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1898 illustration by E. J. Sullivan, heading to "Adamitism", chapter IX of Sartor Resartus (1833–34) by Thomas Carlyle

The Adamites, also called Adamians, were adherents of an Early Christian group in North Africa in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries. They wore no clothing during their religious services.[1][2] There were later reports of similar sects in Central Europe during the Late Middle Ages.

Ancient Adamites[edit]

The obscure sect, dating probably from the 2nd century, professed to have regained Adam and Eve's primeval innocence.[2] Various accounts are given of their origin. Some have thought them to have been an offshoot of the Carpocratians, who professed a sensual mysticism and a complete emancipation from the moral law.[2] Theodoret (Haer. Fab., I, 6) held this view of them, and identified them with the licentious sects whose practices are described by Clement of Alexandria. Others, on the contrary, consider them to have been misguided ascetics, who strove to extirpate carnal desires by a return to simpler manners, and by the abolition of marriage.

St. Epiphanius and Augustine of Hippo mention the Adamites by name, and describe their practices. They called their church "Paradise", claiming that its members were re-established in Adam and Eve's state of original innocence.[3] Accordingly, they practiced "holy nudism", rejected the concept of marriage as foreign to Eden, saying it would never have existed but for sin, and lived in absolute lawlessness, holding that, whatever they did, their actions could be neither good nor bad.[4] They were therefore accused of devil worship.[5] The old Adamites have been considered to be early Protestants.[6]


The arrest of neo-Adamites in a public square in Amsterdam (Engraving from the mid-18th century).

Practices similar to those of the ancient Adamites appeared in Europe several times in later ages. During the Middle Ages the doctrines of this obscure sect, which did not itself exist long, were revived:[4] in the 13th century in the Netherlands by the Brethren of the Free Spirit[citation needed] and in the 15th century the Taborites in Bohemia. Everywhere they met with firm opposition from the mainstream churches.[7] The splintering of Protestantism during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in the 17th century saw Adamites recorded in the Catalogue of the Several Sects and Opinions in England.[8]

Taborites and Bohemian Adamites[edit]

The Taborite movement started in 1419 as the more radical branch of Hussitism in opposition to the authority of the Holy Roman Empire and the Catholic Church. One sect, the Bohemian Adamites, dissociated themselves from the Taborites and took up the practice of going naked through towns and villages. They preached that "God dwelt in the Saints of the Last Days" and considered exclusive marriage to be a sin. The historian Norman Cohn observed: "Whereas the Taborites were strictly monogamous, in this sect free love seems to have been the rule. The Adamites declared that the chaste were unworthy to enter the Messianic kingdom ... The sect was much given to ritual naked dances held around a fire. Indeed, these people seemed to have spent much of their time naked, ignoring the heat and cold and claiming to be in the state of innocence enjoyed by Adam and Eve." Cohn also commented that the Adamites were criticised by other Taborites for "never thinking of earning their own living by the work of their hands".[9]

The Bohemian Adamites took possession of an island in the river Nežárka, and lived communally, practicing social and religious nudity, free love and rejecting marriage and individual ownership of property. Jan Žižka, the Taborite leader, nearly exterminated the sect in 1421.[10] In the following year, the sect was widely spread over Bohemia and Moravia, and especially hated by the Taborites (whom they resembled in hatred toward the hierarchy) because the Adamites rejected transubstantiation, the priesthood and the Eucharist.[11] The strife between the Adamites and the Taborites is dramatized in Against All, the third part of Otakar Vávra's Hussite film trilogy (1958).[12]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Medievalists.net (2014-08-10). "The Adamites: Hippie Heretics of the Middle Ages". Medievalists.net. Archived from the original on 2020-06-24. Retrieved 2020-05-15.
  2. ^ a b c Havey 1907.
  3. ^ Epiphanius Panarion Bks II & III.
  4. ^ a b Chisholm 1911, p. 174.
  5. ^ Kingdon, R.M.C. (1974). Transition and Revolution: Problems and Issues of European Renaissance and Reformation History. Burgess Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-8087-1118-6. Retrieved 2023-08-12.
  6. ^ Smith, V.S. (2008). Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity. Oxford University Press. p. 271. ISBN 978-0-19-953208-7. Retrieved 2023-06-10.
  7. ^ Lerner, Robert (September 30, 1991). The Heresy of the Free Spirit in the Later Middle Ages (1st ed.). University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN 978-0268010942.
  8. ^ Goldie 2000, p. 293.
  9. ^ Wilson 2015.
  10. ^ Konstantin von Höfler, Geschichtsquellen Böhmens, I, 414, 431.
  11. ^ Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Adamites" . Encyclopedia Americana.
  12. ^ Hames 2009, p. 21 ff.


External links[edit]

  • Media related to Adamites at Wikimedia Commons