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Moravia Magna

Historically supported beginnings of Christianity in the territory where also present-day Slovakia is situated date back to the period of Great Moravia, to the first half of the 9th century. This was the time when the unifying process of kindred Slavic tribes was finished in this territory. Mojmír stood at the head of the multi-tribal, well-organized principality with several economic and political centers. He kept good relationships with Franks and allowed the Frankish clergy – missionaries to enter the principality. Within the same time, another western Slovak multi-tribal center around Nitra came to existence in the territory of the present-day Slovakia. The Nitra principality, which gradually spread its reign over the whole of the present-day Western and a part of Central Slovakia, had thirty economic and political centers.
Pribina was the first historically recognized Slavic prince. His originally dismissive attitude towards Christianity was a reaction of the disgust towards the Frankish expansion. Even though he accepted the activities of Bavarian missionaries on the Slovak territory, he himself remained a pagan. During his reign, in 828, the Salzburg archbishop Adalram consecrated the first Christian temple at the Nitra castle in this territory. In 835 Moravian Prince Mojmír I, being already Christian himself, conquered Nitra and expelled Pribina so the two principalities could create one territorial unit, which was later named Great Moravia. Later, East Frankish king Louis II the German, stripping Mojmír I of his crown, entrusted the royalty to his son Rastislav. Rastislav was forming the new Moravian-Slavic conception consistently. From the economic and military point of view he tried to disentangle from the Bavarian influence completely and build up a sovereign Great Moravian church administration that would be independent from Bavarian episcopacy. In 861 he sent out a message to Pope Nicholas I with a request to send him back a bishop and missionaries with knowledge of the Slavon language. The pope did not satisfy the plea, probably because he did not have such missionaries available. Since Prince Rastislav wanted to realize the idea of an independent Great Moravian church administration as soon as possible, in 862 he turned to the Byzantine emperor Michael III. One can assume that he was trying to get help in both church and political field from Constantinople. Due to territory extension, Great Moravia found itself in the direct neighborhood to then strong Bulgarian kingdom. Simultaneously, in that time period Louis II the German started to establish intensive contacts with Bulgarians. Rastislav, probably fearing the attack, expected a potential help to be sent along with the missionaries. One year later, Michael III sent the brothers Constantine and Methodius to Great Moravia. They were originally Greeks from Thessalonica who spoke Slavic language – southern Macedonian dialect. Constantine created the Slavic alphabet – the Glagolitic, which he used when translating sacral books into Slavon language (ancient Slav). This mission also brought works of alike law educated Methodius, such as “Laws for People” (Zákon sudnyj ljudem) and “A Warn of Governor” (Nomokanon). The first was depicting church and legal organization of land and the other the duties of a governor and moral critique of then nobility, including the king.
The important role the church played to strengthen the position of Great Moravia and state power reflects the fact that archbishop Methodius was entrusted the role of king of Great Moravia’s head of office. Pope Hadrian II appointed Methodius the first Pannonian and Great Moravian archbishop – legate in Slavonic countries in wintertime in between 869 – 870.
Pope John VIII wrote an epistle Industriae tue (June, 880), addressed to Svätopluk (Sventibald) – the Great Moravian governor, in which, besides others, he approved of the liturgy in Slavon language. In the 9th century Great Moravia represented relatively stable state organization, in which quite large kingdom was formed around Moravia-Nitra center. This kingdom played a significant role in the Central European territory. Great Moravian – Slavon cultural values survived as long as up to the deep Middle Ages and enriched then forming feudal European civilization, spreading mainly in Slavic world.

D 3 October 2012    AMichaela Moravcikova

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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