Constantine/Cyril ( Thessalonica , 827 – Rome , February 14, 869 ) and Methodius ( Thessalonica , 815 – Moravia , April 6, 885 ) were two brother bishops who preached Christianity in the Slavic countries.
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- 1 Biographical synthesis
- 2 Lives of the Saints
- 3 Canonization
- 4 parties
- 5 The Cyrillic and Glagolitic alphabets
- 6 Fountains
Belonging to a senatorial family, they received a careful education, Constantine (Cyril) studied in Constantinople , where he held the position of librarian of the cathedral of Saint Sophia , while Methodius obtained the position of governor of the Byzantine province of Slavinia.
The Slavic states owe their very existence to Saints Cyril and Methodius, who created a common alphabet that made it possible to represent the sounds of local Slavic dialects in writing and to develop a standardized literary language – Old Slavonic.
Constantine (Cyril) and Methodius translated religious texts (selected Gospels, Epistles of the Apostles, and the Book of Psalms, among others) from Greek into Old Slavonic, thereby helping to introduce and expand Slavic services.
lives of the saints
Constantine (who was baptized Cyril 50 days before his death, 827-869) and Methodius (Mikhail, 815-885) were two brothers from a landed family of seven children from the city of Thessalonica , in the Byzantine Empire: Constantine was the the youngest and Mikhail, the oldest. Their origins are unknown: one version says that they were Slavs, another says that they were “proto-Bulgars”, that is, ancient Bulgars. A third version affirms that they were of Greek origin.
Whatever their roots, there is no doubt that from childhood they spoke several languages. At that time, Thessaloniki was the cultural center of Macedonia and a multicultural and multilingual city, where, in addition to the Greek language, the Proto-Slavic language was widespread, although it lacked written form.
Upon reaching the age of majority, Mikhail opted for a military career, and reached the position of stratego (general) of the Macedonian province of Slavinia. Meanwhile, Constantine received classes in Philosophy, Geometry, Rhetoric, Astronomy and foreign languages. Upon completion of his studies, he received orders and obtained a highly prestigious position: custodian of the library of the cathedral of Saint Sophia in Constantinople. However, after a while he preferred to retire and, leaving the post, he went to one of the monasteries on the Black Sea coast .
The ecclesiastical authorities could not be satisfied with such a decision and soon required him in Constantinople. They entrusted him with Philosophy classes at the same university where he had studied.
In 850 the Byzantine Emperor Michael III sent Constantine to Bulgaria on an evangelizing mission. In 851, Constantine moved to Miletus , a Greek city on the west coast of Anatolia (in present-day Aydin Province, Turkey ), to continue the same mission there.
In 855 , both abandoned public life, took orders (became religious), and retired to a monastery in Bithynia , from where they were sent to evangelize the Crimean Cathars . They learned their language and achieved many conversions.
For his part, Mikhail left his military career. In 856 a family friend who had helped him obtain the post of general was assassinated, and his ‘allies’ were persecuted. In order not to risk his life, Mikhail left his post and became a monk. He secluded himself in a monastery on Mount Olympus .
In 860 King Boris I of Bulgaria embraced Christianity and was baptized with the name of Mikhail and with it began the second stage of Constantine’s Bulgarian mission. That time he was already accompanied by his older brother.
In 862 Constantine (Cyril) and Methodius, supported by their disciples, composed an alphabet corresponding to the sounds of Slavic speech and translated numerous religious texts from Greek.
However, some experts believe that the apostles could not contribute as much to the spread of Christianity in Bulgaria, and that they did not compose the alphabet in the territory of that country either, since they would already be in charge of the Moravian mission at that time.
The mission in Moravia (region of the current Czech Republic ) was born as a result of the fact that in 862 the Moravian sovereign Rostislav sent his ambassadors to the Byzantine emperor, requesting that he send them teachers to instruct them in their native language in the dogmas of Christianity, which they already professed at that time. At the request of Prince Ratislaus , in 863 Constantine (Cyril) and Methodius went to Moravia , among whose inhabitants German missionaries were already working, albeit with little success. It should be noted that although they are sent by the Patriarch of Constantinople , the Patriarch of Rome ―with whom harmony reigned at that time― confirmed the appointments.
The great linguistic knowledge of the brothers will lead Constantine (Cyril) to end up inventing an alphabet for the transcription of the Gospels and liturgical books into the Moravian language , the one still used today by most of the Slavic languages, named not by chance ” Cyrillic”, work that he will carry out with the help of Methodius and with which they become not only evangelizers of the Slavs but also fathers of their language and their literature. They remained in Moravia for four and a half years, during which they aroused the misgivings of their German companions in the mission.
Summoned to Rome by Pope Nicholas I , upon their arrival in Rome they find him dead and are received by his successor, Hadrian II , who approves of their labors among the Moravians, sanctions the Slavic liturgy, and consecrates them bishops, a job Constantine (Cirilo) will serve for a short time as he will die 50 days later, being buried in the Church of San Clemente .
Hadrian II founded the Archdiocese of Moravia and Pannonia , based in Sirmium , making it independent of the German Church, whose first bishop would be precisely Methodius, who would still suffer the troubles of misunderstanding. Thus, barely a year later, the German bishops summon him to a synod in Regensburg where they depose him and lock him up in prison. Released by order of Pope John VIII , he will return to his diocese, from where he works in the evangelization of Bohemians and Poles .
Summoned back to Rome due to the accusations of the German Wiching , John VIII ratified the liturgy in Slavic, yes, decreeing that the Gospel be read in Latin in the churches before reading it in Slavonic.
Back in Constantinople, Methodius completes the translation of the Holy Scriptures , the entire Old Testament except for the Books of Maccabees , as well as the Nomocanon , that is, the code of Greek canon law.
In Moravia, Constantine (Cyril) and Methodius continued to translate church literature from Greek into Old Slavonic, taught the Slavs to read and write, and officiated in that language.
Constantine (Cyril) and Methodius traveled to Rome. On Christmas Day (December 25) 868 ―50 days before his death―, Constantine (42) became a monk of the order of Saint Basil and his name was changed to Cyril.
After the death of Constantine (Cyril) on February 14, 869 , Methodius continued alone with the mission. But the political situation in the region changed dramatically. A new sovereign came to power, Sviatopolk, who, under the strong influence of the German clergy, banned the Old Slavic liturgy.
Methodius was persecuted by the Latin German clergy and for three years he even remained “secluded” in a monastery. Between the years 881 and 883, Methodius resided in Constantinople invited by Emperor Basil I and later returned to Moravia. Among his most outstanding works of the time is the translation into Slavonic of the Old Testament of the Bible . He died in the village of Velehrad (in Moravia ) on April 6, 885 at the age of 70.
Pope Leo XIII canonized them in 1880 . They were known as the “apostles of the Slavs.” Leo XIII dedicated his encyclical Grande munus , dated September 30, 1880, to the brothers.
The Orthodox Church commemorates Saint Cyril on February 14 , while celebrating the feast of both brothers on May 11 .
The Catholic Church celebrated the festival of both on March 9, until Pope Pius IX moved it to July 5. On that date it is still celebrated today in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia , where it is a national holiday.
Pope Paul VI moved the party of both to February 14 (date on which the Orthodox Church commemorates Saint Cyril, while celebrating the two brothers on May 11).
Cyril and Methodius were elevated to “patron saints of Europe”, a category they share with Benedict of Nursia , appointed by Paul VI in 1964 and by John Paul II , who does so through the Apostolic Letter Egregiae Virtutis of December 31, 1980 with these words:
With our full knowledge and mature deliberation, with the fullness of the apostolic power, by virtue of this Letter and forever, I constitute and declare « heavenly co-patrons of all Europe with God Saints Cyril and Methodius
John Paul II
Cyrillic and Glagolitic alphabet
However, to this day specialists still do not agree on which of the two Slavic alphabets, Glagolitic or Cyrillic, was the one that Cyril composed. The two were distinguished exclusively by the stroke of the letters. For some time it was thought that the original alphabet was Cyrillic, while Glagolitic was a form of clandestine script, invented after the Pope in 885 prohibited the use of Old Slavic in religious services and later the Moravian authorities Cyrillic script was prohibited.
Currently, the version prevails that the Glagolitic alphabet was the original, while the Cyrillic one was created by the Bulgarian literary school: many scientists associate it with Saint Clement of Ojri, one of the disciples of the brothers Cyril and Methodius.