Monday, August 06, 2012

The Role of the Byzantine Church in Medieval Hungary

According to the evidence found in historical records, the first influences of the Byzantine Christian mission had reached the Magyars prior to the conquest of present Hungary while they were still on the shores of the Black Sea. As I have proved in detail in an earlier treatise, we must surmise that, when they took possession of their present land, the Magyar people had brought with them a knowledge of Christianity.

However, the Byzantine mission was not the sole factor in preparing the Magyars for their acceptance of the new faith. This accept- ance was influenced also by the earlier Christian traditions of the new land which ultimately became their country. From Roman times (ancient Christian relics of which are being excavated in increasing numbers) to the appearance of the Magyars, Christianity had existed without interruption in Hungarian territory. In fact, not even those tribes which drifted there in the course of the Migration of Peoples could avoid falling under its influence. This influence reached Hungarian territory, extending over the great watershed of East and West, from two directions: from Rome and from Byzantium.

This Christianity, though it followed the Pannonian pattern, was of Roman origin, but later it was marked by Byzantine influence. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Hungarian land came into the orbit of Byzantine culture and politics, but by the end of the eighth century it was again within the sphere of strong Western influences. In the ninth century the mission of Cyril and Methodius set out from Byzantium toward Rome, and in so doing it opened the gates to Western Christianity.