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Cyril of Turov


(c. 11301182), twelfth-century church writer, bishop.

The facts of Cyril's (Kirill's) life and career are disputable, since contemporary sources for both are lacking. Customarily, it is asserted that he was born to a wealthy family in Turov, northwest of Kiev, about 1130 and died not later than 1182; that he was a monk who rose to be bishop of Turov in the late 1160s; and that he wrote letters to Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky about a rival bishop. Cyril's brief Prolog (Synaxarion) life (translation in Simon Franklin's Sermons and Rhetoric of Kievan Rus' ), written probably long after his death, is the only "authority" for most of these claims, although it is vague and gives no dates. Whether all of the works attributed to him were his, and whether he was ever in fact a bishop (the texts usually call him simply the "unworthy" or "sinful monk Cyril") are matters of speculation and scholarly convention.

Tradition credits more extant writings to Cyril of Turov than to any other named person thought to have lived in the Kievan period. They include sermons, parables, and edifying stories. The corpus of texts attributed to Cyril was critically studied and edited in the 1950s by the late philologist Igor Petrovich Yeremin. Simon Franklin considers the "stable core" of the oeuvre to consist of three stories and eight sermons, while various other writings have frequently been added.

The eight sermons, which no doubt are Cyril's most admired works today, form a cycle for the Easter season stretching from Palm Sunday to the Sunday before Pentecost. Like the famous Sermon on Law and Grace of Hilarion, they are heavily dependent on Byzantine Greek sources and, of course, incorporate many Biblical quotations and paraphrases. The original accomplishment of Cyril was to express all this in a fluent and vigorous Church Slavonic language that makes it fresh and living. Cyril's style is elaborate and rich in poetic tropes, particularly metaphors. A familiar example is his extended comparison of the resurrection with the coming of spring in the world of nature, where (in the manner of Hilarion) he quickly resolves the metaphors and reveals explicitly the higher meaning for salvation history.

Another typical feature of Cyril's sermons is the extensive use of dramatic dialogue, very welcome in a church literature otherwise devoid of liturgical drama. Thus the speech of Joseph of Arimathaea (with his repeated plea, "Give me body of Christ") and others in the Sermon for Low Sunday both instruct and convey deep emotion.

See also: hilarion; russian orthodox church


Franklin, Simon, tr. and intro. (1991). Sermons and Rhetoric of Kievan Rus'. Harvard Library of Early Ukrainian Literature, Vol. 5. Cambridge, MA: Distributed by the Harvard University Press for the Ukrainian Research Institute of Harvard University.

Norman W. Ingham

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