Sts. Cyril and Methodius were brothers, born in Thessalonica in 827 and 826. Although their family was prestigious, Cyril and Methodius renounced their wealth and status, choosing instead to be ordained as priests.
They moved to a monastery on the Bosporus, which is now known as the Istanbul strait separating Europe and Asia. Authorities from the Khazar Empire sent to Constantinople for a Christian missionary. Cyril was selected, and his brother went with him. They both learned the Khazar language, and converted many.
From Khazar, the brothers went to Moravia, working as missionaries and preaching in the local dialect. In order to do this, they adapted the Greek alphabet into a script to translate the Slavonic language. This became the “Cyrillic” alphabet, which was used to translate the Bible and liturgical books. It is also the primary means of written language for many countries, including modern day Russia.
Cyril and Methodius spent four years in Moravia and had great success converting and preaching to the people. Pope Adrian II greatly approved of their methods, and ordained them bishops. Cyril died in Rome in 869.
After Cyril’s death, the pope appointed Methodius archbishop of a new archdiocese in Moravia, independent of the German church. This angered the Germans, who had Methodius imprisoned and deposed for three years.
Once he was freed by the new pope, John VIII, Methodius continued to evangelize, expanding his work to include modern day Poland. Eventually, he translated the entire Bible into the language now known as Church Slavonic. Methodius died on April 6, 885.
Sts. Cyril and Methodius are known as the “Apostles of the Slavs” for their tireless work spreading the Gospel throughout Eastern Europe.