Apostles of the Slavs; b. Thessalonica in the 820s.
1. The Byzantine Ch. and Empire in the 9th c. chose evangelization as the way to win the friendship and alliance of the Slavs (hitherto pagan), esp. of the Russians and Bulgarians threatening Constantinople and its territories. Cyril (Constantine; d. 869) and Methodius (d. 885), brothers of high rank and educ., were chosen for the task, the former as scholar and linguist, the latter as administrator. Cyril is reputed to have devised a Slavic alphabet, based principally on Gk. letters; he initiated tr. of liturgical as well as important theol. and legal texts into Macedonian Slavic (Old Church Slavonic). This became the basis of Slavic literature.
2. In the 860s, after bringing the Gospel to the Khazars, NE of the Black Sea, Cyril and Methodius went to the Bulgarians and to Great Moravia (see Czechoslovakia, 1, 2), whose prince Rastislav had asked Byzantine emp. Michael III (839867; emp. 842867) for Christian missionaries, in order to counteract Frankish influence by giving the people the Gospel and its ministry in their own language.
3. Cyril and Methodius' missionary work was favored by Rome, which approved the liturgy in the vernacular; after Cyril's death, Adrian II (792872; pope 867872) appointed Methodius abp. of Sirmium, with jurisdiction over Moravia, Pannonia, and Serbia. He was violently opposed by Frankish bps. and banned and imprisoned 870873. Appeals by John VIII (ca. 820882; pope 872882) secured his release and reinstatement. But subsequent intrigues (esp. after the death of Methodius) involving Franks, Magyars, and Moravians issued in the fall of Great Moravia by ca. 906907 and the end of Byzantine missions there.
4. Disciples of Methodius, driven out of Great Moravia, took refuge in Bulgaria, which became the seat of a flourishing Byzantine Ch. and culture that influenced Serbs, Russians, and Romanians; all these, with the Bulgarians, became Eastern Orthodox after the schism* bet. E and W, retaining the vernacular liturgy. The E Orthodox Slavs also retained an adapted form of Cyril's alphabet.
See also Bible Versions, H.
F. Dvornik, The Slavs: Their Early History and Civilization (Boston, 1956) and The Medieval Cultural Heritage of the Mid-European Area, Review of Politics, XVIII (October 1956), 487507. MSF
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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