medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
The brothers Constantine and Methodius were among the seven sons of a Greek military officer at Thessaloniki and of a mother who is thought to have been Slavic-speaking. Constantine was the youngest: he received an advanced education in Constantinople, was ordained priest, and after service as chartophylax of Hagia Sophia taught philosophy at the school of the Magnaura. Methodius was a civil administrator in a Slavic-speaking area of Macedonia who in about 850 left his wife for a life of religion on Mount Olympus in Bithynia, where he eventually became hegumen of a monastery. In 861 Constantine was sent by the imperial government to the court of the Khazar khagan to represent Christianity in a debate that also included representatives of Judaism and of Islam; in preparation for this mission he studied Hebrew.
In 863 the emperor Michael III sent both brothers as missionaries to recently autonomous Moravia at the request of its ruler, Rastislav, who was attempting to shake off Frankish overlordship. In preparation for this endeavor Constantine developed the Glagolitic script as a vehicle for written Slavic and translated Greek liturgical texts, the Psalter, and the New Testament into a form of that language now known as Old Church Slav(on)ic. With the help of these and other vernacular materials the brothers together with several South Slavs including Sts. Clement of Ohrid and Naum of Preslav (or of Ohrid) organized a Moravian church. In 867 they were called to Rome to answer Frankish objections to their use of the vernacular. On this occasion Constantine brought with him the purported relics of pope St. Clement I (he is said to have obtained these in the Crimea while he was studying there in preparation for his mission to the Khazar court); these were ceremoniously enshrined by Hadrian II in Rome's church of St. Clement on the Caelian (now its basilica di San Clemente). Still in Rome, in 868/869 Constantine became a monk, taking the name Cyril by which he is generally known in the Roman church. He died a few months later and was buried in the aforementioned church of St. Clement.
Having obtained papal approval of his linguistic practices and having been consecrated bishop by Hadrian II in 869, Methodius returned to Moravia in 870 and resumed his work, only to be imprisoned for a few years by Frankish authorities after a change of local rulers. Pope John VIII got him freed but the price for this was the abandonment of his ecclesiastical use of Slavic in Frankish-dominated lands. Methodius died in 885. After their deaths he and Constantine probably were honored as saints by their missionary collaborators who, having been driven out of Moravia in 885 or 886, established themselves in Bulgaria and continued their work there. Constantine's and Methodius' joint feast on 11. May (Methodius' traditional _dies natalis_) is said to be first recorded in eleventh-century Bulgarian chronicles; their medieval veneration seems to have been very largely limited to Slavic lands (including some that were liturgically Latin: late medieval calendars of Prague and its suffragans in today's Czech Republic and Poland record the feast of Cyril and Methodius as occurring on 9. March -- the day under which, thanks to this veneration, they are to be found in the _Acta Sanctorum_). They are absent from the Synaxary of Constantinople and -- Prague and its suffragans notwithstanding -- they were not included in the Roman Martyrology when that was created in the later sixteenth century. In 1880 Leo XIII added Cyril and Methodius to the general Roman Calendar, fixing their feast day there as 14. February (Cyril's _dies natalis_ as given in his Latin Vita BHL 2073); a century later St. John Paul II declared them patron saints of Europe.
Some period-pertinent images of Constantine / Cyril and Methodius, Apostles to the Slavs:
a) Cyril and Methodius as depicted (one nimbed [presumably Cyril], one not [presumably Methodius], flanking a pope identified inscriptionally as Nicholas [i.e., St. Nicholas I, Hadrian II's predecessor) in a detail of a later eleventh- or very early twelfth-century fresco in what is now the lower church of Rome's basilica of San Clemente depicting the translation thither of the relics of pope St. Clement I:
b) Cyril and Methodius as depicted (flanking St. Benedict of Nursia) in a retouched, originally thirteenth(?)-century fresco (detached, ca. 1930) in the chiesa di San Pietro in Assisi (formerly the church of a Benedictine abbey):
c) Methodius as depicted (baptizing the Bohemian duke Boĝivoj I) in the fourteenth-century Velislav Bible (betw. 1325 and 1349; Prague, Národní knihovna Ceské republiky, ms. XXIII.C.124):
d) Constantine and Methodius as depicted (lower illumination) in the fifteenth-century Radziwi³³ Chronicle in the library of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg:
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