Language studies have shown that in the first centuries, Cyril and Methodius used the language of home and church. Then, with the introduction of Paleoslavic into the Royal Chancellery and official documents, this language also reached the lips of the consecrated ministers. The first calligraphic books, then printed, were in Slavonic. According to leading linguistic researchers, our ancestors used a script almost unknown to us today, the Cyrillic alphabet, for five centuries.
Born and raised in 9th-century Byzantine Thessalonica, Saints Cyril and Methodius are to this day considered the fathers of a culture that changed world history. Living in a bilingual area with speakers of Proto-Slavonic and Greek, the two brothers benefited from an outstanding education. From Thessaloniki to Constantinople, they continued their education at the most prestigious institution of the East – the University founded by Emperor Theodosius the Great and reorganized by the Macedonian dynasty.
Well-versed in theology and the languages of the time, the young men were part of several missionary delegations to the Middle East. Although they did impressive work in Constantinople, history has kept them from serving in Western Europe.
Biography of Cyril and Methodius
|Full name:||Constantine Cyril||Methodius|
|Date of birth/ Feast Day:||0826 AD||0815 AD|
|Year of death:||0869 AD||0885 AD|
|Place of birth:||Thessalonica||Thessalonica|
|Life accomplishments:||Constantine receives the name Cyril and becomes a monk. His biographer testifies to his last moments when his prayers were only for the forgiveness of his sins and the strengthening of the Slavic people, still feeling his duty as shepherd of this land.||After the death of St. Cyril, buried in the Basilica of San Clemente in the Eternal City, his brother Methodius was appointed Archbishop of Moravia and the Slavs, a ministry he held until his death in 885 with many trials and tribulations caused by the political and religious rulers of the Germans who did not conform to the papal decision, but even finally caused it to be changed and the Slavic mission banned.|
|Death cause:||He got ill.||Natural causes.|
What resulted from the work done by the monks Cyril and Methodius?
Pope Adrian II granted them permission to use the Slavonic language and the new alphabet. A few months later, while they were still in Rome, Cyril fell seriously ill. In less than two months, aged just 42, he died. But peace was slow in coming. After many arrests and convictions, and his health weakened by his long struggle with his opponents, Methodius died on 6 April 885.
In 862, the Byzantine diplomats and theologians Cyril and Methodius were invited by Prince Rastislav of Greater Moravia to preach Christianity in the heartlands of Europe, and so, as a result of their work, they converted thousands of pagans to Christianity. Although they accepted the thought that it would be a mission like any other, the journey to the West meant the trip of a lifetime.
Arriving amid a people speaking Slavic dialects and divided between Germanic and Eastern Orthodox cultures, the two missionaries had to seek a means of communication and unity between the Slavic people. This was not easy work, but the Cyrillic alphabet, named after St Cyril, was born. In the hope of receiving episcopal support for using the newly created alphabet, the two brothers went to Rome.
What contribution did St Cyril and St Methodius make to Slavic culture?
The brothers Cyril and Methodius are best known for developing the Glagolitic alphabet, which was used to bring Christian literature and culture to the Slavs in their language. With some additions by the disciples, it is now used by most Slavic peoples.
Thanks to Cyril and Methodius, who contributed to translating the Bible into Slavonic and creating a Slavonic dialect, today, 435 million people speak Slavonic languages and have access to a translation of the Bible using the Cyrillic alphabet.
Eastern and South-Eastern Europe experienced their Christian culture through the work of the two holy brothers. According to biographical testimonies, God revealed the Slavonic script to them following a prayer, after which Cyril composed the letters and began translating the Gospel. The alphabet created by St. Cyril bears the name Glagolitic, which comes from the Slavic glagol and means word.
What Patron Saints are Cyril and Methodius?
Methodius continued his work in Pannonia, Moravia, and Nitra with the Pope’s support. Wishing to gain jurisdiction over these territories, Pope Adrian II sent letters through Methodius approving the Slavonic Liturgy. In 969, the pope ordained him, Archbishop of Pannonia and Moravia, with a cathedral at Sirmium (near Belgrade, Yugoslavia).
In 1980, Pope John Paul II declared Saints Cyril and Methodius the patron saints of Europe, along with Saint Benedict of Nursia, with their feast day on 14 February, according to the Catholic calendar.
It is known that after Methodius’ death in 884, his disciples were driven out by Frankish opponents but found refuge in southern Poland, Bulgaria, and Bohemia. Through them, the work of Saints Cyril and Methodius continued, contributing fundamentally to the development of the Orthodox Church and Slavic Christian culture in Eastern Europe.
What is Methodius known for?
During the last years of his life, Methodius continued to encounter opposition. Even so, with the help of two disciples, he completed the translation of the Bible into the Bible and the civil and ecclesiastical laws.
Methodius is known for being appointed ruler of a region where the Slavic language was spoken in the meantime. After a few years in this position, he retired to a Greek monastery in Bithynia (Asia Minor). Constantine also settled there in 855.
Methodius’ work among the Slavs seems to have borne much fruit, despite opposition from the Frankish clergy and Svatopluk, the new ruler of Moravia. Accused of heresy, Methodius successfully defended himself. They obtained a bull from Pope John VIII, confirming his orthodoxy, reaffirming the autonomy of his diocese, and expressly authorizing the Mass in Slavonic.
What is Cyril and Methodius Day?
A few months later, while they were still in Rome, Constantine became seriously ill. The brothers stayed in a Greek monastery, Constantine wearing a monastic habit. He was also given the name Cyril. In less than two months, he would pass into eternal life.
Saints Cyril (826-869) and Methodius (815-844) are celebrated on May 11th. They are called “Apostles of the Slavs” because they translated the Holy Scriptures into Slavonic.
Brothers Cyril and Methodius are the ones who created the alphabet “Glagolitic,” which comes from the Slavic “glagol,” in translation – word. Later, the Glagolitic alphabet, with some additions by the disciples, developed into the Cyrillic alphabet.
Key Verse related to Methodius and Cyril
“Behold, my brother, we have shared the same destiny, plowing the same furrow; I now fall in the field at the end of my day. I know that you greatly love your Mountain, but do not, for the sake of the Mountain, give up your work of teaching.”
(St. Cyril; Memorial of Sts. Cyril and Methodius)
What did Methodius and Cyril do?
The encyclopedia asserts that Constantine (who took the name Cyril only in the last months of his life) and Methodius were born into a noble family in Thessaloniki, Greece. The brothers learned Greek and probably also Slavic, as many Slavs had migrated south to Macedonia. After the death of their father, Constantine moved to Constantinople.
By giving the Slovenes an alphabet and the written word, Saints Cyril and Methodius strengthened the cultural and political influence of Byzantium in the Balkans and Central Europe. As an instrument of culture, the Old Slavonic language had widespread, encompassing the Moravian Sea (on the territory of the Czech Republic and Slovakia), Old Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, and Old Russia. Later, this language was also adopted as the cultural language in non-Slav countries.
Cyril was only 14 when he traveled to Constantinople with the family of a high official. He later attended the imperial university, where he was taught by some of the most renowned teachers of the time, including Photios, the future Patriarch of Constantinople.
Was Cyril on a delegation to the Arabs?
Both brothers, belonging to a noble family, received an education in Greek, first in Thessaloniki and then in Constantinople. Thessalonica, a city where Slavic populations predominated, gave the two brothers a chance to learn the Slavic language, “the Slavic dialect spoken around Thessalonica and in Macedonia,” and their customs and life.
After 850, when Cyril was about 23-24 years old, he was sent on a delegation to the Arabs, organized by Theoctist, who wanted to improve the situation of the Christians under Arab domination. The board’s purpose, which included George, who had the dignity of secretary, and George Palata, a high official of the imperial court, was to conclude a peace treaty with the Arabs. Some historians believe that Fotie was also part of this delegation.
After he returned to Constantinople around 856, some unfortunate events led him to leave the imperial capital. This was because the logothete Theoctist, Constantine’s protector, perished in a plot hatched by Bardas, who also won over Emperor Michael III. Seeing this, Constantine withdrew from public life to the monastery of Olympus in Bithynia, where his brother Methodius was staying.
The continuity of the mission of Saint Methodius and his passage to the Lord
He continued his mission in Moravia but encountered great difficulties from the Latin-German clergy, who opposed the Slavic language’s introduction into the cult. Having again been denounced to Pope John VIII for continuing to serve in Slavonic, he called him in. He solemnly recognized the legitimacy of the Slavonic liturgy when Saint Methodius left in the summer of 880.
Saint Methodius left again for Moravia where, due to political changes in the Romano-Germanic political orientation adopted by Rastislav’s grandson Sveatopluk or Sviatopolok (870-884), he imprisoned him in 872. With the help of Pope Adrian II’s successor, Pope John VIII (872-882), he was released from prison in 873.
The Byzantine Emperor Basil I, the Macedonian, invited Saint Methodius to Constantinople, where he left and arrived in the winter of 881. He remained in the empire’s capital until 882, when he left again for Moravia, where he continued his work until April 6, 885, when he passed away at 74.
7 Facts About Cyril and Methodius
Few know the significant contribution of the Slavic languages of Cyril and Methodius. Learning the Slavic language was advantageous because Greek civil servants who knew Slavic were quickly promoted to the archmage administration. Among these archons or Slavic principalities were Thessalonica, Macedonia, Ceremony, and others. To learn more about them, here are seven facts about their lives.
1. Both were born in Thessaloniki
Saints Constantine – Cyril, and Methodius were born in Thessaloniki, the second largest city after the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, to Orthodox and good-natured parents, Leon and Mary. They had seven children; Methodius was born in 811, and the seventh Constantine was born in 827.
2. Methodius pursued a military career
Methodius was educated in Thessaloniki and, after finishing his studies, devoted himself to a military career, following his father as a stronger. He was later entrusted with the command of the Slavic armies in the archery of Ceremony, which was on the border with Bulgaria. After ten years in this administrative military post, where he had the opportunity to improve his knowledge of the Slavic language, he retired from public life to the monastery of Olympus in Bithynia, Asia Minor, where he became a monk around 850-851.
3. Brothers Cyril and Methodius are of Slavic origin
Slavic historians consider them of Slavic origin, arguing that those so-called Slavs or Slavonic regions inhabited by Slavic populations, vassals of the Byzantine Empire, existed around Thessaloniki. Greek historians claim them to be of Hellenic origin.
4. They aroused the envy of the bishops
Thus, by the success of their mission, which consisted in translating the Gospels and liturgical books into the pagan language, they aroused the envy of the Latin-German bishops, who considered the introduction of a new language, Slavonic, into worship as something terrible. They complained to Pope Nicholas I (858-867) that this was wrong, calling it the heresy of the three tongues or the Pilatian heresy because only three languages were considered sacred: Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, just as Pilate of Pontus had placed an inscription in these three languages on the cross of the Saviour.
5. Cyril and Methodius translated the Bible
Arriving in Moravia around 863, Saints Constantine – Cyril and Methodius began translating the Holy Scriptures and liturgical books of worship into the Paleoslav language, understood by the Moravians.
6. They traveled to Moravia
In the winter of 866-867, the two brothers left Moravia for Venice, intending to sail to Constantinople on the Adriatic and Aegean Seas to report the results of their mission to Patriarch Photios.
7. Cyril died of an illness
Due to many hardships and sufferings, Constantine – Cyril fell ill in Rome, died on February 14, 869, at 42, and was buried in the church of St. Clement in Rome.
- Hermanrich of Passau, Adalwin of Salzburg, and Anno de Freezing, all of whom were active in favor of the political and religious influence of the Franks in the region. In 870, with the help of Svatopluk, the ruler of Nitra, they succeeded in arresting Methodius and imprisoning him in a monastery in Swabia (southeast Germany).
- In 873, Pope John VIII ordered his release, reinstating him in office and reaffirming papal support for the Slavonic Divine Mass.
- a significant page of our existence, the Cyrillic script, can today help us to understand the life of our ancestors for almost five hundred years. An alphabet that reminds us of the history of the book and the printing press.
In 860, the patriarch sent them on a mission among the Cossacks, a population occupying the territory northeast of the Black Sea. On their way there, Cyril and Methodius passed through the town of Cherson. Near tradition is that St Clement, Pope of Rome between 91 and 100, was killed. St. Cyril asked Archbishop George of Cherson for permission to search for the holy relics. On his return from his lodgings, Cyril took the coffin of sacred relics to Constantinople and later gave it to Pope Adrian II during his missionary activity in Moravia.
Towards the end of 863, the friars began their mission. They sailed along Greece, continuing on the Adriatic Sea to Venice, then traveled overland to Moravia, where they were warmly welcomed. Their work entailed future training clergy, teaching written Slavonic language, and translating liturgical books.
Trivia about Cyril and Methodius
- Dvornik, F. (1964). The significance of the missions of Cyril and Methodius. Slavic Review, 23(2), 195-211.
- Dvornik, F. (1970). Byzantine Missions among the Slavs: SS. Constantine-Cyril and Methodius. Rutgers Univ. Press.
- Hetényi, M., & Ivanič, P. (2021). The Contribution of Ss. Cyril and Methodius to Culture and Religion. Religions, 12(6), 417.
- Smith, T. A. (2012). Cyril and Methodius. In The Orthodox Christian World (pp. 284-290). Routledge.
- Soulis, G. C. (1965). The legacy of Cyril and Methodius to the Southern Slavs. Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 19, 19-43.