Initially the Bulgarian Church was an autonomous archbishopric under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople. Its primate, with the rank of archbishop, was elected by the Bulgarian episcopate and approved by the patriarch. According to an ancient story entitled 'The miracle of the Bulgar', after the founding of the Bulgarian archbishopric, Archbishop Joseph, accompanied by other clerics, teachers and mentors arrived in Bulgaria. The anonymous author praises Knyaz Boris, who 'built churches and monasteries, installed bishops, priests and abbots, to teach and guide the people . . .' The scant historical evidence does not allow us to determine the exact territory under the pastoral care of the Bulgarian Church during the ninth and tenth centuries.
The existence of diocesan centres at Pliska, Preslav, Morava, Ohrid, Bregalnitsa, Provat, Debelt and Belgrade at this time has been established beyond doubt. Dioceses which had been set up earlier, such as the ones at Sredets, Philippopolis, Drustur, Bdin,
Skopje, and Nis and elsewhere continued to exist. Keen to have young people trained as teachers and men of letters, Boris sent many young Bulgarians, including his son Symeon, to study in Constantinople. In 886 he welcomed to his capital Pliska the disciples of the brothers Cyril and Methodius: Clement, Nahum and Angelarius, who had been expelled from Great Moravia. With their help he embarked on a wide-ranging programme of education and scholarship, resulting in the creation of the Preslav and the Ohrid schools. The prince assigned many prominent Bulgarians to the monasteries, so that they could devote themselves to full-time scholarship. Among them were his brother Doks and his son Tudor Doksov. In 889 Boris I abdicated in favour of his son Vladimir and retired to a monastery, where he could devote his time to study and literary work. In 893, however, he could no longer put up with his son's attempts to revive paganism, deposed him by force and had him blinded. After that he took an active part in the first Council of the Church and the People, convened in Preslav (893), which introduced the Slavonic liturgy, replaced the Byzantine clergy with Bulgarians - a process facilitated by the presence of the talented disciples of Cyril and Methodius, discussed the role of the Archbishop of Bulgaria in ceremonies taking place in Constantinople and dealt with some other issues.
Whereas the military and political conflicts between Bulgaria and Byzantium during the reign of Knyaz Symeon (893-92 7) did not damage their spiritual relations irreparably, they contributed to the strengthening of the independence of the Bulgarian Church. Thanks to the political successes and the flourishing of cultural life, and given the close relationship between Church and state, the international prestige of the Bulgarian Church was growing apace.
After his success in the battle near the river of Acheloe on 20 August 917, Symeon proclaimed himself 'Emperor of the Bulgars and the Romans'. According to the theory prevailing at the time, the status of the Church had to be equal to that of the state. In Byzantium a close relationship existed between spiritual and temporal authorities. According to the rule sanctioned by many mediaeval documents, in 919 a Council of the Church and the People officially proclaimed the autocephaly of the Bulgarian Church and the Bulgarian archbishop received the title of Patriarch. In October 927 a peace treaty was signed between Bulgaria and Byzantium. Under its provisions King Peter I, related by marriage to the Byzantine emperor, received the right to call himself Basileus. The list of bishops compiled by the seventeenth-century French scholar Du Cange contains the following information: 'Damian in Drustur, now known as Dristra. In his time Bulgaria was recognized as autocephalous. On the orders of Romanus Lecapenus he was proclaimed Patriarch by the emperor's synclitus (council), and was later acknowledged by John Tzimisces.' We do not know whether the autocephaly and the patriarchal status of the Church were recognized by an official canonical act, but that was most probably the case. Such an assumption is supported by the passage of Du Cange's catalogue quoted above, where the compiler emphasizes the political dimension of the act, which in his opinion was the more important one and subsequently led to ecclesiastical recognition.
The Bulgarian autocephalous Church with the status of patriarchate was sixth in honorific rank among the ancient and most venerable patriarchates in the Orthodox East. At that time the main dioceses in northern Bulgaria were Pliska, later succeeded by Preslav, Dorostol (Drustur), which was the successor of the Marcianopolis diocese in the province of Lower Moesia, Bdin (Vidin) and Moravsk (Morava), which succeeded the bishopric of Margus. The main dioceses in southern Bulgaria were Philippopolis, Sardica (Sredets), Bregalnitsa, Ohrid and Prespa. We know the names, but not the order of accession, of nine Bulgarian patriarchs between 92 7 and 1018: Damian, Leontius, Demetrius, Sergius, Gregory, Germanus, Nicholas, Philip and David. They resided in the capital city of Preslav and later in Dorostor (modern Silistra).
The military events and political circumstances during the second half of the tenth century played a crucial role in the fate of the First Bulgarian Patriarchate. When the Kievan Knyaz Svyatoslav overran north-eastern Bulgaria (968-9) the patriarchal see moved to Dorostol, and after the invasion of the Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimisces (971), to Sredets (modern Sofia), which became the capital of the Western Bulgarian Empire under Tsar Samuel (997-1014). Owing to pressures of strategic necessity the capital was being moved ever deeper into the south-western Bulgarian lands and so was the patriarchal court, which at the end of the tenth century eventually established itself in Ohrid, the seat of the Bulgarian Patriarchs Philip and David. After conquering Bulgaria in 1018 the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, the 'Bulgar-slayer', preserved the independence of the Bulgarian Church under the name of the Ohrid Archbishopric, whose primate received the title of Archbishop of All Bulgaria. The dioceses under his jurisdiction, listed in special royal charters issued by Basil II in 1019, 1020 and 1025, encompass the former theme (a region of the Byzantine Empire) of Macedonia (excluding Thessaloniki and its south-eastern part), the districts of Morava, Timok, Nishava, Epirus (excluding its southern parts), the whole of Serbia and northern Thessaly. Later on, under the successors of Basil II, a number of changes were made to the area of jurisdiction of this diocese, which was reduced in favour of the Constantinople Patriarchate. At the same time the Ohrid Archbishopric was subjected to systematic Hellenization; this was achieved by appointing mainly Greek-speaking senior clerics and introducing the Greek language in the liturgy and in church administration.
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