Cyril of Alexandria

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Cyril of Alexandria, detail from an icon byzantine , questionable Athos , early 14th century in the Hermitage Museum ( Saint Petersburg )

Cyril I (also Kyrillos or Cyrill (us) ; * around 375/80 in Alexandria ; † June 27, 444 there ) was Patriarch of Alexandria from October 15, 412 until his death . He is considered a saint , church father and church doctor . Cyril was a very controversial figure during his lifetime and has remained so in theological historiography ever since. On the one hand he is regarded as one of the great theological thinkers of his time, on the other hand as spirited, impulsive and undiplomatic, as "one of the most thoughtless and violent [...] in the long line of eccentric Alexandrian patriarchs".

Contemporary history background

Kyrill lived at a time when Alexandria was increasingly challenged by the imperial capital Constantinople for its role as traditionally the most important patriarchate and theological center of the East . For this reason, power-political factors usually played a role in the theological disputes between Alexandria and Constantinople during this period. Cyril became Patriarch of Alexandria 40 years after the death of Athanasius . Thirty years before he took office, the first Council of Constantinople took place, in which the point of conflict regarding Arianism was decided and the doctrine of the Trinity was formulated.

Cyril was one of the protagonists of the christological controversy at the beginning of the 5th century, which was fed partly from questions raised by the doctrine of the Trinity and partly from the long-standing conflict between the theological schools of Antioch and Alexandria . Kyrill's predecessor in the office of Patriarch of Alexandria was his uncle Theophilos I (term of office 385-412), who during his reign had fought the then Patriarch of Constantinople , John Chrysostom (around 345-407).


Not much is known about his life prior to taking office as patriarch. He was the son of a sister of the Patriarch Theophilos I and probably a monk for some time . In 403 he accompanied Theophilus to Constantinople. His election as patriarch after the death of his uncle was not without controversy. In particular, Orestes , who was prefect of Egypt around 415 , was one of his opponents, as he saw Cyril as a rival in the struggle for rule over Alexandria, an assessment that turned out to be correct.

During his tenure, Cyril steadily expanded his power inside and outside Alexandria with the help of intrigue, violence and diplomacy. Its greatest rival outside of Alexandria was the Patriarchate of Antioch . The two patriarchates each represented different doctrinal views in Christology, biblical interpretation and the Eucharist . The patriarchal chair in Constantinople was repeatedly filled by representatives from one of the two schools. The power struggle connected with the struggle for the correct doctrine escalates in the dispute with the Constantinopolitan Patriarch Nestorius .

Kyrill's first years in office were marked by great unrest. Among other things, he came into conflict with the schismatic Novatians , whose churches he had closed, as John Chrysostomus had done a few years earlier in Ephesus . In 415, the editor Peter instigated the Christian mob of Alexandria to murder the respected Neoplatonic philosopher and scientist Hypatia . According to Manfred Clauss , Patriarch Cyrill was "responsible for the brutal murder of the pagan philosopher Hypatia". The background to their murder is still controversial today. In the earliest church historical sources there is no mention of Cyrill's involvement in this event. Walker, based on Edward Gibbon , says that Kyrillos incited fanatical Christians into the murder and that the official investigation was closed by bribing the public authorities.

At the Council of Ephesus in 431, Cyril, against the opposition of Nestorius, pushed through the doctrine of Mary's motherhood , not least through bribery: "Now began a long history of protests, letters, delegations, court intrigues and bribes, in which Cyril in particular was involved Files of a later council meticulously record the amounts of bribery the Bishop of Alexandria used to get the court to decide in his favor high that even the funds of the Alexandrian Church were insufficient. Cyrill had to take out a loan to finance his propaganda campaign. " Thus, for the last time, a compromise was reached between the Antiochene and Alexandrian doctrines. A few years after Kyrill's death, in 451, the Council of Chalcedon took place, at which the Patriarchate of Alexandria finally seceded from the Imperial Church and became the Coptic Church .

Cyril, who took over the patriarchate from his uncle Theophilos of Alexandria in AD 412, concentrated not only on the dispute with the polytheists , but also with the Alexandrian Jews . Already at the beginning of his term of office he provoked a bloody uprising of the Jews, which then prompted him to drive the Jews out of Alexandria. His dogmatic confrontation with Jews and Gentiles manifests itself in his works "Contra Galilaeos" and "Contra Julianum".


Kyrill left behind an extensive written work that is only partially preserved. The surviving works of Kyrill comprise ten volumes of the series of patrology published by Jacques Paul Migne , Patrologia cursus completus, seven volumes published by Aubert in 1638 in Paris. Along with John Chrysostom , Augustine of Hippo and Hieronymus, he is one of the church fathers from whom most of the works have survived.

Ten of his 19 books "Against Julian" and some fragments have been preserved. In it he is directed against the polemic "Against the Galileans" of Emperor Julian (331–363 AD). The new edition of the University of Bonn is based on five surviving manuscripts.

Cyril's Passover Tablet

Cyril tried to commit the pious Christian emperor Theodosius II (AD 408-450) to himself by dedicating his Passover tablet to him. It is also important to note that Cyril's Passover tablet was provided with a Metonic basic structure in the form of a Metonic 19-year lunar cycle he adopted around AD 425, which was very different from the very first Metonic 19-year lunar cycle invented by Anatolius around AD 260 , but exactly the same as the moon cycle introduced by Annianus around AD 412 ; the Julian equivalent of this Alexandrian lunar cycle, which was adopted by Cyril and is now called the 'classic (Alexandrian) 19-year lunar cycle', would only appear again much later: a century later in Rome as the basic structure of Dionysius Exiguus ' Passover table (AD 525) and another two centuries later in England than that of Beda Venerabilis ' Easter table (AD 725).

Remembrance day

The Roman Catholic and Old Catholic Churches commemorate him on the day of his death, June 27th. The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Cyril on July 9th and commemorates him on the feast of St. Athanasius on January 18th.


The moon crater Cyrillus is named after him.

In the Spanish film Agora - Die Säulen des Himmels (2009) the rise of Kyrill and the conflict with Hypatia are the themes.


  • Konrad F. Zawadzki: The commentary by Cyrill of Alexandria on the 2nd letter to the Corinthians. Introduction, critical text, translation, individual analysis, (= Traditio Exegetica Graeca 18), Leuven-Paris-Bristol 2019
  • Konrad F. Zawadzki: "Nobody should confuse reading the script!" A new Greek fragment from the Commentary on John by Cyril of Alexandria, Biblica 99 (2018), 393-413
  • Konrad F. Zawadzki: Syrian fragments of the commentary by Cyrill of Alexandria on the 1st letter to the Corinthians, Zeitschrift für Antikes Christianentum 21 (2017), 304-360
  • Konrad F. Zawadzki: The commentary by Cyrill of Alexandria on the 1st letter to the Corinthians. Introduction, critical text, translation, individual analysis, (= Traditio Exegetica Graeca 16), Leuven-Paris-Bristol 2015
  • Theresia Hainthaler: Cyrill of Alexandria / Fathers of the Church in the 5th and 6th Centuries and in Ecumenism Today? , from Johannes Arnold, Rainer Berndt, Ralf MW Stammberger: Fathers of the Church / Ecclesial Thinking from the Beginnings to Modern Times , Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn, 2004, pages 283-312
  • Christopher A. Hall: Learning Theology with the Church Fathers . 2002, pp. 83-99, ISBN 0-8308-2686-6 .
  • Edward R. Hardy: Cyril of Alexandria . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie 8, 1981, pp. 254-260.
  • Eirini Artemi: "The mystery of the incarnation into dialogues" de incarnatione Unigenitii "and" Quod unus sit Christ "of St. Cyril of Alexandria" , Ecclesiastic Faros of Alexandria, ΟΕ (2004), 145-277.
  • Eirini Artemi: St Cyril of Alexandria and his relations with the ruler Orestes and the philosopher HypatiaΟ , Ecclesiastic Faros of Alexandria, τ. ΟΗ (2007), 7-15.
  • Eirini Artemi: The one entity of the Word Incarnate. α). Apollinarius' explanation, β) Cyril's explanation , Ecclesiastic Faros of Alexandria, τ. ΟΔ (2003), 293-304.
  • Eirini Artemi: The historical inaccurancies of the film Agora about the murder of Hypatia , Orthodox Press, τεύχ. 1819 (2010), 7.
  • Eirini Artemi: The use of the ancient Greek texts in Cyril's works , POREIA MARTYRIAS, (2010), 114–125
  • Eirini Artemi: The rejection of the term Theotokos by Nestorius Constantinople and the refutation of his teaching by Cyril of Alexandria , Oxford, August 2011, online at
  • Bernd Kettet:  KYRILLOS, Patriarch of Alexandria. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 4, Bautz, Herzberg 1992, ISBN 3-88309-038-7 , Sp. 876-887.
  • John Chapman:  St. Cyril of Alexandria . In: Catholic Encyclopedia , Volume 4, Robert Appleton Company, New York 1908.
  • Cyrillus, S. (1) . In: Johann E. Stadler , Franz Joseph Heim, Johann N. Ginal (Eds.): Complete Lexicon of Saints ... , Volume 1 (A – D), B. Schmid'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Augsburg 1858, p.  709 -710 .
  • Hermann Josef Vogt: Kyrillos, Patriarch of Alexandria (412–444) . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA) . tape 5 . Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1991, ISBN 3-7608-8905-0 , Sp. 1599 f .
  • Silvia Ronchey : Ipazia. La vera storia. Rizzoli, Milano 2010, ISBN 978-88-58-6191-00
  • Alden A. Mosshammer (2008) The Easter Computus and the Origins of the Christian Era: Oxford ( ISBN 9780199543120 )
  • Jan Zuidhoek (2019) Reconstructing Metonic 19-year Lunar Cycles (on the basis of NASA's Six Millenium Catalog of Phases of the Moon): Zwolle ( ISBN 9789090324678 )
  • Cyril of Alexandria II - Against Julian, Book 6-10 and fragments , Prof. Dr. Wolfram Kinzig and Dr. Thomas Brüggemann, University of Bonn; Hubert Kaufhold, Munich, De Gruyter-Verlag, Berlin, 540 pages, ISBN 978-3110359152

Web links

Commons : Cyril of Alexandria  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Manfred Clauss: A new god for the old world. The History of Early Christianity , 2015, chapter 7.
  2. Manfred Clauss: A new god for the old world. The History of Early Christianity , 2015, chapter 7.
  3. Socrates of Constantinople : Eccl. hist. VII . Volume 15
  4. Barbara G. Walker: The secret knowledge of women - A lexicon . Two thousand and one, Frankfurt / Main 1993
  5. Edward Gibbon: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire . Translated from English by Johann Sporschil. Greno, Nördlingen 1987
  6. Manfred Clauss: A new god for the old world. The History of Early Christianity , 2015, chapter 7; see Samuel GF Perry: The Second Council of Ephesus , London 1881.
  7. ^ Karlheinz Deschner : Kriminalgeschichte des Christianentums. Volume 2, Spätantike, 5th edition, Rowohlt, Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-499-60142-2 , ( [1] on p. 172 f.
  8. Mosshammer (2008) 193–194
  9. Zuidhoek (2019) 67-74
  10. ^ Rainer Berndt, Ralf MW Stammberger: Fathers of the Church / Ecclesial Thinking from the Beginnings to Modern Times , Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn, 2004, page 283
predecessor government office successor
Theophilus I. Patriarch of Alexandria
Dioskorus I.