This is one of several translated excerpts from Byzantine sources produced and mounted with historical introduction and commentary by Paul Stephenson.



St. Clement of Ohrid, Life of St. Methodios

Translation modified and English language improved from: "Kliment Ohridski, On the sixth day of the month of April: memory and life of our blessed father and teacher Methodius, Archbishop of Moravia" in: Kiril and Methodius: founders of Slavonic writing, ed. I. Duichev, tr. S. Nikolov (Boulder, CO, 1985), 81-92; translated from Kliment Ohridski, Sobrani sachineniya, III, 193-203; page numbers in (parentheses), chapters in Roman numerals.

(85) V. And so it came to pass that the Slavic princes Rotislav and Svetopolk sent from Moravia envoys to emperor Michael, and they said to him "We are here by the grace of God. Many teachers of Christianity have come to us from Italy, from Greece and from German lands, and they all teach differently. But we Slavs are simple people and do not have among us a man to instruct us in the ways of truth and to explain to us the meaning of the scriptures. Therefore, good master, send us such a man, capable of guiding us in the ways of every truth." Then said the emperor to Constantine the Philosopher, "Do you hear these words, philosopher? None but you can go and do this work. (86) Therefore take many gifts, and go there, and take your brother Methodios. Because you hail from Thessalonica, like all from there you speak a pure Slavic tongue. And they dare not refuse God and the emperor, according to the words of the apostle Peter who said 'Hear God, honour the emperor' (I Pet., 2: 17)." Having heard the high imperial order, they devoted themselves to prayer, along with those who were of the same spirit as they. Then God gave the philosopher in revelation the Slavic script, and he, after arranging the alphabet, composed the gospel sermon and started on his way to Moravia, taking Methodios. And after three years had passed they returned from Moravia, having taught disciples there.

VI. [Summoned to Rome by Pope Nicholas; Methodios ordained; trilinguists berated]

VII. [Constantine dies]

VIII. And Kotsel, sending envoys to the pope, asked him to let Methodios, our blessed teacher, return to him. The pope replied, "Not only to you, but also to all those Slavic lands do I now send him forth to be the teacher on behalf of God and St. Peter, the first-enthroned and the key holder of the kingdom of heaven." And he sent him forth, writing the following epistle:

(87) Hadrian, bishop and servant of the Lord, to Rotislav, Svetopolk and Kotsel ... You requested a teacher not only from this holy see, but also from the faithful emperor Michael. And he sent to you the blessed philosopher Constantine along with his brother, whereas we failed to do this. And when they learned your countries belonged to the Apostolic see, they did nothing contrary to canon, but hastened to us, bringing the relics of St. Clement ... Amen.

(88) Kotsel received Methodios with great honours and sent him again to the pope, along with twenty reverend men, to ordain him Bishop of Pannonia on the throne of St. Andronicus, apostle, and one of the Seventy; and so it came to pass.

IX. There was also prophetic grace in him, so that many of his prophecies came true. We will recount a couple of them.

A heathen prince, mighty and strong, who was based in Visla (1.), mocked Christians and did evil to them. Methodios sent word to him saying: "It would be well for you my son to receive baptism voluntarily in your own land, lest you be baptized by force in another land; for then you will think of my words." And so it came to pass. On another occasion, when Svatopulk was waging war against the heathens and had no success, but was only being delayed, on the approach of Mass, he received these word from Methodios: "If you promise me that on the holy day of St. Peter you will come with your warriors and spend the day with me, I trust that God will forthwith deliver your enemies into your hands." And so it came to pass. [Story of the the man who married his sister-in-law.]

(90) XII. [Adherents of the Yopator heresy challenge Methodios, but are defeated when a papal letter affirms his orthodoxy.]

XIII. [Methodios visits "The King" and despite threats to the contrary by the heretics, he is received with honour.]

XIV. And all along his travels the devil sent him abundant scourges: in the wilderness, robbers; in the sea, storms and tempests; on the rivers, sudden sandy shallows ... [Suggests that literally, as well as metaphorically, Methodios travelled widely, including across the Sea, (to Rome?)]


(91) XV. Then, leaving aside all the worldly noise, and casting his anxieties on God, he set to work with two priests from among his disciples, both fast copyists, and quickly translated from the Greek into the Slavic language all the books of the Bible in full, except for Macabees, in the course of six months, starting in March and ending on 26th October. When finished, he gave due praise and glory to God, who alone give such grace and speedy success ...

XVI. When the Hungarian ruler reached as far as the Danubian lands, he wished to see Methodios. And he, as befits a ruler, met the teacher fittingly, with honours, ceremony and much rejoicing. And having discoursed with him as it befits such men to discourse, he embraced him, honoured him with great gifts, and sent him off saying: "Remember me, reverend father, in your holy prayers."

XVII. ... And when time grew near for him to have rest from his suffering and reward for his many travails, he was asked, thus: "Reverend father and teacher, whom will you name from among your disciples to be your successor as teacher?" He pointed to one of his renowned followers, named Gorazd, and said, "This is a freeman of your land, well-schooled in (92) Latin lore, and an orthodox believer; let the will of God, and your lives as well as mine, go with him."... [Then he died] in the arms of priests on the sixth day of the month of April, the third indiction, in the year 6393 since the creation of the world. His disciples put him in a coffin, gave him due honours, celebrating requiem mass in Latin, Greek and Slavonic, and laid him in the cathedral ...


1. Alternatively, "on the Vistula," see: A. De Vincenz, "The Moravian mission in Poland revisited" in: Okeanos. Studies presented to Ihor Sevcenko on his sixtieth birthday by his colleagues and students, eds. C. Mango & O. Pritsak, Harvard Ukrainian Studies 7, (Cambridge, MA., 1983), 639-54.


Paul Stephenson, July 2001; January 2012