Cyril of Alexandria’s Reputation in the Early Medieval West: From Bede to Alcuin

Daniel Anlezark
Associate Professor
Department of English, University of Sydney

Abstract: Direct knowledge of the works of Cyril of Alexandria was strictly limited in the West in the early Middle Ages. However, his historical reputation as a bishop and scholar who had defended Christological orthodoxy was understood and appreciated by Western theologians. This paper will examine the reputation and theology of Cyril in the works of two early medieval English scholars, the Venerable Bede and his greatest intellectual heir, Alcuin of York. Bede’s early eighth-century biblical commentaries present a carefully defined Christology, though Cyril was perhaps better known to him through Irish circles which had produced and circulated Cyrillian apocrypha. In the face of the Adoptionist Christological controversy which emerged in late eighth-century Spain, Alcuin of York became Charlemagne’s theological champion against a group of Spanish bishops who were understood as revivers of Nestorianism in the West, and against whom Cyril could be put to use.