Cyril and Methodius(redirected from Saints Cyril and Methodius)
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Cyril and Methodius
Slavic educators, inventors of the Slavic alphabet, Christian preachers, the first translators of religious texts from Greek into Slavic. Cyril (c. 827-Feb. 14, 869), known as Constantine until he took the monastic habit in early 869, and his older brother, Methodius (c. 815-Apr. 6, 885), were born in the city of Thessaloniki (Solun) and were sons of a military commander.
Cyril was educated at the court of the Byzantine emperor Michael III in Constantinople, where one of his teachers was Photius. He was well versed in Slavic, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic. Declining the administrative career offered to him by the emperor, Cyril became the librarian of the patriarch and, later, a teacher of philosophy (for which he was nicknamed the Philosopher). During the 840’s he was successful in disputes with the Iconoclasts; during the 850’s, Cyril traveled in Syria, where he was victorious in theological disputations with the Muslims. Around 860 he was sent on a diplomatic mission to the Khazars.
Methodius began his career in military service early and for ten years was the administrator of a region inhabited by Slavs. Later, however, he withdrew to a monastery. Declining the rank of archbishop in the 860’s, he became abbot of the monastery of Polychronion on the Asiatic shore of the Sea of Marmara.
In 863, Cyril and Methodius were sent by the Byzantine emperor to Moravia to preach Christianity in the Slavic language and to help the Moravian prince Rostislav in his struggle with the German feudal lords. Before their departure, Cyril devised a Slavic alphabet and, with the help of Methodius, translated several liturgical works, including passages from the Gospels, Epistles, and Psalms, from Greek into Slavic. There is still no unanimity among scholars as to which alphabet he devised—the Glagolitic or what is called the Cyrillic—though most are of the opinion that it was the Glagolitic.
The preaching of the brothers in a Slavic language, understood by the local Moravian population, laid the basis for a national church, but it also aroused the ire of the German Catholic clergy. As a result, Cyril and Methodius were accused of heresy. In 866 or 867, at the summons of Pope Nicholas I, they traveled to Rome, stopping on the way in the Blaten Principality (Pannonia), where they also introduced the Slavic alphabet and liturgy. In Rome, Pope Adrian II, by a special decree, permitted them to continue their work. About this time, however, Cyril became seriously ill and died.
Methodius was made archbishop of Moravia and Pannonia, and in 870 he returned to Pannonia from Rome. The German clergy, however, anxious for revenge, managed by intrigue to have him imprisoned. After his release, Methodius continued his work in Moravia. From 882 to 884 he was in Byzantium. In mid-884 he returned to Moravia, where he undertook a translation of the Bible into the Slavic language.
The activity of Cyril and Methodius laid the basis for Slavic writing and literature. Their work was continued among the South Slavic nations by their pupils, who were driven from Moravia in 886.
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S. A. NIKITICH