Cyril Lucaris

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Cyril I Lucaris
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
Cyril Lucaris 1632 Geneva.jpg
Church Church of Constantinople
In office October 1612 (locum tenens)
4 November 1620 – 12 April 1623
22 September 1623 – 4 October 1633
11 October 1633 – 25 February 1634
April 1634 – March 1635
March 1637 – 20 June 1638
Personal details
Born 13 November 1572
Heraklion, Greece
Died 27 June 1638
Previous post Greek Patriarch of Alexandria as Cyril III

Cyril Lucaris or Loukaris (Greek: Κύριλλος Λούκαρις, 13 November 1572 – 27 June 1638), born Constantine Lucaris, was a Greek prelate and theologian, and a native of Candia, Crete (then under the Republic of Venice). He later became the Greek Patriarch of Alexandria as Cyril III and Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople as Cyril I. Calvinist contemporaries, and some modern Calvinist writers as well, have claimed that he strove for a reform of the Eastern Orthodox Church along Protestant, Calvinist lines.[1] Attempts to bring Calvinism into the Orthodox Church were rejected, and Cyril's actions, motivations, and specific viewpoints remain a matter of debate among scholars. However, the Orthodox Church recognizes him as a hieromartyr and defender of the Orthodox faith against both the Jesuit Catholics and Calvinist Protestants. The official glorification of Cyril Loukaris took place by decision of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on 6 October 2009, and his memory is commemorated on 27 June.[2][3]


Cyril Lucaris was born in Candia, Crete on 13 November 1572,[4] when the island was part of the Venetian Republic's maritime empire. In his youth he travelled through Europe, studying at Venice and the University of Padua, and at Geneva where he came under the influence of Calvinism and the Reformed faith. Lucaris pursued theological studies in Venice and Padua, Wittenberg and Geneva where he developed greater antipathy for Roman Catholicism.[5] Probably, during that time he was the Rector of Ostroh Academy.[6]

While the exact date is unknown, Lucaris was ordained in Constantinople.[7] In 1596 Lucaris was sent to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth by Meletius Pegas, Patriarch of Alexandria, to lead the Orthodox opposition to the Union of Brest-Litovsk, which proposed a union of Kiev with Rome. For six years Lucaris served as professor of the Orthodox academy in Vilnius (now in Lithuania).[5] In 1601, Lucaris was installed as the Patriarch of Alexandria at the age of twenty-nine. He would continue to hold this office for twenty years, until his elevation to the See of Constantinople. During these years, Lucaris adopted a theology which was heavily influenced by Protestant Reformation doctrine. On 6 September, he wrote a letter to Mark Antonio de Dominis, a former Roman Catholic Archbishop, writing:

There was a time, when we were bewitched, before we understood the very pure Word of God; and although we did not communicate with the Roman Pontiff… we abominated the doctrine of the Reformed Churches, as opposed to the Faith, not knowing in good truth what we abominated. But when it pleased the merciful God to enlighten us, and make us perceive our former error, we began to consider what our future stand should be. And as the role of a good citizen, in the case of any dissension, is to defend the juster cause, I think it all the more to be the duty of a good Christian not to dissimulate his sentiments in matters pertaining to salvation, but to embrace unreservedly that side which is most accordant to the Word of God. What did I do then? Having obtained, through the kindness of friends, some writings of Evangelical theologians, books which have not only been unseen in the East, but due to the influence of the censures of Rome, have not even been heard of, I then invoked earnestly the assistance of the Holy Ghost, and for three years compared the doctrines of the Greek and Latin Churches with that of the Reformed… Leaving the Fathers I took for my only guide the Scriptures and the Analogy of Faith. At length, having been convinced, through the grace of God, that the cause of the Reformers was more correct and more in accord with the doctrine of Christ, I embraced it.[8]

Due to Turkish oppression combined with the proselytization of the Orthodox faithful by Jesuit missionaries, there was a shortage of schools which taught the Orthodox Faith and the Greek language. Roman Catholic schools were set up and Catholic churches were built next to Orthodox ones, and since Orthodox priests were in short supply something had to be done. His first act was to found a theological seminary in Mount Athos, the Athoniada school.

In 1627, he authorized the establishment of a Greek language printing press in Istanbul, the first of its kind. However, the French government lodged an official protest with Ottoman authorities once the press began to publish anti-Catholic polemics, and as a result, Ottoman authorities ordered its closure one year later.[9]

He sponsored Maximos of Gallipoli to produce the first translation of the New Testament in Modern Greek.[10]


Cyril's aim was to reform the Orthodox Church along Calvinistic lines, and to this end he sent many young Greek theologians to the universities of Switzerland, the northern Netherlands and England. In 1629 he published his famous Confessio (Calvinistic doctrine), but as far as possible accommodated to the language and creeds of the Orthodox Church. It appeared the same year in two Latin editions, four French, one German and one English, and in the Eastern Church it started a controversy which brought critics at several synods, in 1638 at Constantinople, in 1642 at the Synod of Iași, and culminated in 1672 with the convocation by Dositheos, Patriarch of Jerusalem, of the Synod of Jerusalem, by which the Calvinistic doctrines were condemned.[5][11]

Cyril was also particularly well disposed towards the Church of England, and corresponded with the Archbishops of Canterbury. It was in his time that Metrophanes Kritopoulos — later to become Patriarch of Alexandria (1636–39) — was sent to England to study. Both Lucaris and Kritopoulos were lovers of books and manuscripts, and many of the items in the collections of books and these two Patriarchs acquired manuscripts that today adorn the Patriarchal Library.

In 1629 in Geneva the Eastern Confession of the Christian faith was published in Latin, containing the Calvinist doctrine. In 1633 it was published in Greek. The Council of Constantinople in 1638 anathematized both Cyril and the Eastern Confession of the Christian faith, but the Council of Jerusalem in 1672, specially engaged in the case of Cyril, completely acquitted him, testified that the Council of Constantinople cursed Cyril not because they thought he was the author of the confession, but for the fact that Cyril hadn't written a rebuttal to this essay attributed to him. However, Western scholars continue to insist on the Calvinism of Cyril, referring not only to a confession, but also in his extensive correspondence with Protestant scholars (especially the letters of 1618–20 to the Dutchman's Velgelmu[who?]).

The Orthodox historian Bishop Arseny (Bryantsev) challenged the authenticity of the correspondence and, incidentally, points to the 50 letters of Cyril of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich and Moscow Patriarch Philaret, stored in a Moscow archive of the main Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the evidence of Cyril's commitment to Orthodoxy, as well as in his 1622 letter in which he speaks of Protestantism as a blasphemous doctrine.[12]

Politics and death

Hieromartyr Cyril Lucaris
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople; Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria; Hieromartyr
Born 13 November 1572
Candia, Crete
Died 27 June 1638
Canonized 6 October 2009, Patriarchal Church of Saint Savvas the Sanctified in Alexandria by Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria
Major shrine Monastery of Panagia Kamariotissa, Halki
Feast 27 June
Attributes Eastern episcopal vestments, holding a Gospel Book or a crosier. He is depicted as a big white beard.

Lucaris was several times temporarily deposed and banished at the instigation of both his Orthodox opponents and the Catholic French and Austrian ambassadors,[5] while he was supported by the Protestant Dutch and English ambassadors to the Ottoman capital. Finally, when the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV was about to set out for the Persian War, the Patriarch was accused of a design to stir up the Cossacks, and to avoid trouble during his absence the Sultan had him strangled[13] by the Janissaries on 27 June 1638 aboard a ship in the Bosporus.[5] His body was thrown into the sea, but it was recovered and buried at a distance from the capital by his friends, and only brought back to Constantinople after many years.[5]

Lucaris was honoured as a saint and martyr shortly after his death, and Eugenios of Aitolia compiled an akolouthia (service) to celebrate his memory.

According to a 1659 letter to Thomas Greaves from Edward Pococke (who, on his book-hunting travels for archbishop William Laud, had met Lucaris) many of the choicest manuscripts from Lucaris' library were saved by the Dutch ambassador who sent them by ship to Holland. Although the ship arrived safely, it sank the next day in a violent storm along with its cargo.[14]


Lucaris' position in Eastern Orthodoxy continues to be a matter of debate in the church. Some Orthodox accept the view of most secular historians that he was an advocate of Calvinism. Others say his personal position was distorted by his enemies, and that he remained loyal to Orthodox teachings.[citation needed]



  • "Kyrillos III Lucaris (1601–1620)". Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. Retrieved 7 February 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. Kiminas, Demetrius (2009). The Ecumenical Patriarchate. Wildside Press. pp. 38, 9. ISBN 978-1-4344-5876-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. First Day of the deliberations of the holy synod of the Alexandrian patriarchate. Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. 6/10/2009.
  3. "Άγιος Κύριλλος Λούκαρις Πατριάρχης Κωνσταντινουπόλεως" [Saint Cyril Loukaris patriarch of Constantinople], Saints (in Ελληνικά), Ορθόδοξος Συναξαριστής, 27 June 2019<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  4. Emerau, C (1926). "Lucar Cyrille". Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique (in français). 9. Paris: Letouzey et Ané. 1003–19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 "Lucaris, Cyril", Encyclopædia Britannica (online ed.), 26 March 2008<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  6. Medlin, William K. Renaissance Influences and Religious Reforms in Russia. p. 104.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Papadopoulos, Chrysostom (1939). Kyrillos Loukaris, p. 15 (Athens).
  8. Hadjiantoniou, George (1961). Protestant Patriarch. John Knox Press (Richmond, VA), pp. 42–43
  9. Masters, Bruce (2006). "Christians in a Changing World" in the Cambridge History of Turkey, Volume 3, edited by Suraiya N. Faroqhi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 276–277.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Khokhar, Antony J (2015). "The 'Calvinist Patriarch' Cyril Lucaris And His Bible Translations" (PDF). Scriptura. 114:1: 1–15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Siecienski 2010, p. 183.
  12. Arseny, Bryantsev (1870), "Patriarch Kirill Lucaris and his merits for the Orthodox Church", Strannik (The Wanderer), St Petersburg<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  13. Lempriere, J (1808). Universal Biography.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Twells, Leonard (1816). The Lives of Dr. Edward Pocock: the celebrated orientalist. 1. London: printed for FC & J Rivington, by R&R Gilbert. pp. 410–11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Pichler (1862), Life, Munich<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). [ "Lucaris, Cyrillos" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 92–93.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Siecienski, Anthony Edward (2010). The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19537204-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hadjiantoniou, G.A. (1948). Cyril Lucaris : his life and work (PhD thesis thesis). University of Edinburgh. hdl:1842/10292.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

  • of Etna, Chrysostomos, The Myth of the Calvinist Patriarch, Orthodox info<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> – article from an Orthodox standpoint claiming Lucaris was not a Calvinist.
  • Lucaris, Confession of Faith, Cri voice<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  • Michaelides, George P (1943), "The Greek Orthodox Position on the Confession of Cyril Lucaris", Church History, J Stor, 12 (2): 118–129, doi:10.2307/3159981, JSTOR 3159981<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  • Cyril I Lucaris (article), The Ecumenical Patriarchate<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Eastern Orthodox Church titles
Preceded by
Meletius I
Greek Patriarch of Alexandria
Succeeded by
Gerasimius I
Preceded by
Neophytus II
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by
Timothy II
Preceded by
Timothy II
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by
Gregory IV
Preceded by
Anthimus II
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by
Cyril II
Preceded by
Cyril II
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by
Athanasius III
Preceded by
Athanasius III
Patriarch of Constantinople
Succeeded by
Cyril II
Preceded by
Neophytus III
Patriarch of Constantinople