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The Berengarians were a religious sect who adhered to the views of Berengar of Tours, Archdeacon of Angiers, who opposed the doctrine of transubstantiation in the mid eleventh century. The Berengarian Heresy is said to have numbered 800,000 according to the historian Belamine [1]

The Heresy[edit]

The Catholic Church held considerable power in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. Heretics were often sentenced to death unless they formally recanted their errors. John Scotus Erigena had maintained in the ninth century that there was no physical transformation of the Eucharist. Later, in 1047, Berengar of Tours reignited the debate in the name of Erigena. During the next 30 years, Berengar was asked to recant his heresy concerning the Roman Catholic church dogma of Transubstantiation no less than five times including a short spell in Prison. He later retired into solitude and made no further pronouncements on the matter.

Followers of the heresy[edit]

It is known that an early supporter of Berengar was Eusebius Bruno, the Bishop of Angers, although he later renounced the heresy. Although it is known that Geoffrey II of Anjou secured Berengar's release from prison, it is unlikely that it was more than political point scoring. The historian Belamine say that the supporters numbered 800,000 by 1160.[1]

His followers were divided on the head of the Eucharist; though they all agreed that the bread and wine were not essentially changed, some allowed it to be changed in effect, though under an impanation, which was the opinion Berenger himself. Others denied any change at all, and resolved all into figure. Yet others allowed a change in part, and others an entire change, with the restriction that to those who presented themselves unworthily, it was changed back again.

Influence on the Reformation[edit]

As Berengar left no written tracts it is moot what influence the Berengarians had on the Protestant Reformation. While John Calvin rejected the Transubstantiation, Martin Luther criticized the making of this teaching into a dogma as well as some of its implications.


  1.  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "article name needed". Cyclopædia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (first ed.). James and John Knapton, et al.