The Vita Constantini: as Literary and Linguistic Construct for the Early Slavs

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2009


VDM Verlag


The Vita Constantini is the first Slavic hagiography and as such occupies a special position among all Slavic literatures. St. Cyril created the first Slavic literary language, Old Church Slavonic, the Glagolitic alphabet, and undertook the first translations of the Aprakos Gospel, the Aprakos Apostle, and the Psalter into what had previously been only an oral language. Frequently, the VC has been referred to as a Graeco-Slavic document, a phrase which hints at the complicated relationship between the two cultures. The VC appears from an analysis of its rhetorical devices to fit into what might be called a "subgenre" of iconophile hagiography. But because the VC is a life story it also depicts how St. Cyril developed a cohesive philosophy that formed his relationship with the world. At its heart, the VC is about language. Old Church Slavonic was created solely to allow the Slavs to celebrate the liturgy. Because of this, its early grammatical system, vocabulary, and orthography would be closely tied to religious doctrine. This would have profound implications for the development of the Slavic language itself.