Saint Methodius

Saint Methodius (Sviatyi Metodii), b ?, d 885. Byzantine missionary. After joining the Byzantine imperial service, he governed a province with a large Slavic population (probably in Macedonia) before becoming hegumen of a monastery on Mount Olympus. He joined his brother Saint Cyril in 860 for a mission to the Khazars. On their return they visited Chersonese Taurica on the Crimean Peninsula, where they acquired the reputed relics of Saint Clement I, which they later took to Rome. In 863 the brothers began a mission to the Slavs of Moravia. Together with Cyril, Methodius translated many liturgical texts into the early form of Church Slavonic that Cyril had developed. The brothers traveled to Rome in 867 for an audience with Pope Adrian II. Cyril died while they were in Rome, but Methodius returned to his mission as papal legate to and then bishop of Moravia. His attempts to develop a separate Slavic (vernacular) church rite were opposed by the Frankish clergy and nobility, and Methodius was imprisoned for over two years. He continued his writings, however: he completed a biography of Cyril, translated the Old Testament, and composed a code of civil and ecclesiastical law based on a Byzantine model. Although he was eventually released, his missionary work did not survive in Moravia for long. His disciples were driven out by the Franks and took refuge in Bulgaria, where subsequently they were instrumental in the establishment of Christianity.

Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, as the ‘teachers of the Slavs,’ played an important symbolic role in the Ukrainian national awakening of the 19th century. One of the first organizations dedicated to the political and national revival of Ukrainians was the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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