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Chapter 36
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
A History of Armenia

by Vahan M. Kurkjian

published by the
Armenian General Benevolent Union of America

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 38

 p345  Chapter XXXVII
The Paulikians and the Tondrakians

Points of Difference

In addition to the political troubles which beset Armenia during the eleventh century, the Paulikian sectarians known to Armenians as the Tondrakians (those of Tondrak Village) created a new form of internal disorder. The cardinal point of Paulikianism was a distinction between the God who made the material world and the God of Heaven, creator of souls, who alone should be adored.​a Paulikians rejected the Old Testament, and in the New, gave their approval chiefly to the Gospel of St. Luke and the epistles of St. Paul. They did not believe in incarnation. Christ, to them, was an angel, and baptism and eucharist consisted in hearing his words. They also rejected any hierarchy, the cross, pictures and all ritual. They were fanatically hostile to all forms of worship. Professor Conybeareº of Oxford thinks Paulikianism was a continuation of Adoptionism.1

The sect was founded in 657 by one Paul of Samosata — or in the name of St. Paul — at Kibossa, in western Armenia. The Katholikos John III ("the Philosopher") summoned two synods to take measures against them, one at Douin in 719, another at Manazkert in 726, but with little effect. They were persecuted by the Emperors Constantine IV and Justinian II, but were protected by Leo III and Nicephorus I, in return for their services as soldiers. When persecutions were renewed under Michael I and Leo V, they rebelled and fled to the domain of the Khalifa, who encouraged them. During  p346 the reign of Basil I they invaded Asia Minor with the Khalifa's troops, even to the outskirts of Constantinople. Their stronghold was Tephrike (Divrik), which was ultimately destroyed by an imperial army in 871. Constantine V and John I (Zimiskes) transplanted large numbers of them into Balkan countries, to kill or be killed by the enemies of the Empire. Philippopolis became a Paulikian center on European soil. The movement spread into Asia Minor, Syria, Mesopotamia and especially Greater Armenia, where the sectarians were called Tondrakians.

Despite official suppressions and punishment, the votaries of this cult offered stiff resistance to civil and religious authorities. Recent Armenian critics represent them as an expression of protest against the social system, an uprising against the exactions of princes and feudal lords, of peasants against aristocrats. Popular demonstrations and armed conflicts were not unusual in the plain of Ararat, in Aghouank (Albania) on the northeast and in the Aghtsnik on the southwest. Even after their exhaustion in Armenia and Asia Minor, the Paulikian deportees in the Balkans did not relent. The rise of the Albigenses and other Manichaean heresies is ascribed to their propaganda. "They shook the East and enlightened the West," says the historian Gibbon. Conybeare believed that he had found descendants of Paulikian communities in Russian Armenia. The discovery of a book containing their profession of faith, "The Key of Truth," led him to picture them as a simple, godly folk, who had clung to an earlier form of Christianity.2

Orthodox historians of the eighth to twelfth centuries accuse the Paulikians and their followers of armed collaboration with Moslem enemies and of detestable practices, such as devil-worship, evil nocturnal rites and pagan customs. Grigor Magistros, the Imperial governor, within whose jurisdiction Tondrak lay, called the place Shnavank, "Monastery of Dogs," "where men dressed in clerical garb lived in company with a multitude of prostitute women." Not content with such verbal and written castigation, Magistros sent a strong police force to purge this source of scandal and corruption.

"The Paulikians," says Professor C. A. Scott, "have been celebrated uncritically as early Protestants against Catholic abuses, of they have been condemned unheard as deadly heretics. A just  p347 estimate will be arrived at only when all such pre-suppositions have been laid aside, and when to the Greek sources . . . have been added the Armenian, and further, when the literary relations between the Greek sources have been thoroughly sifted."

Bishop Hacob of Hark, accused of being a sponsor of or sympathiser with the sect, was, after two trials and acquittals before the ecclesiastical court, nevertheless, degraded by the Katholikos Sarkis. At Kashi, a mob identified with the Tondrakians destroyed the great cross of the village. The perpetrators of the sacrilege were severely punished and even tortured. In circumstances such as these, the Armenians followed the example of the Greeks in their harsh chastisement of fanatical sectarians, whose acts were said to have degenerated into crimes against public welfare and morality.

Patriarchal Seat in Cilicia

Convinced of the futility of further attempts at absorption of the Armenian church into the orthodox Greek orbit, the Emperor Constantius Ducas in 1065 finally sanctioned the nomination of Grigor Vahram, son of Grigor Magistros, as the Governor-general of the Empire, a post also filled by the son. A condition attached to the nomination was that the new Katholikos, Grigor II, Vkayasser (the Martyrophile), should not remain in Armenia. He was therefore obliged to take up residence atº Dsamentav (Zamintia), in the new state of King Gagik of Kars, and later, of Amassia.

The patriarchate of Grigor II extended over forty years (1065‑1105), but was not marked by any conspicuous accomplishment. He was gifted with an excellent intellect and broad learning, but had assumed his office, not because of any particular qualification or desire for it, but only to fill the vacancy, and also because he was the best candidate upon whom the Greek Emperor and the Armenian nation could agree. He made tours in the Holy Land and Egypt, leaving the performance of his official duties to subordinates, among whom his nephew, Barsegh (Basil) of Ani, displayed peculiar ability andº succeeded his uncle upon the latter's death. Although supposed to reside in Zamintia, Barsegh actually lived within the confines of Cilicia, then being filled with Armenian refugees, fleeing from Tatar invasions of the homeland. The monastery of Shugr, in the Sev Ler (Amanus, Black Mountains), became a favorite home for Barsegh. He died of an accident in 1113, and was succeeded by Grigor III, Pahlavouni, then only twenty  p348 years old. The youth of the new Katholikos encouraged Bishop David Tornikian to assert his claim to the see of Aghtamar, where several patriarchs had sat temporarily. David was sufficiently strong-willed to enforce his claim, despite an adverse decision rendered at a general meeting held in Cilicia by many bishops, princes and a multitude of lay and clerical delegates, estimated to number 2,500.

Egyptian Sultan Seizes the Katholikos

In 1125 Grigor moved his residence eastward to Dzovk‑Sof, also known as Dluke, north of Aintab. Still later, in 1147, he found a safer refuge in the fort of Hromkla (Roumkala), on the west bank of the Euphrates, which he had bought from the wife of a Latin count, Josselin, lord of Germanicus (Marash). For a century and a half Hromkla remained the patriarchal seat, until Sultan Kalaoun of Egypt captured the place in 1293 and carried away as prisoner the Katholikos Stepanos IV. The see was then transferred to Sis, the Armenian capital. In 1375 the kingdom of Cilicia was overthrown by the Memlouks of Egypt, and 66 years later the patriarchate of "all the Armenians" returned to Etchmiadzin, 540 years after its departure from Douin in 901.

The Author's Notes:

1 An 8th-century heresy, teaching that Christ, in respect to His divine nature, was doubtless the Son of God, but that as to His human nature, He was only declared and adopted as the Son of God.

2 This work, copied from an Armenian manuscript in 1782, was translated into English by Conybeare.

Thayer's Note:

a Paulicianism: for a detailed summary, if from a Catholic point of view, see the article Paulicians in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

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