Cyril of Salonica

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Icon of Cyril and Method, Bucharest, 19th century

Cyril ( medium Greek Κύριλλος Kyrillos , Church Slavonic Кирилъ Kiril * approx 826 / 827. Thessaloniki , † 14 February 869 in Rome ), and Cyril was the younger and initially more important of the two brothers and most important missionaries in the Slavic countries, Cyril and Methodius . Cyril was actually called Konstantin or Konstantinos and probably only took the name Cyril when he entered a Greek monastery in Rome shortly before his death.

Both stood in the field of tension between Greco-Byzantine and Roman-German influence and, against much resistance, achieved a real inculturation of Christianity among the Slavs .


Early life

Cyril and Method were born in the 9th century as Constantine and Michael in Thessaloniki . Her father was a Byzantine Drungarios (naval officer) named Leontios (born in Thessaloniki), her mother was called Maria. Konstantin was the youngest, Michael the eldest son of a total of 7 siblings. Both were highly educated. Her father Leontios died when Constantine was 14 years old.

Constantine received his basic education in Thessaloniki. Around the age of 17 (842/843) he went to Constantinople , where he studied philosophy , grammar , rhetoric , music , arithmetic , geography and astronomy at the Imperial University of Constantinople from about 842 / 3–847 . In addition to Greek , he also spoke Slavic from an early age and later studied Latin , Syriac and Hebrew .

His teachers included the lecturer Leon the mathematician and professor (later patriarch ) Photios I. His patrons were the eunuch and Logothet (state secretary at the imperial court) Theoktistos (Theoctistes), who was probably his relative, who also brought him to Constantinople at the time and a favorite of the imperial widow and regent Theodora II , who in 842 the Byzantine government for the underage heir Michael III. took over. According to Anastasios, a friendly relationship later developed between Constantine and Photios, but also a conflict over religious issues.

After completing his studies and being ordained a subdeacon and deacon around 848, he became Chartophylax ( librarian , archivist and secretary ) of Ignatius (847-857), the Patriarch of Constantinople.

About two years later - after he had refused to marry a rich bride whom Theoktistus had chosen for him - he secretly withdrew to the monastery of Kleidion (Greek κλειδίον "key"; northeast of Thessaloniki). He hid in this monastery for six months. When he was discovered there, he was invited to work as a philosophy professor at the University of Constantinople (late 850 or early 851). Since then he has probably been nicknamed a philosopher . During this time he had a controversy with the deposed iconoclastic patriarch John and disputes with other iconoclasts.

From Constantinople, however, he was very soon entrusted with a political and religious mission (850-851) at the Arab court of the caliph al-Mutawakkil in the city of Samarra because of the collection of taxes and the oppression of Christians on the part of the Arabs . Here he took part in an intense theological dispute with the Muslim scholars and monks, so that the Arabs even allegedly wanted to poison him. The dispute was about the triune God, whose existence the Muslims could not recognize, and Constantine also proved to be a good expert on the Koran .

After his return to Constantinople, he resigned his professorship and went to a monastery on Mount Olympus in Asia Minor (near Brussa ). In this monastery he met his brother Method, who had lived here for a long time. This stay in the monastery also had a political background - in 856 the empress Theodora was deposed and her favorite Theoktistus was murdered.

Mission to the Khazars

At the invitation of the ruler of the Khazars , Constantine undertook a mission around 860 to the Khazars, a settled people north of the Caucasus (according to some sources more on the Azov Sea ), whose Jewish king had enabled Jews, Muslims and Christians to live together peacefully . Prior to this trip, he was likely ordained a full priest.

On the way to the Khazars he went to the city of Kherson , where he learned the Hebrew, Khazar and Gothic languages. In Cherson he also found the remains of St. Clement, who died around 101 (which he later brought to Moravia and to Rome in 867 and which probably contributed to the warm welcome in Rome). Constantine wrote three Greek writings about this discovery ( historica narratio , sermo declamatorius and hymnus , see works ).

With the Khazars he then led theological disputes with Jewish scholars and rabbis . Two hundred Khazars were baptized. Instead of the reward offered by the Khazar ruler, Constantine is said to have only arranged for 200 Greek slaves to be released. The Khazar king later wrote the Byzantine emperor a letter of thanks in which he praised the mission and assured the friendship of his people. Constantine did not succeed in converting the Khazars to Christianity , but a small people in the Fulani region, which consisted of the remaining Alans and Goths . The claim that Constantine was accompanied by Method on the mission to the Khazars is, according to some views, rather a later legend.

In 861 Constantine returned to Constantinople and devoted himself to linguistic research.

Moravian Mission

Baška tablet (Croatian language) - example of Glagolitic script developed by Kyrill for the Moravian Mission.

After the Moravian prince Rastislav had first unsuccessfully turned to the Pope in Rome , he asked the Byzantine emperor in 862 for a “bishop and teacher” who could instruct the people in the Christian faith in the language of the people .

With the words Do you hear these words, philosopher? There is no one else but you who can do this, so take lots of presents and your brother Method with you and go! Because you are salon artists, and all salon artists speak pure Slavonic (source: Vita Methodii), Emperor Michael III asked . Constantine about the Christian mission in Moravia .

Constantine declared himself at the encouragement of Emperor Michael III. and Patriarch Photios I. prepared to do so.

In 863 or 864 (according to tradition on July 5, 863) Constantine and Methodius arrived in Moravia. They brought their first translations with them, the symbol of the Byzantine double cross (which is now on the Slovak national coat of arms) and the relics of one of the first bishops of Rome, St. Clement , which Constantine found in Kherson in 860 .

In 863 Constantine founded the so-called Moravian Academy, in which future Slavic priests and administrative staff were trained, and which became the center of Slavic literature. In 885 it had around 200 graduates. Its location is unfortunately unknown, but according to archaeological finds there was a church school at Devín Castle in present-day Bratislava .

Accompanied by his brother Michael , Constantine evangelized in Moravia for several years. From the beginning, as representatives of Greco-Byzantine Christianity, they had to fight against the criticism of the Bavarian priests in Moravia , who were viewed with suspicion by the local population and their ruler Rastislav . Even under the cloak of Western, Latin Christianity, the Germans could never seriously assert their claim to power politics. With the argument that the service should supposedly only be held in the three languages ​​that the Pilate inscription on the cross of Jesus contains (Latin, Greek, Hebrew), they tried to instrumentalize the Pope for their cause. In order to escape this dilemma, Constantine and Michael decided in 867, with the consent of Rastislav and Sventopluk ( Neutra Principality (present-day Slovakia )) to go to Rome in order to obtain the Pope's consent to the liturgical language of Old Church Slavonic . They also took some students with them to be ordained priests. (According to other sources, they originally intended to travel to Constantinople from the port of Venice to get the patriarch's approval , but then received an invitation from the Pope).

On the way to Rome they made a short stop in the Balaton Principality of Prince Kocel in the summer and also taught some students there. In the autumn of 867 the brothers and their students arrived in Venice , where they had to defend the use of Old Church Slavonic as the liturgical language in front of a meeting of priests . In Venice, Constantine received the official invitation from Pope Nicholas I to Rome. This probably happened because he was carrying the relics of Clement I mentioned above and because he had friends in Rome (Bishop Arsenius).

Tomb of St. Cyrill in St. Clements Basilica in Rome.

In the winter of 867 they were solemnly received by the (new) Pope Hadrian II and their entire mission in Moravia was approved. At Christmas even the Bible translations were ceremoniously placed on the altar of St. Peter's Church in Rome and the translations of the liturgical texts on the main altar of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in order to symbolically show their acceptance by Rome. In February 868, Method and three students ( Gorazd, who comes from today's Slovakia, and the southern Slavs Kliment and Naum ) were ordained priests and two of them deacons in Rome .

In March 868, the Slavic liturgical language (Old Church Slavonic) was finally approved as the fourth language in the Western Church. This was an extremely important event, as it was not until the 20th century (ie more than 1000 years later) that a liturgical language other than Latin , Greek and Hebrew was allowed by Rome. In 880, however, the Slavic church language was again banned by Pope Marinus I.

At the end of 868 Constantine fell ill in Rome, became a monk in a monastery, where he probably took the name Kyrill (Kyrillos), and died in February 869. He was buried in St. Clement's Basilica in Rome. The assertion of the Translatio Clementis that Constantine was ordained bishop remains controversial .



Constantine developed the first Slavic alphabet, the Glagolitic script (Hlaholica, Glagolica, Glagoljica) especially for the Moravian mission . From this and mainly the Greek script, the Cyrillic script, which is named after him today, developed at the end of the 9th century .

In the Byzantine Empire, Constantine and Method translated some liturgical and biblical texts into Old Church Slavonic.

Translated for his mission Constantine the New Testament into a language he - probably from the nearest him standing Slavic dialect - also only construct needed and as today Altkirchenslawisch is known. Originally it was a Slavic dialect used in the Salonika region, but during the Moravian Mission it adopted many elements of the West Slavonic dialects spoken in that area. The version of Glagolica at that time also contains a letter (Laut dz), which at that time was only used in the dialects in what is now Slovakia. Since the Slavic languages ​​were still very similar at that time, Constantine chose the so-called Old Church Slavonic as the language to be used during his Moravian mission.

During the mission in Moravia, they then translated the entire Bible into Old Church Slavonic, but also a collection of laws (Nomocanon) and liturgical texts. You are considered to be the founder of Slavic literature.

Constantine's translations are creatively ingenious achievements and have a meaning for Slavic that is comparable to that of the Luther Bible for German .


Some Old Church Slavonic manuscripts contain texts that may have been written by Cyril

Own works

  • The Chersonese legend (ie “The speech containing a historical account on the transfer of the remains of the glorious Clement”), 2nd half of the 9th century, consists of the speech and the historical account found in a poorly preserved Church Slavonic translation (16th century) Century) of the original Greek text, which contained the three parts historica narratio (historical report), sermo declamatorius (speech given) and hymn (in honor of St. Clement).
  • Dispute about right faith with the Jews , 2nd half of the 9th century, translated by Method from Konstantin's Greek text, contained in abbreviated form in the Vita Cyrilli ( Life of Constantine ; dates from around 870, the oldest surviving version from the 15th century)
  • Proglas , 863–867, preface to thetranslation of theGospels, the first Slavic poem, for the references see above under Translation of the four Gospels
  • Praise in honor of St. Gregory of Nazianz , 2nd half of the 9th century, poem found in the Vita Cyrilli
  • Canon in honor of St. Demetrios of Salonika , 864–867, written by Method after some researchers, poem found in?
  • Prayer before death , 2nd half of the 9th century, rhythmic prose, contained in the Vita Cyrilli
  • Foreword to the Gospel Book , 2nd half of the 9th century, the first Slavic treatise on problems of translation and literary theory, a fragment of the Old Church Slavonic translation of the Greek original is in the Hilferding sheet from the 11th / 12th century. Century (Bulgaria) received
  • Written on Right Faith , 2nd half of the 9th century, tract, found in?
  • Alphabetical prayer , 2nd half of the 9th century, poem, sometimes ascribed to Constantine von Preslaw
  • Order of confession in the Euchologium sinaiticum (perhaps together with Method)
  • two prayers in the form of poems in the three Sinaier leaves in the Euchologium sinaiticum (Constantine's first attempts at poetry)
  • the Kiev leaves are sometimes ascribed to Constantine
  • the text of the Macedonian Cyrillic fragment is ascribed to Constantine

Remembrance day

The common feast day of Cyril and Method is February 14th , both in the Catholic as well as the Evangelical and Anglican churches. Orthodox memorial day is also February 14th (Kyrill alone) and May 11th (together with Method).

In the Catholic Church, the day is an Obligatory Day of Remembrance in the general Roman calendar . Since Pope John Paul II appointed Cyril and Method as patrons of Europe in 1980 , it is upgraded to a festival in the European regional calendars (e.g. in the regional calendar for the German-speaking area ) .

On July 5th, the day of their arrival in Moravia (863) is celebrated as a national holiday in the Czech Republic and Slovakia .

The May 24 in Bulgaria and northern Macedonia a national holiday dedicated to the two brothers. (The date corresponds to May 11 of the Julian calendar.)

See also


Web links

Commons : Saints Cyril and Methodius  - collection of images, videos and audio files