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On Hierotheus as Bishop of Hungary

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

The article "The Role of the Byzantine Church in Medieval Hungary" by Prof. Gyula Moravcsik published in American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 6, No. 3/4 (Dec., 1947), pp. 134-151, provides an analysis on the establishment and the works of the Byzantine Church in the early stages of the Hungarian Kingdom


The picture below is of Professor Gyula Moravcsik (Jan 29, 1892 - Dec 10, 1972) the

In the article Prof. Moravcsik makes a compelling analysis on the initiation of the Hierotheus's word based on John Skylitzes narrative (see Synopsis). In short, the chieftain Bulcsu and the grandson of Prince Arpad that would become Gyula (title), made a visit to Constantinople where they were baptized by the Emperor Constantine VII Flavius Porphyrogenitus, and received gifts and the title of Patrician. Bulcsu died shortly after his baptism at the battle of Augsburg on August 10, 955. The future Gyula remained faithful to his Christian belief and in a second visit to Constantinople, he received the blessing for a Bishopric. The new Bishop, a former monk Hierotheus was consecrated by the Patriarch Theophylact himself before following the Gyula back to his home realm


The mission of Hierotheus was very successful and lasting. There is a seal of a bishop called Theophylact, Bishop of Turk which attest to the generational lasting of the endevour


According to the research paper "That the Gylas of Scylitzes and also the Stephen of the Slav source are identical with Gyula the Elder, whose tribe settled on either bank of the Maros River, stands without doubt". Therefore, the Basilica of the Bishopric of Turkia must have been at Morissena (Cenad / Csanád). The next bearer of the title of Gyla, according to the the Legend of Saint Gerhardus was Ahtum/Ajtony (a name that could be the bastardized for 'Anthony' ?). He received baptism from the Greeks of the Bishopric at Vidin, a seat that was a Byzantine stronghold at that time in 1002 AD.


But Hungary at the time of Ajtony was torn apart in a bloody civil war. Both Ajtony and Stephen I were descendants of the Prince Arpad the founder (great grandsons) but belonged to competing fractions of the Church. In Western Hungary, centred at the city of Tata, the Western Bishops, sponsored by the Holly Roman Empire had the say. At Morissena, the Byzantine Bishops had the say. Conflict between the two fractions was inevitable. And the inevitable happened. A defector from the Byzantine sponsored camp called 'Csanad', St. Stephen's commander, defeated Ajtony in battle. Those who fell together with Ajtony were buried at Morissena the above-mentioned monastery "because at that time there was no other monastery in this province" (text copied for Prof. Moravcsik's paper). The event happened in 1028 AD


In Prof. Moravcsik's analysis, it is feasible to believe that 'South of Csanad, at Nagy-Szent Miklos as early as I799, the so-called "Attila's hoard" was found' belonged to Ajtony. Among other things belonging to the hoard, there is a golden cups bearing Greek inscriptions. The text contains 'a water-consecrating formula commonly used by the Greeks', but than he adds 'The hoard itself is considered by the latest investigators to be of Bulgar origin, and its date is put about at the second half of the ninth century' to confuse the reader


At least two major recent discoveries suggest the major influence of the mission of Hierotheus in Eastern Hungary. First, it is the ruined foundation of the Greek basilica at Alba Iulia (described in my blog posting at https://www.peterclings.com/post/archaeology-in-central-romania ). The second, is the translation of the inscription on the golden trail, an artifact from the "Attila's hoard", to Romanian (a process I described at https://www.peterclings.com/post/text-misinterpretation-on-the-buyla-inscription )


In western Hungary, traces of the Byzantine influence surpass the reign of King Stephen I. There are documentary evidences that "King Andreas I (I047-60) founded two monasteries, according to contemporary records: one at Tihany, the other near Visegrad"


An interesting information about the Byzantine influence in the western side of Hungary from the paper is "At the beginning of the twelfth century, a certain Cerbanus, whose person is not familiar, but who was evidently a Basilite monk, translated into Latin some parts of the works of two Greek Fathers of the Church, Maximus and John Damascene, from a Greek manuscript in the possession of the monastery at Paszto ." (Moravcsik page 146) between 1131 to 1150 AD. The name of Cerbanus is of course the very Romanian name "Șerban". That monk of a Basilite monastery at Paszto (Romanian for 'paste', or the fine mixture of various substances) where the monk Cerbanus was visiting. The monk translated translated into Latin some parts of the works of two Greek Fathers of the Church, Maximus and John Damascene, from a Greek manuscript in the possession of the monastery at Paszto, in gratitude for being hosted there by the abbot David of the monastery of Paszto (1131 to 1150AD). This could be an indication that the Byzantine Church in the Western Hungary was struggling already with the lack of translators at the beginning of the 12th century. It also could be that what appeared to have been written in Greek was actually Romanian and that the Monk Cerbanus did the translation from Romanian to Latin


In the Hungarian Kingdom the mission established by Hierotheos took a significant downturn starting with the reign of Ladislaus I. The Bishopric of Turkia (Byzantine) was no longer obedient to Constantinople. Most of the Greek monasteries, including Paszto were reassigned to Latin superiors. "Thus the Cistercians took the pface of the Greeks at Patszto in 1190" with the entire Greek collection of manuscripts the the Monk Cerbanus has access to


"It seems that during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the flock of the Greek Church lived in large communities mainly in the Tisza region and in Transylvania. A letter written by Pope Gregory IX in 1 234 reveals that on the territory of the new Latin bishopric, founded for the conversion of the Cumans, there were sham-bishops of the Greek rites (pseudoepiscopi Graecorum ritum tenentes) who exerted their influence, not only on the Wallachs, but also on the Magyar" (Moravcsik, page 150)


In the Romanian milieu, the "Geek Church" continued to evolve "considerably. An interesting light is cast on this question in a Greek document of 1391 from which it appears that at Kortevelyes of Marmoros, at one time, a monastery of St. Michael had existed whose patrons had obtained from the Patriarch of Constantinople a grant that the monastery be raised to stauropegia which meant that it was under the direct authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople". Here Prof. Moravcsik refers to the Monastery of Peri that was established by the sons of Voievode Dragos, the founder of Moldavia. The Monastery of Peri is the original source of the Romanian literature, at least the earliest recognized location where the oldest Romanian religious text originate from

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