Member Episode 3 - Cyril and Methodius

St. Cyril and St. Methodius, brothers from Byzantine Thessalonica, are known to history as the Apostles to the Slavs and venerated throughout the Slavic world. Not merely missionaries, although they played a major part in bringing Christianity to the Slavs, what sets them apart is the role they played in the birth of Slavic literacy, and therefore the entire future of Slavic culture.

St. Methodius and his followers, a fresco in Macedonia.

The brothers led the Byzantine mission to Moravia, the first Slavic state to form and which would become for a while the most powerful state in central Europe.

Being from a region of the Roman Empire that had already experienced Slavic settlement, the brothers spoke Slavonic, but when the question arose of teaching the Moravians the true tenets of Christianity, they knew that would mean writing. But the Slavs did not have their own writing system, so should they use Greek or Latin like the Franks? No, thought St. Cyril, they should have their own alphabet like the other great nations of the world. And so he invented the glagolitic alphabet.


The brothers and their followers were soon hard at work translating scripture and church writings into Slavonic using the new script.

A Glagolitic illuminated book.

But as Slavic literacy spread, it became clear that some had already been trying to use Greek to transliterate Slavonic. So the brothers’ followers created a new script, Cyrillic, combining Greek and Glagolitic for a new alphabet that remains in use to this day.

An early Slavonic bible.

Later followers made further attempts to adapt Cyrillic for other languages. St. Stephen of Perm created the Old Permic alphabet for the Zyrians. 

As we shall see over the course of the podcast, the strength of the link between Orthodox Christianity and Slavic literacy would have a deep and long-lasting influence on the Russian worldview.

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