« Bulgari (Bourges) Bulgaria Bulgarian National Church in the United States, The »


BULGARIA: A principality under the suzerainty of Turkey in the northeastern part of the Balkan Peninsula, bounded on the north by Rumania, on the east by the Black Sea, on the south by Turkey, on the west by Servia. It was created by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 and attained its present extent in 1885 by the addition of Eastern Rumelia (the territory south of the Balkan Mountains) after a revolt of the Bulgars there; in 1908 it proclaimed its independence; area, 38,080 square miles; population (1900), 3,744,283.

Bulgarian Church.

In race and religion the population is very diverse. The majority are the Bulgars, who number some 2,880,000 and belong to the Oriental Orthodox Church, their prince Boris having adopted Christianity in 864, two centuries after they had entered the region south of the Danube (see Bulgarians, Conversion of the). Simeon, the successor of Boris as prince or czar, established an autonomous Church for his extensive domains, placing at its head a bishop, or exarch, who had his seat at Ochrida on the frontier of Albania. This diocese lapsed after the fall of the Bulgarian state, nor was it revived when the principality was reorganized. The Slavic bishoprics were gradually replaced with Greek, and the Bulgarian Church was first restored in 1870–72, when, through the insistence of Russian diplomats, the Sultan permitted the Bulgarian Church to separate from 298the patriarchate and to appoint an exarch in Constantinople who should be the Slavic head of all those communities which might wish to join the new ecclesiastical body. Although condemned by the patriarch in 1872 as schismatic, large numbers of Slavs in the Turkish provinces soon declared themselves Bulgarians.


The governing body of this Church is the Holy Synod, which consists of four bishops chosen for four years by secret ballot of all the bishops and presided over by the exarch; it meets annually in May. The rights and external organization of the Bulgarian Church are recognized throughout the principality by the constitution, which declares it to be the State Church. Other religions are tolerated, however, while the exarch can issue commands to his bishops only after reaching an agreement with the minister of foreign affairs. According to the exarchial statute of 1883, the laity exercise a considerable influence on the election of bishops, and, with the Turkish districts of the Bulgarian Church, even on the choice of the exarch. In each eparchy, or diocese, three clerical and three lay members form a committee which selects two names from a large list of candidates, sending these names to the Holy Synod, by which the list in question is drawn up and constantly renewed.

In the principality of Bulgaria there are eleven dioceses, or eparchies, at Varna, Rustchuk (Cherven and Dorostol), Tirnova, Lovatz, Vratsa, and Widin north of the Balkans, and Sofia, Philippopolis, Stara Saghra, and Sliven south of this mountain range. These dioceses receive from the State an annual revenue of 800,000 francs, while the monasteries supply the funds for twenty-four archimandrites. One of the richest monasteries is that of St. John in the Rilo mountains, and other important cloisters are those of St. Nicholas near the Shipka Pass and Tcherepis at the northern end of the Isker gap. The majority of the parish clergy lack the requisite education, and the monks are very inferior in education to those of Servia. The parish priests are accordingly reverenced but little by the peasants and citizens. They number nearly 2,000, and there are 240 monks in seventy-eight monasteries.

Other Churches.

Not all the Slavs recognize the authority of the exarch, and in the southeast 60,000 Greeks have the four small dioceses of Varna, Mesembria, Sozopolis, and Anchiolo, as well as the metropolitanate of Philippopolis. Roman Catholicism has but scant representation in Bulgaria. Nicopolis is the name of the bishopric for Danubian Bulgaria, but in reality the bishop resides at Rustchuk. In the south is the apostolic vicariate of Sofia and Philippopolis, in charge of the Capuchins since 1841. The majority of the Roman Catholics are Bulgars, partly descended from the Paulicians, who were formerly numerous (see Paulicians). The minority are immigrants from Austria-Hungary and other Roman Catholic countries, and have churches and small congregations in various cities along the Danube, as well as in Sofia, Philippopolis, and Burgas. The Armenians have their own bishop in Rustchuk. Bulgarian Protestants are mainly the result of American missionary propaganda. [The Methodists entered the country north of the Balkans in 1857 and the American Board commenced work south of the Balkans at about the same time. The educational work of Robert College near Constantinople has done much for the Bulgarians.] There are also Protestant communities of some 500 Germans in Sofia and Rustchuk.

Non-Christian Religions.

The Jews in Bulgaria are for the most part descendants of exiles from Spain in the sixteenth century. The Gipsies number about 50,000, although some of them declare themselves Orthodox. The great majority of the Mohammedans are Turks; the number has decreased owing to extensive emigration since 1878. They have many schools, including a theological school at Shumla.

[The religious statistics of the census of 1900 are:

Orthodox Greeks, 3,019,296; Mohammedans, 643,300; Jews, 33,663; Roman Catholics, 28,569; Armenian Gregorians, 13,809; Protestants, 4,524; Unknown, 1,122.]

Wilhelm Goetz.

Bibliography: C. Jireček, Geschichte der Bulgaren, Prague, 1876 (authoritative); idem, Das fürstentum Bulgarien, Vienna, 1891; J. Samuelson, Bulgaria, Past and Present, London, 1888 (best general account in English); L. Lamouche, La Bulgarie dans le passé et dans le présent, Paris, 1892; A. Strausz, Die Bulgaren, ethnographische Studien, Leipsic, 1898; Acta Bulgariæ ecclesiastica, 1565–1799, collegit C. Fermendziu, Agram, 1888; A. d’Avril, La Bulgarie chrétienne, Paris, 1898; J. S. Dennis, Centennial Survey of Foreign Missions, New York, 1902.

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