Cyril and Methodius Route – Cultural Route of the Council of Europe

Cyrillo-Methodian cultural heritage

Theme of the Cyril and Methodius Route

The main focus of the Cultural Route of Saints Cyril and Methodius, also known as the Holy Brothers or Apostles to the Slavs, are cultural ideas and cultural content that the two brothers of Greco-Byzantine upbringing introduced during the mission they led primarily among the Slavs of Great Moravia from 863 to 868 (their mission activities also included the Slavs of the polity of Lower Pannonia). This initial period was followed by equally intense activities led by Methodius (after Cyril died in 869), and, after Methodius’ death in 885, by the two brothers’ direct disciples who, expelled from Great Moravia, spread the Cyrillo-Methodian legacy across the Slavic world.
The mission led by Cyril and Methodius was undertaken as a response from Byzantine Emperor Michael III to the request of Duke Rastislav of Great Moravia, with the main task of introducing an intelligible language for the sacred and public use in that Slavic polity, as well as of buttressing and strengthening Christian faith of their inhabitants.



Cyril and Methodius, however, did not only refine the Slavic vernacular (by supplementing vocabulary and grammar) to meet the needs of theological, philosophical, legislative, administrative, and literary discourse, but boldly went even further, with Constantine inventing a script tailored to fit the Slavic phonemic system, that is, the Glagolitic script. At the end of the 9th century, the Cyrillic script was created in the South Slavic lands, most likely in the Bulgarian Khanate. While Glagolitic script was still relatively widely used during the 11th century (especially within the Ohrid Literary School) from the 12th century onward the Cyrillic script prevailed, serving as the equivalent of the Greek alphabet for Slavs of the Eastern Rite, who lived in the civilizational and political environment of the Eastern Roman Empire. The Glagolitic script remained in use among Croatians, with the last Glagolitic text printed in 1927.

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Geographically speaking

The Mission and its cultural heritage was present over a rather large area. Great Moravia was situated primarily on the current territories of the eastern Czech Republic and western Slovakia, but also of Hungary and Austria. The Slavic polity of Lower Pannonia was located mainly in today’s Hungary, but also in parts of Croatia and Serbia. The life paths of Cyril and Methodius, before and during the Mission, also included regions currently within the borders of Greece and Turkey, Germany, Slovenia, Italy, Ukraine and Russia (in the territory of Crimea and historic Kievan Rus). Once Cyril and Methodius’ direct disciples were expelled from Great Moravia, Cyrillo-Methodian cultural ideas and contents spread among Slavs inhabiting territories that are currently part of Bulgaria, North Macedonia and southern Albania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and (including) Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania, the Republic of Moldova, and Poland. Today, if taken consistently, Cyrillo-Methodian heritage is present in all countries with Cyrillic script (those already mentioned, as well as Belarus, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, etc.).

Cyrillo-Methodian cultural heritage is identity-oriented

Cyrillo-Methodian heritage proved to have a long-lasting and productive role in the articulation of three aspects of Slavic identity, even during its initial period:

(Ethnic) cultural identity – primarily in contrast to the cultural/ethnic identity of Germans and Byzantines of the time,

(National) state identity – emancipation of the Slavic polities (primarily Great Moravia, but also Lower Pannonia) from Carolingian/Bavarian civil and church authorities’ ambition to dominate the newly arisen Slavic political quest for self-determination. Numerous places of interest and locations show the rich and diverse nature of the legacy of Constantine-Cyril and Methodius in all its manifestations – monuments of the cult of the Holy Brothers, secular expressions of respect for them, reflections on their work in the modern world.

(Religious/spiritual) Christian identity – the demand that Slavs receive religious education and form an ecclesiastical hierarchy in accordance with their specific identity (and not in the manner offered by the German or any other nationality’s missionary).

Cyrillo-Methodian heritage in the context of European values

1. Glagolitic script. Cyril, taking seriously both his missionary task and the fact that the Latin script was not suitable for writing down a Slavic language, constructed the Glagolitic script to fit the Slavic phonemic system.

2. Cyrillic script is based on the Greek uncial script, also taking into consideration the Glagolitic azbuka. From the 10th century onwards, along with the territory of what is today Bulgaria and North Macedonia, it has also spread to all the other countries of Orthodox background

Tangible heritage

1. Original documents in the (Old) Church Slavonic language and in the Glagolitic and (Old) Cyrillic scripts, as well as replicas/facsimiles of such texts/inscriptions.

2. Sites and artefacts of important events and stages in the lives of Cyril, Methodius, and their direct disciples, as well as of Glagolitic and Cyrillic literacy.

1. Cultural programmes and events, celebrations, and festivals, i.e. concerts of spiritual choral music, authentic so-called Glagolitic singing, the feast days of the Holy Brothers and other occasions of veneration. 

2. Educational programmes, such as workshops, schools, seminars, public lectures focused on passing knowledge of and about Glagolitic and Cyrillic script, as well as the Church Slavonic language, and pertaining to literature with the intent to pass Cyrillo-Methodian knowledge and skills on to present and future generations.