Cyril vs. Methodius

Today, in the only Saturday match-up of Lent Madness, it's the Slavic Smackdown® as Cyril takes on Methodius. While much of the world is preparing for Valentine's Day (named for a confusing muddle of murky, martyred saints in ancient Rome), the church actually celebrates Cyril and Methodius on February 14, not Saint(s) Valentinus. So go ahead and cast your vote and then show your devotion to your "Valentine" by writing a love poem in Cyrillic or serving up a big bowl of borscht.

Yesterday, Absalom Jones defeated Matthias 82% to 18% (in other words, by A LOT--get it?) in the first genuine blowout of Lent Madness 2016. He'll go on to face the winner of Christina Rossetti vs. Joseph in the next round. Really, it's bad luck for Matthias. He certainly drew the short straw in the match-up calendar.

Tomorrow, enjoy Sunday (we highly encourage church attendance) and then be ready to go bright and early on Monday morning as Lent Madness returns with what should prove to be a hotly contested battle between Julian of Norwich and William Wilberforce.



Cyril was born in Thessalonica (located in today’s Macedonia) around 827. Educated in Constantinople, he studied theology, Hebrew, and Arabic and became a priest. He was sent on two missions to the Middle East. Cyril’s most influential mission took him and his brother Methodius to the Slavs of Great Moravia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia). Although missionaries from Rome had already evangelized Moravia, Prince Rastislav wanted to place his state firmly under the influence of the church in Constantinople.

To translate the Bible and the liturgy into the local language, Cyril and Methodius used a number of mostly Greek characters to create the Glagolitic alphabet. This was the first Slavic alphabet and is closely related to the more recent Cyrillic alphabet—named after Cyril. Using their new alphabet, Cyril and Methodius translated the Bible, the Slavic Civil Code, and possibly a Slavic liturgy. Cyril and Methodius were successful in converting many Slavs to Christianity and establishing the use of their alphabet; because of jurisdictional issues, they could not establish the Slavic liturgy without the pope’s approval.

Cyril and his brother traveled to Rome, where they were well received, in part because they brought with them some of Saint Clement’s relics. Pope Adrian II authorized the new Slavic liturgy, and Slavic priests were ordained and allowed to celebrate the liturgy in their native language. Cyril became a monk and died shortly afterward, in 869.

Along with his brother Methodius, Cyril is known as one of the two apostles to the Slavs. Celebrations in memory of these brothers are held across Eastern Europe every year.

— Hugo Olaiz



Quietly, and without any fanfare, Methodius helped shape Europe and Asia in ways that have often gone largely unnoticed by Western Christianity.

Methodius (Michael) was born to a Christian family in the city of Thessalonica in the early ninth century. Methodius was the eldest of seven brothers, and he either learned the Slavic language from Slav migrants in Macedonia, or possibly from his mother (who may have been a Slav).

After a brief career in the public sphere, Methodius entered a monastery at Mount Olympus (present day Uludağ). Eventually his youngest brother Constantine (later taking the name Cyril) joined Methodius at the monastery. From the monastery, the brothers set out on a series of missionary journeys.

They shared a passion to share the good news in the native language of the people to whom they were ministering, not relying solely on Hebrew, Greek, and Latin translations of the Bible. And so they set about translating portions of scripture into Slavic and to create a Slavic liturgy. To do this, they invented an alphabet unique to the Slavic tongue. The later evolution of this script is known as the Cyrillic Alphabet and is still widely used across Eastern Europe.

Cyril-methodius-smallWhile traveling and sharing the gospel, Methodius and Cyril created a code of law that is still in use to this day. The brothers also discovered the remains of Pope Clement I. They returned the earthly remains of Clement to Rome, where Methodius was ordained a priest by Pope Adrian II. Following the death of Cyril in Rome, Methodius continued the work of carrying the gospel to the Slavs.

Collect for Cyril and Methodius
Almighty and everlasting God, by the power of the Holy Spirit you moved your servant Cyril and his brother Methodius to bring the light of the Gospel to a hostile and divided people: Overcome all bitterness and strife among us by the love of Christ, and make us one united family under the banner of the Prince of Peace; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

— David Hansen

Cyril vs. Methodius

  • Methodius (65%, 4,567 Votes)
  • Cyril (35%, 2,504 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,071

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Cyril and Methodius: Cyril and Methodius depicted on a
Russian icon from 18th/19th century
"Saints Cyril and Methodius holding the Cyrillic alphabet,"
a mural by Bulgarian iconographer Z. Zograf, 1848, Troyan Monastery


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405 comments on “Cyril vs. Methodius”

  1. The first Feb 14 that rolled around after I started dating a scholar of Classics and Medieval Slavic, I received a lovely bouquet of roses with a card, "Happy Cyril & Methodius Day!"
    How could I help but marry this man?
    And every year, on Feb. 14th, we celebrate in their honor~ for us, their feast day is a commemoration of family love and unity.

    Let's just check the results before voting (you can by clicking on View Results)
    and keep them tied up all day.

    They could then advance together!
    Voting for whichever has fewer votes right now.
    C&M for the tie!!!

    1. What a lovely story! I shall follow your suggested voting strategy because these brothers worked together and should be remembered that way.

  2. Attempted to vote for Methodius because he is lesser known to those not in Eastern Europe. The Internet did not like my vote and it may have looked like two votes for Methodius. Please don't kick me out-- no voter fraud intended.

  3. Who is responsible for the match-ups this year? 30 lashes with a wet noodle to the SEC for pitting brothers against each other. We see too much of that in everyday life--especially in this election year. Posting from my moral high ground.

  4. As a 100% Slovak descent, I'm happy to see the Slavic Saints get their due recognition. Either outcome is a victory over Valentine, the feast day pretender. Now soothe your conflicted souls by listening to the Glagolitic Mass by renowned Slavic composer Leo's Janacek!

  5. Voting for Methodius because he had already started his mission so he helped Cyril along the way, kind of like the good samaritan. Go big brother

  6. Well, this is certainly the mistake in the Amish quilt that lets the devil out and shows that the SEC is NOT the all knowing, all powerful committee that they would like us to think they are. Cyril and Methodius -- they are like love and marriage, that go together like a horse and carriage -- you can't say one without the other -- as the two biographers for today show. Neither can tell the story of their biographee with out mentioning the other brother!
    What the biographer of Methodius does not mention is the illustrious and difficult career of Methodius after the death of Cyril in Rome c. 867 a.d. (he is buried in the Church of San Clemente in Rome, just up the street from the Colosseum). Methodius went back to Moravia and was persecuted for his work among the Slavs. Eventually, he came back to Rome and received the approval for the use of the Slavic Liturgy and Gospel translations from no less a luminary than Pope John VIII, who said, "It is a good thing that people should hear the Gospel and the Liturgy in their Native tongues," a citation preserved in the Church Slavonic Live of Methodius, though not, apparently, in the Vatican itself. Would that the Church had remembered these words when it came to Jan Hus and William Tyndale five centuries later. For further information on these two brothers, I suggest you consult Francis Dvornik's classic best selling history, "Byzantine Missions Among the Slavs."
    My wife and I solve the dilemma of voting by each voting for one of the brothers, who should never have been separated in this travesty of Lent Madness voting - certainly a nadir for the SEC from which we hope they soon recover.

    1. Thanks for this further illumination on Methodius. Fascinating!!! Can't believe that the See reversed its position on the use of non-Latin languages. How sad for those later linguistic pioneers.

  7. The SEC and/or today's Celebrity Blogger need a geography lesson. Thessalonica is most definitely not in "present day Macedonia." The city, properly called Thessaloniki, remains where it has always been, in Greece. It is the capital of Greek Macedonia, a region of the Greek Republic.

  8. This was hard, as the work of the two brothers seem inseparable. However, I voted for Cyril for two r reasons: Since the alphabet they devised took the name of Cyril, it would appear to me that he was the more influential. Also (and this is almost as bad as casting lots) I have no Michaels in my immediate family whereas I have 3 Cyrils. Good a reason as any in this most unfair matchup.

  9. It's tough to choose between brothers, but today my daughters and I all chose Methodius, because he continued to share the gospel even after his beloved brother passed away. I love that the brothers served God together!

  10. These biographies give us precious little to separate the two brothers, so I resorted to an outside source in order to make my final decision. My vote goes to Cyril for his work as a scholar and missionary to the Middle East.

  11. Toss-up, really. Where is the SEC Rulebook on instances such as this? I mean, c'mon, who made the first - and last - down in this showdown? I voted for Methodius because, after all, there is something to be said for persistence over long-er time. By the fact that the Cyrillic alphabet and code are known to even this woeful historian of ancient times, gave me pause. Always for the undersog, however. Plus, Methodius, stayed in the Slavic area and was now wooed to reside in Rome. Good move to stay local.

  12. Okay - so now I'm really embarrassed! I commented on the wrong feed at first! My first try at Lent Madness! This was my comment re Cyril vs. Methodius: " Two brothers! A difficult decision when both are mentioned in each other’s biographies to boot! I voted for Methodius simply because he was the eldest and surely had some influence over his younger brother. ??? I would rather have voted for both, but alas, not to be. This is my first year of Lent Madness – mercy, the suspense!" Oops …

  13. After much internal debate, I finally chose Methodius, if only because he was the eldest and probably had to help raise his youngest sibling and then had to experience Cyril's death and still keep on in the faith and their shared purpose.

  14. Wow! Wake-up comments today!! Agreed with many about pitting brothers, especially two who worked so faithfully together; did think of not voting, but finally settled on Methodious.
    Thanks all for thoughtful, clever and challenging comments and to our GRAND(IOUS) SEC for expanding my thinking!!

  15. I have never encountered these two where they weren't together. My vote went to Methodius. Time for him to get a bit of glory. Cyril got the alphabet named for him after all.

  16. This seems to be an unfair choice! It is like asking a Mother to choose her favorite son! A the Mother of 2 son's I can say I love them BOTH equally but in different ways as they are 2 individuals. BOO on the Executive Council for making this match and forcing a choice. (I almost feel like Sophie in "Sophie's Choice".)

  17. Sibling rivalry? Who knows what went on back in the 9th century, right now it's in our minds! But, at least the "battle" is o'er – just think if they had ended up meeting for the Golden Halo!
    And once again I protest the not voting response!

  18. Come on SEC how the neck can you put one brother against another without giving much information on either? I ended up going with Cyril but honestly don't know why. I was brought up in a Byzantine Catholic Church and I suppose something about Cyril stuck in my head from catechism. This just wasn't fair.

  19. Cyril vs. Methodius? That's like Abbot vs. Costello. Sounds like sibling rivalry. I agree with the widely stated opinion that they should have run as a team, since they ministered as a team. I went with Cyril because, in the event of indecision, I always go for the underdog, and because he invented the precursor of the Cyrillic alphabet. (Janáček wrote a Glagolitic Mass, so called although the text is in Old Church Slavonic.)

  20. OK, Cyril had an alphabet named for him, but his brother's name lives on in the United Methodius Church.

  21. Really? Brothers? I agree with the comments above concerning this match up. However, I once visited the monastery in Slovakia reputed to have been the place where Cyril (no mention of Methodius) developed the alphabet the bears his name. I'm going for Cyril.

  22. I voted for Methodius, and concur with Davis's comment. But it truly is madness to pit two inseparable brothers against each other this early in the bracket.

  23. Choosing between brothers!!! Come on! Finally, not willing to skip a day,
    (my temptation!) I went with the older brother Methodius. Just assume he had something to do with younger brother Cyril's awakening to mission and ministry. Have an older brother myself who enlightened my path.

  24. As the mother of two brothers, I can't imagine having to choose one son over the other. Therefore, in honor of Methodius and Cyril's mother (who must have been a pretty special lady to raise not one, but two, saints), I must respectfully, regretfully abstain today.

  25. As my paternal grandparents were from Slovakia I was pleased to see Cyril and Methodius listed. But even though my brother's name is Michael I had to go with Cyril. The younger brother deserves the recognition.

  26. Classic 8 vs 9 seed matchup. Kind of like watching two small schools fight to play Kentucky in the second round. This one has more the feel of a play in game though. Ultimately I went for Methodius. Since my name is Michael, and there was a quick reference in there.

  27. I am the oldest of my siblings - always handling a lot of responsibilities while the younger sibs got more benefits - like having an alphabet named after them. So I go with the older sibling - always working hard and not getting the recognition. Go Methodius!