Rastislav (Moravia)

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Rastislav (also Rastiz , Rostislav , † after 870 in Bavaria ) from the Moravian ruling dynasty of the Mojmiriden , was the prince ( dux ) of Moravia from 846 to 870 . In contemporary sources he is also referred to as a small king ( regulus ) and a unique king ( rex ).

Originally appointed as a Moravian vassal prince by the East Franconian King Ludwig the German , Rastislav began in the 850s, taking advantage of the internal Franconian conflicts, with a consistent policy of independence from Eastern Franconia. As a result, he rose to a largely independent ruler of European importance. In order to strengthen Moravian independence, he strove to create his own Moravian archdiocese, independent of the Bavarian clergy. In 863, on Rastislav's initiative, the Byzantine scholars Constantine and Method came to Moravia, who built up a Moravian church organization with the Slavic church language . In 870, a Moravian- Pannonian archbishopric was founded by Pope Hadrian II , who appointed Method as its archbishop.

After Rastislav was overthrown in the same year by his nephew and co-regent Svatopluk I and extradited to the East Franconia, Ludwig the German had him blinded after a trial and locked in a Bavarian monastery, in which Rastislav died at an unknown time. In 1994 Rastislav was canonized by the Czech-Slovak Orthodox Church , therefore he is also called Saint Rastislav ( Slovak : Svätý Rastislav , Czech : Svatý Rostislav ) in Slovakia and the Czech Republic .

Career and assumption of power

Rastislav was a nephew of the Moravian prince Mojmir I (around 830-846). Nothing is known about his life before 846, but it is conceivable that he previously acted as a hostage for Mojmir I at the court of the East Franconian King Louis the German . According to another thesis, Rastislav was Moravian part prince of Nitra before 846 . According to the later unproven traditions of Tomáš Pešina z Čechorodu , Rastislav is said to have been the son of a certain Boso. Pešina also states that Rastislav is said to have had a brother named Bogislav and a Dalmatian princess named Miloslava as his wife.

In the middle of August 846 Ludwig the German moved with an army against the Moravians and installed Rastislav as the new vassal ruler, from whom he expected loyalty, a large number of hostages and annual tribute payments. The exact background for the Bavarian invasion of Moravia - whether there had been a Mojmir rebellion or unrest in succession disputes after Mojmir's death or whether the move of the East Franconians simply pursued power-political intentions - is controversial among historians. Ludwig's trust in Rastislav initially seemed well founded, as there were no reports of a Moravian rebellion for the next 8 years.

Prince of Moravia (846–870)

Consolidation of rule

Approximate borders of Moravia under Prince Rastislav.
Fragments of the Valy castle complex near Mikulčice , which is often identified as the seat of the Moravian ruler.

After Ludwig the German installed him as his vassal in 846, Rastislav felt safe enough from the early 850s to contest Franconian supremacy. For the period of his reign, Rastislav repeatedly allied himself politically with opponents of Ludwig. In 852 he granted exile to a certain Albgis in Moravia, who had previously been exiled by Ludwig the German for adultery. In the year 853 the Bulgarians, together with the “Slavs”, undertook a raid in eastern Franconia, in which the Moravians apparently also took part. A year later, in 854, Rastislav supported the rebellion of the Prefect of the Bavarian East , Ratpot , against Ludwig the German. By 855, Rastislav also annexed the area between the Dyje and the Danube and territories of eastern Slovakia to his state, where Moravian fortresses were built during this time.

After Ratpot was deposed, Ludwig personally took control of the Baier Ostland and began his second invasion of Moravia in 855 to subdue the rebellious Rastislav. The campaign failed, however, due to an unusual system of ramparts used by the Moravians, who are referred to in the Annales Fuldenses as Moravian "civitates e castella". Modern archaeological excavations confirm that 9th century Moravia had more than 30 fortified centers. These ranged from smaller fortresses protecting the Moravian borders to large, centrally located fortified towns. The largest and best developed Moravian fortress was excavated near Mikulčice on the March . Since Ludwig could not subjugate Rastislav, he withdrew with his army and plundered from Moravia. The Moravians counterattacked, crossed the Danube and also plundered several Bavarian cities near the border.

Sovereign ruler

Historians assume that Rastislav was de facto a sovereign ruler after 855, since at least the West Franconian annals of St. Bertin began to refer to him as "king" and thus saw Rastislav as the ruler of a de facto independent state. Due to his defeat in Moravia, Ludwig was forced to transfer control of the Baier Ostland to his son Karlmann in 856 . According to the records of Johannes Aventinus , in the years 856 and 857 unsuccessful fights between Karlmann and the Moravians followed. Rastislav also granted refuge to the Bohemian prince Sclavitag , who had previously rebelled against the Franks without success. In the year 858, however, Karlmann and Rastislav made peace with each other and allied against King Ludwig the Germans. Karlmann now began the systematic removal and expulsion of all princes in the eastern areas and replaced them with his own loyal followers. In 860, Karlmann openly rebelled against his father when, in addition to his territories, he also claimed half of Bavaria . With the support of Rastislav's warriors, he succeeded in occupying Bavaria as far as the river Inn . In return, Karlmann withdrew his protection from the Pannonian prince Pribina , who then died in the fight against the Moravians. Rastislav had reached the height of his power and had become an important political figure in Europe.

The place "dowina" mentioned in the annals of Fulda in 864 is often identified with the Devín castle in today's Slovakia .

In order to enforce the independence of Moravia on the ecclesiastical level, Rastislav turned to the Pope in Rome and asked him for his own bishop, in order to remove the Moravian Church from the control of the East Franconian Church. After the Pope had refused this out of consideration for the Franks, Rastislav sent a request to the Byzantine Emperor Michael III in 862 . with the request to send scholars and a bishop to Moravia who could bring the Moravians the Christian faith in their own Slavic language. Byzantium initially refused to send a bishop, but sent the scholars Cyril and Method to Moravia, who arrived in 863 with the Old Slavic language they had codified . In the same year Ludwig the German entered into an alliance with the Bulgarian Khan Boris I , moved with an army against his son Karlmann in Carinthia and subjugated him. Rastislav did not help his ally Karlmann, possibly because he felt threatened because of the false reports spread by Ludwig about a Bulgarian-Franconian attack on Moravia.

The East Franconian attack on Rastislav's Moravia followed a year later in August 864. Ludwig planned to carry out the invasion together with his new ally Khan Boris I, and secured the support of the Pope for this. Although the Bulgarian military canceled his participation in the operation at the last minute, Ludwig managed to secure a significant victory over Rastislav. Ludwig led a large army across the Danube and besieged Rastislav in the fortress "Dowina" (often identified with the Devín Castle in today's Slovakia ). Unable to escape the Frankish siege, the latter capitulated and was forced by Ludwig to hand over a large number of high-ranking Moravian hostages to Ludwig. In addition, Ludwig was not satisfied with Rastislav's oath of allegiance, but also demanded it from Rastislav's Moravian magnates , who must have played a large part in the government.

Rastislav, however, continued his anti-Frankish policy even after his defeat in 864. Relations with Byzantium and also the Byzantine mission in Moravia remained unaffected, although they were one of the main reasons for Ludwig's invasion. Rastislav continued his alliances with the neighboring Slavic tribes, especially with the Sorbs and Czechs , in order to strengthen himself politically and to make it difficult for Ludwig the German to intervene more decisively against himself.

Church and cultural policy

Main articles: Cyril of Saloniki , Method of Saloniki and Old Church Slavonic language

Emperor Michael III. In 863 he complied with Rastislav's request and sent Byzantine "scholars" to Moravia.

Historians see the mass baptism of the Moravians in 831 by the Passau bishop Reginhar as the first big step towards the Christianization of Moravia, which still took place under Prince Mojmir I. In the year 852, however, a synod in Mainz described Moravian Christianity as "unfinished", especially with regard to its organization. The priests working in Moravia were of different origins, most of them Bavarian, but also some Italian and Greek, which did not contribute to the unity of church practice and teaching. There weren't even enough priests to meet the growing needs of the Moravian state. The historian Dušan Třeštík judges that Rastislav therefore decided to unite and subordinate this multicultural conglomerate of priests in order to create its own "regional church" independent of the Franconian bishops.

Ultimately, Rastislav strove for its own archdiocese . This goal could not be achieved immediately, but only step by step. First of all, the country had to have a sufficient number of believers. A unanimous agreement in church practice and teaching had to be established among them and a uniform organization created. Then it would be possible to appoint a bishop for the country who would primarily consecrate churches and priests. As a final step, the Pope would then be able to appoint an archbishop. As a first step, Rastislav began with the order of the Moravian Christianity found. For this purpose, Rastislav first turned to the Pope in Rome before 863 and asked him to send a number of "teachers". However, since Pope Nicholas I was dependent on an alliance with Rastislav's enemy Ludwig the German at this point in time, he did not respond to his request.

In the year 862 or 863 (the sources allow both dates) Rastislav addressed the Byzantine emperor Michael III with the same request for Christian "teachers" after he had consulted with his Moravian magnates at a meeting . This responded to Rastislav's request and sent the brothers Constantine (later Cyril) and Method with a small retinue to Moravia. Constantine was a gifted scholar and linguist and professor of philosophy at the Imperial University in Constantinople . His brother Method had made a career as the Byzantine governor of a Slavic principality. Both had already gained diplomatic experience as mediators between Byzantium and the Khazars . In 863 Rastislav received the two brothers in Moravia and allowed them to teach in his country.

Over the next three and a half years, Constantine and Method trained a remarkable number of local priests in Moravia with the support of Rastislav. The company benefited from the fact that the brothers decided to teach the would-be Moravian priests in their native Slavic language . For this they had created their own alphabet, the so-called Glagolitic script , which was based on the Greek alphabet . Constantine and Method translated parts of the Bible ( Gospels , Acts and Psalms ) as well as the required liturgical texts ( Credo and prayers) into Slavic. In addition, they wrote the Zakon sudnyj ljudem, a short legal book, the oldest Slavic legal monument. The use of the Slavic language in church liturgy gave both of them a special advantage over the Baier priests, who celebrated their masses in Latin and had only limited knowledge of the Slavic language.

Constantine and Methodius bring the body of Saint Clement to Rome to Pope Hadrian II (fresco in the San Clemente , 11th century.)

The two Slav apostles had to justify themselves in Rome because of the accusation of heresy raised by their Bavarian competitors , which was justified by the use of a non-canonical language. On the journey undertaken in 867 they did missionary work in the sub-Pannonian principality of Kocels and after their arrival in Rome they were able to obtain the recognition of the Slavic liturgical language by Pope Hadrian II and in 868 the appointment of Methodius as papal legate of Moravia and Pannonia. While Constantine died in a Roman monastery under the monk's name Kyrill in 869, Methodius traveled to Mosapurc-Zalavár, from where Prince Kocel sent him back to Rome with the order to be consecrated as bishop. With Methodius' elevation to Archbishop of Sirmium in 870, the establishment of an independent Marian-Pannonian ecclesiastical province directly subordinate to the Curia was connected.

End of rule

Excavated foundations of an unfortified settlement near Staré Město

The mission of the two had profound implications for the further cultural development not only in Moravia, but in the whole of Eastern Europe. Above all, Method earned merit in the training of students and the ordination of Slavic priests who held the first masses in the Old Slavonic language in the empire .

In February 868, Method and three students ( Gorazd from Slovakia and the southern Slavs Kliment and Naum) were ordained priests in Rome and two others were ordained deacons. In March 868, the Pope finally allowed the Slavic liturgical language ( Old Church Slavonic ) as the fourth language in the Western Church, alongside Latin , Greek and Hebrew - a license that no pope gave for another language until the 20th century. Constantine died in Rome in February 869.

In Moravia, meanwhile, after another - and unsuccessful - East Franconian attack, Rastislav handed over the principality of Nitra (ie the whole of East Greater Moravia) to his nephew Svatopluk I of Nitra as a fiefdom. In fact, the Moravian Empire was divided into two parts. Both Rastislav and Svatopluk then had to repel further attacks in 868 and 869. In 869, Ludwig the German attacked again. He came back to Rastislav's fortress and was again unable to conquer it.

Around the same time (beginning of 870) the Pope appointed Method, who had returned to Moravia in 869, at the suggestion of Koceľ as Archbishop of Pannonia and Moravia, thereby removing it from the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Bavaria. The first Slavic archbishopric was established in Moravia, and Method was its first archbishop.

In 870 Svatopluk allied itself with the East Franconian Empire and recognized the East Franconian sovereignty over his principality Nitra. Rastislav responded by attempting the murder of his nephew. However, this was able to capture Rastislav and handed him over to the East Franconia in November 870. Rastislav was brought to justice and sentenced to be dazzled . He was then imprisoned in Bavarian monasteries (together with Archbishop Method, who was captured on the way from Rome to Moravia in the spring of 870 on the orders of Bavarian bishops) and died after 870.

After his death, disputes over power began in the Moravian Empire. Svatopluk presented his claims, but Ludwig was the rule over Slovakia the East Frankish Margrave Wilhelm II. And Engelschalk I. .


Idealized representation of Prince Rastislav with Kyrill and Method (Anselm Wisiak, 1863)
Icon with modern depiction of Prince Rastislav as an Orthodox saint
Modern statue of Prince Rastislav in Devín (Ľudmila Cvengrošová, 1988).

Eric J. Goldberg judges Rastislav in connection with the judgment of the Mainz Synod of 852 that Moravia is dominated by "raw Christianity":

“But far from being a“ raw Christian ”, Rastislav was a civilized and wise Slavic prince who had all the outward signs of a Christian kingdom at his disposal. Although the burgeoning Moravian Church had been founded by Baier missionaries, Rastislav was able to legitimize his rule, make himself king, and form wide-spread alliances with other Christian rulers against the East Frankish king. Ludwig couldn't afford an independent Slavic kingdom to develop in his backyard. Rastislav had to be brought under control. "

In 1994 Rastislav was canonized by the Czech and Slovak Orthodox Churches in Prešov .


  • Lubomír E. Havlík: Kronika o Velké Moravě [Chronicle of Great Moravia]. Jota, Brno 2013, ISBN 978-80-8561-706-1 .
  • Author collective: Na písme zostalo. Documenty Veľkej Moravy [ Remained on the writing. Documents of Great Moravia]. Perfect, Bratislava 2012, ISBN 978-80-8046-594-0 .


German and Austrian research

American research

  • Paul M. Barford: The Early Slavs. Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY 2001, ISBN 0-8014-3977-9 .
  • Charles R. Bowlus : Franks, Moravians, and Magyars. The Struggle for the Middle Danube, 788-907. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia PA 1995, ISBN 0-8122-3276-3 .
  • Eric J. Goldberg: Ludwig the German and Moravia. A study of the Carolingian border wars in the east. In: Wilfried Hartmann (Hrsg.): Ludwig the German and his time. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2004, ISBN 978-3-534-17308-2 , pp. 67–94 mgh-bibliothek.de (PDF; review )
  • Eric J. Goldberg: Struggle for Empire: Kingship and Conflict under Louis the German, pp. 817-876. Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY 2006, ISBN 978-0-8014-3890-5 .
  • Richard A. Fletcher: The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity. H. Hold & Co, New York 1998, ISBN 0-8050-2763-7 .
  • Alexis P. Vlasto: The Entry of the Slavs into Christendom. An Introduction of the Mediaval History of the Slavs. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2009, ISBN 978-0-521-10758-7 .

Czech research

  • František Graus : Dux-rex Moraviae. In: Sborník prací Filozofické Fakulty Brnenské Univerzity C , Vol. 9, 1960, pp. 181–190.
  • František Graus: The nation-building of the Western Slavs in the Middle Ages (= Nationes. Historical and philological studies on the emergence of European nations in the Middle Ages. Volume 3). Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1980, ISBN 3-7995-6103-X
  • Lubomír E. Havlík: Život a utrpení Rostislava, krále Moravanů [Life and Sorrows of Rastislav, King of Moravians]. In: Moravský historický sborník - Ročenka Moravského národního kongresu. Brno 1995, ISBN 80-7028-010-7 .
  • Lubomír E. Havlík: Svatopluk Veliký, král Moravanů a Slovanů [= Svatopluk the Great, King of the Moravians and Slavs]. Jota, Brno 1994, ISBN 80-85617-19-6 .
  • Václav Richter: The Beginnings of Great Moravian Architecture. In: Magna Moravia. Praha 1965, pp. 121-360.
  • Dušan Třeštík : Počátky Přemyslovců. Vstup Čechů do dějin (530-935). [= The beginnings of the Přemyslids. The Entry of the Czechs into History (530–935)]. 2nd edition, Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, Praha 2008, ISBN 978-80-7106-138-0 .
  • Dušan Třeštík: Vznik Velké Moravy. Moravané, Čechové a střední Evropa v letech 791–871. [= The emergence of Great Moravia. Moravians, Czechs and Central Europe in the years 791–871]. 2nd edition, Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, Praha 2010, ISBN 978-80-7422-049-4 . (Standard work on the prehistory, formation and development of the Moravian state up to 871)

Slovak research

  • Miroslav Lysý: Titul mojmírovských panovníkov. [= The titles of the Mojmirid rulers]. In: Historia et theoria iuris. 2013, Edition 5, No. 1, p. 24.
  • Miroslav Lysý: Mojmírovská Morava na hraniciach s impériom [= Mojmirid Moravia on the borders of the empire]. In: Forum Historiae , 2014, Volume 8, No. 2, pp. 98–129.
  • Matúš Kučera: Postavy veľkomoravskej histórie [= shaping of Great Moravian history]. 4th edition, Perfect, Prešov 2013, ISBN 978-80-8046-632-9 .
  • Ján Steinhübel: The Great Moravian dioceses at the time of Mojmírs II. In: Bohemia 37 , 1996, pp. 1–22
  • Ján Steinhübel: The church organization in Neutra around the turn of the millennium. In: Bohemia 40 , 1999, pp. 65-78.
  • Ján Steinhübel: Nitrianske kniežatstvo. Počiatky stredovekého Slovenska [= The Principality of Nitra. The Beginnings of Medieval Slovakia]. Rak / Veda, Bratislava 2004, ISBN 80-224-0812-3 . (Standard work of the Slovak perspective)
  • Tatiana Štefanovičová: Osudy starých Slovanov [= fate of the ancient Slavs]. Osveta, Martin 1989, OCLC 21336284 , detailed description of the archaeological development of the Moravian Empire , Slovak - with a Russian, English and German summary.

Individual evidence

  1. Rastislav adheres to modern Slovak spelling, which is also the name variant most frequently used in German-language specialist literature. The modern Czech variant is Rostislav . In contemporary sources: Latin : Rastiz , Rasticius , Resticius , Greek : Rasisthlabos , Old Slavic : Ростиславъ , scientific transliteration Rostislavъ
  2. ^ A b Goldberg: Struggle for Empire , p. 140.
  3. Kirschbaum: Historical Dictionary of Slovakia , p. XXV.
  4. Havlík: Kronika o Velké Moravě , p. 112.
  5. The Old Slavic sources consistently use the title "кнѧзь" or "княз" ( Knes ) for the title of the Mojmirid rulers of Moravia , which has also been handed down with the Arabic paraphrase "k.náz". Greek sources translate the Knesen title uniformly with "ἄρχων" ( Archon ), while the title is inconsistent in the Latin sources. The titles “ dux ” and “ rex ” dominate, rarely “ regulus ”, “ princeps ” and unique “ comes ”. The extent to which the old Slavic Knesen title corresponds to the modern titles of prince, duke or king is controversial among historians, but the term "prince" tends to be preferred. In the pre-state period, the West Slavic tribes had not just one, but several knees, in contrast, in Moravia after Mojmir I. there was still only one knees. - In: Miroslav Lysý: Titul mojmírovských panovníkov , pp. 24–33; František Graus : Dux-rex Moraviae , pp. 181–190; Sommer et al: Great Moravia .
  6. Třeštík: Vznik Velké Moravy , pp 150-151.
  7. ^ Goldberg: Struggle for Empire , pp. 242-243.
  8. ^ Havlík: Kronika o Velké Moravě , pp. 118-120.
  9. ^ Třeštík: Počátky Přemyslovců , p. 273.
  10. Třeštík: Vznik Velké Moravy , p 163
  11. ^ Goldberg: Struggle for Empire , pp. 243-244.
  12. Havlík: Kronika o Velké Moravě , pp. 120–121.
  13. Goldberg: Struggle for Empire , pp. 245–246.
  14. Třeštík: Vznik Velké Moravy , S. 166 u. 178; Vlasto: The Entry of the Slavs , p. 26.
  15. Třeštík: Vznik Velké Moravy , S. 166th
  16. ^ Goldberg: Struggle for Empire , p. 246.
  17. Třeštík: Vznik Velké Moravy , S. 177th
  18. Třeštík: Vznik Velké Moravy , S. 178th
  19. ^ Goldberg: Struggle for Empire , p. 263.
  20. ^ Goldberg: Struggle for Empire , pp. 270-271.
  21. Třeštík: Vznik Velké Moravy , S. 183rd
  22. Goldberg: Struggle for Empire , pp. 271-273.
  23. ^ Třeštík: Počátky Přemyslovců , p. 279.
  24. Havlík: Kronika o Velké Moravě , p. 156.
  25. ^ Třeštík: Počátky Přemyslovců , p. 278.
  26. ^ Vlasto: The Entry of the Slavs , p. 24.
  27. Třeštík: Vznik Velké Moravy , pp. 117–121.
  28. ^ Třeštík: Počátky Přemyslovců , p. 273.
  29. a b Třeštík: Počátky Přemyslovců , p. 274.
  30. Havlík: Kronika o Velké Moravě , p. 128.
  31. a b Třeštík: Počátky Přemyslovců , p. 276.
  32. ^ A b Goldberg: Struggle for Empire , p. 271.
  33. Hoensch: History of Bohemia , p. 36.
  34. Na písme zostalo , p. 101.
  35. ^ Hoensch: History of Bohemia. P. 36.
  36. ^ Goldberg: Struggle for Empire. P. 243.
  37. Jana Maříková-Kubková: The Slavs, Great Moravia to Us. P. 75, ISBN 978-963-9911-41-3 ( online )
predecessor Office successor
Mojmir I. Prince of Moravia
Svatopluk I.