MORAVIA - A HISTORICAL SKETCH
This page is the first easily accessible and
reasonably comprehensive on-line introduction to the
history of Great Moravia - the first Slavic state in
Central Europe. Sources used in compiling this timeline
include contributions by various Czech and Slovak authors
to the catalogue of the Europas Mitte um 1000
travelling exhibition published by Mannheim University,
and a few online resources in English, Czech and Slovak.
A more detailed bibliography of the major sources used
appears at the bottom of this page.
The history of Great Moravia is a
subject that, in English at least, seems to appear on the
web only in connection with the Slav Apostles, SS
Constantine/Cyril and Methodius; it is hoped that this
contribution will go someway to restoring a bit of
historical balance. Any comments, corrections, additions,
alterations or suggestions for decent resources that you
think I might want to add can be sent to me here. Thanks!
The timeline includes a little background
information, to help give some context to the period.
Note that the name "Great Moravia" was not
contemporary - it was apparently coined by the Emperor
Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus ("Megali Morava")
some 100 years after the entity had ceased to exist.
Lastly, please note that I subscribe to the generally
held theory that the core of Great Moravia lay in what is
now the eastern part of the Czech Republic, and not in
Pannonia or in what is now Serbia.
This page and all its
content © Alastair Millar, 2000-2002. The text may be
copied in whole or in part for ANY personal, educational,
or non-commercial purpose, provided that the author and
source are credited. Details of how and where this
material is used would be appreciated.
Establishment of what would later become the
administrative centres (major settlement agglomerations)
of Great Moravia.
Charlemagne issues a ban on the export of
weapons to the Slavs
Charlemagne issues a second ban on the export of weapons
to the Slavs
Charlemagne adminsters the coup-de-grace ending the Avar
khaganate. Synod of Bavarian bishops convened to discuss
Christianisation of the newly-subjugated areas.
Charlemagne issues a third ban on the export of weapons
to the Slavs
Charlemagne issues a fourth ban on the export of
weapons to the Slavs. Siege of
"Canburg" (somewhere on the Elbe in Bohemia) by
Charlemagne's son Charles (Moissac Chronicle). Prince
Vratislav is mentioned as lord of what is now Bratislava
- after Samo (d.665), he is only the second Slavic
historical figure known from the Middle Danube region.
Charlemagne issues a fifth ban on the export of
weapons to the Slavs
The anonymous Bavarian geography, Descriptio,
Civitatum et Regionum ad septentrionalem plagam Danubiti
mentions the existence of 30 centres in the Nitrian
Principality, 11 in Moravia and 15 in Bohemia.
Louis II the Pious subjugates Moravia, making it an
Imperial fief. Ambassadors of the Bohemians (Boheimorum)
and Moravians (Marvanorum) appear at the Imperial Diet at
Frankfurt am Main.
830 - TRADITIONAL
FOUNDATION DATE OF GREAT MORAVIA
Moravian princes acknowledge Mojmir
I. as their Prince, effectively seceding.
Bishop Adalram of Salzburg dedicates a church at Nitra
According to the 13th century chronicles of the Bishops
of Passau, Bishop Reginhar "baptised all the
Moravians". (Corroboration: in 900, the Bavarian
Bishops protest to Rome about Passau having exercised
ecclesaistical authority over Moravia since its
Prince Pribina ejected from Nitra by Mojmir I, and the
Nitrian Principality becomes part of Great Moravia.
Pribina becomes a lord in Transdanubian Pannonia
Elsewhere, the Treaty of Verdun divides the
Frankish Empire. Subsequently, Louis the German seeks to
extract tribute from Moravia and influence its internal
Elsewhere, 14 Bohemian princelings are baptised
at Regensburg, perhaps assuming that Louis the German
would not assault Christians. The faith does not seem to
have been actively supported within Bohemia at this time,
however (no churches known archaeologically, no
ecclesiastical appointments recorded etc.)
Louis the German attacks Christian Moravia, seeking to
regain control of the area. Mojmir deposed in favour of
his cousin Rastislav (who may have been living in the
Empire as a hostage until this time). Louis returns home
"through the lands of the Bohemians" (Annals of
The Synod of Mainz discusses Christianisation in Moravia
by Frankish clergy.
Rastislav seeks alliance with the Bulgars.
Rastislav supports the rebellious border Count Ratbod and
Louis son of Carloman.
"Karlmann, son of Louis King of Germany, made an
alliance with Rastislav, petty king of the Wends...With
Rastislav's help he usurped a considerable part of his
father's realm, as far as the river Inn" (Annals of
St Bertin). Rastislav sends to Rome asking that a teacher
be sent to educate local (rather than German) clergy,
intending to reduce German influence. The request is
ignored. Greek-educated Dalmatian clerics may have
suggested approaching the Byzantine Emperor Michael III
instead. Elsewhere, Gozil (Kocel) succeeds his father
Pribina as Prince of Balaton.
Svatopluk (Sventopulk) I, Rastislav's nephew, becomes
prince of Nitra.
Arrival of the Mission of SS Constantine/Cyril &
Dowin (Devín) in Slovakia mentioned in Frankish
"Young Louis also roused Rastiz [i.e.
Rastislav] the Wend to come plundering right up to
Bavaria" (Annals of St Bertin).
Prince Gozil (Kocel) of Pannonia
invites the brothers to teach the Slavonic script in his
territories. In the autumn, Pope Nicholas I - seeking to
keep Moravia in the Western sphere
- summons Constantine & Methodius to Rome. The
brothers depart from Moravia, taking their disciples for
ordination. (Their decision perhaps influenced by the
fact that in September their supporter in the East, the
Patriarch Photius, had been replaced by his rival
They are welcomed to Rome by the new Pope, Adrian II, who
praises their liturgy.
February: Constantine dies in Rome, taking the religious
name Cyril on his deathbed. At Gozil's (Kocel's) request,
Methodius is named archbishop of the Pannonian-Moravian
diocese, with his seat at Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica).
Methodius is captured and imprisoned by the Bavarians
before taking up his new post. Louis the German launches
a huge campaign against Rastislav and his Slavic allies
in Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and the Saale valley. The
Bohemians and Svatopluk, ruler of the Nitra principality,
sign separate peaces. Rastislav attempts to have
Svatopluk killed, but is himself captured, blinded and
sent to Louis.
Rastislav dies, still a prisoner of Louis the German.
Carloman occupies Moravia, joining it to his possessions
under the rule of the Counts Wilhelm and Engelschalk.
Svatopluk, still at Louis' court, is imprisoned. The
Moravians rise up, declare Svatopluk dead, and proclaim
Slavomir their Prince. Svatopluk is sent with an army to
reclaim his legitimate throne, but defects to the
Moravian side and is acknowledged Prince.
Svatopluk builds up professional armoured cavalry units.
To support these, he reorganises Moravian society,
establishing a model that would later be followed in
Pope John VIII secures Methodius' release.
Methodius, as Archbishop of Pannonia, is noted
in Moravia (in unclear circumstances), perhaps to
establish new churches.
Svatopluk occupies the Vistula basin. The Peace of
Forcheim is negotiated between the Moravians and the East
Franks, through the diplomacy of the priest John of
Svatopluk gives his realm as a fief to St Peter (the
Papacy), thereby rejecting domination by the Empire.
Methodius - having been summoned to Rome by Pope John
VIII to explain his actions, becomes Bishop of Moravia,
while the Swabian Wiching is ordained Bishop of Nitra
Pope John VIII issues the bull "Industriae
tuae", confirming Methodius' position and Papal
support for his mission, as well as asserting the divine
right of the papacy to confer title to territories.
Svatopluk extends his domains eastwards to the Tisza
valley and north to Krakow/Wislania (Life of St
Svatopluk annexes Bohemia by force. The Prince of Krakow
and the Premyslid Prince Bořivoj
[Bor'ivoj] of Bohemia are
baptised in Moravia by Methodius, and henceforth are
viceroys of Moravian power. Bishop Wiching of Nitra
undertakes missions in the Tisza valley.
Bohemians rebel, naming Strojmír their Prince. Bořivoj
[Bor'ivoj] reinstated with Moravian aid - to underline
his position, his new stronghold is built on what had
been the Parliament Field of the Bohemian congress - the
foundation of Prague Castle. Svatopluk attacks Pannonia.
Svatopluk signs a peace with Charles III the Fat (although who was actually in
possession of Pannonia is unclear). Around this time, Bořivoj [Bor'ivoj] establishes the Church of
the Virgin, creating the sacred precinct at Prague
Methodius dies, April 6th. On the instructions of Pope
Stephen V, Svatopluk expels all priests who do not reject
the Slavonic liturgy - some move to Prague Castle, others
head eastwards and southeastwards as missionaries. The
simultaneous injunction against Slavonic literature is
Territories of the Lusatian Sorbs acknowledge
Svatopluk's suzerainty. (cf Thietmar's Chronicle,VI.99)
Svatopluk's possesion of Bohemia confirmed by a peace
signed with King Arnulf of Bavaria.
Bishop Wiching becomes King Arnulf's Chancellor.
Svatopluk dies. Mojmir II becomes Moravian Prince, and
his younger brother Svatopluk II becomes Prince of Nitra.
Perhaps at Mojmir's request, Pope Formosus sends a
mission to Moravia to reorganise an independent church
under the direct control of Rome.
Bohemian princes secede. The Assembly at Regensburg is
attended by "all the duces of the
Bohemians, whom the dux Zwentibald [i.e.
Svatopluk] had long kept by force from the alliance and
control of the Bavarian people" (Annals of Fulda).
Prague comes under the authority of the Regensburg
Diocese; an arch-presbytery is created by Bishop Tuto,
occupied mainly by monks from the monastery of St
Magyars appear in the Tisza valley, and are engaged as
allies against Arnulf by Mojmir II. Perhaps as a result
of the turmoil, the main east-west trade route shifts
from the Danube to Bohemia and Lesser Poland at around
this time, forming a basis for Bohemia's future
According to the Annals of Fulda "...the Bohemian
people came to Emperor Arnulf...offering him royal gifts
and begging for his help and that of his men against
their enemies, that is the
Moravians, by whom they had often been terribly oppressed. The
Bohemian appelants are named as Vitislav (?Vratislav) and the Prince's son,
Spytihněv [Spytihne'v]. Perhaps as a result, Mojmir II
fails to recapture Bohemia. Allegiance of Sorbian
territories lost, as the Saxon Liudolphines attack along
the Saale and the Havel.
Arnulf persuades Magyars to move into Italy against his
enemy Berengar. Bavarian raids into Moravia. Despite
disputes with his brother, whom he has imprisoned, Mojmir
II has consolidated his position well enough to petition
Pope John IX for the reconstitution of the Moravian
archbishopric with four suffragan bishops.
Further Bavarian raids. Death of Arnulf. Magyars occupy
Pannonia, joined by their whole people (hitherto still
beyond the Carpathians)
"The Bavarians proceeded through Bohemia and, taking
the Bohemians with them, invaded the kingdom of the
Moravians" (Annals of Fulda)
Louis IV the Younger and Mojmir II sign a peace.
customs tariff refers to a central "market of the
was probably at Mikulčice [Mikulc'ice].
906/7 - THE FALL OF
Great Moravia fragments under the
impact of the Magyar onslaught and Frankish raids.
Many Moravian priests flee
into Bohemia. Although
centralised authority seems to have collapsed, some
individual centres remain active - e.g. the Christian
cemetery at Břeclav [Br'eclav]-Pohansko in south-east
Moravia is used until
around the mid-10th century.
Frankish sources mention a battle between Frankish and
Magyar units near Presalauspurc (Bratislava) on July 4th
- without the participation of the Moravians, who must
thus be regarded as a spent force.
Tas becomes first Hungarian Prince of Nitra
O. Halecki, 1952, Borderlands of Civilization, a
history of East Central Europe, New York, Ronald Press
J. Sláma, 2000, "Strongholds, castles and
embattled towns in Bohemia" in: Catalogue to the Europas
Mitte um 1000 Exhibition, Mannheim, Mannheim
2000, "The Czechs", in: Catalogue to the Europas
Mitte um 1000 Exhibition, Mannheim, Mannheim
2000, "The onset of the creation of a Slavic
empire - the Great Moravian example", in: Catalogue
to the Europas Mitte um 1000 Exhibition,
Mannheim, Mannheim University
"Missions to Moravia: Between the Latin West and
Byzantium", in: Catalogue to the Europas
Mitte um 1000 Exhibition, Mannheim, Mannheim
R. Zaroff, 1997, various notes on the Mediev-L
mailing list, archived at the University of Kansas