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Great Moravia

By Petr Sommer, Dušan Třeštík, and Josef Žemlička, with the assistance of Zoë Opačić


(Zoë Opačić)

The relationship between Bohemia and Great Moravia is a complex issue that touches on several issues addressed in this project (in particular: 3B, 4A, 5, 6A, 7, 8, 9A, 14A and 15C), and is seen by many Czech scholars today as being vital for the understanding of the origins of Christianity in Bohemia. The scholarly debate has been ongoing since the 18th century. Therefore the purpose of the following resumé is to identify its most relevant strands.

Great Moravia is seen not only as a model state for Bohemia but also as the missionary centre from which Christianity reached Bohemia. The essence of the problem is the existence of two competing reports about the first conversion of the Bohemian leader(s) in the 9th century: one coming from the west, the other from Bohemia itself. Both relate conversions that occurred outside Bohemia. The first source - the Annals of Fulda - noted that in the year 845 'Louis received fourteen of the duces of the Bohemians who wished to be baptized to become Christians; he had them baptized on the octave of Epiphany [January 13th]'. The conversion took place in Regensburg. Two main questions immediately arise in relation to this account:

  1. Who were the 14 duces? Were they the legitimate representatives of the country, which by implication was not at this time ruled by a single individual/dynasty? Or were they a grouping of tribal/family leaders (from a specific area of Bohemia) who acted on their own accord?
  2. What were the implications of their conversion  for the country as a whole?
The answers to these questions are all the more puzzling in the light of the second piece of evidence, the account of the conversion of the Bohemian ruler Bořivoj in Moravia  some time in the early 880s. The Legenda Christiani - or the Vita et passio sancti Wenceslai et sancte Ludmile avie eius (to give it its proper title) - gives a memorable description of Bořivoj's visit to the court of Svatopluk in Moravia. According to Christian, Bořivoj was received well at Svatopluk's court but was not allowed to sit among the prince's Christian guests at a banquet. He was asked instead to 'take his place on the floor in front of the table in the manner of pagans'. This public humiliation and the prophecy of Moravia's archbishop Methodius that as a Christian ruler Bořivoj would one day become 'the lord of his lords', that all his enemies would be subject to his power, and that his descendants 'will grow daily like a great river into which the flow of various streams pour' immediately persuaded Bořivoj to convert. The baptism was performed by Methodius, and afterwards a Moravian priest, Kaich, returned with Bořivoj to his seat in Levý Hradec.

The implications of this account are profound. First of all it names one ruler - probably a member of the Přemyslid dynasty (although he is not specifically described that way) - rather than the nameless 14 noblemen, as the first converted ruler of Bohemia. Secondly it describes how Bořivoj received instruction in the new faith, as well as gifts, thus providing us with more information about the circumstances of his conversion. Thirdly we are told that a priest (Kaich) followed Bořivoj back to his seat in Levý Hradec, a fact that could indicate some, perhaps very limited, missionary activity. Finally, the key role played by Methodius suggests that Bořivoj received a particular form of Christianity, tied to  the Slavonic language (Old Church Slavonic) used by Cyril and Methodius and their disciples for their missionary activity in Pannonia, Moravia and Nitra. This dimension of Christian's account acquired a special significance for those scholars who wished to argue that the roots of Christianity in Bohemia are vernacular Slav rather than Latin.

However, initially, the main debate revolved around the source itself. The Legenda Christiani was, according to its controversial prologue, written by Christian, a monk form Břevnov, the Benedictine monastery founded by Adalbert. The work's dedication to Adalbert as a bishop (and as Christian's 'nephew') rather than a saint, would seem to date it to the end of the 10th century; however, the oldest extant copy is from circa 1340. The Legend's early researchers, such as J. Dobrovský and G. Dobner, rejected its authenticity as a tenth century source, Dobrovský dating it as late as the 14th century. The subsequent discovery of the First and the Second Church Slavonic Life of St Wenceslas has led to a gradual change of attitude, but opinions continued to vary on the date and the content of the Legenda Christiani. The early part of the debate is summed up by J. Ludvíkovský (1965) and more recently brought up to date by D. Třeštík (1997). Through elimination, D. Třeštík rejects the arguments in favour of dating Christian's text to a period after the first half of the 11th century; the date he supports is the end of the 10th century, one advocated initially by J. Pekař, J. Ludvíkovský, V. Chaloupecký and others.

But even if the Legenda Christiani is a work of the late 10th/early 11th century, it is not a contemporary account of Bořivoj's baptism, and its version of events is corroborated by very few other extant sources. For example, Bořivoj's conversion is not mentioned in the lives of Cyril and Methodius written by their disciples, which otherwise give the most detailed account of their missionary activity in Moravia. On the other hand, the first Bohemian chronicler, Cosmas, mentions Bořivoj's baptism and Methodius' involvement twice, but dates the event improbably to 894. The 10th- and 11th-century Bohemian Lives of Ludmila and Wenceslas are equally in disagreement. As D. Třeštík has suggested, their accounts can be roughly divided into four groups: the first group, with the First Church Slavonic Life of St Wenceslas as its main representative, does not mention the baptism of any of Wenceslas' predecessors. The second group (Gumpold, Crescente fide) identifies Spytihnĕv I, Wenceslas' uncle, as Bohemia's first baptized ruler; the third hagiographical group maintains that Bořivoj and Ludmila were the first to be baptized but does not elaborate on the circumstances of their conversion. In the fourth category are Christian and the later Cyrillomethodian legends written in Bohemia (Quemadmodum, Tempore Michaelis, Diffundete sole), which narrate the story of Bořivoj's baptism. Dalimil's rhymed Czech chronicle, an early-14th-century source, also describes the baptism of Bořivoj by Methodius, but its sources for this account are not known.

The interpretation of the above sources has also generated a debate over:

  1. the date of Bořivoj's baptism
  2. who was baptized (Bořivoj, 14 princes, Spytihnĕv I?)
  3. where was the baptism  (Regensburg or Moravia; where in Moravia?)
  4. the involvement of Methodius
  5. the influence of the Slav liturgy in Bohemia
  6. Moravia's impact on the formation of the Bohemian state (including the translatio imperii principle postulated in the later centuries)
  7. Moravia's cultural influence on Bohemia
  8. the evidence of a pagan revolt in Bohemia in the aftermath of Bořivoj's conversion.
  9. the evidence of the first campaign of church building in Levý Hradec and Prague.

Great (Old) Moravia (Velká or Stará Morava) cca 800 - 906

1. Evidence of paganism

1A. Pagan genealogies

No data.

1B. Writing down of pagan myths in Christian chronicles

No data.

1C. Archaeological evidence of cult sites, cultic activity 

There are few sites which can be associated with pagan rituals and which were probably still in use during the Great Moravian period (9th century). Two of them were found in close proximity to the central settlement in Mikulčice. One is a palisade enclosure with two inner hearths, the other is a place of worship surrounded by an earthen mound. There are no written sources for dating Mikulčice, only archaeological evidence; based on this, various stages of construction in the settlement are distinguished, starting from the 8th century, parts of which were still in use in the 13th century. It is noteworthy that these sites were in use in parallel with Christian churches located on the acropolis of Mikulčice castle in the early 9th century. Another discovery was made during the recent investigation of a Great Moravian courtyard in Pohansko settlement near the town of Břeclav. Eight holes left by poles form a circle with another post-hole in the centre. This arrangement is analogous to the cultic site in Perynj near Novgorod in north-west Russia. Hence, the site in Pohansko was probably similar to the pagan cultic sites where wooden idols were erected, described by an Arab merchant, Ibn Fadlan, in his account of the landscape around the Volga. There are a number of other sites in the vicinity of the Pohansko courtyard testifying to the existence of non-Christian cults. Importantly, excavations have uncovered the existence of a plain single-nave church in the same courtyard, evidently built on the spot of an earlier pagan cult site. The earliest parts of Pohansko are dated archaeologically to between the 6th and the 8th century, and the foundation of the church is linked with the earliest parts of the palace from the 9th century. The coexistence of pagan and Christian cult sites uncovered in Pohansko probably also occurred in a number of other localities. After the demise of Great Moravia at the beginning of the 10th century, the church in Pohansko was replaced by a pagan cult site. One reason for this was the breakdown of ideological and power structures in Great Moravia. Some pre-Christian cult sites have also been uncovered in Bohemia.

Staňa, Č., 'Mikulčice a Pražský hrad' in Archeologické rozhledy 49 (1997), pp. 72-85.

Staňa, Č. and L. Poláček, Frühmittelalterliche Machtzentren in Mitteleuropa. Mehrjährige Grabungen und ihre Auswertung (Brno 1996).

Poláček, L., Studien zum Burgwall von Mikulčice (Brno 1996 and 1997).

Dostál, B., 'K pohanství moravských Slovanů' in Sborník prací filosofické fakulty brněnské univerzity 39, p. 7-17, esp. p.11.

Macháček, J., Pohansko bei Břeclav, ein bedeutendes Zentrum Grossmährens, in print.

1D. Burial practices 

During the 9th century, traditional cremation burial was gradually abandoned and replaced by the burying of whole uncremated bodies. This transition is sometimes regarded as an indication of the acceptance of Christian principles. However, it could also be due to acculturation rather than religious change, that is, to a superficial assimilation of practices gradually taking hold in the whole of Central Europe. The latter hypothesis is more probable because 9th-century Great Moravian society was not affected by Christianity to the degree that would make a deliberate and massive acceptance of Christian burial rituals probable.

Kalousek, F., Břeclav-Pohansko I. Velkomoravské pohřebisko u kostela (Brno 1971).

Šolle, M., Stará Kouřim a projevy velkomoravské hmotné kultury v Čechách (Prague 1966).

Dostál, B., Slovanské pohřebiště ze střední doby hradištní na Moravě (Prague 1966).

1E. Statements, topoi about paganism 

There are only general references to Great Moravian paganism in the Acts of the Synod of Mainz of 852: 'rudis adhuc christianitas gentis Maraensium' and also in the Life of Methodius.

Codex diplomaticus et epistolaris regni Bohemiae, I (805-1197), ed. G. Friedrich (Prague 1904-1907), p. 4.

'Life of Methodius', ed. L. E. Havlík et al., Magnae  Moraviae Fontes Historici vols I-V, Chapter 10 (Prague and Brno 1966-1977).

2. Evidence of other non-Christian religions

2A. Knowledge/attitude of society to these

No data.

3. Evidence of royal power before Christianization

3A. Evidence of royal/princely creation of power- and/or cult-centres 

We know virtually nothing about the (assumed) princes of the Moravian gens before 831 (i.e. before the date of their formal baptism and of the emergence of their principality). They are first mentioned by sources in 822.

Třeštík, D., Vznik Velké Moravy. Moravané, Čechové a střední Evropa v letech 781-871 (Prague 2001).

3B. Power-structures

Nothing is known from the written sources, but there is archaeological evidence that settlements were formed in the 8thcentury, or possibly even as early as the 7th century. These settlements were later to become centres of the Moravian state. This is certainly the case with Mikulčice, which must have been a princely seat.

Dostál, B., Vývoj obydlí, sídlišť a sídlištní struktury na jižní Moravě v době slovanské (6.-10 století), Brno. XVI. Mikulovské symposium 1986 (Mikulov 1987), pp. 13-32.

Staňa, Č. and L. Poláček, Frühmittelalterliche Machtzentren in Mitteleuropa. Mehrjährige Grabungen und ihre Auswertung (Brno 1996).

Poláček, L., Studien zum Burgwall von Mikulčice (Brno 1996-97).

3C. Vocabulary of rulership

As in the case of other Slavic nations, the prevailing title for the ruler was knędz (prince), originating from the Germanic (Gothic) kuningaz. The term is usually translated as dux in Latin sources and as archont (αρχων) in Greek sources. In the pre-state period the western Slavonic tribes regularly had more than one prince. The princes represented the tribe in external relations and, probably, also internally but did not actually rule.

There is little evidence for the origins of this princely power (see §3A). Tribes were dominated by a powerful aristocracy, perhaps with an elected ruler. Their existence is confirmed by lavish burials containing jewellery, weapons etc. Bohemian and Moravian duces were similar to Irish and Scandinavian princes (although the term chieftainship often used in English literature is not adequate). They had wealth, authority and prestige but not the kind of absolute authority that Mojmír had. There was a number of them initially (14 in Bohemia), and not only one, contrary to the situation in Moravia after Mojmír or in Bohemia after Boleslav I.

Graus, F., 'Rex-dux Moraviae' in Sborník prací Filosofické fakulty brněnské university C7 (1960), pp. 181-190.

Třeštík, D., Vznik Velké Moravy. Moravané, Čechové a střední Evropa v letech 781-871 (Prague 2001).

3D. Origins of dynasty

Nothing is known about the origin of the Mojmír dynasty. Some scholars speculated that Vonomir - an 8th-century Slav margrave in the service of Erich of Friuli - was an ancestor of the Mojmír dynasty.

Grafenauer, B., 'Hrvati u Karantaniji' in Historijski zbornik 11/12 (1958-59), pp. 207-321.

3E. Pagan Genealogies

No data.

3F. Discontinuity/continuity of power-structure with Christianization 

The ruler of the Mojmíric state governed together with other 'princes' who were in fact his officials (župané, iudices, optimates). This indicates that the Mojmírides were originally only one of the principal families of the Moravian gens. They seem to have come to power in a peaceful manner, having subordinated the other princes without violence. There is however no concrete evidence for their ascent to power (the only documentary evidence regards the enthronement of Rostislav in 846). There was probably some kind of consensus among the Moravian nobility through which the Mojmír dynasty 'fronted' the realm on a hereditary basis. But they governed in close collaboration with other 'dukes' in the realm, who had to be consulted on important affairs. There are some archaeological and written hints that things did not always run smoothly. The Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum, for example, mentions a conflict between Mojmír and Pribina, who may have been one of the Moravian princes, at a key stage in the formation of the Moravian state. D. Třeštík suggests (Vznik,pp. 130-131) that Pribina was expelled by Mojmír from Nitra by force, having initially settled there with his wife, and built a church. The Conversio does not specify the reasons behind his expulsion. The exact relationship between Mojmír and Pribina is unclear; some scholars suggest that they may have been related. Written and archaeological sources (especially castle on Váh and castle on Spiš) confirm only that Mojmír and his followers expanded into Nitra and west Slovakia in two phases, ending in c.830. The relationship between the two other Moravian rulers, Rostislav and Svatopluk (his nephew), is also puzzling. In 862-4 Svatopluk was probably one of Rostislav's dukes. But by 869 Methodius' bull Gloria in excelsis Deo (LM, chapter 8) addresses Rostislav, Svatopluk and Kocel as rulers of independent realms. This kind of evidence suggests that the Moravian oligarchy had an enduring role in government.

Lošek, F.(ed),Die Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum und der Brief des Erzbischofs Theotmar von Salzburg, Monumenta Germaniae Historica 15 (Hannover 1997).

'The Life of Methodius', ed. L. E. Havlík et al., Magnae Moraviae Fontes Historici vol II. (Prague and Brno 1966-1977).

Třeštík, D., Vznik Velké Moravy. Moravané, Čechové a střední Evropa v letech 781-871 (Prague 2001).

4. Evidence of contacts, especially leading to Christianization before the baptism of the ruler

4A. Lives of missionaries; other evidence of missions 

The hypothesis that some churches in Moravia may have been constructed before the official baptism took place is not fully proven. These buildings apparently emerged near the residences of local princes as an expression of their conversion to Christianity. We do not know, however, whether such conversion took place at the local rulers' own initiative or was an outcome of a mission (the latter is usually assumed, even without an explicit reason).

In the last decade of the 8th century and in the first decades of the 9th century Moravians had daily contacts with Christianity across a long and culturally very active interface: the border of the Frankish empire. It may have been the attractive lifestyle of the Frankish aristocracy rather than religion itself that was adopted by Moravians; what occurred may have been acculturation rather than conversion. This is exemplified by Pribina, one of the Moravian 'princes', who became an administrator in the newly conquered Nitra region (today in Slovakia) on behalf of Mojmír, the supreme prince of Moravia. Some time c.830 he married a lady from the powerful family of Wilhelminer counts who operated on the eastern border of the empire. This apparently happened while he was still in Moravia. Being a pagan at the time, he promised to undergo baptism and became a catechumen. Soon thereafter he moved to Nitra and built a church there. The archbishop of Salzburg came in person to consecrate the church, certainly thanks to the intercession of Pribina's Bavarian relatives. Shortly afterwards, however, he was expelled from Nitra by Mojmír and took refuge with the administrator of the Imperial East Mark, Ratbod. There he was baptized at the direct command of King Louis the German and made a career in his service.

Magnae Moraviae Fontes Historici, Diplomata, epistolae, textus historici varii vol III, L. E. Havlík et al. (Brno 1969).

Steinhübel, J., 'Pôvod a najstaršie dejiny Nitrianskeho kniežatstva' in Historický časopis 46 (1998), pp. 381-5.

Vavřínek, V., 'Předcyrilometodějské misie na Velké Moravě' in Slavia 32 (1963), pp. 465-80.

4B. Sending or invitation of missionaries 

Nothing reliable is known about possible missionaries before 831. According to Josef Cibulka, the church in Modrá was a continuation of older sacral buildings associated with alleged Irish missions. Cibulka therefore attributed the first christianization of Moravia to the activity of Irish missionaries from Salzburg  c.800, but his hypothesis has since been rejected. The evidence of Irish influences on the church in Modrá is very uncertain: it is implausible to assume any significant influence of the Irish on the Salzburg mission. Josef Cibulka's hypothesis was accepted by Zdeňek Dittrich (who suggested that the Moravian prince was baptized in c.800-825, although no evidence exists to support this). Dittrich concluded that Moravia received Christianity from two centres: Salzburg and Passau.

The Salzburg mission in Carinthia is recorded in the Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum, a text possibly composed by the Archbishop of Salzburg, Adalwin, in 870-1, and written perhaps as a rebuttal of Methodius' designs on Pannonia. According to the Conversio, the request for the mission came to Archbishop Virgil of Salzburg from Chotimir (one of the Carinthian princes). It is more likely (D. Třeštík Vznik, p. 43) that the archbishop received his instructions from Pippin. In any case, the mission was by no means Irish.

The 'Life of Methodius' is the key, and for certain events the only, source for Methodius' life and mission in Moravia. Written by Methodius' disciples shortly after his death (and shortly before their expulsion), it is a contemporary account, which might be accurate in factual details but also presents the story from a particular standpoint. The oldest copies of the text date from the end of the 12th, or the beginning of the 13th century.It cites a letter of the Moravian prince Rostislav to the Emperor of Byzantium, Michael III (written c.862) in which Rostislav asks for a teacher to be sent to Moravia who could put Moravian Christianity in order (the other source for this letter is the Life of Constantine). Rostislav writes: 'Many Christian teachers came to us from Italy, Greece and Bavaria ('iz vlach, i iz grk- i iz něm´c´'), teaching us different things'. (LM  ch.5, MMFH II., p. 144). He therefore asks the Emperor for a teacher who could reconcile the conflicting doctrines. The teachers mentioned in the text were apparently a heterogeneous mixture of priests from Bavaria, from Greek towns in Dalmatia and from North Italy, who were active in Moravia at the time of its official christianization and probably even earlier. One of Svatopluk's favourites was Johannes presbyter de Venetiis, and the bishop of Nitra was Wiching from Swabia. The priests in question must have arrived before the 'official' baptism in 831, as there is evidence of churches erected before that date. Bavarian priests were in great part from the bishopric of Passau; Italian priests were probably from Venice and North Italy; Greek priests most likely came from Dalmatia rather than Byzantium. This situation has been traditionally seen as a competition of various other missions with the main Bavarian mission, organized by the bishopric of Passau. As there was nobody in the Greek towns of Dalmatia able and entitled to organize such a mission, Aquileia was usually taken to be the source of the Dalmatian mission. However, the only evidence is the discernible influence of the Dalmatian church architecture on Moravian architecture. These influences, naturally, did not have to be mediated by an organized mission. The influx of priests from various Christian countries to Moravia may have been spontaneous.

In the Life of St Wenceslas (Crescente fide christiana, FRB I, esp. p. 185), a similar situation is described in relation to Bohemia a hundred years later: 'In tempore autem illo multi sacerdotes de provincia Bawariorum et Suevia, audientes famam de eo, confluebant cum reliquiis sanctorum et libris ad eum. Quibus omnibus habunde aurum et argentum, crusinas et mancipias atque vestimenta hilariter, prout unicuique opus erat, prestabat.' The passage uses a hagiographic topos (a gathering around the saint) but it nevertheless vividly describes how a self-styled mission, spontaneous but effective, may have taken place. The possibility of this sort of mission has not been considered by most historians. The priests would come to rich and powerful nobles, neither invited nor sent, and would on their own take care of the 'logistics' of a regular mission, bringing books, liturgical utensils and relics of saints for the altars of new churches, while the nobleman provided them with material necessities: 'gold, silver, furs, slaves and clothes'.

'Crescente fide christiana' in J. Emler (ed.), Fontes rerum Bohemicarum vol. I (Prague 1873).

'The Life of Methodius', 'The Life of Constantine' in Magnae  Moraviae Fontes Historici, vol II (Prague and Brno 1966-1977).

Lošek, F.(ed.),Die Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum und der Brief des Erzbischofs Theotmar von Salzburg, Monumenta Germaniae Historica Bd. 15 (Hannover 1997).

Cibulka, J., 'Velkomoravský kostel v Modré u Velehradu a začátky křesťanství na Moravě' in Monumenta Archaeologica 7 (1958).

Cuscito, G., 'Aquileia e la cristiánizzazioni degli Slavi nei secoli VII-IX: un problema storiografico' in Atti e memorie della Societá Istriana di Archeologia e Storia, Patria 36 (1988), pp. 1-39.

Dittrich, Z., Christianity in Great Moravia (Groningen, 1962).

Havlík, L. E., 'Iohannes presbyter de Venetiis' in Časopis Matice moravské 87 (1968), pp. 80-88.

Marečková, D.,'Moravské poselství do Cařihradu jako řecký dokument' in Slovo 18-19 (1969), pp. 109-139.

Třeštík, D., Vznik Velké Moravy. Moravané, Čechové a střední Evropa v letech 781-871 (Prague 2001).

4C. Outcome of missionary activity

The spontaneous 'gathering' of priests (described in §4B), frequently of doubtful qualities, among whom the itinerant priests, clerici vagi were probably prevailing, was hardly capable of producing conditions for an orderly church life. It is therefore not surprising that as late as in 852 Moravian Christianity was referred to as rudis (crude). (See §1E). Most of these priests probably did not set out to convert pagans; they simply served in the churches built by their lords.

4D. Evidence of individual conversions

See §4A.

4E. Signs in art/archaeology

No reliable material sources refer to the period before the ruler's conversion, i.e. before 831.

4F. Burial practice 

Funeral practices underwent significant changes in the course of the 9th century. Most importantly, cremation was gradually replaced by burial. The beginnings of this process can be traced back to the period before 831. However, as explained under §1D, such change should not be directly associated with the christianization of society. Even after 831, no distinct changes that might reflect the ongoing attempts at christianization can be found either in the spatial orientation of the buried bodies (with respect to cardinal points), or in the composition of the offerings after death. However, the objects left with the dead that traditionally were tools for the afterlife gradually changed their characteristics and became either symbols of the deceased's social status or protective amulets. Some testimonies recorded at later times and archaeological findings indicate that declining pre-Christian burial rituals may have co-existed with the slowly expanding Christian ritual over a long period (perhaps until the 11th century). A typical example of this is the burial under tumuli (earth or stone mounds), which is documented as early as the 8th century and persisted into the 10th century. While human ashes initially used to be buried under the tumuli, the later mounds contained whole bodies.

Hrubý, V., Staré Město. Velkomoravské pohřebiště 'Na Valách' (Prague 1955).

Lutovský, M., Hroby předků. Sonda do života a smrti dávných Slovanů (Prague 1996).

4G. Christian cult objects

No evidence of cult objects predating the ruler's baptism. Some scholars believe that there were Christian sacral buildings in Great Moravia before the ruler's baptism but there is no direct evidence of these. In particular, some Moravian and Slovakian archaeologists assume that some churches must have been built on key sites in Great Moravia before the first historically recorded church, founded by the prince Pribina in Nitra, was consecrated (in 830 ?).

Dekan, J., Velká Morava. Doba a umění (Prague 1976).

4H. Marriages to Christian princesses converting their husbands

No evidence.

4I. Trade

Trade had no influence on the christianization of Moravia.

5. Baptism of the ruler

5A. Circumstances 

The story of how 'all Moravians' were baptized by the bishop of Passau, Reginhar, in 831 is preserved due to a later Passau tradition, recorded as late as the 13th century. The source in question is the 13th-century Historia episcoporum Pataviensium et ducum Bavarie (the story is also repeated in the somewhat later Notae de episcopis Pataviensibus, and in Bernhardi Cremifanensis Historiae, all in MGH) usually thought to have been drawn from earlier sources. The report is in accordance with all other known circumstances, such as Archbishop Theotmar's statement in 900 that Moravia was in the diocese of Passau, whose bishop often visited the country 'since the beginning of their Christianity' and was responsible for their religious affairs. It has to be taken into account that Theotmar was one of the administrators of the Empire during Louis's reign.

Pilgrim made similar claims for Passau in c.974 but attributed the conversion of the Moravians to Bishop Urolf (c. 805-806). He, however, linked Urolf with the pontificate of Eugene II (824-27), that is the time when Reginhar was in charge of the diocese of Passau. This means, in any case, that the Passau tradition can be considered as probably reliable.

The baptism took place at the time when the struggle for succession in the Empire (after the death of Louis the Pious) had reached its climax and resulted in a loss of control over the Empire's neighbours on the eastern border. It is therefore improbable that the initiative lay with the Empire; the baptism must have taken place at the explicit initiative of the Moravians (Mojmír and his 'princes'). The reception of Christianity by Mojmír's Moravians was perhaps a reaction to Pribina's marriage to a relative of the Count of Traungau, involving a promise to accept Christianity, and his settlement in Nitra, where he also built a church (consecrated by the bishop of Salzburg). He did not succeed because Mojmír expelled him in c.831-2 (see also §3F). There is, however, no direct evidence that Mojmír, the bishop of Passau or the emperor requested the baptism of the Moravians in 831. This was not a baptism of the ruler, i.e. Mojmír I, as such, because the latter had evidently been among the 'princes' who had received baptism earlier and 'privately'. It was a baptism of the whole nation in a manner probably similar to a mass baptism organized later by Vladimir I in Kiev.

It seems that the baptism was accepted with some reservations (articulated perhaps in a resolution of the assembly, as in Iceland in 1000, although there is no direct evidence). It was probably agreed that pagan practices would be tolerated to a certain extent (as in Iceland or, for example, also in Bavaria), because many individuals were baptized only in the era of Methodius and Svatopluk, after 873. Moreover, a pagan cult site in Mikulčice, the central castle of Moravia, continued to be in use in parallel with local Christian churches at least until the middle of the 9th century (see §1C). This circumstance, however, did not change the basic fact that the country became Christian. Even the Bavarian bishops, who issued all manner of charges against the Moravians in c.900 in their opposition to the renewal of the Moravian archbishopric, did not doubt Moravia's Christianity. They only referred to the pagan ancestors of the Mojmírides and accused them of friendly relations with the pagan Hungarians (with whom, incidentally, the Bavarian bishops compromised themselves even more). The source for their views is a letter issued in 900 and addressed to Pope John IX. Some authors claim the letter is a forgery; D. Třeštík and V. Vavřínek argue that it is genuine. The letter refers to Wiching being sent by the pope at Svatopluk's request not to 'the old Passau  bishopric' (which D. Třeštík interprets as Moravia), but to some newly converted gens subjugated and converted by Svatopluk (which D. Třeštík interprets as Nitra). The letter also suggests that Moravia - originally converted by the bishop of Passau - 'gave up Christianity', and forbade the visits of the bishop of Passau. The remarks probably refer not to Moravia's return to paganism but to the arrival of Methodius. (for the letter see F. Lošek, Die Conversio Bagoariorum, p. 116; or MMFH III, p.235).

Bernhardi Cremifanensis Historiae, in Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptorum XXV (Hannover 1880), pp. 638-51.

Historia episcoporum Pataviensium et ducum Bavariae, in Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptorum XXV (Hannover 1880), pp. 617-623.

Lošek, F., Die Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum und der Brief des Erzbischofs Theotmar von SalzburgMonumenta Germaniae Historica XV (Hannover 1997).

Notae de episcopis Pataviensibus, Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptorum XXV (Hannover 1880), pp. 623-28.

Třeštík, D., Vznik Velké Moravy. Moravané, Čechové a střední Evropa v letech 781-871 (Prague 2001).

5B. Holy ruler?

No evidence.

5C. Apostolic ruler?

No evidence.

5D. Evidence of copycat behaviour in conversion

See §5A.

6. Evidence of Christianization

6A. Missionary activity

Christianity was not understood as a religion, but as a way of life of the gens christianorum, just as 'paganism' was not a religion but a (legal, political and cultural) way of life of the gens Maravanorum. In itself Christianity meant very little to the Slav aristocracy. Nevertheless, in a few years (c.805-10) the Slav aristocracy along the eastern border from Dalmatia to Moravia cast off Avar cultural patterns and adopted Frankish ones instead, in a gradual, almost daily process. This is visible predominantly in the jewellery, but that must have been only one manifestation of a rapid change in all aspects of life: this however is not reflected in written documents. The Frankish empire became a benchmark of power and 'nobility'. If Slav princes aspired to follow it, they had to accept the Frankish way of life, including Christianity.

However, because it was not only religion, but their entire lifestyle which would have had to be changed by the gens, there was resistance to such destabilizing change. Thus the Prussians warned Adalbert: 'Magnum sit tibi, inquiunt, quod usque inpune venisti; et sicut celer reditus spem vite ita tibi parve more necis dampna cerabunt. Nobis et toto huic regno, cuius nos fauces sumus, communis lex imperat et unus ordo vivendi. Vos vero, qui estis alterius et ignote legis, nisi hac nocte discedatis, in crastinum decapitabimini' (Canaparius c. 28, ed. J. Karwasińska, pp. 42-43). Bruno of Querfurt is even clearer on the subject: 'Propter tales, inquiunt, homines terra nostra non dabit fructum, arbores non parturiunt, nova non nascetur animalia, vetera moriuntur. Exeuntes exite de finibus nostris; si cicius non retro pedem ponitis, crudelibus penis afflicti mala morte peribitis.' (Bruno c. 25, ed. J. Karwasińska, p. 32). Lex here should be understood in the sense of Slav pravda, that which is correct, genuine and not wrong or false (more on that in Leeuwen-Turnovcová, J. Rechts und Links in Europa). The gens would have to be forced to accept the change in the way Mojmír succeeded.

Conversion could not be carried through internally, unaided. The churches had to be built and the priests found to officiate - often a difficult task.

There were no genuine missions, either before the official baptism or after it. What took place after 831 was the building of the internal structure of the Moravian provincial church, not missions from outside. After the baptism of 831, the bishop of Passau established his archpresbyterate in Moravia and tried to administer this country as a legitimate part of his diocese. The letter of complaint written by Bavarian bishops in 900 (see §5A) even mentions that the bishop of Passau used to hold his regular synods in Moravia. It is, however, very doubtful that he would have been able to exert his full authority over all the clergy of Moravia. They depended on him in the matter of the sacraments reserved to the bishop, but his jurisdiction could hardly have been fully acknowledged by the mixture of clerics of various origins that constituted the Moravian clergy. It is more likely that the bishop of Passau controlled only the people of his own archpresbyterate, but not the clerics affiliated to the churches of princes and other magnates. Thus Rostislav, the prince of Moravia, complained about the ambiguity of 'teaching' and 'godly orders' (lex Dei or, in Slavic, pravdy) in his country. Another example is that in 852 the bishop of Passau did not even try to enforce the interdict declared over a certain Frankish noble, Albigis, when the latter fled to Moravia. Moreover, whatever power the bishop of Passau managed to exert in Moravia was lost with the arrival of Methodius (as stated in the Bavarian bishops' letter).

However, from the standpoint of the ruler even a loose dependence on the Bavarian church was perhaps unacceptable. His aim was an independent, well-organized and cohesive provincial church (Landeskirche in German). For the Empire this was a new, unparalleled and plainly unacceptable development. The imperial ideology, which followed the post-Constantinian tradition of late antiquity, saw the christianization of barbaric nations solely and exclusivelyas part of their incorporation into the Empire.

Therefore, the barbarian rulers were confronted with a dilemma: they wished to accept the high lifestyle of the imperial aristocracy, including Christianity, and to establish a (Christian) state, but the only option offered by the Christian Empire was a submission, a loss of freedom and the virtual impossibility of establishing a sovereign state. The Moravians avoided this dilemma practically by adopting Christianity and establishing their state when the Empire was unable to act, but the dilemma persisted at the political level. As late as 900, the Bavarian bishops insisted that (ed. F. Lošek, Die Conversio Bagoariorum, p. 140): ' ... in terram Sclauorum, qui Maraui dicuntur, que regibus nostris et populo nostro, nobis cum habitatoribus suis subacta fuerat tam in cultu christiane religionis quam in tributo substantie secularis, quia exinde primum imbuti et ex paganis christiani sunt facti', i..e., that the Moravians 'sive velint, sive nolint, regno nostri subacti erunt', because they accepted baptism from the Empire. (Egon Boshof claimed that the document was a fake composed by Pilgrim of Passau but this was not accepted by D. Třeštík.) The adoption of baptism meant submission; the yoke of Christ was identical with the yoke of serfdom. It could not have been formulated more explicitly. The formal submission may not have been a practical problem as long as the rulers of the new states could rely on the swords of their warriors, but it laid an insurmountable obstacle in their way of acquiring full legitimacy. No state can exist as such if it is not 'internationally' acknowledged and thereby legitimized. In the opposite case it can only be tolerated via facti which, of course, is not legitimacy.

The only way to a fully legitimate acceptance in the family of Christian states led through an independent archbishopric, an institution directly subjected to the pope, the second highest authority of western Christendom. It was the archbishopric that legitimized a state as a cohesive and independent territorial and political unit. It constituted a 'self-sustaining' provincial church, independent of all authorities except the papacy. Such was the plan conceived by Rostislav some time at the beginning of the 860s. First, however, he had to stabilize the situation in the Moravian church and, in particular, to find enough priests of local origin who could replace the heterogeneous mixture of foreign clerics that he had at his disposal. This was the only way to unify the teaching, and the basis of religious life. In 861 he asked Rome for a 'teacher' (either with or without episcopal dignity). One of his arguments was that the bishop of Passau, Hartwig, had been struck with apoplexy and was unable to administer even his own diocese, let alone distant Moravia. Rostislav argued that Hartwig, who obstinately refused to retire from his office, had brought the diocese to the verge of economic and organizational failure. When the pope, Nicholas I, did not respond, Rostislav turned to Constantinople. Despite many later speculations, there was no hidden agenda behind this move, no intention to create an alliance with Byzantium against the East Frankish Empire. Rostislav's only purpose was to commission a 'teacher' (a bishop or a non-bishop) who could not be acquired from Rome. Some scholars, however (see most recently V. Vavřínek, Europas mitte, pp. 107-8), see Rostislav's appeal to Byzantium as having a political basis, as a reaction against the worldly aspects of the Frankish missionary activity, and as an attempt to secure an independent church for Moravia by playing off Constantinople against Rome. Rostislav's request mentions a teacher and not a political alliance ('...we do not have a teacher who can explain to us in our own language the true Christian faith, so that the other countries which look to us might emulate us. Therefore, O lord, send us such a bishop and teacher; for from you good law issues to all countries'). Both the Life of Methodius and the Life of Constantine (quoted here) make it clear that Moravia had already accepted Christianity, and in that respect the purpose of their mission may have been limited (though the letter does not refer exclusively to the training of priests).

The Byzantine emperor Michael III and his patriarch Photius responded positively, sending the teacher Constantine and his brother Methodius to Moravia (incidentally, only Constantine had been ordained priest), either in 863 or in 864. That was the beginning of the celebrated 'Cyrillomethodian mission'. Its mandate was very limited. Its task was neither to convert nor to build or re-build the organizational structure of the church. It could not interfere with the jurisdiction of the local bishop of Passau, even though he was disabled. Its task was to train a sufficient number (few tens rather than few hundreds) of pupils, to enable them to be ordained priests. It is only in this narrow sense that one can speak of a mission.

Constantine, a Greek (not a Bulgarian), decided to teach in the local language rather than in Latin. He created a special alphabet (the Glagolic) for the Slavic language. In this way he considerably simplified and speeded up the training of future priests. His method, however, required the translation of many texts. Moreover, the new priests ignorant of Latin were unable to celebrate a Latin mass. Constantine and Methodius therefore initiated the celebration of mass in Slavic. The matter turned into a subject of dogmatic dispute; the two brothers became opponents of 'trilingualism', a theory holding that the only three holy languages of church liturgy were Hebrew, Greek and Latin. In fact, the use of the vernacular in literature was nothing unusual. Louis the German, for example, who became a ruler of the linguistically homogeneous East Frankish kingdom at this time, also experimented with the vernacular, but it became obvious that Latin was, despite all difficulties, more efficient. The essential innovations of the Cyrillomethodian mission were the alphabet, regarded as an oddity, and the celebration of mass in the vernacular, which provoked resistance and became one of the factors that brought the independent Moravian church to an early end. The mission finished in 867 or 868, when it fulfilled its singular task, and the two teachers left the country.

Bruno of Querfurt, ed. J. Karwasińska, Św. Wojciecha biskupa i męczennika Żywot drugi, Monumenta Poloniae Historica, Nova Series IV/2 (Warsaw 1969).

Canaparius, ed. J. Karwasińska, Św. Wojciecha biskupa i męczennika Żywot pierwszy. Monumenta Poloniae Historica, Nova Series IV/1 (Warsaw 1962).

Kantor, M., The Origins of Christianity in Bohemia (Evanston 1990).

'Life of Constantine and Methodius', ed. L. E. Havlík et al., Magnae  Moraviae Fontes Historici vols I-V (Prague and Brno 1966-1977).

Lošek, F. (ed.), Die Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum und der Brief des Erzbischofs Theotmar von Salzburg, Monumenta Germaniae Historica Studien und Texte Bd. 15 (Hannover 1997).

Boshof, E., Das Schreiben der bayerischen Bischöfe an einen Papst Johannes - eine Fälschung Pilgrims? in Papstgeschichte und Landesgeschichte. Festschrift für H. Jakobs zum 65. Geburtstag, Beihefte zum Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 39 (1995), p. 37-67.

Dittrich, Z., Christianity in Great Moravia (Groningen1962).

Leeuwen-Turnovcová, J., Rechts und Links in Europa (Berlin 1990).

Třeštík, D., Großm­ähren, Passau und die Ungarn um das Jahr 900. Zu den neuen Zweifeln an der Authentizität des Briefes der bayerischen Bischöfe an Papst Johann IX. aus dem Jahr 900. Byzantinoslavica  59 (1998), p. 137-160.

6B. Papal connections 

Connections with the pope stretch back to 867 when Constantine-Cyril and Methodius arrived in Rome with the relics of St Clement and with their Slav liturgical translations. The pope consecrated their manuscripts and ordained four Slav priests in S. Maria ad Praesepe (according to the Life of Constantine, who stayed and died in Rome as a monk, under the name Cyril). In 869, at the request of Duke Kocel, Pope Hadrian II consecrated Methodius bishop and placed him in charge of the archbishopric of Pannonia-Moravia (formerly the archbishopric of Sirmium). This provoked a strong reaction from Bavarian ecclesiastical authority and resulted in the arrest of Methodius. He was released at the intervention of Pope John VIII in 873. The pope did not interfere with the development of the Moravian church until 873 when he liberated Methodius, at that time the archbishop of Pannonia, from Bavarian captivity and sent him back to Moravia. The papal involvement resulted in the establishment of the Moravian archbishopric in 880. That year the pope installed Methodius as the archbishop of Moravia (the bull Industriae tuae). The bull allowed for the liturgical texts to be read in Old Church Slavonic but only after they were read in Latin. Shortly before his death in 885 Methodius excommunicated his chief opponent Wiching, and appointed Gorazd, a Moravian, as his successor. This prompted a swift reaction from Pope Stephen V who sided with Wiching and criticized some of Methodius' practices. He also placed a general interdict on the use of the Slav language in liturgy. Svatopluk expelled all priests from his realm who did not renounce the Slav liturgy. A subsequent papal attempt to re-establish the archbishopric in 889 probably failed. For the events of 889 see §14A.

Over this entire period the pope acted as arbitrator in all the affairs of the Moravian church, especially in the prolonged disputes between Methodius and the bishop of Nitra, Wiching, regarding the Slavic liturgy. In any case, Methodius was fully pro-Roman. It would be entirely false to ascribe to him any pro-Byzantine intentions. The Moravian church did not waver between Rome and Constantinople. After all it legally depended on the pope, because the establishment of the Moravian archbishopric, which would normally require an approval of the diocesan bishop (the bishop of Passau, in this case), was an evident violation of canon law.

Codex Diplomaticus et epistolaris Regni Bohemiae vol. I (805-1197), ed. G. Friedrich (Prague 1904-07), No 23 p. 18 and No 26 pp. 22-6.

Havlík, L. E., The Relationship between the Great Moravian Empire and the Papal Court in the Years 880-885 A. D., Byzantinoslavica  26 (1965).

Vavřínek, V., 'Mission in Mähren - zwischen dem lateinischen Westen und Byzanz' in Europas Mitte um 1000. eds. A. Wieczorek a H.-M. Hinz, I (Stuttgart 2000), p. 304-310.

6C. Earliest evidence for liturgy

Which liturgical text was actually used by the followers of the Slavic liturgy remains an open question. A widely advocated hypothesis saying that it was a translation of the Roman 'St. Peter's liturgy' is probably based on a misunderstanding.

Laurenčík, J., 'K otázce liturgie sv. Petra' in Studia palaeoslovenica (Prague 1971), pp. 201-214.

Mareš, F. V., 'Slovanská liturgie sv. Petra' in F. V. Mareš, Cyrilometodějská tradice a slavistika (Prague 2000), pp. 166-187.

Vašica, J., 'Slovenská liturgie sv. Petra' in Byzantinoslavica 8 (1939-40), pp. 1-54.

6D. Saints' cults

Virtually nothing is known about the possible cults of saints in Moravia. One could expect the cult of St. Clement, whose relics were brought to Moravia by Constantine and Methodius. However, the available evidence of this cult relates to 10th- and 11th- century Bohemia (and to 11th-century Scandinavia) but not to Moravia. Methodius' cathedral church was consecrated to the Virgin Mary. This is important because the oldest and/or the main churches in virtually all countries of Central Europe possessed the same consecration (Gospa Sventa in Carinthia, Prague in Bohemia, Poland and Hungary).

Macůrek, J. (ed), Magna Moravia, Sborník k 1100 výročí přichodu byzantské mise na Moravu (Prague 1965).

Merhautová, A. and D. Třeštík, Románské umění v Čechách a na Moravě (Prague 1984).

6E. Relics

The emergence of the cult of relics during the period of christianization is difficult to reconstruct. One can agree with the assumption of Church historians that there were only few legitimate relics in the country. It is assumed that there were not enough genuine relics for the consecration of churches, so that secondary relics (such as brandea and paliola) or consecrated Hosts were used for this purpose. Only the relics of St Clement, discovered by Constantine-Cyril in Kherson, are known to have been brought to Moravia (a 14th-century chronicle claimed that they were also brought to Vyšehrad, south of Prague, but that must be a fabrication). In 867 Cyril and Methodius took the relics with them to Rome and deposited them in the church of S. Clemente (where Cyril was later buried).

A rare testimony about the presence of relics in Great Moravia might be provided by a gold end-piece of a belt with almandine, found in Mikulčice. The gem was cut into halves and has inside a small cavity, assumed to have contained a relic. (See on such a piece from a grave in Stare Město: Europas mitte, p. 452, No. 08.02.08). It is possible that such an article could have contained a relic: there is certainly a tradition of Moravian belt-ends with interesting Christian and non-Christian iconography, codex-shaped or displaying a praying priest, for example. Furthermore, relics were often wedged into translucent stones (e.g. crystal) throughout the Middle Ages. However, as a piece of personal ornament it seems an unlikely place for a relic, especially at a time when relics seem to have been scarce. (Europas mitte, pp. 228-235).

Europas Mitte um 1000. eds. A. Wieczorek a H.-M. Hinz, I (Stuttgart 2000).

6F. Christian cult objects

Archaeology, art and artefacts provide evidence of the christianization of 9th-century Moravian society. The evidence relating to the 9th century (after 831) consists of specific forms of architecture and literature as well as Christian symbols discernible in some jewellery (such as the belt-ends in the shape of church codices, found in Mikulčice and Pohansko). The fact that many of these objects were found in graves near churches suggests that their owners were probably Christian. It is suspected that similar artefacts appeared in Moravia and Slovakia as early as the first third of the 9th century. The 9th-century situation in Bohemia is even less documented.

Krumphanzlová, Z., 'Počátky křesťanství v Čechách ve světle archeologických výzkumů' in Památky archeologické 62 (1971), pp. 406-456.

Sommer, P., 'Christianisierung Mitteleuropas und die archäologischen Quellen' in Slavia antiqua 37 (1996).

6G. Transformation of cemeteries

While the old burial rituals survived in parallel with the new ones an important change took place in the 9th century, apparently associated with the overall christianization of society: new burial sites emerged around churches and in their interior. By the end of the 9th century the graves started to be ordered in rows, which enabled a regular expansion of cemeteries. This type of cemeteries commonly appeared after the initial stages of christianization were completed. Their appearance is dated, based on jewellery and arms, to 790-810.

Hrubý, V., Staré Město. Velkomoravské pohřebiště 'Na Valách' (Prague 1955).

Lutovský, M., Hroby předků. Sonda do života a smrti dávných Slovanů (Prague 1996).

6H. Burial practices

See §4F.

6I. Chronology and sequence of change

Any periodization of religious development in 9th-century Moravia will depend on the choice of criteria. As far as the progress of the christianization of society is concerned, it is evident that the first stage took place at the beginning of the 9th century, with a supposed participation of western (Bavarian) missionary centres. The process became more intensive with the establishment of the Great Moravian state in 830, due to its publicly declared interest in christianization. Another milestone is the beginning of an independent Moravian provincial church in 873. The provincial church became a guarantor of the progress of christianization and of the accompanying religious culture. The breakdown of the Great Moravian state at the beginning of the 10th century was followed by a brief period of regression manifested by a temporary return to paganism.

Hrubý, F., 'Církevní zřízení v Čechách a na Moravě od X. do konce XII. století a jeho poměr ke státu' in Český časopis historický 22 (1916), pp. 17-53, 257-287, 385-421.

Třeštík, D., Vznik Velké Moravy. Moravané, Čechové a střední Evropa v letech 781-871 (Prague 2001).

Vlasto, A. P., The Entry of the Slavs into Christendom (Cambridge 1970).

6J. Evidence of influences

There is no direct evidence of influences.

6K. Evidence of Christian legislation

Methodius had translations made of several Byzantine law-books, but it is uncertain whether or not they had any practical impact. Moreover, it is still a matter of dispute whether the most important of them, 'Zakon sudnyj ljudem' ('The court law for people', a translation of the Byzantine Ecloga) was made in Moravia or later in Bulgaria. The conflicts between Methodius on the one hand and the ruler and other magnates on the other hand mostly related to matrimonial problems (marriage between relatives) and to the privately owned churches, a phenomenon unknown in Byzantium. It is remarkable that Methodius' attention was not focused on paganism or on work among the people in general.

Dujčev, I., A. Kirmasova and A. Paunova, Kirilometodievska bibliografia 1940-1980 (Sofia 1983).

Grivec, F., Konstantin und Method, Lehrer der Slaven (Wiesbaden 1960).

Vlasto, A. P., The Entry of the Slavs into Christendom (Cambridge 1970).

7. Evidence of medieval perceptions of the conversion process

The legacy of Methodius' Moravian archbishopric became a subject of competition between Bohemia and the bishopric of Passau. The two competing traditions shared the belief that Methodius had seven suffragans. This was postulated by the bishop of Passau, Pilgrim, c. 974. Through a number of forged documents he attempted to prove that the hypothetic archbishopric of Lorsch (an alleged predecessor of the bishopric in Passau) once administered not only the Passau territory but also Moravia and Hungary. Needless to say the two latter territories were identical with Methodius' Moravian archbishopric.

The sources for the alleged seven suffragans:

1. Letter of Pilgrim of Passau to pope Benedict VI of circa 973 (MMFH III, p. 248-249): 'quia et quondam Romanorum Gepidarumque tempore proprios septem antistites eadem orientalis Pannonia habuit et Mesia, mee sancte Lauriacensi, cui ego indignus ministro, ecclesie subiectos; quorum etiam quatuor, usque dum Ungri regnum Bauuariorum invaserunt, sicut presenti cognitum est etati, Marauia manserunt'. (On Pilgrim's falsifications: Richard Marsina, Štúdie k slovenskému diplomatáru; Heinrich Fichtenau, Das Urkundenwesen in Österreich, p.122; Heinrich Fichtenau, Zu den Urkundenfälschungen Pilgrims, p. 81-100 (also published in: H. Fichtenau, Beiträge zur Mediävistik, pp. 157-179).

2. Christian, Chapter 1 (ed. J. Ludvíkovský, p. 14): '(Methodius) ... ab ipso principe, qui partibus in illis tunc dominabatur et imperabat universe terre ceu magnificus imperator, statuitur summus pontifex, habens sub se septem eiusdem sanctitatis pontifices.' (dated by D. Třeštík to 992-994).

3. Annales Hildesheimenses a. 1000 (ed. G. Waitz, p. 28): 'Imperator Otto III causa orationis ad sanctum Adalbertum episcopum et martirem quadragesimae tempore Sclaviam intravit; ibique coadnudata sinodo episcopia septem disposuit, et Gaudentium, fratrem beati Adalberti, in principali urbe Sclauorum Praga ordinari fecit archiepiscopum, licentia Romani pontificis, causa petitionis Bolizlavonis Boemiorum ducis, ob amorem pocius et honorem sui venerandi fratris, digni pontificis et martiris'.

The tale of Methodius' seven bishops is only a legend that first appears in Pilgrim's writing. Its origins are not clear but it appears at the time of a dispute over the heritage of Methodius' archbishopric: both Pilgrim and Adalbert refer to it. Finally it also figures in the plans of Otto III, perhaps under Adalbert's influence.

(For a more traditional interpretation see Gerard Labuda, 'Zjazd gnieżnieński w oświetleniu ikonograficznym'. On Adalbert's role D. Třeštík, 'Von Svatopluk zu Bolesław Chrobry'.)

As early as the 10th century, Christianity in Bohemia linked its origins with Moravia (rather than the Empire), namely with Methodius's archbishopric with its seven suffragans. The main evidence for this is the Legenda Christiani (Vita et passio sancti Wenceslai et sancte Ludmile avie eius), which links the conversion of Bohemians (and the formation of their state under the Přemyslids) with Great Moravia, through the story of Bořivoj's baptism by Methodius at Svatopluk's court in Moravia. By the early 14th century (Dalimil), and in particular during the reign of Charles IV, the concept of Moravian legacy was expanded into the theory of translatio imperii. The idea of a Moravian archbishopric and its alleged seven bishoprics also played an important role in the programme of Otto III, accomplished in 1000 in Poland and Hungary. The idea that these missions had in common was to bypass the Empire by offering the land to St Peter and thereby placing it under the protection of the pope. This was the case with Svatopluk in 880. In 990 Mieszko I followed Svatopluk in this (and even named one of his sons after him). Adalbert was probably an intermediary in the process. The situation was similar in Hungary under Stephen. The source is somewhat later (1075) but it very likely relies on an authentic tradition: 'Nam, sicut a maioribus patrie tue cognoscere potes, regnum Ungarie sancte Romane ecclesie proprium est a rege Stephano olim beato Petro cum omni iure et potestate sua oblatum et devote traditum' (Das Register Gregors VII., p. 145).

During the reign of Otto III the imperial plan and the local rulers' plans coincided. J. Fried suggests that Byzantine influence (through Theophanu) was critical in this respect. D. Třeštík thinks that it was more likely due to the influence of Moravian tradition through Adalbert. What mattered, in any case, was the political concept that provided the means by which the newly emerging states could achieve legitimacy through an archbishopric recognized by the pope. The Polish prince Mieszko I donated his realm to St. Peter in 990. The same was probably done by the Hungarian King István (Stephen) in 1000. There is little doubt that these actions were inspired by the prototype of Great Moravia. The idea itself was probably conveyed to Otto, Mieszko and the Hungarians by St. Adalbert.

Annales Hildesheimenses, ed. G. Waitz Monumenta Germaniae Historica SS rer. Germ. (Hannover 1878).

Das Register Gregors VII., II., 13, ed. E. Caspar, Monumenta Germaniae Historica Epistolae selectae 2, 2nd ed. (1955).

Fichtenau, H., Das Urkundenwesen in Österreich  vom 8. bis zum frühen 16. Jahrhundert. in MIÖG, Erg. Bd. 23 (1971).

Fichtenau, H., 'Zu den Urkundenfälschungen Pilgrims von Passau' in Mitteilungen des oberösterreichischen Landesarchivs Linz 8 (1964), p. 81-100. Also published in H. Fichtenau, Beiträge zur Mediävistik.Ausgewählte Aufsätze II. (Stuttgart 1977), pp. 157-179).

Fried, J., 'Theophanu und die Slawen. Bemerkungen zur Ostpolitik der Kaiserin' in A. v. Euw and P. Schreiner (eds.), Kaiserin Theophanu, Begegnung des Ostens und Westens um die Wende des ersten Jahrtausends Bd. II (Cologne 1991), pp. 361-370.

Fried, J., 'Otto III. und Boleslaw Chrobry. Das Widmungsbild des Aachener Evangeliars, der "Akt von Gnesen" und das frühe polnische und ungarische Königtum' in Frankfurter historische Abhandlungen Bd. 30 (Stuttgart 1989).

Fried, J., 'Der hl. Adalbert und Gnesen' in Archiv f. mittelrheinische Kirchengeschichte 50 (1998).

Görich, K., 'Ein Erzbistum in Prag oder in Gnesen?'in Zeitschrift für Ostforschung 40 (1991), p. 10-27.

Labuda, G., 'Zjazd gnieżnieński w oświetleniu ikonograficznym' in KwartalnikHistoryczny 98/2 (1991), pp. 3-18.

Marsina, R., 'štúdie k slovenskému diplomatáru' I. in Historické Štúdie 16 (1971), pp. 71-80.

Třeštík, D., 'Von Svatopluk zu Bolesław Chrobry. Die Entstehung Mitteleuropas aus der Kraft des Tatsächlichen und aus einer Idee' in P. Urbańczyk (ed), The Neighbours of Poland in the 10th Century (Warsaw 2000), pp. 111-145.

Warnke, C., 'Ursachen und Voraussetzungen der Schenkung Polens an den heiligen Petrus' in K. - D. Grothusen and  K. Zernack (eds.) Europa Slavica - Europa Orientalis. Festschrift für H. Ludat z. 70. Geburtstag (Berlin 1980), pp. 127-177.

8. 'Pagan uprisings'

Great Moravia had no contemporary historiography and there are no written accounts concerning pagan uprisings. There is no evidence of resistance, only of perseverance (or resurgence) of pagan beliefs, based on archaeological evidence from Mikulčice and Pohansko, showing the existence of pagan sites constructed next to or even over existing churches.

Macháček, J., 'Pohansko u Břeclavi/Lundenburg', Wieczorck and H.-M. Hinz (eds.) Europas Mitte um 1000, I (Stuttgart 2000), pp. 330-332.

9. Evidence of literacy

9A. When it appears

With Christianization.

9B. In what language

Latin and Old Slavonic.

9C. First appearance of genres

See §9D.

9D. Content/uses of literacy 

Remnants left after the Latin (Bavarian) mission are modest (prayers, Paternoster, Credo). Most of the preserved literature is the product of the Cyrillomethodian mission, written in Old Slavonic. Most pieces are translations from Greek, but there are also original works of high quality. There is no evidence for the use of written texts outside the church.

Bláhová, E., 'Počátky slovanské knižní vzdělanosti, slovanské písmo a spisovný jazyk' in K. Reichertová, E. Bláhová, V. Dvořáčková, V. Hunáček, Sázava (Prague 1988), pp. 28-45.

10. Evidence of coinage

Great Moravia did not issue any coins. Surrogate means of payment were used, such as iron talents (axe-shaped), and probably also small linen scarves.

11. Evidence of laws

No secular law-books are preserved (and probably did not exist).

12. Signs and symbols of Christian monarchy

No certain data for most of the issues.

12E. Royal titles

The vernacular title of a ruler was apparently knędz (prince) but the same title was used by other local magnates. In Frankish sources, the ruler is most frequently referred to as dux and, starting from Rostislav, also rex. The papal correspondence used various titles, mostly at the level of Greek archont (αρχων) or Latin dux. The papal bull of 880 (Industriae Tuae), which instituted the archbishopric of Moravia, addressed Svatopluk as Sventapluco comiti Moraviae.

At the beginning of the 9th century Mojmír emerged as a principal ruler, although one who relied on other princes of his realm (see §3F). Svatopluk's reign (he was first mentioned as being in charge of a regnum in 869) was the peak of Great Moravia's power (the state Svatopluk united and ruled as a single ruler, after the death of his uncle, Rostislav).

According to one hypothesis Svatopluk bore a royal title (and thus had been elevated to the royal status), but this is hardly probable; furthermore elevation to the royal rank by the emperor or pope was not usual in the 9th century. Even if the practical difference was limited, there was an important symbolic difference: kings were anointed and this was emphasised by Cosmas; the standing of a king must have been increased both at home and abroad.

Annales Fuldenses(a. 870), ed. F. Kurze, MG SS rer. Germ., (Hannover 1891).

Codex Diplomaticus et epistolaris Regni Bohemiae vol. I (805-1197), ed. G. Friedrich (Prague 1904-07).

Montumenta Germaniae Historica, Ep. VII, pp. 222-4, No 255. Also CDB I, pp.18-21, No 24.

Třeštík, D.,  Vznik Velké Moravy (Prague 2002), p.195-200.

13. Evidence of how rulers built power

No data.

14. Evidence of ecclesiatical organization and institutions

14A. Appearance of (arch)bishoprics 

Although the establishment of an independent Moravian archbishopric was a remarkable achievement closely associated with the activity of Methodius, it was not an outcome of the Cyrillomethodian mission. This mission was fully completed in 867-8. The chaotic chain of events including intended and unintended consequences that affected the two brothers Constantine and Methodius resulted in Methodius becoming the archbishop of the see of Pannonia (and not Moravia), that is, of the see of Sirmium. This was Methodius' first appointment as archbishop, by pope Hadrian II. The diocese included, at least in name, Pannonia, Moravia and Nitra. According to the Life of Methodius (ch. 8), Kocel, the ruler of Pannonia, who had previously petitioned Rome to send Methodius to his lands, sent to him 'twenty men of venerable descent' to be consecrated priests in the bishopric of Pannonia. The fact that the pope wrote in 873 to Mutimir, who ruled over Serbia (addressing the letter to Montemero duci Sclaviniae), suggests that the foundation of the see was inspired by the Curia's desire to play a greater role in the Balkans.

Kocel proved unable to offer Methodius sufficient protection. In 870, the same year that Rostislav was captured and tried at the Imperial Diet in Regensburg, Methodius was also arrested (by the bishop of Passau) and imprisoned in Swabia. Meanwhile, in 871 Svatopluk (who initially ruled with Rostislav, and then alone) expelled Bavarian priests from Moravia, thus severing his links with Passau. In their place Svatopluk brought back to his realm a Sirmian-Pannonian archbishop who was cut off from his diocese and who found himself in charge of a country which did not belong to his diocese: in 873, when Pope John VIII succeeded in having Methodius freed, he was installed as the head of the Moravian church (the see of Sirmium having been abandoned as a lost cause, chiefly because Kocel caved in to Frankish pressure). However, the archbishopric of Moravia was officially instituted only in 880 by the pope, with Methodius as its figurehead. Svatopluk used the occasion to donate his realm symbolically to St. Peter and place it under papal protection. The donation had no practical significance but it symbolized a successful end of Moravia's quest for legitimacy. As a 'land of St. Peter' Moravia was placed on a par with other Christian states.

Every archbishopric needed to have at least three bishops, in order to elect the archbishop. Methodius however had only one suffragan, Wiching, the bishop of Nitra. Their continuing rows hampered the creation of further bishoprics. After Methodius' death in 885 the archbishopric remained vacant although Methodius tried to nominate his successor, a loyal follower named Gorazd. But this uncanonical procedure was not accepted. An attempt to renew the archbishopric was made by Mojmír II, Svatopluk's successor. Four bishops were sent to Moravia from Rome in 889 in order to be installed in the new dioceses, one as an archbishop. We do not know whether the plan came to fruition as the Moravian state was destroyed by the Hungarians shortly thereafter, in 906.

'The Life of Methodius' in Magnae Moraviae Fontes Historici vol II (Prague and Brno 1966-1977).

Papal letter to Mutimir, ruler of Serbia, Monumenta Germaniae Historica Ep. VII, p. 282, No.18.

Havlík, L. E., 'The Relationship between the Great Moravian Empire and the Papal Court in the Years 880-885 A. D' in  Byzantinoslavica  26 (1965).

Hrubý, F., 'Církevní zřízení v Čechách a na Moravě od X. do konce XII. století a jeho poměr ke státu' in Český časopis historický 22 (1916), pp. 17-53, 257-287, 385-421.

Jan, L., 'Počátky moravského křesťanství a církevní správy do doby husitské' in Vývoj církevní správy na Moravě. XXVII. mikulovské sympozium 2002 (Brno 2003), pp. 7-20.

Třeštík, D., 'Die Gründung des Prager und des Mährischen Bistums' in A. Wieczorek and H.-M. Hinz (eds.), Europas Mitte um 1000 I (Stuttgart 2000), pp. 407-410.

Třeštík, D., 'Moravský biskup roku 976' in Ad vitam et honorem. Prof. J. Mezníkovi .. k pětasedmdesátým narozeninám (Brno 2003), pp. 211-220.

14B. Appearance of ecclesiastical boundaries

Nothing is known about the boundaries of the dioceses.

14C. Appearance of monasteries

There is no direct evidence about the existence of monasteries. It is, however, possible that the complex of a church and courtyard excavated in Sady near Uherské Hradiště (one of the central Great Moravian castle settlements), was a monastery.

Galuška, L., Uherské Hradiště - Sady. Křesťanské centrum říše velkomoravské (Brno 1996).

Galuška, L., 'Kláštery a Velká Morava' in Ve stopách sv. Benedikta (Brno 2002), pp. 197-209.

14D. Appearance of parishes 

Parishes did not exist. The ecclesiastical system relied on castle churches. When Svatopluk presented the Moravian church to Methodius in 873, 'he put under his control all churches and clerics in all the castles' (The Life of Methodius, chapter 10).

'The Life of Methodius' in Magnae Moraviae Fontes Historici vol II (Prague and Brno 1966-1977).

14E. Appearance of cathedral chapters

There were apparently no chapters. Methodius had his own cathedral church.

15. Evidence of building the church

15A. Main architectural tasks

The types of Moravian churches varied from large basilicas (in Mikulčice and elsewhere) to humble structures associated with the seats of magnates. The church complex in Sady near Uherské Hradiště may have even been a monastery, founded at a magnate's court.

Galuška, L., Uherské Hradiště - Sady. Křesťanské centrum říše velkomoravské (Brno 1996).

Galuška, L., 'Kláštery a Velká Morava' in Ve stopách sv. Benedikta (Brno 2002), pp. 197-209.

Merhautová, A. and D. Třeštík, Románské umění v Čechách a na Moravě (Prague 1984).

15B. Where churches are built

The churches were located in castles or very close by. This is probably how we should understand the reference concerning Svatopluk's introduction of Methodius in 873 as an administrator of the Moravian church, giving him the churches and the clerics 'in all the castles'. Beside these there were churches of magnates according to the Bavarian-Frankish model.

'The Life of Methodius' in Magnae Moraviae Fontes Historici vol II (Prague and Brno 1966-1977).

15C. First royal church

The main church of the Mojmírides was apparently the basilica in Mikulčice, but there is no primary evidence for this.

Poulík, J., Dvě velkomoravské rotundy v Mikulčicích (Prague 1963).

Poulík, J., Mikulčice. Velkomoravské mocenské ústředí (Prague 1974).

15D. Architectural analysis

The churches built during the 9th century on Moravian territory, and those built simultaneously in Bohemia, are usually simple, centrally planned or longitudinal structures. They are exclusively found on sites which played important administrative roles. The research related to Great Moravia discovered a number of churches in Mikulčice, Staré Město, Pohansko and Modrá near Velehrad. An older assumption that Irish missionaries had participated in their building was not confirmed. It is probable that these structures arose mainly due to the effort of missionaries from the bishopric of Passau and, perhaps, also from Aquileia. The latter hypothesis partly rests on arguments concerning possible Dalmatian and Istrian influences on Moravian church architecture, particularly in the important church complex in Sady near Uherské Hradiště; in the basic form of the Great Moravian rotundas; and in church no. 10 in Mikulčice. A supposed Dalmatian influence on Moravian architecture is a longstanding issue (see in particular Cibulka, but also Macůrek, J. (ed), Magna Moravia). There are clearly some intriguing stylistic links between the rotundas and simple rectangular churches erected in Moravia and those found in Dalmatia. The origin of the unusual Moravian rotundas (eg Mikulčice) has been the subject of a long debate. Buildings as far apart as Byzantium and Dalmatia, and even imperial monuments such as at Aachen, have been suggested as models. The implications of this debate are broader than its architectural context would suggest: the arguments about architectural models have been used by scholars as evidence of eastern or western cultural influences on Moravia in the early stages of its conversion. While the case for Byzantine influence has not proved strong, the evident similarities between Moravia and Dalmatia across a broader spectrum of church buildings seem to imply links. After all, Aachen too was modelled on the prestigious centrally planned buildings in Italy (such as S Vitale, The Arian Baptistry, The Baptistry of the Orthodox, The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Mausoleum of Theodoric in Ravenna, for example), whose legacy was evident to some extent in Dalmatia (the rotunda of St Donatus in Zadar, for example). But there are problems with the Dalmatian hypothesis. Comparisons have often been evoked on the basis of speculative reconstructions of archaeological remains found in Moravia. More work needs to be done in comparing the building techniques and details of the structures. Clarification is also needed for the role of Aquileia as a transmitter of architectural style to Dalmatia, and from Dalmatia to Moravia. However, these influences should not be neccesarily linked with a firmly organized mission.

Cibulka, J., 'Václavova rotunda sv. Víta' in Svatováclavský sborník I (Prague 1934), pp. 230-685.

Macůrek, J. (ed), Magna Moravia, Sborník k 1100, výročí příhodu byzantské mise na Moravu (Prague 1965). Especially: V. Richter, 'Die Anfänge der Grossmährischen Architektur', pp. 121-360.

Merhautová, A. and D. Třeštík, Románské umění v Čechách a na Moravě (Prague 1984).

Pošmourný, J., 'Cír ekevní architektura Velkomoravské říše' in Umění 12 (1964), pp. 187-202.

Vavřínek, V., 'Study of the Church Architecture from the Period of the Great Moravian Empire' in Byzantinoslavica 25 (1964), pp. 288-301.

15E. Bishoprics

The bishoprics were established in 880. There were only two: the Moravian one, administered by Methodius, and the bishopric of Nitra, administered by Wiching. At least four bishoprics were planned in the 889 revival of the see, but we do not know what their intended seats were.

Třeštík, D., 'Die Gründung des Prager und des Mährischen Bistums' in A. Wieczorek, and H.-M. Hinz (eds.), Europas Mitte um 1000 I. (Stuttgart 2000), pp. 407-410.

15F. Immigrant/native clergy

In the beginning the Moravian church was fully in the hands of foreign priests from Bavaria, Dalmatia and northern Italy. The mission of Constantine and Methodius educated priests of local origin using the Slavic language. A later source (Vita Climenti, dated circa 1100, chapters 7 and 11) insists that about 200 pupils of Methodius, priests, deacons and subdeacons, were eventually sold as slaves. This number is probably widely exaggerated.

'Life of Methodius'; 'Life of Constantine' in: Magnae  Moraviae Fontes Historici, vol II (Prague and Brno 1966-1977).

15G. Church hierarchy

Methodius was archbishop; Wiching in Nitra was his suffragan. The rest were Slav and Latin priests. The entire organization rested on the system of princely castles and churches where the priests resided.

Třeštík, D., 'Die Gründung des Prager und des Mährischen Bistums' in A. Wieczorek and H.-M. Hinz (eds.), Europas Mitte um 1000 I (Stuttgart, 2000), pp. 407-410.

15H. Missions from the newly-converted countries

It is noteworthy that Great Moravia itself developed a rather intensive missionary activity. The Nitra region, conquered by Mojmír I by 830, was christianized from Moravia (we do not know any details). In 880 Svatopluk sent his bishop Wiching to the newly baptized Nitran people. Svatopluk also subjugated the prince of Vistula (today in the region of Cracow) and had him baptized. He proceeded in the same way when he subordinated Bohemia, c.883. Methodius, at Svatopluk's order, baptized the supreme Bohemian prince Bořivoj. Thus, Svatopluk followed the missionary model of the Empire: he only baptized the subjugated. Subordination was a condition and prerequisite of baptism. Hence neither the Empire, nor Svatopluk, organized any mission in the ordinary sense of the word. This indicates that Svatopluk regarded his state as a 'little Empire', comparable with the Frankish Empire.

'Life of Constantine' and 'Life of Methodius', ed. L. E. Havlík et al,  Magnae Moraviae Fontes Historici vol II (Prague and Brno 1966-1977).

Lošek, F.(ed),Die Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum und der Brief des Erzbischofs Theotmar von Salzburg, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Studien und Texte Bd. 15 (Hannover 1997).

Christian, 'Vita et passio S. Wenceszlai et S. Ludmile, ave eius', ed. J. Ludvíkovský. Kristiánova legenda - Legenda Christiani (Prague 1978).

Třeštík, D., 'Von Svatopluk zu Bolesław Chrobry: Die Entstehung Mitteleuropas aus der Kraft des Tatsächlichen und aus einer Idee' in P. Urbańczyk (ed.), The Neighbours of Poland in the 10th Century (Warsaw, 2000), pp. 111-145.

16. Evidence of ecclesiastical and non-ecclesiastical administrative system

16A. Their coincidence

See §14D.

16B. If relevant, territorialization.

© Petr Sommer, Dušan Třestík, and Josef Žemlička, Zoë Opačić