The Turnovo Archbishopric and Patriarchate

In 1186, when the Bulgarian state regained its independence, the brothers Assen and Peter rejected the spiritual ascendancy of the Ohrid Archbishopric and the Constantinople Patriarchate and set up a new ecclesiastical centre in the capital of Turnovo, by establishing the autocephalous Archbishopric of Turnovo with Archbishop Basil as its primate. As a result of negotiations between Tsar Kaloyan (r. 1197-1207) and the Roman curia in the autumn of 1204, the right of the Bulgarian ruler to be called 'king' and to mint coins was recognized and Basil was elevated to 'Archbishop of Turnovo and primas of all Bulgaria and Wallachia'. According to the pope the title of primas was equivalent to 'patriarch'. At the beginning of November 1204, at a solemn ceremony, Kaloyan was crowned king and Basil was consecrated as primas. While recognizing the primacy of the pope, the Bulgarian Church preserved its independence. The union with Rome was a great diplomatic success for Tsar Kaloyan, as it helped Bulgaria achieve international recognition.

The official and canonical recognition of the patriarchal status of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was finally achieved during the reign of Ivan Assen II (1218-41) at a major church council in the town of Lampsakos in the Dardanelles in Asia Minor, with the consent of the Patriarch of Constantinople (then in exile at Nicaea) Germanos II (1223-40) and the other four eastern patriarchs.

The Bulgarian cleric Joachim I was enthroned as the first Patriarch of Turnovo. The territory under the ecclesiastical authority of the patriarch changed with the changes to the borders of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1186-1396). It was largest during the reign of Ivan Assen II when it comprised 14 eparchies plus the See of Turnovo and the Archbishopric of Ohrid, namely 10 metropolitan sees (Preslav, Cherven, Lovech, Sredets, Ovech, Drustur, Vidin, Syar (Serres), Philippi and Mesembria) and four episcopacies (Branicevo, Belgrade, Nis and Velbuzhd). In the fourteenth century the scope of Turnovo's jurisdiction was sharply reduced; the western eparchies were placed under the Serbian Archbishopric (elevated to the rank of patriarchate in 1346), whereas the metropolitan Sees of Varna, Vidin and those of the southern regions were subordinated to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The Patriarchate of Turnovo was organized along the same lines as the First Bulgarian Patriarchate of Preslav. Its primate was the patriarch, who was also a member of the synclitus (council of the boyars). He occasionally assumed the role of regent and had his own administrative office. The Synod, composed of the church hierarchs (metropolitans and other members of the episcopacy) and sometimes including representatives of the secular authorities, played an important role in the governance of the patriarchate. It conducted trials of heretics, ruled on property disputes and on various matters of a spiritual and temporal nature concerning the Church. When a new patriarch was elected the Synod nominated three candidates, one of whom was approved by the monarch, this being an example of the interference of the temporal authorities in the life of the Church. The patriarchate was duty-bound to support the policies of the state and straying away from its line was severely punished. Thus during the reign of Tsar Theodor Svetoslav in 1300 Patriarch Joachim III was found guilty of high treason and was pushed to his death from a cliff on the Tsarevets Hill known as the Rock of Death. The secular authorities supported the Church in its fight against various heresies and on several occasions (in 1211, 1350 and 1360) convened special councils for this purpose. During the fourteenth century the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was under the religious and spiritual influence of the Byzantine Hesychast movement. Theodosius of Turnovo and Patriarch Euthymius were among its leading supporters.

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