Meletius Smotrytsky

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Meletius Smotrytsky
Smotrytsky meletij.jpg
Born Maksym Herasymovych Smotrytsky
Smotrych, Podolian Voivodeship, Poland
Died December 27, 1633 (aged 56)
Derman village, Volhynian Voivodeship, Poland
Citizenship Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Alma mater Ostroh Academy Vilnius University (1600)
Occupation religious writer, linguist
Known for "Slavonic Grammar with Correct Syntax" (1619)
Religion Eastern Orthodox (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople), then Catholic (Greek Catholic rite)
Parent(s) Herasym Smotrytsky

Meletius Smotrytsky (Ukrainian: Мелетій Смотрицький, Meletiy Smotryts’kyy; Belarusian: Мялецій Сматрыцкі; Polish: Melecjusz Smotrycki), né Maksym Herasymovytch Smotrytsky (c. 1577 – December 17 (27), 1633), Archbishop of Polotsk (Metropolitan of Kiev), was a writer, a religious and pedagogical activist of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, a Ruthenian linguist whose works influenced the development of the Eastern Slavic languages. His book "Slavonic Grammar with Correct Syntax" (1619) systematized the study of Church Slavonic and, according to Vinokur, "became the standard grammar book in Russia right up till the end of the 18th century." He believed in the revival of the Orthodox religion in traditionally Slavic lands(see Slavic people) centered in the Tsardom of Moscow.


Born in Smotrych, Podilia, Meletius was a son of the famous writer and pedagogue Herasym Smotrytsky. He received his first formal educated at the Ostroh Academy, where his father was a rector. The academy is the oldest institution of higher learning in Eastern Europe. Later, he studied at Vilnius University, a Jesuit institution, between approximately 1596 and 1600. After that, Smotrytsky traveled through Europe, continuing his education at universities in Leipzig, Wittenberg and Nuremberg.

In 1608, Meletius returned to Vilnius where he became a member of a local fraternity. Under his pen name Theophile Ortologue he wrote his famous polemic "Thrynos". Sometime in 1615-18 Smotrytsky was a teacher of Church Slavonic and Latin in the newly established Kiev Fraternity School. Subsequently, he became one of its first rectors. In 1616, he published a Ruthenian translation of "Teacher's Gospel... of Calisto" and in 1615 in Cologne he published a Greek-language grammar. In 1618, Smotrytsky returned to Vilnius where at the Holy Spirit Monastery he took vows as a monk and assumed the name Miletius. There, in the city of Vievis, he participated in publishing Dictionary of the Slavic Language (1618), and later, in 1619, Slavonic Grammar with Correct Syntax.

In 1620, Meletius Smotrytsky became the Archbishop of Polotsk (Metropolitan of Kiev), bishop of Vitebsk and Mstyslaw. Around that time he published several anti-Union (see Union of Brest) works for which he was persecuted by the Polish authorities. During 1624 Smotrytsky traveled to Constantinople, Egypt, Palestine, after which in 1625 he returned to Kiev.

Eventually, by 1627. he sided with followers of the Union and became the Archimandrite of the Derman Monastery. Pope Urban VIII granted Smotrytsky the title of Archbishop of Hierpolski. Smotrytsky is buried at the Derman Monastery.

Conversion to Catholicism[edit]

"What is a letter?..." from the first edition of Smotrytsky's grammar

Catholic and Orthodox authors have long debated Smotrytsky's reasons for abandoning Orthodoxy and converting to the Uniate Church. Uniate Catholics have argued that the conversion was a miracle based on the intercession of Martyr Saint Josaphat Kuntsevych. This explanation, first advanced by Josyf Veliamyn Rutsky, appears in the papal Bull of Pope Pius IX canonizing Kuncewicz [37]. Smotrytysky also compared himself with Paul of Tarsus, suddenly relapsed after the stoning of Saint Stephen. Orthodox Christians, in turn, attributed his conversion to worldly reasons: alleging that he was tempted by the money and prestige of an imminent appointment as Abbot of a Uniate monastery in Dermaniu. The former archbishop of Polotsk was portrayed as a traitor to the true faith, and was compared with Judas or Martin Luther. Against Meletius Smotrytsky a whole group of Orthodox pamphlets was written. In his letters, he rarely referred to his reasons for changing his religion, contrasting instead the "old" and "new" Smotrytsky. He suggested that before his conversion he was not sure what he really believed, while his adoption of Catholicism restored his confidence in this regard. He also gave different dates for his decision to accept the Union, from 1623 (before leaving for Constantinople) up to 1628. He said that since 1615 he had waged an internal battle, growing stronger in the course of writing his own texts; in them he defended the Orthodox dogma with diminishing conviction, suggesting that, even before chirotonią, the bishop did not agree with the spirit of brotherhood following his anti-Uniate publication from Vilnius. A number of scholars claim that Archbishop Meletius decided to convert to the Union under the influence of disenchantment which earned him a trip to Constantinople. This decision was the result of a deep spiritual crisis and the ultimate belief that the only thing that could help the revival of the Russian people and culture was the strictly bound Russia of the Polish-Lithuanian state, and through the union of the church. Mironowicz claims that Smotrytsky's disappointing experience with a trip to two of the ancient patriarchates meant that he decided to devote all his strength to the union "of Rus" in one Uniate Church. On July 6, 1627 Meletius Smotrytsky sent a letter to Pope Urban VIII, asking for forgiveness of his sins and acceptance into the Catholic Church. A second letter was addressed to Cardinal Ottavio Bandini, which promised that from then on he would not stray "even a hair's breadth" from the Catholic faith. On July 10, 1627 Uniate Archbishop Josyf Veliamyn Rutsky was instructed in a letter from the pope to convert Meletius Smotrytsky. The fact is that the profession of faith by a former Orthodox archbishop and polemicist was even then being kept secret. Smotrystsky asked the pope for permission to temporarily keep his Orthodox titles and duties apparent in a separate letter sent at the same time as the letter requesting admission to the Catholic Church.

As Uniate Bishop[edit]

Following the adoption of the Union Smotrytsky was a huge advocate of complete reunification of the Church. He continued his efforts in this regard, it has taken more in the years 1621-1624 by Uniate Archbishop Rutsky (all efforts resulting from the projects of the new union were firmly rejected by the Orthodox hierarchy). He hid the fact that he had already converted to the Union. His attitude, however, began to raise suspicions among the clergy. While retaining his popularity among the priests and faithful in Belarus, he lost trust among both the Vilnius fraternity and Kiev monks in monasteries. At the same time, Catholics were not yet convinced that Smotrytsky maintained full fidelity to his recently adopted Catholicism. On April 8, 1628, Cardinal Ludovisi in a letter to Alexander Zasławski demanded that the minister make a public profession of the Catholic faith. Smotrycki by then no longer resided in Vilnius, but in a monastery in Dermaniu. The events that led to the final disclosure of Smotrytsky's conversion to Catholicism are known from a number of documents originating with himself or with his Orthodox opponents - with the Apology Smotryckiego, published in 1628, and the anonymous work, Apolleia Apology. Smotrytsky claimed that for the first time after conversion he had met with the Orthodox bishops of the Republic during the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lady in 1627 in Kiev. The meeting was also attended by Peter Mogila, who was still a layman. Mogila and Archbishop Job asked Smotrycki to show them the catechism which the Patriarch of Constantinople had presented. This agreed, provided that the Metropolitan agree to the publication of his six chapters discussing the differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, before the council of the Orthodox Church in the Republic approved the catechism. The next meeting of the hierarchy took place on the sixth Sunday of Lent in Horodku, on property belonging to the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. It was attended, in addition to Meletius Smotrytsky, by the Metropolitan Job, Bishop Isaac Luck, Chelm Paisjusz and Peter Mogila, who was already igumen in the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. Smotrytsky delivered a speech at the meeting, discussing the six basic differences between the two confessions. Then the assembled council decided to convene the Orthodox Church in the Republic of Kiev; not only the clergy had taken part in it, but also representatives of the Orthodox nobility and bourgeoisie. The bishops agreed to present at the Council a draft union for the Orthodox and Uniate Churches. Hierarchs agreed thereby that contrary to earlier findings,

Meletius Smotrycki published no new treaty discussing the differences between the rival churches, and the text of a completely different pronunciation. Smotrytsky later argued that both Metropolitan Job and Peter Mogila allowed for the conclusion of a new union . It was not until a great Anti-EU stance by the Cossacks in attendance at the council to Kiev that they were prompted to change their position. According to Mironowicz, Smotrycki convinced (?) that the organization of Metropolitan Job council in August of 1628 years. In the run-up to the Orthodox council Smotrytsky was in contact with Metropolitan Rutsky, presenting him to consult their catechism developed. However, in Catholic circles doubts about the sincerity of his intentions have continued to be expressed . Smotrytsky described that the council took place in a tense atmosphere, and lay delegates, mainly Cossacks, were forced to accept certain decisions of the bishops. Smotrycki was increasingly suspected of pro-Uniate sympathies. Therefore, after his arrival in Kiev he was not accommodated in Pechersk Lavra and had to live in the monastery of Saint Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery. The priest wrote that he had been in the council visited by representatives of the Cossacks, who threatened him with death, in the event that the Orthodox hierarchy agreed to join the union. His design of a new union of church and arguments for the introduction signed the Treaty of Apology peregrinated to Eastern countries. Discussion on Smotrytsky's projects of union held at the Kyiv council, without the participation of Cossack delegates. However, under the pressure of the Orthodox clergy explicitly rejected the proposals of the former archbishop of Polotsk, and his treatise condemning. Smotrytsky was accused of preaching heresy, including Sabellianism and Manichaeism. They do not agree on the introduction of the amendments to the Treaty, and the public demanded the rejection of the claims contained therein. During the informal meeting of hierarchs in one of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Smotrycki signed statement submitted to it by renouncing also Apology and that he will not return after the Council of the monastery in Dermaniu. However, on the same day (as claimed - quite unexpectedly) during the evening prayer, gathered again condemned Apology: each hierarchy cursed book, tore one of her cards and burned. He did it also with Meletius Smotrytsky's works. According to the Orthodox relations of the same event were Archbishop of Polotsk knew about the planned condemnation of the Treaty and to come to terms with this fact. After the meeting of the council Orthodox hierarchs announced Smotrytsky's condemnation to which he answered, two new texts polemical: Protestacją, published in the same year, and Exethisis of 1629. Smotrytsky's works that occurred in the years 1628-1629 were also repeatedly criticized publicly by the Orthodox monks of the Republic. This meant the failure of EU initiatives hierarchy, although projects to unite the two Churches were still presented in the following years. Smotrytsky's arguments in favor of union presented again in 1629 published in Paraenensis, poorly admonition to the Russian nation. And this time was not supported Orthodox Bishops. Smotrycki was considered Orthodox bishop in January 1629 (Joseph Bobrykowicz was even then his deputy in the office of the monastery of Saint Spirit in Vilnius), but a few months later the Orthodox clearly recognized him as a traitor, who renounced his former profession of private material benefits. Also the Catholic Church immediately after the council of Kiev decided Smotrytsky be fully devoted the union, especially since it is still not publicly acknowledged that he had left Orthodoxy. Only in mid-1629 years concerns of Catholics in this area have expired. The documents of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith since then are only words the belief that Smotrycki will be a great Catholic, devoted strengthening to the union. The moment of official and public Smotrytsky's deliver to the Catholic creed, which ultimately led to the controversy surrounding his confessional affiliation, has not been clearly established. It must, however, take place between his return to Kiev after the council Dermania (at the end of August 1628) and in January 1629 when the Uniate Archbishop Rutsky had complete confidence in him. Smotrytsky in his writings never mentioned the date and circumstances of the eventual abandonment of the Orthodox Church. In September of 1629 Smotrytsky took part in Orthodox-Uniate Synod in Lviv, where he has already performed at the opening of the Uniate and Orthodox negotiations to convert to Catholicism. It was his last public appearance during which he took voice on issues of religion and the position of the Ruthenian nation. Synod of Lviv, in which assumptions and Uniate Metropolitan King was to lead to the establishment of the Republic of the Uniate Patriarchate, ended in the complete failure, because neither the Orthodox hierarchy, and even sent a fraternity Lvov agreed with their delegates.

Archbishop of Hierapolis[edit]

Although Smotrytsky assured that going to Catholicism will be ready to be transferred to the secular state, in fact, depend on his behavior, even titular, the dignity of the church. But he could not remain archbishop of Polotsk, as the cathedral is the Uniate Church was already planted. Josyf Velamyn Rutsky even suggested in 1627 that Smotrytsky was auxiliary bishop of the Eparchy of a Uniate, suggesting granting him the title of Bishop of Halicz. This issue was discussed in Rome, however, only in 1630, when already stopped any doubt of Smotrytsky's conversion to Catholicism. However, the suggestion was rejected by Rutsky and were considered only two possibilities: the title of archbishop of Christopolis (located at the top of Athos), or Hierapolis (under Persian rule). Finally, on June 5, 1631, Pope Urban VIII gave him the title of Archbishop of Hierapolis. Thus, the former Orthodox archbishop of Polotsk had dignity in the Catholic Church, which did not give any real powers. The reason for such a decision, the pope could have a negative assessment of Smotrytsky's attitudes at council in Kiev, where he pleaded not guilty to his conversion. Still in 1631 Smotrytsky wrote to Rome that would like to be bishop of the Diocese of actually running, it is best to Ruthenia. At the same time refused to travel as a missionary on Athos, where, he said, his work would not have prospects of success. In his opinion, only business unit trade in Russia could lead to effectively promote Catholicism among the Orthodoxes. Uniate clergy in his letters to Rome has consistently asserted that Smotrytsky eagerly engaged in the life of the Church. A multitude of these letters suggest, however, that some doubt on his person did not stop ever, and that the rest of his life he remained under close supervision of the Uniate hierarchy. Smotrycki not severed all relations with the Orthodox. I still receive letters from the brotherhood of Vilnius and from some Orthodox monks. In his letters, he appealed to the Orthodox accepted the union, as long as they were still society composed not only of peasants. In this way, they retain certain rights and privileges. Otherwise, he said, as far as leaving the Orthodox Church for another noble families remaining followers will be forced to accept Catholicism unconditionally . At the same time, despite assurances treatment units, supposedly created new polemical texts defending the union, in the last four years of his life made no theological work and never took the public to vote on matters connected with the Church. On February 16, 1630 Smotrytsky addressed to Pope Urban VIII, another letter in which he presented a new plan for the evolution of the Commonwealth, in which he suggested the use of force to spread the union by uniting the efforts of the Church, the State and the Catholic magnates. Increasing over time Smotrytsky's intolerance resulted from his conviction that only Russians to adopt the union will become a political nation, respected on a par with the Poles and Lithuanians, preserving its autonomy. Russians saw themselves as a nation forming part of a larger community of Orthodox Slavs, which, in accordance with the terms of his era, the nation ranked only nobles. He was also convinced that attached to the Ruthenian Catholic Church could make a moral renewal of the Orthodox Church, as the local Church, which enjoyed the greatest freedom and had the best educated clergy. Meletius Smotrytsky died on December 27, 1633. His last confessor, Jesuit Wojciech Kortycki, dedicated to his memory eulogy he delivered then print [38] . Metropolitan Joseph Welamin Rutski claimed Smotrycki was poisoned by the Orthodox deacon, which hired a scribe [60] . He was buried in the monastery in Dermaniu, which remained his residence from 1627.

Canonization Discussion[edit]

During Josaphat Kuntsevych's beatification in 1637, Meletius Smotrytsky's beatification was also discussed because he was a persecutor of the union but changed his position to an ardent defender. Perhaps in order to popularize his candidacy for sainthood, in 1666 James Drought published a biography. The priest was after 1648 in Rome and where it could persuade the relevant authorities to consider the Smotrytsky beatification. Descriptions of supernatural events that took place after the death of Smotrytsky were given by his last confessor. According to his account he was dying to ask you to insert his hand in the coffin of Pope Urban VIII letter informing him of the receipt for the Archbishop of Hierapolis. Uniate monks but forgot about it the first time, and put a letter in the coffin just a few hours after the death of the priest. Then the hand of the deceased had to move and firmly grasp the document. His removal from the hand of the deceased was supposed to be possible only when he stood over the body, Metropolitan of Kiev and demanded the return of the letter. In a later version of the description of the event Kortycki put the information allegedly monks put in the coffin of the letter Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, but this was completely ignored. Kortycki also asserted that before the funeral of a hand holding a letter miraculously renewed, giving the impression of living. Metropolitan Rutski confirmed that the following events actually took place, and even wrote about them for the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in August 1634. On December 19, 1634 this congregation held a meeting during which it was decided that Smotrycki was murdered, and should be canonized as a martyr. The matter was discussed again in July 1635, and in October of the same year, a representative of the Congregation speaking to Rutsky to ask for a copy of the description posthumous miracle. In 1635 a Basilian monk named Isaiah, who was also a participant in the Smotrytsky's funeral, said the Onoratio Visconti, papal nuncio in Warsaw, that the deceased bishop kept in a coffin two lists - the papal and patriarchal. While the ultimate message of the Congregation stated that Smotrycki finally "rejected" letter of Patriarch theophany, doubts in this regard could be one of the reasons why the canonization process Smotryckiego was suspended.


Smotrytsky is best known for his "Slavonic Grammar with Correct Syntax" (Грамматіки славєнския правилноє Сvнтаґма, 1619), which codified what is now known as "Modern Church Slavonic" or, more specifically, "Meletian Church Slavonic". It was the sole handbook for grammar in Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian lands, and had an enormous impact on the development of these languages. Smotrytsky's work also contributed greatly to the study of Church Slavonic texts throughout Eastern Europe. The grammar was first reprinted in 1721.


  • Θρηνος to iest Lament iedyney S. powszechney apostolskiey Wschodniey Cerkwie ... - Wilno, 1610.
  • Ґrammatіki Slavenskiya correctament Svntaґma ... Eve, 1619. Reprint: Kiev: Naukova Dumka, 1979. online version (scanned). Apologia. - Lions, 1628.
  • Αντιγραφη (Antigrafi) / / Monuments of polemical literature. - St. Petersburg., 1903. - Pr. 3 (Russian east. Library, Vol 19). Verificatia niewinności / / AYUZR. - Part 1. - T. 7.
  • Lyament in squalid svіta on zhalostnoє prestavlenіє svyatolyubivogo and oboї dobrodіtelі Bhagat husband Bozі velebnogo Mr. ottsya Leontіya Karpovich arhіmandrita obschіa obitelі at tserkvі Soshestvіya Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit Orthodox Church Vіlenskogo grecheskogo / / Pam'yatki bratskih shkіl on Ukraїnі. - K., 1988.
  • Collected works of Meletij Smortyc'kyj / Harvard Library of Early Ukrainian Literature: Texts: Volume I. Cambridge (Massachusetts): Harvard University, 1987. ISBN 0-916458-20-2 .
  • The Jevanhelije učytelnoje of Meletij Smotryc'kyj / Harvard Library of Early Ukrainian Literature: Texts: Volume II. Cambridge (Massachusetts): Harvard University, 1987. ISBN 0-916458-21-0 .


  • 3asadkevich N. Meletii Smotritsky, as a scholar. - Odessa, 1883.
  • Short VS creative way Meletija Smotritsky. - Minsk, 1987.
  • Nіchik V. Litvinov, VD, Stratіy YM Gumanіstichnі i reformatsіynі іdeї on Ukraїnі. - K., 1991.
  • Osa A. Meletii Smotritsky, Archbishop of Polotsk. - K., 1912.
  • Prokoshin E. Meletii Smotritsky. - Minsk, 1966.
  • Jaremenko PK Meletіy Smotritsky. Zhittya i tvorchіst. - K., 1986.
  • Frick, David A. Meletij Smotryc’kyj. Cambridge/Mass. 1995.
  • Horbatsch, Olexa (ed.). Meletij Smotryc’kyj: Hrammatiki Slavenskija Pravilnoe Syntagma. Jevje 1619. Kirchenslavische Grammatik (Erstausgabe). Frankfurt am Main 1974.
  • Pugh, Stefan M. Testament to Ruthenian. A linguistic analysis of the Smotryc’kyj variant. Cambridge/Mass. 1996.
  • Vinokur, G.O. The Russian Language: A Brief History,Translated by M.A. Forsyth and edited by J. Forsyth. Cambridge University Press, 1971.

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