1. Surnamed the APOSTLE of Bohemia, enjoys great reputation in the history of the church as well as of the fine arts.
He lived in the ninth century of our era, was a native of Thessalonica, and went to Constantinople, where he entered a convent of the order of St. Basilius Cyrillus. For some time he lived in Rome, and devoted himself to painting, in which he rose to such celebrity that, after his return to Constantinople, he received an invitation from Bogoris, king of Bulgaria, to repair to his court at Nicopolis.
The king being fond of pictures representing battles and the like bloody subjects, requested him to execute something more terrible for him than he had ever seen before; and upon this suggestion, Methodius painted the Last Judgment with such effect, that Bogoris, whose mind had already a turn for the Christian religion, entreated the skilful monk to baptize him forthwith, and thus enable him to find pardon with God on the day of the last judgment.
This was exactly what Methodius had in view when he chose that subject.
The conversion of the king was followed by that of the army; and in a short time the whole nation adopted the Christian religion.
At that period Christianity was daily losing ground in Asia, where the influence of Mohammedanism became overwhelming; but the losses in the South were more than balanced by the victories of the Cross in the North, obtained through the noble zeal of the Greek clergy, among whom our Methodius and (his brother?) Cyrillus, were then the most luminous stars. Shortly after the conversion of the Bulgarians, which took place in 853 and the following years (perhaps only in 861), Methodius was sent into the countries north of the Danube, where he displayed the greatest activity among the Slavonian population of Pannonia and the adjacent countries: he resided there in the quality of archbishop of Pannonia, and he repaired thither as early as 859, or at least not later than 863.
He is said to have assisted Cyrillus in inventing the Slavonian alphabet, which is the parent of the present Russian and Servian alphabets; and he was active in translating the whole of the Bible and several liturgical books into the Slavonian languages. In 878 he was summoned by pope John VIII. to come to Rome, and to show cause why he should not be punished for having translated the mass into Slavonian, and introduced it in that form into the churches of his diocese; but it appears he did not obey the summons. About 890 Methodius converted duke Borziwoi of Bohemia, who soon afterwards became king of Magna Moravia, to the Christian religion; and now all the Bohemians and Moravians, many millions in number, submitted likewise to the rite of baptism.
There are, however, doubts as to the conversion of Bohemia by Methodius, respecting which the reader will find more information in the sources quoted below.
The time of the death of Methodius is not exactly known, but thus much is certain, that he died after 893, and perhaps in the beginning of the tenth century, at a very advanced age.
In later years he was canonised. The Greeks and Slavonians celebrate him on the 11th of May; but in the Martyrologium
the day is the 9th of March.
As to his proficiency in painting, Le Beau (Hist. du Bas Empire,
vol. xiv. p. 362) calls him the most eminent painter of his time.
It is, however, well known that his contemporaries, Modalulph in France, Tutilo in Germany, and Lazarus in Constantinople, enjoyed also a first-rate reputation as painters.
Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. vii. p. 272; Cedren. p. 489, &c.; Simeon Metaphr. Annal.
p. 412, &c.; Zonar. vol. ii. p. 135, &c., in the Paris edition; Bolland, Vitae Cyrilli et Methodii;
J. G. Stredowsky, Vita Method.
in Sacra Moraviae Hist.
Sulzbach, 1710, 4to.; Chr. Sam. Schmidt, Ward das Christenthum in Böhmen von Methud (Methodius), &c. eingeführt ?
Leipzig, 1789, 8vo.