ΓΕΝΝΑΔΙΟΣ: к 70-летию академика Г. Г. Литаврина

Борис Николаевич Флоря (отв. ред.)


2. Great Moravia between Byzantium and the Latin West


Vladimír Vavřínek (Prague)



The first Slavic state which originated in the early ninth century north of the river Danube, on the territory occupied by today’s Czech and Slovak Republics, is generally called Great Moravia. The name is often interpreted - not only in Czech literature - as testifying to the size and power of the Slavic empire created there towards the end of the ninth century by the Prince Svatopluk. In actual fact, however, the name does not occur anywhere in period sources, either Old Slavonic or Latin. It was first used, and indeed created, only half a century later by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, to describe a territory situated outside the borders of the Byzantine Empire. In doing so, he proceeded entirely in accord with the spirit of classical ancient geography which would normally employ the adjectives megale (magna) or palaia, in denoting areas lying outside the territory of the Roman Empire, in contrast to those that were part of it and that were either characterised by the adjectives mikra or were listed without any attribute [1].


The above theory also corresponds to the picture of historical reality conveyed by surviving period sources. Extensive archaeological research carried out over the past four decades at numerous localities in Moravia and Slovakia has produced evidence of the advanced level attained by Great Moravian society in the sphere of material culture (Great Moravian jewellery in particular can be ranked without exaggeration among the most sophisticated objects of applied art dating from that time found anywhere in Europe) [2]. Moreover, it is well known from written sources, including notably those in the Latin language, that during the 870s and 880s Prince Svatopluk built a huge empire which occupied not only the entire territories of today’s Czech and Slovak Republics, but also Pannonia and Vistulania, and that apart from that he brought under his sovereignty a part of today’s Lusatia. It should be noted however, that his empire was very short-lived: after Svatopluk’s death it disintegrated and by the early 10th century the Moravian state proper collapsed totally - after an existence lasting a mere century -





under the onslaught of destructive Magyar raids. Were only its political history to be taken into account, Great Moravia would remain no more than a tiny historical episode that took place on the eastern border of the Frankish Empire, episode which would be reserved a maximum of one or two sentences in the historical handbooks [3]. What turned it into such a distinct and inomissible historical phenomenon, was the activity and cultural achievement of the Cyrillo-Methodian mission, which had a far reaching impact on the cultural - as well as in many respects, political - development of a large part of the Slavic world for centuries to come [4].


It is therefore all the more peculiar that the learned Byzantine emperor, who devoted several chapters of his work dealing with nations living in the neighbourhood of his empire, did not make a single mention of the mission; it would have seemed he did not in fact even know about its existence, as in one passage of his work he refers to Moravia as to a land so far unbaptized (abaptistos) [5]. The total silence of contemporary Byzantine sources about the mission, which happened to be one of the most important of its kind (at least judged from the point of view of their effect on subsequent historical development) ever to have been sent out by top representatives of the Byzantine church, must inevitably strike one as a very odd and hardly understandable paradox. But similar paradoxes were quite characteristic of the Cyrillo-Methodian mission’s history throughout its duration.


In that connection, the question necessarily arises of why exactly was the mission dispatched to Moravia. Archaeological finds have yielded irrefutable corroboration of the fragmentary evidence provided by written sources, to the effect that Christianity had already become widespread in Moravia before the arrival of the Byzantine mission [6]; while the existence of those sources was long known, much of the specialised literature on the subject would either explicitly put their credibility in doubt, or would at least set little store by their relevance. Archaeological discoveries made over the last few decades, including most particularly finds of over twenty stone ecclesiastic buildings, of which at least some had been constructed as early as the first half of the 9th century, however, not only provided reliable evidence of the truthfulness of the reports on pre-Cyrillo-Methodian Christianity in Moravia, but also gave substance to deliberations on the actual period which witnessed the spread of Christianity in Moravia, on where missionaries active there had come from and to some extent even on the form of the earliest ecclesiastical organization [7].





It is beside the point and scope of the present paper to deal with these issues in any detail. Suffice it therefore to sum things up and say it can nowadays be regarded as virtually proven that the Christianization of Great Moravia linked up closely with the mission of Bavarian bishops in Pannonia at the turn of the eighth and ninth centuries, organized in connection with the annihilation of the Avar Empire by Charlemagne’s armies; and that essentially it represented an extension and continuation of that mission. It also seems probable that during the early 830s Moravia became a missionary region within the authority of the Bishop of Passau who actually built the first ecclesiastical organization (an archpresbyteriate) on its soil. Moreover, a hypothesis was put forth claiming that the first ones to spread Christianity in Moravia were Irish-Scottish monks; however, it has become obvious that such theory has no corresponding foundation in either written sources or archaeological finds, and consequently it has been refuted by the majority of scholars [8]. What happened in Moravia was a typical case of “Christianization from above”, relying on the prince and the ruling echelons of society. This is clearly documented, among other things, by the practice of building churches on the premises of central castle forts which constituted bastions of princely power; apart from them, however, evidence has been produced of the existence there of proprietary churches, such as those documented by written sources related to the Pannonian principality of Pribina and Kocel [9]. That was a characteristic feature of the contemporary Frankish ecclesiastic practice which spread with the action of the Bavarian missions to the two neighbouring Slavic principalities.


Simultaneously, another hypothesis appears to be highly probable: namely, that participating in the Christianization of Great Moravia were, apart from Bavarian clergy, also missionaries from northern Italy and Dalmatia subordinated to the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Aquileia [10]. If Constantine’s biographer notes that “Latin and Frankish archpriests and priests with their disciples” were active in Moravia at the time of Constantine’s arrival (VC 15), then perhaps it may really be understood in the literal sense, i. e., that those were two separate, albeit closely collaborating, groups of clerics of different origins. In any case, though, by around the midninth century a preponderant part of Great Moravian society, including notably its ruling strata, had already been Christianized. While what was concerned there was probably hardly more than rudis adhuc christianitas, raw unsophisticated Christianity, as it was characterised by the acts of the Mainz Synod of 852 [11],





none the less in the light of this discovery one has to ask why it was that in the early 860s the Moravian Prince Rastislav sought so desperately new missionaries for his country.


The traditional explanation, one which is still today standardly repeated, namely, that Rastislav turned to Byzantium because he was hoping to obtain from there missionaries capable of preaching the Christian faith to the Moravians in their own tongue, as stated in VC 14, however, will not hold water, either. It has been ascertained that ever since Alcuin’s time the Frankish church, too, had pointed out the necessity for missionaries active in heathen lands to expound the principles of the Christian faith in the vernacular languages [12]. And if it was universally required that all newly baptized persons should learn by heart at least the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, then it was also explicitly permitted, for instance, by the statutes of the Synod of Mainz of 813, that those unacquainted with the Latin language could learn them in their respective mother tongue [13]. And there is evidence that such practice has been enforced also in the newly converted Slavic lands. The so-called Freisinger Denkmäler were recorded only in the 11th century, but it was proven that they contain texts that were translated into the Western Slavonic dialect as early as the pre-Cyrillo-Methodian era [14]. And notwithstanding the fact that those texts were translated in the milieu of Bavarian clergy probably mainly to cater to the needs of the mission active among the Slavic inhabitants of Pannonia, there is no doubt that they - or at least some of them - were also used in Moravia. So much has been attested to by an ancient translation of the confessional prayer from a model that was very close to the Old Bavarian confessional prayer, translation which has survived in one of the earliest literary relics written in the Glagolitic script, the so-called Euchologium Sinaiticum. The explanation of that can hardly be other than that the Cyrillo-Methodian mission took over an earlier text, one which had already been translated and used in Moravia before the mission’s arrival - and that, moreover, there were doubtless more than just that one particular text [15]. If, then, Western missionaries in Moravia used the local language, there was no need to look for other missionaries elsewhere for that specific purpose. That the language issue was not the motif underlying Rastislav’s decision is also proven by the fact that he initially turned with his request to Rome, to Pope Nicholas I - as documented in the bull Gloria in excelsis Deo issued by the latter’s successor Hadrian II [16] - whence he could not have possibly expected to receive missionaries versed in a Slavonic language.





The activity of the Cyrillo-Methodian mission to Great Moravia was inseparably linked with the creation of Slavonic alphabet and literature, and with the introduction of Slavonic language into the liturgic practice. This is taken for granted in specialized literature, as there prevails a general belief that Byzantium, unlike the Latin West, encouraged the emergence and development of national cultures based upon literatures written in local vernacular, and that Byzantine missions normally used those languages even for liturgic purposes. Some time ago I tried to prove that the above theory, however widespread it might be, did not correspond to historical reality, but rather amounted to the transposition of a practice normal during the early Christian era, that had been still characterized by some degree of cultural pluralism, into the period of the climax of Byzantine power and civilization, when Greek intellectuals would have been characterized more likely by feelings of their own cultural superiority coupled with an arrogantly condescending attitude towards anything that was not Greek [17].


It is true that in the Eastern Christendom many peoples actually did use their respective national languages in ecclesiastic practice, including even the liturgy. Those, however, were introduced only during the late antiquity, and it did not happen in consequence of Rome’s official church policy. Their emergence was simply the outcome of Christianity’s natural evolution in areas which already had ancient cultures of their own. In Constantinople itself voices that would have approved of the employment of national languages, were utterly exceptional. From the sixth century on the Greek language come to assume an entirely exclusive position. It was at the early stages of the rule of Justinian I that we hear of an attempt at translating the Bible into a barbaric language at the last time. Nor was that, however, the product of an official mission, either, but a thoroughly private initiative of a solitary enthusiast.


When, in the ninth century, the missionary activity of the Byzantine church gained renewed momentum, the process did not entail the least sign of Greek missionaries’ making any attempt in their work to make use of the indigenous languages. Very much on the contrary, as Byzantine armies reconquered the territories in Greece that had been occupied by Slavs in the seventh century, Christianization became the crucial vehicle of their hellenization policy aimed at incorporating them as firmly as possible into the administrative system of the Byzantine Empire [18].





Nor, for that matter, was the point ever raised of the possibility of using a Slavonic language in the missions dispatched by Fotius in the 860s - i. e., at the time of the Cyrillo-Methodian mission’s activity in Great Moravia - to the Bulgarians and Russians. The project for providing the Slavs with literature in their own language, to translate the Scriptures and other writings into that language, and eventually - in what represented an act of substantially higher order - to introduce the Slavonic language into liturgy and to chant in it the canon portion of the Mass, represented something that was in its time decidedly new, even revolutionary. What was concerned was not the application of the standard Byzantine missionary practice in a new milieu; and nor by any means could such a project have been the subject of a request made by a Slav prince whose country had only just experienced its first encounter with the rudiments of written culture which had moreover thus far been made accessible to a mere handful of members of his immediate entourage, while he himself was in all probability unable to either read or write. Most definitely, the project was the invention of Constantine-Cyril and his brother Methodius who were probably inspired in its formulation by the cultural traditions of the early-Christian East. The implementation of that programme on the territory of the Byzantine Empire and/or in the limitrophe regions to which the Empire laid claim, however, was out of the question. If it is to be believed that the Emperor and the Patriarch did authorize it, as is claimed in VC 14, then it must have been solely owning to the fact that the two brothers intended to carry it out in distant Moravia which was situated far beyond the borders of the sphere of Byzantium’s power interests.


The true reason why the Moravian Prince turned to Byzantium with a request for missionaries, resided in the domain of church politics. Rastislav, who had been planted on the Moravian princely throne by Louis the German, managed within a short period of time to extricate himself from Frankish domination; he defeated Frankish armies in several military confrontations, and on the political level, asserted his de facto independence. In ecclesiastic terms, though, his country continued to be subordinated to the Bishop of Passau. To make his independence complete, to render his country truly autonomous in that sphere as well, he needed that it should be given its own ecclesiastic organization, that Moravia should obtain a diocese of its own, headed by a bishop independent of the Bavarian episcopate. That was the inevitable prerequisite of his own international recognition; only provided that could he aspire to being acknowledged as an equal member of the “family of rulers” [19].





He initially turned with his request to Rome, to Nicholas I. Only after the latter’s refusal did he send his envoys to Constantinople. That he indeed sought the appointment of a bishop for Moravia is clearly evidenced by the concluding words of his letter to Michael III, as recorded in VC 14: “...send us, then, My Lord, such bishop and teacher...”.


Surely, the Moravian delegation must have generated quite a surprise in Byzantium. Until then Moravia had been a terra incognita to the Byzantines. None of the surviving written sources suggests the existence of any form of previous contact between the two parties. Neither does an earlier layer of archaeological finds from the period of Great Moravia, which is dated to the first half of the ninth century, point to any influence by Byzantine culture. The Eastern imports it does contain are sporadic, and what more, the majority of them appear to have reached Moravia by indirect routes [20].


As it were, the request delivered by Moravia’s envoys for the sending of missionaries could not be turned down. The spreading of the Christian faith was no less than a duty of the Emperor; besides, of course, the unexpected opportunity for expanding Byzantine influence to a new country, was also highly attractive, all the more so as it might serve as an outpost for further pressures to be put on Bulgaria which was situated at the forefront of Byzantium’s power interests (one has to bear in mind that the Moravian emissaries arrived in Constantinople before the baptism of the Khan Boris). Still, the request for the sending to an unknown country, about which they had no detailed information, of no less than a bishop, must have struck the Byzantine authorities as absurd. That was also why they first dispatched - after all, in conformity with the standard Byzantine missionary practice - only a team of clerics among whom were just a few priests, yet whose leading members, Constantine the Philosopher and his brother Methodius, had already before shown outstanding diplomatic skills. Their task apparently was to carry out a reconnaissance of the situation, prepare indigenous disciples for future ordination, and possibly create conditions for Moravia’s subsequent ecclesiastic organization [21].


It is not the aim of the present paper, nor is it within the limits of its apportioned space, to give a full account of the history of the Cyrillo-Methodian mission, so well known and so many times described anyway. I only wish to point out the single fact that in the end it - or, more precisely, Methodius, who stood alone at the head of the mission after Cyril’s death at the beginning of the year 869 -





did manage to meet the request made by the Moravian prince: namely, Moravia became an autonomous archidiocese, a step which entailed the explicit sanctioning of Svatopluk’s sovereignty as an autonomous ruler not subordinated to any other secular overlord [22]. In what was one of the paradoxes so typical for the history of the Cyrillo-Methodian mission though, that this goal was achieved under thoroughly different circumstances and in an entirely different political context than had been anticipated at the time of its dispatch. Moravia’s ruler had won the recognition of his sovereignty not thanks to assistance from the Byzantine Emperor, but as a result of accepting patronage of the Holy See; Moravia had not been brought into the sphere of Byzantine political and cultural influence; on the contrary, the Moravian archdiocese, whose establishment had been the key motif of Rastislav’s request addressed to Byzantium, was set up not by the Patriarch of Constantinople, but by the Pope of Rome who appointed Methodius - the Byzantine mission’s moving spirit - apostolic (i. e., his own) legate for the Slavic lands.


To be sure, moreover, all of that took place at a time of the first major rift between the Eastern and Western parts of the Christian world. Constantine-Cyril had been in his youth a member of the intellectual circle around the future Patriarch Photius, and later on remained his ardent albeit critical supporter and friend (he was referred to as fortissimus amicus Photii by Anastasius Bibliothecarius, a leading representative of the papal curia) [23]. Obviously, Photius also substantially influenced the emperor’s decision to pick none other than Constantine and Methodius for the Moravian mission. The two brothers had set out on their journey to Moravia immediately before the outbreak of an open rift between the Byzantine Patriarch and the Pope, and they left Moravia by the time the dispute was reaching its climax. The question therefore imposes itself of whether their turn towards Rome ought to be understood as a betrayal of Byzantine interests, a switch to the side of the adversary of their own Emperor and Patriarch who sent them to the foreign land in the interest of the Byzantine Empire, and who had been their friend. I believe, though, that thus posed the question would be utterly without substance; that Constantine and Methodius understood their mission in entirely different categories.


According to what information is available from Old Slavonic as well as Latin sources, after more than three years of activity in Moravia, in early 867, the two brothers left the country with a view to having their Slavic disciples ordained priests. Where exactly they wanted that to take place, however, is not known.





There is no reason to doubt that upon the completion of their mission they would have intended to return to Byzantium and continue to live at their monastery. Yet it remains obscure whether they would have also wished to take their disciples along to Constantinople to have them ordained there and whether their plans for that were eventually frustrated only by the news of the coup at the Byzantine imperial court and the consequent unseating of the Patriarch Photius, on 23 and 24 September, 867. A hypothesis has been put forth according to which they might have striven to obtain their goal from the Patriarch of Aquileia whose clergy also had a share in the Christianization of Moravia [24]; that theory, however, loses ground in view of the fact that those clerics showed no less animosity towards the Slavonic liturgy than did their Bavarian counterparts. Besides, it cannot be said with certainty whether the eventual decision to go to Rome was indeed made solely in response to the invitation of Pope Nicholas I extended to the two brothers at the very final stage of the former’s pontificate, shortly before his death in late 867. There, any answer remains purely in the realm of a more or less substantiated hypothesis, bound to be confronted with a variety of negative arguments.


Thanks to works by Francis Dvornik published more than half a century ago, it is now known that what was at the root of the conflict between the Holy See and Byzantium, was a dispute about jurisdiction over the one-time Roman Illyricum [25]. At the forefront of interest as the main bone of contention was the obedience of Bulgaria, Rome’s ancient province of Moesia; after the Byzantine missionaries’ arrival in Moravia, though, and notably after they extended their scope of action to Kocel’s principality as well, the Holy See also had to take into account the question of Pannonia which used to be part of the then defunct archdiocese of Sirmium. Likewise, Cyril and Methodius doubtless came to realize in the course of their three years in Moravia that the country found itself within the sphere of interest of the Western patriarchate, even though perhaps from the point of view of canon law any claims on it might be open to theoretical debate. In particular, however, it apparently became obvious to them that the Moravian prince’s ambitions in the sphere of church policies could be asserted, given a sturdy opposition on the part of the Latin clergy and Bavarian episcopate, solely with the help of the Holy See. And that was most likely the ultimate reason why they eventually opted for the journey to Rome.


Recognition of the Holy See’s sovereignty over Moravia became the crucial element of Methodius’ way of administering his archdiocese;





he would seek - and find - the Pope’s support in his disputes with the Frankish clergy; and on the Pope’s commission - as an apostolic legate - he would act in his diplomatic functions, whether they were carried out in the interests of the Moravian prince or those of the Papal curia itself. Methodius’ devotion and loyalty to the Holy See also earned him repeated praise in John VIII’s correspondence, including letters addressed both to the Prince of Moravia and to Bavarian bishops.


Fully corresponding to that practice on the theoretical plane was the acknowledgement of papal primacy in the whole church, which is explicitly manifested at various places in the Old Slavonic Lives of Constantine and Methodius [26]. Accordingly, besides the term papež (or papa), these texts also denote the Pope as apostolik (an expression that we do not find anywhere else in the Old Slavonic literature). What is concerned there, however, is no random alternation of two expressions but two precisely differentiated terms: while the word papež is used in the general sense, the term apostolik is assigned in each of two Vitae exclusively to the particular Pope who happened to be in office and therefore exercised his apostolic powers at that particular time [27]. In VM the recognition of the papal primacy is also manifested by the identification of the Pope of Rome with St. Peter. This is expressed most eloquently in VM 8, where Hadrian II declares he is sending Methodius to all Slavic lands, as a teacher “from God and the Holy Apostle Peter, the first successor and keeper of the keys to the heavenly kingdom”. And the Pope’s supreme position in the church is pointed out with particular emphasis in the introductory passage of VM, where in the survey of the six ecumenical councils the Pope of Rome is invariably quoted in the first place, with the Byzantine Emperor coming behind him, a practice completely different from the standard Byzantine pattern of drawing up similar lists, one which, in terms of sheer consistence, even beat analogous Roman surveys that we read in the Liber diurnus.


However, by no means did the recognition of papal primacy imply the assumption of an anti-Byzantine attitude. Unambiguous evidence to that effect is once again supplied by the Old Slavonic Vitae. At various places, they contain different formulations of the Byzantine political theory which purported to substantiate the Byzantine Emperor’s supremacy over the entire Christendom by identifying the Byzantine Empire with the Kingdom of Christ [28]. While in dealing with the Arabs Constantine claims that “from us” (i. e., from the Byzantine Empire) originated all the arts,





in VC 145 Rastislav for his part acknowledges that from Byzantium a “good law would always spread to all lands”. In the disputation with the Arabs the Byzantine Empire is declared the heiress of the Roman Empire, and in the following passages the Khazars twice explicitly acknowledge that the authority of the Byzantine Emperor derives directly from God. The Byzantine political theory is duly reflected also in the use of respective titles. Thus the expression cěsar (or car), as the equivalent of the Greek basileus, is reserved among the secular rulers exclusively for the Byzantine Emperor, while the Frankish ruler is denoted as kral (corresponding to the Greek rex), and the Slavic princes are referred to by the term knęz. What we have here is an exact analogy with the hierarchy of the system of rulers’ titles as it was understood by the Byzantine political theory [29]. In accord with that, also in the list of ecumenical councils the individual Byzantine Emperors are characterized by honorary titles which are once again exact equivalents of respective Greek titles: čestnyi - sebastos, bogougodnyi - theoprepes, pravověrnyi - orthodoxes. As for the claim that the Emperor’s authority derives from God, it is based on two quotations from the Bible which form the central pillar of the Byzantine theories, and to which the use of the word cěsar in VM assigns the quality of specific reference to the person of the Byzantine Emperor. VM 5: boga boitesę, cěsarę čьtěte (“Fear God, honour the Emperor” - I Peter. 2,17); VM 13: jakože jestь prisno vъ rucě božii cěsare sьrdьce (“The king’s heart is always in the hand of the Lord” - Prov. 21,1) [30]. The apologetic tendency of VM - based among other things on the premise that Methodius acted always in the interests of indigenous Slavic princes and with the approval of the supreme secular rulers - culminates in the description of Methodius’ visit to Byzantium, where the Emperor and the Patriarch alike reportedly sanctioned both his ecclesiastic practice and the introduction of Slavonic liturgy.


The motifs and intentions underlying the request and dispatch of the Cyrillo-Methodian mission were preponderantly political and led to conflicts of diverse political interests in the course of the mission’s work. The Moravian prince wished to achieve political independence for his country; back in Byzantium, it was hoped the mission would be instrumental in expanding the sphere of Byzantine cultural and political influence; and for his part, the Pope of Rome sought ways and means of restoring the western patriarchate’s jurisdiction over the territory of the former Illyricum. Constantine and Methodius eventually succeeded in fulfilling the aspirations of the Moravian ruler without impairing their relations with their old country,





and at the same time acquired, regardless of their own Byzantine background, recognition and support for the Moravian prince from the Pope of Rome, notwithstanding the fact that just a few years before the latter had adopted a negative if not downright hostile attitude towards the former. They were able to achieve that only thanks to the fact that in the period of the struggle for power between Rome and Constantinople they stayed aside the two super-powers’ disputes, and instead devoted all of their energies to service in the interests of the nation to which they had been sent. Notwithstanding the schism in the church, which was culminating precisely at the time of their activity in Moravia and which threatened to divide Christian Europe into Orthodox East and Latin West, they were imbued with the spirit of early- Christian universalism, and acted throughout the duration of their mission as representatives of a sole and undivided church.


It was also in that spirit they conceived and carried out their cultural project which earned them a place in history: a Slavonic literature based on an alphabet of its own. They were convinced that a true independence could be attained only by a people which had its own culture that it consciously developed, or in their words, “which praised God in its own tongue” (VC 14). None the less, they did not conceive the Slavonic literature as a mere adaptation of Greek literature, on which it was, however, naturally based. In their view it was just to lay the foundations to an autonomous Slavonic culture which would duly link up with its models, but develop further in a creative process, like - if I may use such a haughty comparison - a younger sister alongside the mature Greek and Latin culture [31].


In implementing their project Constantine and Methodius showed a unique measure of impartiality and tolerance. They tuned their work thoroughly to local conditions, and strove to incorporate within it everything that had already been established in Moravia before their arrival. Accordingly, they adopted existing Slavonic terminology that had originated on the basis of Latin and Old High German, even though they certainly already had other equivalents available in their own vocabulary. Despite the fact that their own work naturally consisted in translations from Greek, translations from Latin were also produced within the circle of their literary school, and they themselves did not hesitate to employ texts that had been obtained earlier on by translation from Old High German. They would substantially modify their translations of the Byzantine legal codes so that they might be better suited to local conditions [32], and even in translating liturgical texts they would aspire to achieve a





synthesis of Byzantine and Roman liturgies [33]. Above all, though, they strove for the Slavonic language to become the vehicle for original works. In the end that ambition materialized: the Old Slavonic Lives of Constantine and Methodius, written still in Moravia, rank alongside the supreme products of hagiographic writing of their time [34]. The ultimate goal envisaged by Constantine and Methodius was the creation of a Slavonic culture which would absorb impulses from various sides, yet would apply its own ways of treating and reshaping them in pursuit of its own original idiom. By that kind of tolerance and broadmindedness they outreached by far the intellectual patterns characteristic for their contemporaries in the West as well as in Byzantium where even the leading spirits of the day were incapable of shedding the prejudice of the total superiority of Greek culture over the “barbarian” rest of the world.


It is then hardly surprising that the Prince Svatopluk was unable to realize the far-reaching implications of such a cultural project, all the less so as the Slavonic liturgy, which did not cease to be the target of intrigues and attacks mounted by the Frankish cleargy, constituted a permanent source of strife in the Moravian church. As is known from John VIII’s letter of 880, Svatopluk himself, and with him many of his magnates, rather inclined towards the Latin liturgy. As it were, Svatopluk was eager to emulate in every respect the Frankish ruler from whose domination he had released himself. Naturally, he was also interested in the existence of an autonomous Moravian archdiocese, yet he did not show particular concern for that institution’s Slavonic character. Rather, he would have found that to be a nuisance. Accordingly, after the death of the Archbishop Methodius, he showed considerable willingness in yielding to pressures from the part of the Latin clergy that were moreover encouraged by the new Pope, Stephen V, who adopted a stand on that issue which was diametrically opposed to the policy of his predecessors. Therefore, Svatopluk banned the Slavonic liturgy in his country, and expelled Methodius’ disciples.


This brings us to the last and perhaps most striking of all the paradoxes surrounding the activity of the Cyrillo-Methodian mission. The lands in which Constantine-Cyril and Methodius had been personally involved and for whose sake primarily they had created a Slavonic literature, were to develop from the late ninth century onwards permanently within the cultural sphere of the Latin West. The fruits of the Cyrillo-Methodian mission’s cultural work were passed on to become the heritage of the South Slavs as well as, later on, the East Slavs.





It found the most fertile ground among the Bulgarians who welcomed Methodius’ expelled disciples with particular warmth. In the South Slavic milieu, however, the Cyrillo-Methodian cultural heritage underwent a substantial transformation. On the one hand reception of Old Slavonic as the official state language in Bulgaria definitely contributed in crucial measure, most notably in the aftermath of the uprooting of the first Bulgarian czardom, to adverting that country’s progressive Hellenization, a fate that was actually met by the Slavs settled on Greek territory. On the other hand, however, Slavonic literature, which Constantine had conceived to give impetus to autochthonous creativity, was somewhat reduced in Bulgaria to become largely a channel for the reception of Byzantine civilization. In Bulgaria literary output in the Slavonic language reached an amazing scale, with a huge quantity of literary works from various genres having been translated there from the Greek; original production, though, was by then already very modest indeed. There, the use of the Slavonic literary language, which had been intended to become a starting point for an autonomous creative development, finally led more than anything else to a state of isolatedness from all Western cultural trends and influences. In the ecclesiastic sphere the impact of that eventually came to be felt with particular force during the great schism in the church in the 11th century, in the form of Bulgaria’s unilateral alignment with Byzantine Orthodoxy. Thus it happened that the Slavonic literature and Slavonic liturgy created by Constantine and Methodius as a means of development of an autochthonous culture by the Slavs in Moravia, in the end acquired a different role, as the most efficient instrument of integrating the South Slavs, and later on also the East Slavs, into the spiritual sphere of the Byzantine civilization; and as a means of setting up that remarkable commonwealth of Slavic nations linked by the bonds of the Orthodox creed, which Sir Dimitri Obolensky so fittingly called “The Byzantine Commonwealth”.





1. Dostálová Růžena. Megale Moravia // Byzantinoslavica XXVII. 1966, p. 344-349.


2. Dekan J. Moravia Magna - The Great Moravian Empire, Its Art and Time, Bratislava, 1980 (178 plates in colour, 8 black-and-white and a number of reproductions within the text); Grossmähren und die Anfänge der tschechoslowakischen Staatlichkeit. Prague, 1986 (esp. the contributions by J. Poulík, В. Chropovský and Z. Klanica); Galuška L. Velká Morava. Brno, 1991.


3. The history of Great Moravia that would correspond to the present state of knowledge is still to be written. Very useful remains Novotný V. České dějiny. T. I, Praha, 1911.





From the more recent literature see e. g. Havlík L. E. Morava. Vol. 9. a 10. století. Praha, 1978.


4. Modern literature on the Cyrillo-Methodian mission is immeasurable. The last synthesis (with a rich bibliography) is Dvorník F. Byzantine Missions among the Slavs. New Brunswick, N.-J. 1970. See also Vavřínek V. Církevní misie v dijinách Velké Moravy. Praha, 1963.


5. De administrando imperio / ed. G. Moravcsik, R. J. H. Jenkins, Washington, D. C., 1967, p. 176.


6. All written sources concerning Great Moravia have been collected in: Magnae Moraviae fontes historici, I-V / ed. L. E. Havlík et alii. Brno, 1966- 1977 (further: MMFH).


7. Vavřínek V. Die Christianisierung und Kirchenorganization Großmährens // Historica VII. Praha, 1963, p. 5-56.


8. The theory of Christianization of Great Moravia by Irish-Scottish monks was elaborated and proposed by Cibulka J. Velkomoravský kostel v Modré u Velehradu a začátky křestanství na Moravé, Praha, 1958. Cf. my polemic against Cibulka’s theory Vavřínek V. К otázce počátků christianisace Velké Moravy // Listy filologické, vol. LXXXII. 1959, s. 217-224. Cibulka himself later admitted that what he had considered to have been traces of the activity of Irish-Scottish monks might have been brought to Moravia by Bavarian priests amongst whom some of Irish traditions might have been surviving even long after the Bavarian church had given away the Irish type of ecclesiastical observance.


9. Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum / ed. H. Wolfram. Wien, 1979.


10. Vavřínek V. Předcyrilometodéjské misie na Velké Moravé // Slavia, 32. 1963, s. 465-480; Zagiba F. Die Misionierung der Slaven aus “Welschland” (Patriarchat Aquileja) im 8. und 9. Jahrhundert // Cyrillo-Methodiana. Zur Frühgeschichte des Christentums bei den Slaven 863-1963, hrsg. von M. Hellmann u. a., Köln, 1964, S. 274-311.


11. MMHF, IV, p. 34.


12. Alcuini epist. 99, 107, HO, 11, 113 - MGH Epist. IV, p. 143-144, 153-166; MGH Leg. II/1 Nr. 22, p. 52-62; MGH Conc. II/1, Nr. 20, p. 173-176; cf.: Vavřínek V. Die Christianisierung..., S. 9 ff.


13. MGH Conc. II/1, Nr. 36, cap. 45, p. 271-272.


14. The latest critical edition: Brižinski spomeniki. Znanstvenokritična izdanja. Ljubljana, 1993.


15. Isačenko A. V. Začiatky vzdělanosti vo vel’komoravskej riši, Turčiansky sv. Martin. 1948.


16. VM 8; “You had asked for a teacher not only from this Holy See, but also from the pious Emperor Michael and he sent you the blessed Philosopher Constantine before we managed to”.





17. Vavřínek V. The introduction of the Slavonic liturgy and the Byzantine missionary policy // Beiträge zur byzantinischen Geschichte im 9-11. Jahrhundert, hrsg. von. V. Vavřínek. Praha, 1978, p. 255-281. A revised version of this article in Russian: Вавжинек В. Культурные и церковно-политические предпосылки возникновения славянской литургии // Хиляда и сто години от смъртта на Методий. Кирило-Методиевски студии 4. София, 1987, с. 130-137. Cf.: Ševčenko I. Three Paradoxes of the Cyrillo-Methodian Mission // Slavic Review, vol. 23. 1964, p. 220-236; Obolensky D. Cyrille et Méthode et la Christianization des Slaves // Idem. Byzantium and the Slavs. London, Variorum Reprints, 1971.


18. Obolensky D. The Byzantine Commonwealth, Eastern Europe 500-1453. London, 1971, p. 69 ff.


19. Vavřínek V. Die historische Bedeutung der byzantinischen Mission in Großmähern. S. 250 ff.


20. Vavřínek V., Zástěrová В. Byzantium’s Role in the Formation of Great Moravian Culture // Byzantinoslavica, vol. XLIII. 1982, p. 101-184.


21. One can compare this situation with the Christianization of Bulgaria see: Dvorník F. Les Slaves, Byzance et Rome au IX-e siècle. Paris, 1926, p. 184 ff.


22. The bull of John VIII “industriae tuae” issued in June 880: Nam divina gratia inspirante contemptis aliis seculi huius principibus beatum Petrum apostolici ordinis principem vicariumque illius habere patronum et in omnibus adiutorem ac defensorem... elegisti” - MMFH III, p. 201-202.


23. Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio / ed. J. D. Mansi, Florentia, XVI, 5.


24. Vavřínek V. Staroslověnské životy Konstantina a Metodíje. Praha, 1963, s. 37 ad.


25. Dvorník F. La lutte entre Byzance et Rome à propos de l’Illyricum au IXe siècle // Mélanges Charles Diehl. Paris, 1930, p. 61-80.


26. Vavřínek V. Staroslověnské životy..., p. 82 ff., 108 ff.


27. Kurz J. Patriarcha, císař a papež v životě Konstantinové a Metodějově // Sborník Franku Wollmanovi k sedmdesátinám. Praha, 1958, s. 22-34.


28. The basic work on Byzantine political ideology still remains: Treitinger O. Die oströmische Kaiser und Reichsidee nach ihrer Gestaltung im höfischen Zeremoniell. Darmstadt, 1956, S. 161 ff. Studies by various authors on this topic were collected by H. Hunger and O. Kresten in the volume: Das byzantinische Herrscherbild. Darmstadt, 1975.


29. Vavřínek V. “Ugъrъskyi korolь” dans la vie vieux-slave de Méthode // Byzantinoslavica, vol. 25, 1964, p. 201-209.


30. Anastos M. V. Political Theory in the Lives of the Slavic Saints Constantine and Methodius // Harvard Slavic Studies, vol. 2, 1954, esp. p. 14 ff. and. 34 ff.





31. Vavřínek V., Zástěrová В. Byzantium’s Role..., p. 186 ff.


32. See the thorough studies by J. Vašica on “Zakon sudnyi ljudem” and Methodius’ Nomokanon published as introductions to his critical editions of the two texts in MMFH IV. Brno, 1971, p. 147 ff. and 205 ff., which are probably the best what has been written till now on the earliest Slav legal codes. Cf. also: Zástěrová В. Über zwei grossmährische Rechtsdenkmäler byzantinischen Ursprungs // Beiträge zur byzantinischen Geschichte im 9-11. Jh., hrsg. von V. Vavřínek. Praha 1978, S. 361-385.


33. Vašica J. Literární památky epochy velkomoravské 863-885. Praha, 1966, the chapter on the liturgical work of the “Apostels of Slavs”, p. 33 ff.; Konzal V. Die Entwicklung der byzantinischen Liturgie und die Slawen Beiträge zur byzantinischen Geschichte, S. 283-299.


34. See my book: Vavřínek V. Staroslověnské životy Konstantina a Metoděje. Praha, 1963.


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