Cyril Lucaris

Cyril Lucaris

Lucaris, Cyril, 1572-1637, Greek churchman, b. Crete (then belonging to Venice). He studied at Venice and Padua and was elected patriarch of Alexandria (1602-20) and of Constantinople (1620-37). In Western Europe he had become imbued with Calvinistic ideas, and he attempted to synthesize them with Orthodoxy. He published a Confession of Faith (1629) to this end and sent many young priests to study in the West. He corresponded with leading Anglicans and Lutherans and sent the Codex Alexandrinus of the Bible to Charles I. His Protestant tendencies had no lasting effect in the East, and after his death a synod condemned his teachings. In Constantinople he was deposed several times. The sultan, Murad IV, had him murdered on charges that he was involved in an anti-Turkish plot. He is also called Cyril Lucar.

See G. A. Hadjiantoniou, Protestant Patriarch (1961).

Kyrillos Loukaris or Cyril Lucaris or Cyril Lucar (1572–June 1638) 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. Loukaris strove for a reform of Orthodoxy along Protestant and Calvinist lines but was opposed both from within his own communion and by the Jesuits. He was the first great name in the Eastern Orthodox Church since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and dominated its history in the 17th century.


He was born in Candia, Crete, then a part of the Venetian Republic's maritime empire. In his youth he travelled through Europe, studying at Venice and Padua, and at Geneva where he came under the influence of the reformed faith as represented by John Calvin. Lucaris pursued theological studies in Venice and Padua, Wittenberg and Geneva where he came under the influence of Calvinism and developed strong antipathy for Roman Catholicism.

In 1596 Lucaris was sent to Poland by Meletios 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).

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.


However his ultimate 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 started a controversy which culminated in 1691 with the convocation by Dositheos, Patriarch of Jerusalem, of the Synod of Jerusalem by which the Calvinistic doctrines were condemned.

Cyril was also particularly well disposed towards the Anglican Church, and his correspondence with the Archbishops of Canterbury is extremely interesting. It was in his time that Mitrophanes Kritopoulos - later to become Patriarch of Alexandria (1636–1639) 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.


Lucaris was several times temporarily deposed and banished at the instigation of both his Orthodox opponents and the Jesuits, who were his bitterest enemies. 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 killed by the Janissaries on June 27, 1638 aboard a ship in the Bosporus. 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.


The orthodoxy of Lucaris himself continued to be a matter of debate in the Eastern Church, even Dositheos, in view of the reputation of the great patriarch, thought it expedient to gloss over his heterodoxy in the interests of the Church.



  • Pichler, Life, (Munich, 1862)

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