Saint Cyril

Saint Cyril (Sviatyi Kyrylo; secular name: Constantine), b 827 in Salonika, Greece, d 14 February 869 in Rome. Byzantine theologian, philosopher, and missionary. He learned Macedonian in Salonika, where his father was a governor. He was ordained in 848 and began his missionary work in 851. He traveled to the Arabs in the Near East (the so-called Saracen mission) and, with his brother, Saint Methodius, to the Khazars (860–1); they stopped in Chersonese Taurica, where they reputedly discovered a copy of the Scriptures and Psalms in the Rus’ language. There they also found what were believed to be the relics of Saint Clement I, which they later took to Rome. In 863 Cyril and Methodius traveled to Moravia at the invitation of Prince Rostislav and on the instructions of the Byzantine emperor Michael, in order to give the Slavic converts to Christianity a liturgy and scriptures in their vernacular. Cyril created the Glagolitic alphabet—the oldest Slavic alphabet—and proceeded to translate church books, beginning with the Scriptures. The language that he used (and, to a large extent, created to serve the translation needs) is now known as Old Church Slavonic; it consists of a mixture of Macedonian dialect and the language of Moravia's Slavic inhabitants. His work was acknowledged and praised by Pope Adrian II, at whose invitation the two brothers arrived in Rome in 867. There Cyril died, but his brother returned to Moravia to continue their missionary work.

Saint Cyril wrote a number of theological works in Greek, and possibly the Prohlas (Prefatory) poems to the Gospel, in which he defended the right of all peoples, Slavs in particular, to have a liturgy in their own language. The alphabet and the first Slavic literary language he created had a decisive influence on the development of Ukrainian writing, scholarship, and literature. Less attention has been paid by historians to the influence of Cyril and Methodius on Christianity in Ukraine, as their mission was restricted to the Moravian territory.

Ohiienko, I. Kostiantyn i Mefodii, ïkh zhyttia ta diial’nist’: Istorychno-literaturna monohrafiia, 2 pts (Warsaw 1927–8)
Nahaievs’kyi, I. Kyrylo-Metodiïvs’ke Khrystyianstvo v Rusi-Ukraïni (Rome 1954)
Ševčenko, I. ‘Three Paradoxes of the Cyrillo-Methodian Mission,’ SR, 23, no. 2 (1964)
Dvornik, F. Byzantine Missions among the Slavs (New Brunswick, NJ 1970)
Piffl-Perčević, T. Der heilige Method: Salzburg und die Slavenmission (Innsbruck–Vienna 1987)

G.Y. Shevelov

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