, we should mark the achievement of the brilliant trio A. Vesselovsky, M. Gaster and I. Franko, dating back to the previous century. In this field it is really they who first formulated the problem of cross-cultural influence46. Their achievement deserves to be brought to light again. It is only in 1960 that M. A. Aston takes a step in their direction by trying to discover resemblances between Lollards and Cathars in her study of their social conditions and dissemination: "Lollards, like Catharists and earlier continental heretics, and like friars themselves, flourished along the main roads, and found supporters among the trades people of large towns."47 The proximity with certain basic Lollard ideas with those of the Bogomils is stressed by M. D. Lambert: "In East England the crucifix was attacked in terms oddly reminiscent of the Bogomils; 'no more credence should be done to the crucifix'48 it was said, 'than to the gallows which thieves be hanged on'." This author succeeds in establishing a long line of indirect but real links between the Bulgarian and the English heresies. According to him the heretics described by Eckbert of Schonau are "blended with Bogomil influenced group"49. Let us here remind the fact that the German speaking sectarians who landed on the English coast in 1162 have been supposed to be an affiliation of the community mentioned by Eckbert.

Certainly, the movement across countries and ages produced visible distinctions between the views of Lollards and Bogomils. La couleur locale is a deviation a? regards the origin. Here we shall outline some of those differences.

First, the Bogomil assertion that the world of the Old Testament is the world of Satanael does not appear in Lollard thought. There is a predominant appeal for mercy and denial of bloodshed as motivated in the Conclusiones Lollardorum as "expresse contraria Novo Testamento".

While the Bogomil and Cathar perfecti deny marriage as a carnal continuation of the human race in the material world created by Satanael, the Lollards are not inclined to dogmatic abstinance.


43 Fasciculi Zizaniorum, p. 362.

44 We adduce the view of John Thomson in details: "The rationalistic element in Lollard thinking is not confined to calling images stock and stones and to denying transubstantiation. It can be seen also in the denial that the priesthood had any special power and in the claim that water which had been blessed by a priest was no better than the water which had not." — The later Lollards, p. 248.

46 Heresy Trials . . ., p. 20.

46 The German authors quoted by I. Franko are of special interest: Reischshen, R. Die Pseudo-Evangelien von Jesu und Marias Kindheit in der romanischen und germanischen Literatur. Halle, 1879; Wü1ker, R. P. Das Evangelium Nicodemi in der Abendländischen Literatur. Padeborn, 1872; Horstman, C. Altenglische Legenden. Padeborn und Heilbron, 1878.

47 Aston, M. A. Lollardy and Sedition 1381-1431. — Past and Present, apr. 1960, p. 15.

48 Medieval heresy, p. 268.

49 Ibidem, p. 63.


 They only remove matrimony from among the regulative functions of the church by saying that "only consent of love in Ihu' Christ betuxe man and woman of Christene beleve ys sufficiant for the sacrament of matrimony withoute contract of wordes or solemnisation yn churche."50 We do not find either the Bogomil-Cathar restriction to the consumption of meat, the Lollards rather show their independence to the official church by saying "that no Cristen peple is bounde to taste in Len-ten time, Ymbrin Days, Fridays, vigiles of seyntes ne other tymes which ben comman-ded of the Churche to be fasted" and even "it is leful ... to ete flesche" as often as appetite comes51.

Another local feature can be detected in the replies of some of the defendants in Norwich who asserted that while the sacrifice of Christ is "precious and profitable" the death of St Thomas is unprofitable52. Can this disagreement over the holiness of St Thomas be read as a sign of the temporal coalition between the Lollards and the royal institution against the papacy?


Hitherto the textual comparison has been the center of interest. At this point we would like to direct our attention to the most attractive side in the heresies — their ability to develop imaginative thinking. Both Bogomilism and Lollardy involved their followers in cultural activity which was surprising for the Middle Ages. Catharism on its part was a major creative stream in the Provencal culture of the 12th century. As-different authors have pointed out the Bogomils "contributed particularly to the advance-ment and propagation of literacy" (D. Mishev); there were schools in practically al of their communities and they loved lecturing (S. Georgiev). According to D. Angelov, these medieval dissenters were one of the principal intellectual forces which brought about major democratisation "of letters and education in Bulgarian society during the 9th-10th centuries"53.

During the past century W. Jagic concluded that by its intensive effort of copying texts, literary and educational activities and by imbibing the broader views of the apocrypha, and views wider than the dualistic tenets Bogomilism transformed into a popular enlightenment the cultural effort of Simeon's and Climent's age54.

Books had a prominent position with Lollards as well. In the records of the Norwich trials there is ample information that the heretics practiced reading in secret societies or at home, and that many of the texts were translated in English. The Pater Noster, Ave Maria and the Credo were translated in English ('in lingua anglicana script, libros in anglicano idiomate scriptos')55. Robert Cavel (capellanus notatus de heresi) tells that he had seen the heretics in their private schools (in scolis privates eorundem)56;

Margery Baxter (notata de lollardia et heresi) mentions a Carmelite friar expounding the gospel in English57. According to Norman Tanner "clearly schools existed in which heresies were taught systematically" (Colchester, London and other places)58. Malcolm Lambert


50 Heresy Trials . . ., p. 111.

51 Ibidem, 115-116.

52 Ibidem, p. 57.

53 Angelov, D. Bulgarinat v srednovekovieto (Svetogled, ideologia, dushevnost). Varna, 1985, s.28 (-in Bulgarian: Ангелов, Д. Българинът в Средновековието _Светоглед, идеология, душевност). Варна, 1985, с.28) 61 Yagich, V. Istoria serbo-horvatskoy literaturi. Kzan, 1871, s.96 (-in Russsian: Ягичь, Исторiя сербохорватской литературыл Казань, 1871, с.96). Similar is the position of A. Lombard who views the Bogomil literature as a continuation of the work of Cyril and Methodius, of their translations in the vernacular of some parts of the Scriptures. See Lombard, A. Pauliciens, Bulgares et Bonhommes en Orient et en Occident. Geneve et Bale, 1879.

55 Heresy Trials . . ., p. 69, 73, 100.

56 Ibidem, p. 93.

57 Ibidem, p. 48.

58 Ibidem, p. 69, 73, 100.


 Lambert also treats the Lollards first of all as a reading community, stimulating self-teaching''59, and mentions a small group of "academically trained" Lollards such as Nickolas Hereford, Philip Repton, John Aston and John Purvey, who was Wycliffe's secretary over the last years. More detailed research is necessary to illuminate the relations between this highly educated group and the Lollards of the lower strata. Its presence, however, suggests the existence of a well-developed Lollard culture which had real summits. Given these facts, it is possible to assert that the Bogomii Cathar and Lollard heresies generated important literacy. We can also say that in Bulgaria, France. England, as well as other countries, the heretics brought about cultural innovation and, to our opinion, they can be recognized as one of the driving forces of the Renaissance of the 12th century.

Anne Hudson mentions a Lollard library, containing three types of books: 'schedule', 'quaterni' and 'libri', though she does not specify their nature because it "can only roughly be asserted from episcopal and chancery records"60.

John Thomson has been less hesitant and has produced according to Margaret Deansly -- another excellent scholar of Lollardy, "an excellent and up-to-date bibliography of all printed and unprinted sources"61. This is how Thomson describes the collection of James Willis from Chilterns in tlie mid-fifteenth century: "St Paul's Epistles, the Apocalypse, and St Luke's Gospel". Another Lollard possessed "a book of St John the Evangelist"; there is a reference to a copy of the Epistle of St James (Reg. Chedworth. Line.)62.

Margaret Deansley provides information about a Lincoln Lollard who used Nicodemus Gospel in English (Reg. Chedworth. Line.)63. This gnostic book also suggests a Bogomil-Cathar circulation.

Concerning The Book of Si John the Evangelist we would like to note that this might be the other title of The Secret Book of the Bogomils since The Secret Book contains the revelation received by John personally from Jesus Christ. In favour of such supposition is the notice of M. Gaster from a century ago: "The Apostle John, the author of the Apocalypse, which answered so well to their system, was the beloved apostle of the Bogomils, and many a book and revelation is ascribed to him."64

The culture of the heretics was an open one, the Lollards knew not only the strictly dualist selection of writings. There are numerous references to other texts such as the Old Testament, to a book of Solomon (perhaps Proverbs, or the Song of Songs as John Thomson suggests), a copy of Tobit, etc. John Thomson mentions also perfectly orthodox books and that one suspect person owned a copy of the Canterbury Tales.

The heretics' affinity for books emerges as one of the inherent characteristics of their culture, accounting for their poetic feeling and rich imagination. According to


59 Medieval heresy, p. 257, 240.

60 Hudson, A. Some Aspects of Lollard Book Production. — In: Schism, Heresy and Religious Protest (Studies in Church History, 9), 1972.

61 Deanesly, M. Op. cit., p. VII.

62 The Later Lollards, p. 242. We have to remind the doctrinal affinity of the heretics for some of the quoted books. The Epistl. Corinth. 1 was used as a crucial argument in some Cathar writings (esp. Anonymous Cathar Treatise—beg. of XIII century—included in: Liber contra Manicheos of Durand de Huesca). The beloved phrase of the Cathars from the Epistl. Corinth. 1 was:"Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity I become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal . . . and though I have all faith so I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. . ." See also Nel1i, R. Op. cit., p. 12. Another valid criterion for proving the Bogomil nature of the cited titles is proposed by Thoma Thomov. He indicates that still in Historia . . . manichaeorum qui et pauliciani dicuntur Petri Siculi (IX century) the literary choice of the old dualists that was inherited by the Bogomils is described this way: "Quintum est quod nullum recipiunt Veteris Testament! librum, deceptores ac fures prophetas appellantes. . . nec nisi sancta quator Evangelia et apostoli Pauli quatordecim Epistolas Joannis tres sancti, Judae catholicam, et apostolorum Actus . . .", Pair. Graeca, t. CIV, col, 1255.

63 The Lollard Bible, p. 363.

64 Ilchester Lectures .... p. 49.

65 The Later Lollards, p. 243.


A. Galahov "the apocrypha were overflowing with poetic detail and answers to most curious questions"66. M. Gaster has observed that for their imaginative mind "the Biblical story becomes a biblical romance: truth and fiction are inextricably mixed"67. This is a sure mark of individual interpretation. Bogomils, Cathars and Lollards were not simply literate but were aware of the creative dimension of literature.

Let us at this point sum up the cultural similarities which have been discussed. First, the literature of the Lollards, no matter how scanty the information about it, coincides in its principal titles with the literary heritage of the Bogomils and Cathars. Second, the aspiration of the Lollards to read and preach in English (lingua Anglicana) made translation one of their major occupations, which was an important contribution to their national culture. The culmination of this process was reached with Wycliffe's translation of the New Testament, a turning point marking the official recognition of the English language as an ecclesiastical tongue. The heretical inspiration behind Wycliffe's efforts can be detected also in his translation of the well-known gnostic Evangelium Nicodemi. J. Gairdner quotes the exclamation of a chronicler of that time: "This Master Wycliffe translated into the English, not angelic tongue the gospel (in anglica linguam, non angelicam)"68. In this way the Scriptures could be administered "to the laymen and infirm persons according to the requirements of the time and their individual wants and mental hunger"69.

This, in our opinion, is a major achievement of the heretics on a European scale: everywhere they translated the New Testament into the vernacular, adding to it the apocrypha, and thus helping the processes of formation of a national literary language, the new letters for the laymen. Thus for instance, Provenзal became so subtle and rich that Dante was deeply impressed by its beauty and wrote sonnets in it.

One of the successful attempts to place the English biblical translations in their European context was undertaken by Margaret Deanesly in 1920 in her impressive work The Lollard Bible. She compares the early English versions of the scriptures with the translations of the French, Italian, German and Flemish heretics (see the Appendix). Her approach is authoritative particularly given that at the beginning of the 14th century the famous Inquisitor Bernard Gui had registered in his manual Practica Inquisitionis that the translations into the vernacular were the most certain way of unveiling the heretical activities of Cathars, Waldenses and Beguins70. About the Cathars he writes that "... they read the Evahgelia and the Epistles in the vernacular" (legunt the evangeliis et de epistolis in vulgari)71. The remark about the Waldenses reads: "... they possess commonly the Evangelia and the Epistles in the vernacular" (Habent autem evangelia et epistolas in vulgari communiter)72. Similarly, the Beguins are referred to as user of the vernacular though their books are not differentiated: "the mentioned Beguins have the books of Brother Petrus Johannis put into popular language" (habent libri ... ex latino transpositos in vulgari)73.

The practice of the Lollards "to teach God's precepts in English" (precepte Dei in lingua anglicana)74 belong closely to ones described by Inquisitor Gui, who could hardly imagine that his notes would ever become the object of a comparativist study.

The spiritual awakening brought about the heretics had another important behavioral consequence — in the atmosphere of cultural revival there began a process of an initial awakening of the interest in human personality.


66 A, Galahov, A. Historia russkoy slovesnosti - drevnoy i novoy. I. Sanct Peterbourg. 1880, s.1989 - in Russian (Исторiя русской словесности - древной и новой. I. СПБ. 1880, с.198)

67 Ilchester Lectures . . ., p.p.25-26.

68 Gairdner, J. Op. cit., p. 101.

69 Ibidem.

70 As Beguins he understands the Franciscan Fratres Minores, followers of Pierre-Jean Olieu (Petrus Johannis Olivi).

71Gui, B. Manuel de 1'inquisiteur (йditй et traduit par G. Mollet). I. Paris, 1926, p. 26.

72 Ibidem, p. 62. See also the Appendix.

73 Ibidem, p. 142.

74 Heresy Trials . . ., p. 73.


 The leading personalities among the heresiarchs have been remembered in history along with sovereigns, conquerors and the fathers of the Church — Bogomil, Jeremiah, Nikita (the leading person at the Council of Saint-Felix de Carman), Jean de Luglio, John Wicliffe, Jan Huss. They term the prototype of the human being who has found realisation by his free thought and creativity. Malcolm Lambert's observations concerning England speak of the impulse of the Lollard "to search out the truths of Scirpture for himself" by way of which the individual acquires the ability of self-teaching75. The first step is to inculcate the primary aphorisms and gradually, when becoming more learned, to make one's way to interpretation, ask questions and find answers. The way in which Lollards attracted new sympathizers and guided them to the adepths of knowledge is similar to the one practised by the Bogomils and described by Euthimius Peribletos (early llth c.). They first gave a small piece of their knowledge to the neophyte and they increased the portion until they revealed the full scope of their knowledge76.

The heretic Margery Baxter presents a case in point, her statements, eloquence, the richness of her language, all testify to the high quality of Lollard culture.


Given the vast scope of the problem, at the end of our study it might be helpful to suggest the directions in which more research needs to be done.

First, in spite of the work dedicated to Wycliffe and his ideas, as yet no detailed and convincing explanation of the origins of his dualistic views has been given. It will also be interesting to look into the durable interest of Sir Thomas More in the heretics sustained under the cover of a controversy with them77.

Second, the profound knowledge of the accused Margery Baxter of Martham of dua-listic myths, should direct attention to the higher level of Lollard culture, the transla-tion of numerous apocrypha in English, a layer of literature left almost without scholar-ly attention for many years. It is enough just to mention the influence of the Evangeliuin Nicodemi on The Vision of Piers Plowman and the miracle plays.

Finally, an endeavour which deserves to be undertaken is the elucidation of the problem of the Lollard contribution to the Reformation, where "by the time that the Roman establishment was succeeded by the Anglican, the Lollardy was developing into Puritanism"78. (Max Weber has stressed the importance of Protestant ethics for the development of capitalism and its social role.)

The material discussed in this paper seems to suggest as a final conclusion that Bo-gomilism, the Bulgarian spiritual ferment, in its indirect and modified ways has left a mark on the spiritual climate of England.


75 Medieval Heresy . . ., p. 240.

76 The art of communicating with people deserves to be quoted as seen by Euthymius Periblep-tos: "Cum eos viderunt illud facile suscepisse, etiam alia eis dicunt et ita paullatim, et non nisi longo temporis cursu discipulos impietatem vix decent", Patr. Graeca, t. CIV, col. 55.

77 A serious initial effort in this direction is M. Deanesly's. Her study of biblical translations of the Lollards begins with the information from the Dialogue by Sir Thomas More. The Lollard Bible, 2-17. The same title is included as an appendix in t. V of Gairdner, J. Lollardy and Reformation in England.

78 The Later Lollards .... p. 253. 



According to M. Deanesly the Waldenses were the first to start translating the Scriptures and the Cathars "borrowed from them a devotion to the study of vernacular versions of the Bible" (Op. cit., p. 42). In return, the Waldenses should have adopted from the Cathars the "consolamentum". This view contains two inaccuracies. The first is that the Waldenses did not practice the "consolamentum". The second, and more important, is the assigning of the priority of the translation into the vernacular to the Waldenses, since the Cathars historically and culturally precede them. Valdo started preaching at the very end of the 12th century, while at the Council of Saint-Felix de Caraman in 1167 the rela-tions between the numerous and well established Cathar sects were settled. The Cathars did not tran-slate the whole Bible but especially the New Testament which they considered their spiritual guide.

Attention should be paid to one very significant detail, which is mentioned by many authors. The prayer Pater Noster (Matth, 6) in its Cathar version ends with the words: "For thine is tlie king-dom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." This phrase is missing in the Vulgate.

C. Schmidt explains this as follows: "The biblical versions that were in Cathar service in Italy and in France were translated not after the Vulgate, but from an original Greek text — the same which was used for the Slavonic version accomplished by Cyril and Methodius. The apocrypha that came in the Cathar sect were again of a Greek provenance" (Histoire et doctrine de la secte des Cathares, Aibi-geois. II. Paris-Geneve, 1849, p. 271). The same conclusion is reached by J. Ivanov Bogomilski knigi i lgendi. Sofia, 1925, s.111 -in Bulgarian (Иванов, Й. Богомилски книги и легенди, С., 1925, с.111). C. Schmidt and N. Ossokin, backed up by other historians, remind us that some of the perfecti, the Cathar leaders, were highly educated people who knew Greek and Hebrew. Valdo did not know Greek, nor is there any information that any of his disciples did.