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THEODORA:

Queen of Bulgaria from 1335 to 1355; born at Tirnova la Grande, capital of the ancient kingdom of Bulgaria, of a family of Byzantine Jews, from whom she received the Greek name of Theodora, although she was called also Sarah and was termed "the beautiful Jewess." She was chosen on one occasion to present a petition to Ivan Alexander, Czar of Bulgaria, and that monarch, though he had had two wives and was the father of three children, became infatuated with her and married her after she had accepted Christianity of her own accord. He became by her the parent of three children: two sons, named Assen and Ivan Chichman, and a daughter, called Tamar or Mara (but see Jew. Encyc. iii. 426a, s.v. Bulgaria).

According to Christo J. Poppof, an ecclesiastical historian of Bulgaria, the Jews of Tirnova, taking advantage of the fact that one of their number sat on the throne, and presuming on the queen's favor, set no limits to their insolence, profaning the icons, the churches, even the eucharist itself, and blaspheming all that is most sacred to Christianity; so that their evil deeds encouraged heretics and fomented popular disturbances.

By the advice of the patriarch Theodore, Ivan Alexander called a national council in 1352, which was attended by all the prelates of the country; and in the presence of the czar himself and of Queen Theodora and her children a solemn anathema was pronounced against all heretics and Jews, and their expulsion from the country was decreed. Owing to the entreaties of Theodora, however, three Jews who had been condemned to death for blasphemy were reprieved, their sentences being commuted to other punishments; but in accordance with the decree of the council, the community of Tirnova, which had long inhabited a ghetto at the foot of the citadel of Trapesitza, was dispersed, and Jews never settled again in that city. According to another account(see Jew. Encyc. l.c. p. 426b), they emigrated to Nicopolis on the death of Ivan Chichman.

Theodora brought her influence to bear on her husband and secured the throne for Ivan Chichman, her own son by him, leaving for her two stepsons only the provinces of Widdin and Dobrudja, and thus exposing herself to the charge of the Bulgarian historians that in her maternal blindness she weakened the kingdom. Ivan Chichman was defeated by Sultan Murad I. about 1360; and Theodora died some years later.

Bibliography:
  • Poppof, Etvimii, Dernier Patriarche de Tirnova et de Trapesitza, Philippopolis, 1901;
  • Revue des Ecoles de l'Alliance Israélite Universelle, July, 1901.
  • A portrait of Theodora and her children appears in Svornik Narodni Umutvorenia, Sofia, 1892.
S. M. Fr.
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