The Making of Christian Moravia (858–882). Papal Power and Political Reality

by Maddalena Betti

Bril, Leiden, Boston 2014



    (A summary of M. Egger's views by Maddalena Betti:)



Chapter One. The archdiocese of Methodius in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Historiography


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3. Revisionist Analyses of the Methodian Archdiocese

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Therefore, according to Boba, Methodius was the archbishop of Sirmium/Maraba, which was also the political center of the principality of Svatopluk, located in Roman Pannonia inferior between the rivers Danube and Sava (Pannonian Croatia). Between 880 and 885, the chief of the Moravians “became king (?) of all of Sclavonia, which now became also politically subordinated to the papacy.” By Sclavonia (terra Sclavorum), Boba meant a large area extending from the Dalmatian coast to the Danube-Drava rivers to the east and in the





south to Bosnia and Serbia. It was, therefore, an extensive archbishopric with an efficient episcopal system, which covered the territory which is still, to this day, occupied by the southern Slavs.


Ecclesiastical history serves to validate the new geo-political model traced by Boba. The cathedral church at Sirmium constituted a fundamental part of the theory which claimed that the political center of Svatopluk’s principality was in the same city. In fact, casting doubt on Methodius’s see being in Sirmium severely weakens the entire paradigm. Boba also tried to find archaeological evidence for his theory, affirming that the medieval church which was discovered in Mačvanska Mitrovica in 1966 had to be the episcopal church of Methodius. [91] This opinion was immediately rejected by Popović, who demonstrated that the church in question dated to the eleventh century. [92]


Boba’s analysis of the papal letters concerning Methodius is thus questionable. Boba seems to consider John VIII’s letters to Methodius and the Slavic chiefs to be normal papal missives addressed to stable polities with efficient ecclesiastical organization. Instead, the assigned tituli, the canonical practice, and the role of a missionary bishop sent from Rome differed greatly in an unsettled polity. It was a polity where an ecclesiastical organization had never existed, or, if it had existed in early stages, had fallen into oblivion, and where the conversion/reconversion to Christianity was a recent and partial phenomenon. Furthermore, John VIII’s letters were not subjected to critical examination: their content was accepted as a source of reliable historical information. Only some tituli attributed to Methodius were taken into consideration, and no remarks were made about Nitra, the only cited episcopal see (north of the Danube, in present-day Slovakia). Finally, the reasoning used to invalidate the titulus of archiepiscopus sanctae ecclesiae Marabensis is debatable: the identification of Sirmium with Maraba has no significant support among historians, although the hypothesis about the existence of a city called Maraba has been given more consideration.


Martin Eggers, who also devoted time to studying Methodius’s archdiocese, proposed a much more dynamic interpretation of the ecclesiastical province, which is inserted into the complex geo-political framework which he reconstructed. Eggers’s μεγάλη Μοραβία, primarily based on the geographical descriptions of Constantine Porphyrogenitus and governed



91. Boba 1973. (Boba, I., 1973. “The Cathedral Church of Sirmium and the Grave of St. Methodius” in Berichte über den II. Internationalen Kongress für Slawische Archäologie, Berlin, III, pp. 393–7).

92. Popović 1973–1974 (Popović, V., 1973–1974. “Le tombeau et l’église cathedrale de Méthode à Mačvanska Mitrovica”, Starinar, 24–25, pp. 265–70.).






by Mojmir, Rastislav, and Svatopluk in succession, is located on the Great Hungarian Plain to the east of the Danube, the so-called Alföld. Svatopluk’s original principality (before coming to power in Moravia in 870/871) is located in Bosnia and Slavonia; the land ruled by Pribina and Kocel is found in the area bordered by the rivers Raab, Danube and Drava. Having redrawn the geopolitical map of south-eastern Europe, Eggers then relocated Methodius’s sphere of activity into this new context. In his view, Constantine and Methodius worked together, between 862 and 869, in the territories of Rastislav (Hungarian Moravia), Kocel (Pannonia, near Lake Balaton), and Svatopluk (Bosnia and Slavonia); then Methodius was ordained as archbishop of Pannonia (869/870).


By discussing the meaning of the titulus of archiepiscopus pannoniensis ecclesiae, which appears in several papal letters referring to Methodius, Eggers, like Boba, was searching for confirmation of his southern hypothesis. In Eggers’s view, this titulus makes no sense within the ‘traditional view,’ which placed Moravia to the north of the Danube, thus excluding it from the former Roman province of Pannonia. Eggers affirmed, on the other hand, that his geo-political vision entirely sustains the lexical choice of the pope: the principality of Kocel, and also the principality of Svatopluk (in Bosnia and Slavonia) were undoubtedly included in the ancient interpretation of Pannonia. Furthermore, according to Eggers, even the Alföld Plain (Rastislav’s Moravia) was Pannonia because, during Carolingian times, the notion of Pannonia was gradually extended to the eastern regions of the middle part of the Danube. [93] Finally, Eggers concluded that “it is evident that the papal chancery comprised the territories of all three Slavic princes under the geographical notion Pannonia.”


Eggers then searched for an explanation of the appearance of the titulus of archiepiscopus sanctae ecclesiae Marabensis in the papal correspondence after 880. To do this, he highlighted certain periods of Methodius’s time as archbishop which were influenced by the dynamic geo-political context. According to Eggers, after 874, Methodius was archbishop of Svatopluk’s territories (Moravian Hungary and Bosnia-Slavonia) and of the principality of the Serbian Montemerus (who is mentioned in a letter from Pope John VIII). [94] In this period, the episcopal see must have been located in Roman Sirmium, which was the natural center of this territorial area. Eggers hypothesized a reorganization of Methodius’s archdiocese in



93. Eggers 2006 (Eggers, M. 2006–2007. “Die Verwendung und Bedeutung des Begriffes Pannonien in historischen und geografischen Quellen des Mittelalters”, Südostdeutsche Forschungen, 65–66, pp. 1–27.).

94. Iohannes VIII, Fragmenta, n. 18, p. 282. Montemerus is usually referred to in Slavic spelling as Mutimir.





879/880. His hypothesis was that, according to the instructions from the Eighth Ecumenical Council, Methodius’s position was changed from that of missionary archbishop for several Slavic polities to that of ecclesiastical head of Svatopluk’s realm. He also argued that this change brought about the transfer of the episcopal see from Sirmium to the city of Maraba, the capital of Svatopluk. Eggers therefore substantiated the appearance of the title archiepiscopus sanctae ecclesiae Marabensis, introducing an urban settlement into his reconstruction. Furthermore, he tried to identify the city of Maraba: analyzing some archaeological finds in Romania, he suggested that Methodius’s residence could have been Marosvár (Cenad), a Romanian settlement which lies on the river Maros (Hungarian)/Mureş (Romanian), an eastern tributary of the Tisza (Map 2).