Die slawischen Sprachen

Hegausgeber Otto Kronsteiner


vol. 8, 1985

Referate des 4. SALZBURGER SLAWISTENGESPRÄCHS ”Method und die alten slawischen Kirchen sprachen” (Salzburg, 28. November - 1. Dezember 1985). Teil 1



Imre BOBA (Seattle/Washington)



In a recent study I attempted to show that, contrary to prevailing opinion, Saint Methodius was a resident bishop of Sirmium in Pannonia Secunda and that his diocese, or archdiocese, did not cover territories north of the Danube.


Up to now, Methodius has been considered by scholars to have been either a bishop without a permanent residence, a missionary bishop, a chorepiscopus, or a bishop of Pannonia and Moravia with residence in Velehrad in Moravia, in Nitra of Slovakia, or some other place north of the Danube. All scholars agreed, however, that Methodius was Archbishop of Moravia. My scepticism regarding these opinions was aroused by the fact that none of the sources uses an expression which would be equivalent to the term 'Archbishop of Moravia'; on the other hand, most of the sources, especially the correspondence of Pope John VIII, refer to Methodius as to a fully-appointed bishop with a definite diocese and episcopal see. It could not have been otherwise, because Methodius was made bishop under the auspices of the Bishop of Rome, hence his episcopal function could hardly have been in violation of the prevailing stipulations of the Canon Law. Since the earliest decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, bishops had to be assigned to specific cathedral churches.


In several letters addressed to Louis the German, to Carloman, and to the bishops of Bavaria, Pope John VIII stated repeatedly and unequivocally that Methodius had been appointed to the diocese of Pannonia, a diocese which, according to the same correspondence, once belonged to the jurisdiction of Rome. John VIII supported his claim with reference to synodal decisions and written histories. The Bishop of Salzburg, on the other hand, argued that his predecessors had been in control of the disputed territory for seventy-five years before the appearance of Methodius there. The document defines the contested territory as orientalis Pannonia. Since Salzburg never claimed territories north of the Danube and since the territory claimed by Pope John





VIII for Methodius is defined as diocesis Pannonica, there is no reason to believe that the diocese of Methodius covered some territories also north of the Danube.


An analysis of any single document, chronicle, or hagiographic writing in which reference is made to the episcopal dignity of Methodius will only confirm that the diocese (or archdiocese) of Methodius was in Pannonia. The same sources also give indications as to the cathedral city of that diocese. Thus, the Church-Slavonic Vita Methodii describes how Kocel, prince of a region in Pannonia, requested of the Pope that Methodius "be ordained as bishop in Pannonia, to the see of Andronicus ... and so it happened." According to early church tradition, St. Andronicus is associated with Sirmium, once the metropolitan city of Pannonia. The Pochvalno slovo Mefodija uses the term архиепискоупъ паноньскъ Меѳодии. The best definition of the episcopal see of Saint Methodius, however, is in the Greek Vita Clementis. In paragraph two we read:


Methodius, who was the glory of the eparchy of Pannonia, became the archbishop of Morava.


Paragraph three states that


Pope Hadrian ... ordained Methodius to be bishop of Morava of Pannonia.


Paragraphs six and twelve concern Gorazd, and we read:


Gorazd ... was assigned to be archbishop of Morava. Gorazd was from Morava and was fluent in the Slavonic and Greek languages, and he was designated by Methodius to the episcopal see.


Here we have not only a confirmation that Methodius had an episcopal see to which he appointed Gorazd, but that this see was in a city named Morava in the eparchy of Pannonia and, finally, that this Morava was associated with Methodius through the ordination by Pope Hadrian. Since Hadrian in fact ordained Methodius to the see of Saint Andronicus, i.e. Sirmium, the conclusion is at hand that Morava was at one time the medieval name of Sirmium. [1]


A city of Morava in Pannonia is well-attested in medieval sources. Joannes Skylitzes described the Byzantine-Hungarian frontier as of 1040 as running along Morava and Belgrade, fortresses of Pannonia. [2] Around the same time a list of bishoprics claimed by Ochrid names the diocese of Morava in Pannonia and associates the see of Morava with Methodius. [3]





The Greek form for the term Morava of Pannonia is contained in the phrase ἐπίσκοπος Μοράβου τῆς Πανονίας or Μοράβου τῆς Πανονίας. It seems possible that the modem concepts associating Moravia north of the Danube with Saint Methodius can be traced back to the edition of Vita Clementis by MIKLOSICH, who, instead of translating the phrase into Latin as episcopus Moravensis Pannoniae, used the term ”episcopus Moraviae et Pannoniae". [4]


The proper term archiepiscopus sanctae ecclesiae Marabensis is used by Pope John VIII in his letter to Sventopolk. Of course, the phrase archiepiscopus sanctae ecclesiae Marabensis cannot be interpreted to mean ”archbishop of Moravia,” because the form -ensis is normally used with names of cities, and the ”sancta ecclesia” is the cathedral church which is always defined by the name of a city or of the patron saint. There is no cathedral church of Bavaria or of Poland, and there are no forms such as ”archiepiscopus Bavariensis” or ”archiepiscopus Hungariensis, ” although there are non-official terms such as ”archiepiscopus Bavariae” or ”archiepiscopus Hungariae.” There is no similar title for Methodius, however, even though he was in charge of the church province consisting of territories under the control of Sventopolk. That the term archiepiscopus sanctae ecclesiae Marabensis, or the Greek form ἀρχιεπίσκοπος Μοράβου τῆς Πανονίας, cannot be associated with a Moravia is evident also from the fact that in the same letter in which Methodius is named archiepiscopus sanctae ecclesiae Marabensis there was mentioned in the realm of Sventopolk another bishop, Wiching, with the title ”episcopus sanctae ecclesiae Nitrensis.”


If we now accept the thesis that there was a city of Morava in Pannonia and that this city must be the Sirmium of antiquity, the see of Andronicus, whose successor was Saint Methodius, then there are some further historical and archaeological arguments which will help to locate the cathedral church of Saint Methodius.


As already stated, Methodius was appointed to the see of Saint Andronicus. One of the successors of Andronicus was Bishop Ireneus martyred by the Romans in 304 and subsequently elevated to sainthood. In 1229 the episcopal see of Sirmium was restored once more, its cathedral church being known as ecclesia Sancti Irenei.





From the 13th century there are several documents which make reference to capitulum sancti Irenei and to bishops sancti Irenei. The name ecclesia sancti Irenei and the restoration of the episcopal see after a lapse of an unspecified period of time imply that a local tradition of the martyrdom of Saint Ireneus and of an episcopal see in Sirmium persisted throughout several centuries. [5]


A similar tradition persisted in Sirmium concerning Saint Demetrius, martyred in Sirmium only a few days after the death of Saint Ireneus. The modern name of Sirmium, in fact, is Mitrovica, which is derived from Dimitrovica. But in the Middle Ages only the part of Sirmium north of the river Sava was known as Mitrovica or, in Hungarian, Szávaszentdemeter. The settlement south of the river Sava, formerly an island and the center of Sirmium, was known as Szenternye, the town or parish of Saint Ireneus.


The medieval Hungarian cathedral church of Szenternye must be considered as the site of the episcopal see of Sirmium in the late Roman period and whenever there was a bishopric in Sirmium - thus, also the episcopal see of Saint Methodius during the ninth century.


The remaining arguments in favour of my identification of the cathedral church of Saint Methodius are derived from archaeological evidence. Ladislav POPOVIĆ of the Archaeological Institute of the Yugoslav Academy of Science is currently conducting excavations in that part of Mitrovica which is known locally as Širingrad. His excavations, reported so far in the Arheološki Pregled 1966 and 1967, [6] led to the discovery of the remains of not one, but four, church buildings constructed in the course of time upon the ruins of each other. The oldest church is built on a Roman cemetery and has been described by POPOVIĆ as a martyrium of the fourth century. Since Saint Ireneus was martyred in 304 and the fourth church was beyond doubt dedicated to Saint Ireneus, we are allowed to assume that the martyrium was built over the grave of that saint. The second edifice is difficult to date, but contained a baptismal font; hence we are free again to conclude that the church was used by a bishop. The third church is a basilica with three apses, and POPOVIĆ dates this edifice in the





eleventh or twelfth century. The fourth and largest church was in use until the fourteenth century. Since the see of Sirmium was restored in 1229, it seems plausible that the fourth church was constructed around that date.


My main interest concerns the third church, which has been dated by POPOVIĆ as in use only in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In this church a tomb has been located on the right side - as one faces the altar - next to the wall. My understanding of medieval ecclesiastic practice leads me to believe that the grave must be that of a bishop. In the Middle Ages, only bishops could be buried within a church. This was the privilege of bishops, since bishops are bound to their cathedral churches by ties of matrimony. Of course, royalty could also be buried inside churches, but we have evidence from Dalmatian and Venetian practice that such burials were not next to the altar, but at the entrance to the church. [7] Furthermore, the grave in question contains no regal insignia, but only the skeleton and a simple cross. A bishopric in Sirmium-Szenternye was restored only in 1229: before that date, the only bishop who is attested for Sirmium and who died in Sirmium is Saint Methodius .


Therefore, I suggest that the grave in the third church may well be that of Saint Methodius. The most important argument in favour of my assumption is the testimony of the so-called Proložnoe žitie Mefodija, in which we read the following:


лежить же вь велицѣи црькви Моравьстѣи ѡ лѣвѫѩ странѫ вь стѣнѣ за ѡлтаремь...

("he rests in the cathedral church of Morava on the left side, in the wall behind the altar").


This description corresponds exactly to the location of the tomb in the third church. The tomb in Širingrad is on the right hand side if defined from the entrance of the church, but directions in a church are defined from the altar, hence the Gospel side is the right hand side; the Epistle side, the left hand side. The grave of our bishop is on the Epistle side, thus in complete agreement with the description of the grave of Saint Methodius in the Proložnoe žitie Mefodija. In a similar location is buried Saint Virgil in the cathedral church of Salzburg.


An added argument in support of my assumption is the circumstance that POPOVIĆ has so far reported only one grave which resembles





a grave of a bishop. And, indeed, we know from written sources that Methodius was the first bishop of Morava-Sirmium, an episcopal see restored at the request of Kocel. Although Methodius in 885 had designated a successor in the person of Gorazd and had an actual successor in the person of Wiching, neither of these two died in Sirmium. Gorazd was expelled and became, allegedly, bishop near Berat in present-day Albania, where his grave is to be found within the church. Wiching returned to Bavaria and died there as deposed bishop of Passau.


In conclusion, I may state that written evidence shows that the diocese and episcopal see of Methodius were in Pannonia and the cathedral church of Methodius should be identified with one of the churches currently being excavated by POPOVIĆ. Sources also indicate that the grave in that church should be that of Methodius.



1. For documentation an further arguments, cf. my book: History of Moravia Reconsidered. A Reinterpretation of Medieval Sources. The Hague 197o, especially pages 86-103.


2. Io. Skyl. 5278-10. For the edition, cf. Gy. MORAVCSIK, Byzantinoturcica vol. I, Berlin 1958.


3. H. GELZER, Der Patriarch von Achrid. Geschichte und Urkunden. Leipzig 1902.


4. F. MIKLOSICH, Vita Clementis. Vienna 1847.


5. For the relevant documentation, cf. Gy. GYÖRFFY, Das Güterverzeichnis des griechischen Klosters zu Szávaszentdemeter (Sremska Mitrovica) aus dem 12. Jahrhundert, in: Studia Slavica 5/1959: 9-. It should be noted here that one of the successors of Saint Ireneus was Domnus, known in the sources as Domnus metropolitanus, Domnus Sirmii, and also Domnus Pannoniensis. The form Pannoniensis is used also by Pope John VIII in addressing Methodius. Hence, Pannoniensis is short for civitas Pannoniensis, i.e. Sirmium.


6. Arheološki Pregled (Beograd) 8/1966: 136-137 and 9/1967: 131-138.


7. Cf. Monumenta spectantia historiam Slavorum meridionalium, vol. 7, ed. F. Rački (Zagreb 1877) , pp. 374-375 and 486-487.



Nachdruck AUS: Berichte über den II. Internationalen Kongreß für slawische Archäologie. Bd. 3 (Berlin 1973): 393-397.


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