Wednesday, 5 July 2017
Saints Cyril and Methodius
The Czechs have two bank holidays back to back in early July (5th and 6th), which always catch me out.I roll up to a shop or bank only to realise my mistake. The two dates are both related to three holy men in Czech history. The latter is Jan Hus's day and I have blogged about it already here. The former is dedicated to the founding fathers of Czech and Slavic christianity: St Cyril and St Methodius.
1150 years ago the two "apostles to the Slavs" arrived in the empire of Great Moravia. The Empire was large and powerful extending as far as that of Charlemagne.
The two brothers had attended the University of Constantinople and were considered the best scholars in Christendom and they brought that scholarship to bear in their missionary work.. Their contribution to Czech and more widely Slavic Christianity and culture cannot be overstated. They invented a Slavic alphabet Glagolitic, which formed the basis for Cyrillic, in order to translate the Bible into the local language. They also put into writing the Slavic Civil Code.
For this anniversary there are a number of celebrations taking place in the country, culminating in annual national pilgrimage to the Monastery of St Cyril and St Methodius at Velehrad (above). The basilica is an extremely impressive Baroque church, but if you want to get an idea of the early churches of the Slavs go to the archaeological site of Mikulcice, where you can see the foundations of twelve churches from a thousand years ago.