The idea of apostolicity in Byzantium and the legend of the Apostle Andrew

Francis Dvornik





The tradition concerning the missionary activity of the Apostle Andrew in Achaea and his death at Patras is regarded as legendary by the majority of modern scholars. The account of the Apostle's residence at Byzantium, where he is said to have ordained his disciple Stachys as the first bishop of that city, has likewise been shown to have little foundation in fact. But even if they are fictitious, these traditions played an important role in the religious history of the Middle Ages. The purpose of this study is not, therefore, to re-examine the apocryphal literature in which these traditions are contained with a view to ascertaining the true facts about the Apostle Andrew (which, in all probability, will never be fully known), but to determine when these traditions arose, what use was made of them, and what prompted the Byzantines to regard the Apostle Andrew as the founder of their Church.


These problems are intimately connected with a larger issue, namely, the importance attached, both in the West and in the East, to the apostolic origin of a bishopric. Thus we are led to examine the role which the idea of apostolicity played in the relations between Rome and Byzantium, and more specifically the use made in Greek polemical literature of the supposed apostolic origin of the bishopric of Constantinople.


These questions, in turn, cannot be answered without reference to the over-all development of Church organization in the Later Roman Empire. It is now generally admitted that accommodation to the administrative division of the Empire was a guiding principle in the structure of the Early Church. Yet it remains to be determined to what extent this principle continued to dominate the outlook of the Eastern Church, and how it clashed with the idea of apostolicity which was adopted by Western Christianity at a relatively early period.


Such are the main topics presented in this Study, and it is hoped that their discussion may contribute to a better understanding of Byzantine history and of Eastern Christianity.





I should like to express my sincere thanks to my colleagues at Dumbarton Oaks with whom I have had frequent occasion to discuss the problems raised by this study and who have given me their help in my research. I should also like to thank members of the staff of Dumbarton Oaks for their assistance in preparing my manuscript for the press, and for reading the proof.


It is a matter of great regret to me that Professor A. M. Friend, Jr. did not live to see this work completed. As Director of Studies at Dumbarton Oaks he first invited me to investigate the transfer of the relics of the Apostle Andrew to the church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople, and encouraged me to extend my research to the various problems connected with the legendary tradition of Andrew. It is on his initative that this work was undertaken, and I wish to offer it in reverent respect of his memory.


Francis Dvornik


Dumbarton Oaks

Washington, D. C.

June, 1958



[Back to Index]