Cyril and Methodius were brothers, descended from an aristocratic family in Thessalonika, Greece, who gave up wealth and worldly ambition, and ministered as missionaries to the Slavic peoples. The Slavic Churches consider them their patrons, even today.
Cyril was educated at the court of Constantinople, and ordained a priest, though he chose the monastic life. Methodius had artistic sensibilities, but joined his brother as a monk. Later, much later, he was ordained bishop.
As young men, they volunteered as missionaries to Khazaristan, that vast land between the Black Sea and the Caspian, which holds the modern countries of Bulgaria, Rumania and Ukraine today.
From there they shifted base to the Slavic people in Moravia, and even devised a written script (Cyrillic, based on Greek letters) to these tribes who were then largely illiterate. This is one of the first times – and certainly not the last – where missionaries have contributed to building up a culture’s language, giving it a literature as well as an alphabet.
Cyril died before his brother, Methodius. Towards the end of his life, Methodius was imprisoned by German-speaking rulers and clergy, who resented his success because of the rapid growth of the Slavic Church. He was finally vindicated however, and the two brothers are today revered as apostles to one of the largest Christian groups in Europe.