Saints Cyril And Methodius
Saints Cyril and Methodius were two Byzantine brothers born during the 9th century in Thessalonica. They are credited with transcribing Old Slavonic, creating the Glagolitic alphabet, and spreading Christianity among the Slavic peoples of Bulgaria, Pannonia, and Great Moravia. The alphabet they devised is seen as the precursor to the Cyrillic alphabet—an alphabet that is still used in most Slavic countries. Due to their work in spreading Christianity among the Slavic peoples, they are often nicknamed “The Apostles to the Slavs.”
These two brothers are commemorated by different Saints Cyril and Methodius Day celebrations around the globe. In Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Russia, this holiday is observed on May 24th. In Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the holiday is observed on July 5th. It should be mentioned that these saints’ days are observed by the Eastern Orthodox Church on May 11th, and by the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church on February 14th. Western Christianity Lutheran Churches observe these brothers’ saint days on either February 14th or May 11th.
A Brief Summary of Saints Cyril and Methodius’ Life
The two brothers were born in Thessalonica—Cyril around 827-828 and Methodius around 815-820 AD. Cyril was born with the name Constantine, and Methodius was born Michael. They both changed their names after becoming monks—Cyril in Rome and Methodius at the monastery of Mysian Olympus in northwest Turkey.
In 862, the two brothers began the work for which they are currently credited. It was this year that Prince Rastislav of Great Moravia requested that missionaries be sent by Emperor Michael III and Patriarch Photius to evangelize the Slavic people. It’s unclear why the prince requested missionaries be sent, but it’s believed to have more political significance than a religious one. Rastislav’s people had already rejected paganism and embraced Christianity, so the move was more likely the result of the prince trying to distance his regime from the Franks. The Emperor chose Cyril and Methodius for the task.
After training assistants, Cyril and Methodius started translating the Gospels and other liturgical works into Old Church Slavonic. They then traveled to Great Moravia to promote it. Although they were at odds with German ecclesiastics who opposed the creation of a Slavic liturgy, they still enjoyed a measurable amount of success.
Their work was considered a great success as the Slavs took to liturgies performed in their native language better than those done in Greek or Latin. They became not only the fathers of Slavonic literary culture but were also revered by both Eastern Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church.
The Observation of Saints Cyril and Methodius’ Day
On July 5th, some Czech Roman Catholics gather at the Moravian town of Velehrad—the spot where Cyril and Methodius arrived in the Moravian Empire. In the Czech Republic, this holiday is known as Saints Cyril and Methodius Day or the Day of Holy Brothers. It is a holiday that is celebrated not only for its religious significance but also for its historical significance and, as such, is an important holiday in many countries.