Christianisation of Central and Eastern Europe

 

 

The medieval legends mention the missions in Scythia, i.e. the areas extending north of the Black Sea, led by Sts. Andrew and Philip, the Apostles. St. Andrew’s journeys around the region were recorded as early as in the 4th century by Eusebius of Caesarea. The Apostle’s activities were widely popularised in medieval chronicles by the Ruthenian monks.[1] Even though these narratives cannot be now verified without doubts, the infiltration of Christianity in the regions on the Black Sea should not be totally excluded.

The first contact of the Slavs with Christianity, fully confirmed in the sources, took place at the beginning of the 7th century at the latest.[2] In the early Middle Ages, the Slavs inhabited the vast areas of Central and Eastern Europe. The region was at the same time, throughout the early Middle Ages, peripheral to the two Empires: Rome and Byzantium. Its natives, the Slavs and non-Slavs, neighbouring those two centres of civilisation, in the 9th and 10th centuries succeeded in establishing their own, new state structures. Both Roman and Byzantine Churches began their missionary activities targeted at those states and nations. The missions carried out among those peoples coincided with the profound transformations of their social and political tissue. The Christianisation of this region of Europe appears to have been strictly related to the emergence of new state organisations.[3] The ability to receive and internalise Christian beliefs made the new states turn a promising target of missionary activities.

The Byzantine missions gained a sustainable success in the countries closer to Byzantium and thus constantly under the political influence of the Empire. Christian missions were welcomed in the first Slavic state Karantania, founded by the Slovenes in the first half of the 8th century. Slavic rulers, struggling to counter pressure from the Avars, perceived the adoption of Christianity as a highly beneficial step to make. Christianity proved socially integrative and facilitated the development of political relations with the neighbours. Bishop of Salzburg, Vergil and the first Duke of Karantania, Modest played an outstanding role in the missionary activities.[4] Their efforts led to the establishment of multiple monasteries in the eastern Austria and Slovenia (Krnski Grad, Gospa Sveta). Missionaries resorted to the Slovene language, especially in the Bavarian-Slavic borderlands. Some traces of the Slavic literature can be found in the prayers written in Latin.[5]

Apart from Karantania, the early Christianisation of this part of Europe encompassed Dalmatia and Croatia. The first attempts to spread the Gospel among the Croats date back to the early 7th century and are attributed to the Byzantine Emperor Maurice (582–602 A.D.). At the end of the 8th century the Croats formed two separate states, one on the Adriatic Sea (Dalmatian Croatia) and the other in the south Pannonia region (Pannonian Croatia). In fear of the German threat, the two dukedoms united in the mid-9th century into a single state. Its territories, extending from the Sava river to the Adriatic, were Christianised by the Latin Dalmatia and Byzantium. The Latin character of Dalmatian Christianity, with its Nin see, mingled in Croatia with Greek Christianity. During the rule of the highly capable Byzantine emperor Basil I (867–886 A.D.), a rather virtual protectorate over the Serb and Croat tribes turned into a real power. The Slavonic rite was given stable grounds, further cultivated in the evangelisation processes by the disciples of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. In the late 9th century, the disciples of St. Methodius introduced the Slavonic rite in Dalmatia. Croatia, whose ties with the Byzantine Empire were the weakest due to the sheer distance and also denominational differences, surrendered to the Frankish missionaries. In the second half of the 11th century, a major part of the Croat territories was invaded and occupied by Magyars.[6] The Slavonic rite, suppressed by the Croat rulers and the Holy See, has survived in some regions until today.

The Slavonic rite rooted most deeply among the Serbs and Bulgars. The Serbs settled in the Balkans as early as the 6th century. In Serbia and Bosnia, the Christianisation processes took another two hundred years to complete. In the mid-9th century, the Serbs established their own state. The country’s social and political developments in the 10th century pushed the Serbs under the influence of the Byzantine Church. The Serb dukedoms, with the political support from Byzantium, took advantage of the cultural benefits fountaining from the Bosporus. The rule of the emperor Basil I had a special impact on the growth of Christianity. The Serbs, similarly to most other Slavic neighbours of Byzantium, were reserved towards Greek missionaries as the alleged political emissaries of the Empire. Nonetheless, after 867 A.D. their Duke Mutimir (855–892 A.D.) accepted baptism and established the Sirmium See.[7] The Sirmium archdiocese was formed before the fall of the Roman Empire, and it extended over the entire western Balkan Peninsula. This ancient religious centre was ruined in the second half of the 5th century in the attacks of pagan tribes. The Serbs thus accepted the Slavonic liturgy together with the Cyrillic script. At the same time, the western part of Bosnia was under an influence of the Latin Church.[8] The state of the Serbs began thriving only in the second half of the 12th century. It was made a real power by the son of Prince Stefan, Rastko, whose assumed monastic name was Sava. In 1217 A.D. the monk Sava became the bishop of all Serb territories, while his brother Stefan was proclaimed the king (1217–1227 A.D.). St. Sava has been since identified by the Serbs as a symbol of national unity and a patron of religious life. Kosovo was the birthplace of the Serb statehood. After the Serb Orthodox Church proclaimed autocephaly from Byzantium in 1219 A.D., the metropolis was founded in Pec and the monasteries in Banjska near Kosovska Mitrovica, Prizren, Gracanica and Visoki Decani became spiritual centres of all the Serbs.[9]

Christian communities originally appeared in the now Bulgaria already in the first centuries A.D.[10] The Bulgar state formed from the 7th century on the lower Danube river. Nomad Bulgar tribes intermingled with the Slavs to establish a state structure under the Khan suzerainty. The Byzantine Church focused its efforts particularly on the tribes that inhabited the eastern Balkans. A dozen of missionary sees were established in the 7–8th centuries in Thrace only. The first monastic centres emerged near Varna and in other cities. This process was reinforced under the policy of Khans, who settled Greek peoples in their state.[11] In the peace agreements entered into with Bulgaria, the Byzantine Empire bound its rulers to accept baptism from Greek priests. The proper Christianisation of Bulgaria began as late as in 862 A.D., when Khan Boris appealed to the Patriarch of Constantinople, Fotius (858–867, 877–886 A.D.) to send his missionaries. Khan himself was baptised on May 25, 866 A.D. and was given his Christian name Michael from his godfather emperor Michael III (842–867 A.D.). Having accepted baptism, Khan Boris put his efforts into establishing an independent church metropolis. This tendency was observed not only in Bulgaria. In the second half of the 9th century, the Serb dukes also attempted to diminish the influence of Byzantine missionaries, princess Olga of Kiev was rather reserved towards a closer relation with Constantinople and tied contacts with Otto I. Along the same lines, prince of Poland Mieszko I (960–982 A.D.) and prince of Moravia Rostislav (846–870 A.D.) ultimately accepted the Latin Christianity. In this situation, Constantinople conceded the establishment of a separate metropolis in 870 A.D., while retaining jurisdiction over the Bulgar Orthodox Church.[12] In this way the Bulgars abandoned the idea of their own patriarchate and accepted a wide church autonomy instead. That was a great success of Patriarch Fotius, who at that time undertook missionary activities on a broader scale.[13]

The new Bulgar church province encompassed the Ohrid and Bregalnica episcopates in Macedonia, Moravian diocese in the South Moravia region and a few others in the main Bulgar cities. Initially, the Bulgar Church was dominated by Greek priests and Byzantine culture. The structures and culture of Orthodox Church in Bulgaria started to develop rapidly after priests from Moravia came in this region in ca. 886 A.D. The best disciples of St. Methodius, Clement and Naum, were ordained bishops of Pliska and Preslav, the old and new capitals of the Bulgar state. They brought with liturgy books in the Glagolitic and Cyrillic script. They ordered the chronicles of Sts. Cyril and Methodius’ lives in remembrance of the Apostles’ missionary activity among the Slavs. Clement and Naum founded the Ohrid Slavic Literary School, which extended the influence of the Bulgar Church over Macedonia and northern Albania. Slavic literature was promoted mainly through the monastic centres. In this way the medieval Bulgaria became a real political and cultural power in the Slavic world.[14]

The Methodian mission was most successful in Great Moravia. Great Moravia was formed by Duke Moymir but it was prince Rostislav that introduced the country to Christianity. Originally, the evangelisation missions were led by missionaries from Salzburg. Prince Rostislav, in the endeavour to shun the country’s dependence on the German power, brought missionaries from Constantinople, who, under the patronage of Cyril and Methodius, elaborated the Slavic alphabet and popularised Christian faith. The Cyrillo-Methodian mission converged with the ecclesiastical policy of Moravian dukes. The Methodian Church, both in the theological and organisational spheres, favoured independence from Rome. That justified the strong opposition on the part of German priests against the development of the Slavonic liturgy. The genesis of the conflict lied in the antagonism between the two Christian missions in Moravia, which competed in acquiring adherents among the inhabitants of Moravia. The Methodian mission was countered to a high extent due to political reasons.[15] Eventually, this great body of Moravian evangelisation and the Slavonic liturgy was destroyed after Rostislav was defeated in 865 A.D. by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The defeat of the Moravians meant a return of German missionaries and the exile of the disciples of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. Byzantine missionaries were finally banned to carry on their missions by Duke Svatopluk, who acknowledged the papal primacy. The western option of Moravian dukes prevailed and the Methodian sacrament was replaced by the Latin rite, in particular after Moravia was conquered by the Magyars in 905.

Bohemia was formed after Slavic tribes united around Prague under the suzerainty of the Premyslid Dynasty. In the 8th century Bohemian territories were infiltrated by both Latin and Byzantine Christianity. Borivoj, the first Czech prince to adopt Christianity, and his wife Ludmila were baptised by Archbishop St. Methodius. In the 10th century, the Premyslid Dynasty opted for the Latin rite and closer ties with the German Empire. Prince Vaclav I (921–929 A.D.) fell victim to his own eagerness in promoting Christianity. His brother Boleslaw (929–971 A.D.) carried out a similar policy. He extended the territories of the Bohemian state and gave his daughter Dobrawa away in marriage with prince of Poland Mieszko I. The Polish-Czech alliance accounted for a prompt adoption of Christianity by the Polish ruler in the Latin rite. The Christianisation processes of Bohemia after the Slavonic liturgy was done away with were very slow. The first Latin see was established as late as in 973 A.D. in Prague and was subdued to the German ecclesiastical province with the chief seat in Mainz. Bohemia obtained its own see only in the 14th century.[16]

The Magyars derived their knowledge of Christian faith from the Slavs and from their contacts with Byzantium. Under the influence of Byzantine missionaries, some Magyar tribes adopted Eastern Christianity. The first monasteries in Hungary were founded by Greek monks. However, the Eastern Church lost its position in that country. The western option prevailed due to the fact that a descendant of the Árpád House, prince Géza (970–997 A.D.) united the country based on the tribes that remained in close contacts with the German Empire. Prince Géza appealed in 973 A.D. to emperor Otto I to send Christian missionaries.[17] The proper Christianisation of Hungary began in the late 10th century and developed after 1001 A.D. under the reign of king Stephen I (997–1038 A.D.). Besides the dominant Latin rite, there was an outstanding influence of the Bulgar Orthodox Church with its Ohrid Archiepiscopacy. Sazava and Sremska Mitrovica were the main centres of the Slavonic liturgy in Hungary. In the 11–12th centuries the lands of the Magyar Transylvania and other territories dominated by Romanian and Slavic peoples were numerously scattered with Byzantine monasteries.[18] The Latin tradition of the medieval Magyar Christianity did not deny a coexistence with the followers of the Slavic and Greek rites.

The beginnings of Christianity in Romania date back to the times of the Apostles, especially in Dacia, a former province of the Roman Empire. The region later on became a battlefield for Latin and Byzantine missionaries.[19] The Romanian lands of Dobruja, Transylvania and Walachia were the spot of clashes between various political and cultural influences from Bulgaria, Serbia, Kievan and Halich Rus, the Byzantine Empire, mediated by the southern Slavs, and some weaker impulses from the West, particularly conspicuous in Transylvania as fuelled mainly by Hungary. In the 10th century the Transylvanian princely lands were conquered by the Magyars. The settlement of the Magyars in Transylvania, persistent for ca. one thousand years, proved pivotal to the shaping of denominational relations. King Stephen I of Hungary, having defeated the Transylvanian dukes, enforced the Latin tradition (1003 A.D.). Dobruja, inhabited by the Slavic Bulgars and Romanian peoples, was Christianised by Byzantium in the second half of the 10th century. Starting from the late 11th century the region was under the sway of Bulgaria. The Slavonic liturgy Christianity rooted deeply in the southern Romanian territories (Walachian princely lands) during the Bulgar suzerainty. The main religious centre of the Orthodox Church that emanated its powers over the Romanian lands was the Paristrion province see in Dristra. At the end of the 1st millennium the regions on the Danube River went under a growing influence of Kievan Rus. Kievan Rus maintained its suzerainty over Moldavia until the mid-12th century. The Kievan influences, hindered only by the short-lasting invasions of the Pechenegs and Kipchaks, ultimately reinforced the Orthodox Church.[20] The Moldavian lands remained ecclesiastically dependent on the Halicz metropolis. First Kievan and then Halich Rus were tied with Moldavia through the region they shared, through religion and through the Slavic-group languages dominant among the upper social classes.

Besides the key role of Bulgaria and Great Moravia in cultivating the Slavic Cyrillo-Methodian heritage, it was the Ruthenian lands that became the heirs of this great religious and cultural tradition. Only relatively lately did the Byzantine Empire tie closer contacts with the eastern Slavic peoples. Despite the previous political and economic relations it was only under the Fotius Patriarchate that the first attempts were made to Christianise Ruthenia. The first wave of the Ruthenian Christianisation came with Byzantine missionaries in ca. 866 A.D. Most likely it was also the foundation date of the first Orthodox church named by St. Elias and the missionary metropolis in Kiev.[21] The Greek Orthodox Church gained the opportunity to lead missions among the eastern Slavs. However, the satisfaction of Patriarch Fotius was premature, as in the Ruthenian lands Christianity was not granted support by the dukes. Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (913–959 A.D.) endeavoured to draw the vast Ruthenian territories under the Byzantine power. The emperor took advantage of Kievan princess Olga’s – the widow of Prince Igor – stay in Constantinople (955 A.D.) to make her accept baptism on the Bosporus.[22] During the sacrament princess Olga assumed the Christian name of Helena, after the then Byzantine empress. As a Christian, she was admitted twice to the audience with Emperor Constantine in his palace.[23] During her reign the first Christian churches were founded in the city of Kiev. The role of the Kievan princess in introducing Christianity was acknowledged by the first Ruthenian metropolitan, archbishop Hilarion, in his commemoration of Prince Vladimir. With thy grandmother Olga, oh Prince, thou hast brought the cross from New Jerusalem, the city of Constantine, and made it stand all over thy land for the faith to abide.”[24] After Olga’s death pagan tendencies regained prevalence in Rus. The ultimate Christianisation of Kiev Ruthenia took place during the rule of Vladimir the Great (980–1015 A.D.). The Kievan prince negotiated with the emperor for the hand of princess Anna, Basil II’s sister (976–1025 A.D.) in exchange for his concession to accept Christianity from Byzantium. The ruler of Kiev Ruthenia was baptised in 988 A.D. in Korsun. Vladimir the Great returned to the capital surrounded by Greek priests headed by Archbishop Michael.

After that the Christianisation of Ruthenia went quickly. Mediated by the Greek Church, the Byzantine culture took only two hundred years to spread all over Ruthenia, just as it had done before in Bulgaria and Serbia. In this way, in the late 10th century the vastest Slavic state of the then Europe was officially bound with the Byzantine civilisation and its cultural legacy. The structures of the Orthodox Church developed dynamically. Besides the Kievan, two other metropolises were established in Belgorod and Novgorod until the end of the 10th century. In the early 11th century, diocese cathedrals were founded in Polotsk, Chernihiv and Pereyaslav. From the second half of the 11th and through the 12th century new Episcopal seats were established in Juriev, Rostov, Tmutarakan, Vladimir-Volynski, Turov, Smolensk and Halich. In the mid-13th century the Ruthenian lands were divided into 15 dioceses, which in terms of territorial size equalled some countries of Western Europe.[25] At that time, Ruthenia’s adherence to Christianity ensured the country an important position in Europe. In the centuries that followed it was Ruthenia that replaced Byzantium in defending the Eastern Christian tradition against the threats posed by Asian and Turkic peoples.

The neighbourhood of Great Moravia and, later on, of the Christianised Ruthenia, had an inevitable impact on the denominational choices of the Polish lands. Written sources indicate the presence of the Slavonic rite in Poland.[26] The existence of Christian temples in the 10th century was confirmed by archaeological excavations.[27] The remnants of the temples from the second and third quarter of the 10th century testify that the local social elites were Christianised. The traces of the Slavonic cult were found in Ostrow Lednicki, Cracow, Wislica, Przemysl and many other cities. Those centres were not subdued to the Latin Church but remained under the influence of the Byzantine civilisation, with its Slavonic liturgy and Cyrillic script. However, in Poland, similarly to Moravia of the early 10th century, it was the Western Christian tradition that ultimately prevailed. Already during the reign of Boleslaw the Brave there was only a remnant of the Methodian Church, once active in the southern part of the Polish lands.

From the times of statehood formation and throughout the Middle Ages, Poland was subject to the cross-influences of the East and West. After Bohemia adopted Christianity in 966 A.D. Poland entered into the range of the Latin civilisation. At the same time, Polish lands were only peripheral to the Latin Christian Europe. It was in the Middle Ages that Poland formed its ethnic and territorial borders, together with its cultural identity. Orthodoxy of the Byzantine-Ruthenian tradition persisted in the Polish territories since the reign of Boleslaw the Brave (992–1025 A.D.). Chroniclers recorded a number of marriages of the first Piast Dynasty rulers with Ruthenian princesses. This process lasted until the end of the rule of Boleslaw the Wry-Mouthed. During Poland’s division into small principalities, Masovian and Little Polish dukes also entered into marriages with daughters of the Ruthenian houses.[28] Marital affinities reinforced the Orthodox Church and introduced the richness of the Eastern Christianity into the Latin tradition that dominated the Polish lands. The main determinants of the demographic patterns in the eastern part of the Polish lands were the colonisation of Ruthenia and, in the denominational sphere, the presence of the Orthodox Church.[29]

Another example worthwhile mentioning is the Christianisation of the Polabians, the Slavic tribes that inhabited the areas extending between the Oder and Elbe rivers, which lasted from the 9th to 11th century. The Saxon expansion led to the establishment of several missionary sees subordinated to the Magdeburg archiepiscopacy. The Lusatians rejected Christianity in 983 A.D. Finally, under the pressure of the German Empire and Poland, they adopted the Latin rite a century afterwards. West Pomerania underwent Christianisation processes until the 1120’s. The new religion was promoted mainly by bishop Otto of Bamberg, who succeeded in making Duke Vratislav accept baptism. The role of the missionary sees in Kolberg and Cammin was crucial to this process.[30]

The official acts of adoption of Christianity in all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, from Karantania, Croatia, Bulgaria and Serbia to Ruthenia, did not mean a straightforward acceptance of the Gospel by the whole societies. Christianisation was a long-lasting process and various remnants of the pagan times survived for a few centuries. Nonetheless, once rooted, Christianity brought about profound transformations in all the aspects of those societies’ lives. The Slavs and non-Slavs, depending on the Christian tradition adopted, took advantage of the huge legacies of the Byzantine or Latin civilisations. The activities of Sts. Cyril and Methodius were pivotal to the development of Christianity in this region of Europe. They both came from Thessaloniki and were well prepared to carry out missionary activities among the Slavs. Patriarch Fotius sent them to the Balkans to Christianise the inhabitants in order to weaken the anti-Byzantine attitudes. Both monks were outstandingly successful in their missionary work. They translated the Bible into the Old Church Slavonic and invented the Cyrillic alphabet commonly used in the Orthodox Church. Their missions contributed to the development of literary output of the Bulgars, Serbs and Ruthenians. The missionaries succeeded in converting several dukes to Christianity, including the rulers of Great Moravia and the Vistulan princes. The importance of the Apostles’ work among the Slavs was best described by Aleksander Naumow. „The activities of the Saints and their disciples in Moravia and Pannonia turned from a political manifestation into a culture-making mission. They invented the original Slavic script, the Glagolitic writing, […] to establish a unique linguistic norm, which was then easily transformed into a social norm, and further to confer on the new language the dignity of literary and liturgy language, contrary to the then prevailing opinion that only the Greek, Latin and Hebrew languages could fulfil those functions; they elaborated a completely new canon of style […], and grafted Slavic literature with the genre paradigm of the Byzantine literature, which had sourced from the achievements of the classical and early Christian poetics and rhetoric. They developed a broad-scale visionary mission, owing to which the Slavs could get the idea of the greatness, capability and God’s particular love of their nation.”[31] The mission of Sts. Cyril and Methodius was satiated with the apostolic task of preaching the Gospel. Similarly to Western Europe, the use was made of local languages but the Thessalonikan brothers further transformed the Old Church Slavonic into a language of liturgy. That is why their missionary activities were much more successful than the then undertaken Iro-Scottish and Bavarian missions.

Byzantium lived up to its cultural mission towards the Slavs of Central and Eastern Europe. The high Byzantine culture triggered and supported the development of the Slavic peoples in virtually all dimensions, even if that was hindered in some countries by the Tatar and Turkic invasions. The Eastern Christianity, being dominant in the vast areas of this European region, ultimately became a depositary of that magnificent civilisational heritage. Its traces have been retained also in those countries, which, though inhabited by the followers of the Roman Catholic Church, had only the least contact with the Byzantine culture in their histories. The Christianisation of the Slavic countries and the resulting establishment of ecclesiastical organisations with the Slavonic liturgy contributed to the shaping of the Byzantine-Slavic tradition. That civilisation circle encompassed such states like Bulgaria, Serbia, and the Romanian and Ruthenian dukedoms. Those states maintained close contacts with Byzantium, as symbolised by the separate Slavic monasteries on Mount Athos. That specific cultural symbiosis of the Byzantine Christianity and local traditions shaped the religious peculiarities of Eastern Europe.

The Eastern Christian tradition in Central and Eastern Europe rooted deeply in all the forms of local life. Its influences are particularly conspicuous in the growth of the cult of holy images and monastic life, which strongly supported religiousness of many nations. The Byzantine material culture was even more important. The signs of its power are found throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The second wave of its influences came after the fall of Constantinople, when a number of Greek masters of painting moved to the Balkans and the Ruthenian lands. In Poland, the members of the Jagiellonian Dynasty ranked high and indulged in objects of the Byzantine culture. The Holy Trinity Chapel in the Lublin Castle, with its Byzantine frescos, presents a synthesis of the Byzantine-Ruthenian and Latin cultures. Similar cultural syntheses are depicted in the decorations of the Sutkowice Orthodox church in the Volhynia region and that of St. Mary’s Annunciation in Suprasl.[32] The vast sphere of the Byzantine intellectual culture, so inaccessible to western societies, was acquired and accepted in Eastern Europe in the Greek and Old Church Slavonic language versions. The Byzantine culture was promoted and popularised not only by the Greeks but mainly by the Orthodox Serbs, Bulgarians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Romanians and Russians. At the end of the 15th century Russia assumed the patronage over Orthodox Christianity and its rulers proclaimed themselves the heirs of the Byzantine statehood and cultural tradition.[33]

Those countries, which ultimately fell in the Byzantine-Slavic circle, put an immense intellectual effort into internalising Greek liturgical texts for the purposes of their own Church. That process facilitated the shaping of social elites and promotion of literacy among people. According to the records collected by Andrzej Poppe, only the Ruthenian lands at the late 12th century could boast about approximately 7 thousand churches furnished with 50 thousand liturgical books. Taking into account the inevitable losses during the times of unrest, their number must have been much higher. It can be assumed that a comparable level of education and literary output characterised the entire area of the Byzantine-Slavic civilisation.[34]

It can be concluded now that the Christianisation processes in Central and Eastern Europe were completed at the end of the 10th century. That breakthrough historical date determined for the next centuries the civilisational borders as marked by the range of Eastern and Western Christianity. Latin Christianity prevailed in Poland, Pannonia, Dalmatia, Hungary, and Bohemia and, in the 11th century, Croatia. Previously, the above countries had only been forward localities of the Western culture. Despite their efforts to counter the political sway of the German Empire, they finally surrendered to the Western religious tradition.[35] The expansion of the Byzantine Empire in Central and Eastern Europe was mediated by the Orthodox Church. Byzantine Christianity, even though it did impact directly some Slavic peoples, found its legitimacy in the Methodian and Old Ruthenian version. In that form it was adopted by the inhabitants of Red Ruthenia, the Vistulan Principality and Great Moravia. The nations that accepted the „Greek faith” became integral parts of Eastern Europe.

At this point, two questions may appear relevant, namely whether Orthodoxy, which is dominant in many countries, automatically determines the identity of those countries as Eastern European, and whether Orthodoxy is the dominant religion among the Slavs. While attempting to answer these questions, it should be noted that Eastern Christianity has always been a fixed component of religious life in over a thousand-year history of this region of Eastern Europe. However, Orthodoxy cannot be identified with the Slavs only, just as Catholicism cannot be limited to Germanic and Roman peoples. The Christianisation of the Serbs and Croats is perhaps the best example here. Non-Slavs had similar experiences. Sooner or later Catholicism prevailed among the Hungarians, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians. On the other hand, the Romanians, having nothing to do with the Slavs, became followers of the Orthodox Church. The triumph of Orthodoxy proved complete only among the inhabitants of the Balkans and Ruthenia. In the histories of many nations in this part of Europe, Orthodoxy was their basic religion and the fundamental element of their awareness that shaped their local cultures and identities. Orthodoxy ultimately delimited the civilisational and cultural belonging of the Serbs, Bulgarians, Romanians, Macedonians, Slovenians, Belarusians, Russians and Ukrainians. Any further influences of other denominations and Churches were only of a secondary importance. In the histories of the Croatians, Hungarians, Czechs, Poles and Lithuanians, the Roman Catholic Church played a similar role. On the other hand, Transylvania, Moldavia or Slovakia have always been multidenominational. This is due to the fact that those regions were the spots of the political and religious clash between Rome and Constantinople. They developed a specific cultural and religious tradition, which sourced from different civilisational streams. As Oskar Halecki said, „Eastern Europe was not less European than the Western part.”[36] What counts here appears to be an apprehension of the Byzantine culture itself, with its immense civilisational richness brought hand in hand with Eastern Christianity. The recognition of the constant presence of this great Christian tradition is essential to the understanding of the Central and Eastern European history and the religious and national identities of the local societies.



[1] L. Műller, Driewnierusskoje skazanije o chożdienii apostoła Andrieja w Kijew i Nowgorod, [In:] Letopisi i chroniki, Moskwa 1974, p. 37; Jakub de Voragine, Złota legenda, J. and M. Pleziow, ed., Warszawa 1983, pp. 222–223.

[2] A. Vlasto, The Entry of the Slavs into Christendom, Cambridge 1970; J. Leśny, Konstantyn i Metody, apostołowie Słowian, dzieło i jego losy, Poznań 1987, pp. 16–17.

[3] For more on the Christianisation of Central and Eastern Europe in the era of the Byzantine Empire cf. A. Ammann, Die ostslavische Kirche im jurisdiktionelen Verband des bysantinischen Grosskirche (988–1459), Wűrzburg 1955; N. Zernov, The Russian and their Church, London 1978; M. Spinka, A History of Christianity in the Balkans, Chicago 1933; H. Trevor-Roper, The Rise of Christian Europe, London 1967; S. Runciman, Wielki Kościół w niewoli, Warszawa 1973; J. M. Hussey, The Orthodox Church in the Byzantine Empire, Oxford 1990.

[4] A. Kuhar, The Conversion of the Slovenes and the German-Slavs. Ethnic Boundary in the Eastern Alps, New York-Washington 1959, pp. 29–32; J. Leśny, Konstantyn i Metody, pp. 18–20.

[5] Antologia poezji słowiańskiej, M. Pichal, ed., with foreword by J. Magnuszewski, Wrocław 1973, p. 3.

[6] W. Felczak, T. Wasilewski, Historia Jugosławii, Wrocław 1985, pp. 46–53.

[7] T. Wasilewski, Bizancjum i Słowianie w IX wieku, Warszawa 1972, pp. 192193.

[8] K. Jireček, Istorija Srba, vol. I, Beograd 1978, p. 98.

[9] R. Mihaljčić, Kraj srpskog carstva, Beograd 1975; I. S. Jastrebov, Stara Srbija, Priština 1995; S. Mileusnić, Svetinje Kosova i Metohije, Beograd 1999.

[10] R. G. Roberson, The Eastern Christian Churches, Roma 1990, pp. 36–37.

[11] J. Leśny, Konstantyn i Metody, p. 21.

[12] W. Swoboda, L’origine de l’organisation ecclésiastique en Bulgarie et ses rapports avec le patriarchat constantinopolitain (870–919), „Bizantinobulgarica” no. 2, 1966, pp. 67–72.

[13] K. Zakrzewski, Bizancjum w średniowieczu, Kraków 1995, pp. 64–69.

[14] S. Waklinow, Kultura starobułgarska (VI–XI), Warszawa 1984, pp. 118–123.

[15] Apostołowie Słowian. Żywoty Konstantyna i Metodego, foreword by T. Lehr-Spławiński, supplemented by L. Moszyński, Warszawa 1988, pp. 7–27; J. Leśny, Konstantyn i Metody. Apstołowie Słowian, dzieło i jego losy, Poznań 1987; A. Gieysztor, Rubież Kościołów w IX–XI w. w Europie środkowej i środkowo-wschodniej: tytułem zagajenia, [In:] Katolicyzm w Rosji i prawosławie w Polsce (XI–XX), J. Bardach, T. Chynczewska-Hennel, ed., Warszawa 1997, p. 9.

[16] J. Kłoczowski, Młodsza Europa, Warszawa 1998, pp. 46–47.

[17] W. Felczak, Historia Węgier, Wrocław 1983, p. 22; W. Bator, Początki chrześcijaństwa w Kotlinie Karpackiej i Bizantyjsko-Rzymska rywalizacja o dusze Węgrów we wczesnym średniowieczu, „Zeszyty Naukowe Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego. Studia Religiologica”, R. MCCXXXVII, vol. 32, Kraków 1999, pp. 103–123.

[18] R. G. Roberson, The Eastern Christian Churches, pp. 114–115.

[19] Ibidem, pp. 34–35.

[20] J. Demel, Historia Rumunii, Wrocław 1986, pp. 86–92.

[21] Powieść minionych lat. Charakterystyka historyczno-literacka, translated and commented on by F. Sielicki, Wrocław 1968, p. 248; O. M. Rapow, Russkaja Cerkow w IX–pierwoj trieti XII w., Moskwa 1988, pp. 77–90.

[22] Kroniki staroruskie, F. Sielicki, ed., Warszawa 1987, pp. 43–45.

[23] A. Poppe, Olga, „Słownik Starożytności Słowiańskiej”, vol. III, Wrocław 1975, pp. 477–478; I. Ševčenko, Byzantine Roots of Ukrainian Christianity, Harvard University 1984; S. Senyk, A History of the Church in Ukraine, vol. I, Roma 1993.

[24] Powieść minionych lat…, p. 256.

[25] A. Poppe, Państwo i Kościół na Rusi w XI w., Warszawa 1968.

[26] For more on this issue see: K. Lanckorońska, Studies on the Roman-Slavonic Rite in Poland, Rome 1961; J. Klinger, Nurt słowiański w początkach chrześcijaństwa polskiego, [In:] O istocie prawosławia, Warszawa 1983, pp. 365–421; J. Umiński, Obrządek słowiański w Polsce IX–XI wieku i zagadnienie drugiej metropolii polskiej w czasach Bolesława Chrobrego, „Roczniki Humanistyczne KUL” no. 4 of 1953, Lublin 1954, pp. 3–44; Z. Dobrzyński, Obrządek słowiański w dawnej Polsce, vol. I–III, Warszawa 1989.

[27] J. Hawrot, Pierwotny kościół pod wezwaniem Salwatora na Zwierzyńcu w Krakowie, „Kwartalnik Architektury i Urbanistyki”, 1956, no. 1, pp. 157–172.; W. Szafrański, Płock we wczesnym średniowieczu, Warszawa 1983; Z. Wartołowska, Osada i gród w Wiślicy w świetle badań wykopaliskowych do 1962 r., [In:] Odkrycia Wiślicy, Warszawa 1963; A. Żak, Trzecia budowla przedromańska na Wawelu, „Z otchłani wieków”, Kraków 1968; J. Klinger, Nurt słowiański w początkach chrześcijaństwa polskiego, Białystok 1998.

[28] A. Gieysztor, Obraz Rusi w Polsce średniowiecznej, [In:] Związki kulturalne między Polską a Rosją XI–XX, Moskwa 1998, p. 12.

[29] A. Poppe, Kościół i państwo na Rusi w XI w., p. 178; E. Gołubińskij, Istorija Russkoj Cerkwi, vol. I, part 1, Moskwa 1901, p. 334; J. Fijałek, Średniowieczne biskupstwa Kościoła Wschodniego na Rusi i Litwie, „Kwartalnik Historyczny”, vol. X, 1896, pp. 487–521.

[30] U. Borkowska, Odbudowa i rozwój (II poł. XI i XII w.), [In:] Chrześcijaństwo w Polsce. Zarys przemian 966–1979, J. Kłoczowski, ed., Lublin 1992, pp. 55–57.

[31] Pasterze wiernych Słowian: Święci Cyryl i Metody, A. Naumow, ed., Kraków 1995, p. 11.

[32] A. Różycka-Bryzek, Sztuka w Polsce piastowskiej a Bizancjum i Ruś, [In:] Polska – Ukraina. 1000 lat sąsiedztwa, vol. II, S. Stępień, ed., Przemyśl 1994, pp. 295–306; idem, Bizantyjsko-ruskie malowidła w Polsce wczesnojagiellońskiej: problem przystosowań na gruncie kultury łacińskiej, ibidem, pp. 307–326.

[33] K. Zakrzewski, Bizancjum w średniowieczu, p. 71.

[34] A. Poppe, The Rise of Christian Russia, London 1982; J. Kłoczowski, Młodsza Europa, p. 419–420.

[35] O. Halecki, Historia Europy – jej granice i podziały, Lublin 1994, pp. 138–139.

[36] Ibidem, pp. 146.