Cyril and Methodius, Saints

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Cyril and Methodius, Saints

Saints Cyril and Methodius (sĬr´əl; məthō´dēəs), d. 869 and 884, respectively, Greek missionaries, brothers, called Apostles to the Slavs and fathers of Slavonic literature. Their history and influence are obscured by conflicting legends. After working among the Khazars, they were sent (863) from Constantinople by Patriarch Photius to Moravia. This was at the invitation of Prince Rostislav, who sought missionaries able to preach in the Slavonic vernacular and thereby check German influence in Moravia. Their immediate success aroused the hostility of the German rulers and ecclesiastics. Candidates from among their converts were refused ordination, and their use of the vernacular in the liturgy was severely criticized. According to one source, when Photius was excommunicated by Rome the brothers were called there. Their orthodoxy was established, and the use of Slavonic in the liturgy was approved. Cyril died while in Rome, but Methodius, consecrated by the pope, returned to Moravia and was made archbishop of Sirmium. Despite the papal sanction the Germans contrived to have him imprisoned, and, though released two years later, his effectiveness appears to have been blocked. His last years were spent translating the Bible and ecclesiastical books into Slavonic. His influence in Moravia was wiped out after his death but was carried to Bulgaria, Serbia, and Russia, where the southern Slavonic of Cyril and Methodius is still the liturgical language of both Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. The Cyrillic alphabet used in those countries today, traditionally ascribed to St. Cyril, was probably the work of his followers. It was based probably by Cyril himself upon the glagolithic alphabet, which is still used by certain Croatian and Montenegrin Catholics. Feast: July 7.

See R. L. Wilken, Judaism and the Early Christian Mind (1971).

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