|Creator||Saints Cyril and Methodius|
|862/863 to the Middle Ages|
|Languages||Old Church Slavonic (round variant), Croatian (angular variant)|
|ISO 15924||Glag (225), Glagolitic|
The Glagolitic script (//, ⰳⰾⰰⰳⱁⰾⰹⱌⰰ, glagolitsa) is the oldest known Slavic alphabet. It is generally agreed to have been created in the 9th century by Saint Cyril, a monk from Thessalonica. He and his brother Saint Methodius were sent by the Byzantine Emperor Michael III in 863 to Great Moravia to spread Christianity among the West Slavs in the area. The brothers decided to translate liturgical books into the contemporary Slavic language understandable to the general population (now known as Old Church Slavonic). As the words of that language could not be easily written by using either the Greek or Latin alphabets, Cyril decided to invent a new script, Glagolitic, which he based on the local dialect of the Slavic tribes from the Byzantine theme of Thessalonica.
After the deaths of Cyril and Methodius, the Glagolitic alphabet ceased to be used in Moravia for political or religious needs. In 885, Pope Stephen V issued a papal bull to restrict spreading and reading Christian services in languages other than Latin or Greek. Around the same time, Svatopluk I, following the interests of the Frankish Empire, prosecuted the students of Cyril and Methodius and expelled them from Great Moravia. In 886, Clement of Ohrid (also known as Kliment), Naum, Gorazd, Angelar and Sava arrived in the First Bulgarian Empire where they were warmly accepted by the Tsar Boris I of Bulgaria. Both the Glagolitic and Cyrillic alphabets were used until 13th-14th century in Bulgaria. The Cyrillic alphabet (which borrowed some letters from the Glagolitic alphabet) was developed at the Preslav Literary School in the late 9th century. The Glagolitic alphabet was preserved only by the clergy of Croatia and Dalmatia to write Church Slavonic until the early 19th century. Glagolitic also spread in Bohemia with traces in Pannonia, Moravia and Russia.
With the adoption of Latin and Cyrillic alphabets in all Slavic-speaking countries, Glagolitic script remained in limited liturgical use for Church Slavonic in primarily Eastern Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholic Church observance, a direct descendant of Old Church Slavonic.
The word glagolitic comes from New Latin glagoliticus and Croatian glagoljica, from Old Church Slavonic ⰳⰾⰰⰳⱁⰾⱏ (glagolŭ), meaning "utterance" or "word". The name was not created until centuries after the script's creation.
The name glagolitsa is speculated to have developed in Croatia, around the 14th century, and was derived from the word glagoljati, literally "verb (glagol) using (jati)", meaning to say Mass in Old Church Slavonic liturgy.
In the languages now spoken in the places where Glagolitic script was once used, the script is known as глаголица (romanized as glagolitsa and glagolica, respectively) in Bulgarian, Macedonian and Russian; glagoljica in Croatian and Serbian; hlaholice in Czech; głagolica in Polish; hlaholika in Slovak; and glagolica in Slovene.
The creation of the characters is popularly attributed to Saints Cyril and Methodius, who may have created them to facilitate the introduction of Christianity. It is believed that the original letters were fitted to Slavic dialects in geographical Macedonia specifically.
The number of letters in the original Glagolitic alphabet is not known, but it may have been close to its presumed Greek model. The 41 letters known today include letters for non-Greek sounds, which may have been added by Saint Cyril, as well as ligatures added in the 12th century under the influence of Cyrillic, as Glagolitic lost its dominance. In later centuries, the number of letters dropped dramatically, to fewer than 30 in modern Croatian and Czech recensions of the Church Slavic language. Twenty-four of the 41 original Glagolitic letters (see table below) probably derive from graphemes of the medieval cursive Greek small alphabet but have been given an ornamental design.
The source of the other consonantal letters is unknown. If they were added by Cyril, it is likely that they were taken from an alphabet used for Christian scripture. It is frequently proposed that the letters sha Ⱎ, tsi Ⱌ, and cherv Ⱍ were taken from the letters shin ש and tsadi צ of the Hebrew alphabet, and that Ⰶ zhivete derives from Coptic janja Ϫ. However, Cubberley suggests that if a single prototype were presumed, the most likely source would be Armenian. Other proposals include the Samaritan alphabet, which Cyril learned during his journey to the Khazars in Cherson.
For writing numbers, the Glagolitic numerals uses letters with a numerical value assigned to each based on their native alphabetic order. This differs from Cyrillic numerals, which inherited their numeric value from the corresponding Greek letter (see Greek numerals).
The two brothers from Thessaloniki, who were later canonized as Saints Cyril and Methodius, were sent to Great Moravia in 862 by the Byzantine emperor at the request of Prince Rastislav, who wanted to weaken the dependence of his country on East Frankish priests. The Glagolitic alphabet, however it originated, was used between 863 and 885 for government and religious documents and books and at the Great Moravian Academy (Veľkomoravské učilište) founded by the missionaries, where their followers were educated. The Kiev Missal, found in the 19th century in Jerusalem, was dated to the 10th century.
In 886 an East Frankish bishop of Nitra named Wiching banned the script and jailed 200 followers of Methodius, mostly students of the original academy. They were then dispersed or, according to some sources, sold as slaves by the Franks. However, many of them, including Saints Naum, Clement, Angelar, Sava and Gorazd, reached Bulgaria and were commissioned by Boris I of Bulgaria to teach and instruct the future clergy of the state in the Slavic language. After the adoption of Christianity in Bulgaria in 865, religious ceremonies and Divine Liturgy were conducted in Greek by clergy sent from the Byzantine Empire, using the Byzantine rite. Fearing growing Byzantine influence and weakening of the state, Boris viewed the introduction of the Slavic alphabet and language into church use as a way to preserve the independence of the Bulgarian Empire from Byzantine Constantinople. As a result of Boris' measures, two academies, one in Ohrid and one in Preslav, were founded.
From there, the students travelled to other places and spread the use of their alphabet. Students of the two apostles who were expelled from Great Moravia in 886, notably Clement of Ohrid and Saint Naum, brought the Glagolitic alphabet to the First Bulgarian Empire on Balkans and were received and accepted officially by Boris I of Bulgaria. This led to the establishment of the two literary schools: the Preslav Literary School and the Ohrid Literary School. Some went to Croatia (Dalmatia), where the squared variant arose and where Glagolitic remained in use for a long time. In 1248, Pope Innocent IV granted the Croatians of southern Dalmatia the unique privilege of using their own language and this script in the Roman Rite liturgy. Formally granted to bishop Philip of Senj, permission to use the Glagolitic liturgy (the Roman Rite conducted in the Slavic language instead of Latin, not the Byzantine rite), actually extended to all Croatian lands, mostly along the Adriatic coast. The Holy See had several Glagolitic missals published in Rome. Authorization for the use of this language was extended to some other Slavic regions between 1886 and 1935. In missals, the Glagolitic script was eventually replaced with the Latin alphabet, but the use of the Slavic language in the Mass continued, until replaced by modern vernacular languages.
At the end of the 9th century, one of these students of Methodius – Naum, who had settled in Ohrid, Bulgaria – is often credited, at least by supporters of glagolitic precedence, for the "creation" or wider adoption of the Cyrillic script, which almost entirely replaced Glagolitic during the Middle Ages. The Cyrillic alphabet is derived from the Greek alphabet used at that time, with some additional letters for sounds peculiar to Slavic languages (like ⟨ш⟩, ⟨ц⟩, ⟨ч⟩, ⟨ъ⟩, ⟨ь⟩, ⟨ѣ⟩), likely derived from the Glagolitic alphabet. The decision by a great assembly of notables summoned by Boris in the year 893 in favor of Cyrillic created an alphabetical difference between the two literary centres of the Bulgarian state in Pliska and Ohrid. In the western part the Glagolitic alphabet remained dominant at first. However, subsequently in the next two centuries, mostly after the fall of the First Bulgarian Empire to the Byzantines, Glagolitic gradually ceased to be used there at all. Nevertheless, particular passages or words written with the Glagolitic alphabet appeared in Bulgarian Cyrillic manuscripts till the end of the 14th century. Some students of the Ohrid academy went to Bohemia where the alphabet was used in the 10th and 11th centuries, along with other scripts. It is not clear whether the Glagolitic alphabet was used in the Duchy of Kopnik before the Wendish Crusade, but it was certainly used in Kievan Rus'.
In Croatia, from the 12th century, Glagolitic inscriptions appeared mostly in littoral areas: Istria, Primorje, Kvarner, and Kvarner islands, notably Krk, Cres, and Lošinj; in Dalmatia, on the islands of Zadar, but there were also findings in inner Lika and Krbava, reaching to Kupa river, and even as far as Međimurje and Slovenia. The Hrvoje's Missal (Croatian: Hrvojev misal) from 1404 was written in Split, and it is considered one of the most beautiful Croatian Glagolitic books. The 1483 Missale Romanum Glagolitice was the first printed Croatian Glagolitic book.
It was believed that Glagolitsa in Croatia was present only in those areas. But, in 1992, the discovery of Glagolitic inscriptions in churches along the Orljava river in Slavonia totally changed the picture (churches in Brodski Drenovac, Lovčić, and some others), showing that use of the Glagolitic alphabet was spread from Slavonia also.
Sporadic instances aside, Glagolitic survived beyond the 12th century as a primary script in Croatia alone, although from there a brief attempt at reintroduction was made in the West Slavic area in the 14th century. The centre of influence appears to have been in the Kvarner Gulf, though the nature and extent of this influence remain subjects of debate. The early development of the Glagolitic minuscule script alongside the increasingly square majuscule is poorly documented, but before the advent of printing, a mutual relationship evolved between the two varieties; the majuscule being used primarily for inscriptions and higher liturgical uses, and the minuscule being applied to both religious and secular documents. Ignoring the problematic early Slavonian inscriptions, the use of the Glagolitic script at its peak before the Croatian-Ottoman wars corresponded roughly to the area that spoke the Chakavian dialect at the time, in addition to, to varying extents, the adjacent Kajkavian regions within the Zagreb bishopric. As a result, vernacular impact on the liturgical language and script largely stems from Chakavian sub-dialects.
The first major threat to Croatian Glagolitic since it attained stability was from the Ottoman excursions, though the extent of cultural damage varied locally depending on the course of war. In the 17th century, though, the first successful direct attack on the script since the 12th century was headed by the Bishop of Zagreb, and after the Magnate conspiracy left the script without secular protectors, its use was limited to the littoral region. In the meantime, printing gradually overtook handwriting for liturgical manuscripts, resulting in a decline of the majuscule script, which was absorbed for titular and sometimes initial use within for minuscule documents. It was not until the late 18th century and the onset of modernity that Glagolitic received significant further threats, and through western influence, especially secular, Glagolitic culture collapsed, so that by the mid 19th century, the script was purely liturgical, relying mostly on printed materials. By the time of the devastating Italianization movements under Fascist Italy in the early 20th century, numerous independent events had already greatly reduced the area of the liturgical use of Glagolitic.
The phonetic values of many of the letters are thought to have been displaced under Cyrillic influence or to have become confused through the early spread to different dialects, so the original values are not always clear. For instance, the letter yu Ⱓ is thought to have perhaps originally had the sound /u/ but was displaced by the adoption of the ligature Ⱆ under the influence of later Cyrillic oѵ, mirroring the Greek ου. Other letters were late creations after a Cyrillic model. It should also be noted that Ⱑ corresponds to two different Cyrillic letters (Ѣ and Я), present even in older manuscripts, and not to different later variants of the same Cyrillic letter in different times or places.
The following table lists each letter in its modern order, showing its Unicode representation, images of the letter in both the round and angular/squared variant forms, the corresponding modern Cyrillic letter, the approximate sound transcribed with the IPA, the name, and suggestions for its origin. The Old Church Slavonic names follow the scientific transliteration, while the mostly similar Church Slavonic ones follow an approach more familiar to a generic English speaking reader. Several letters have no modern counterpart. The column for the angular variant, sometimes referred to as Croatian Glagolitic, isn't complete as some of the letters weren't used following the Croatian recension of Old Church Slavonic.
|Unicode||Round||Angular||Cyrillic||Sound||OCS name||CS name||Meaning||Origin|
|Ⰰ||А||/ɑ/||Azъ||Az||I||Phoenician alphabet aleph 𐤀 or the sign of the cross|
|Ⰱ||Б||/b/||Buky||Buky||letters||Unknown, possibly Hebrew bet בּ or Aramaic bīt ܒ|
|Ⰲ||В||/ʋ/||Vědě||Vedi||(you/he/she/it) knew||Possibly Latin V or an inverted dobro Ⰴ|
|Ⰳ||Г, Ґ||/ɡ/||Glagoli||Glagoli||speak (past or imperative)||Possibly cursive Greek gamma |
|Ⰴ||Д||/d/||Dobro||Dobro||kindness / good / well||Greek delta Δ|
|Ⰵ||Є, Е, Э, Ё||/ɛ/||Jestъ||Yest||is / exists||Possibly Samaritan īy ࠄ or Greek sampi ϡ|
|Ⰶ||Ж||/ʒ/||Živěte||Zhivete||life / live
(2nd plural imperative)
|Unknown, possibly Coptic janja ϫ or astrological symbol for Pisces ♓︎|
|Ⰷ||Ѕ||/d͡z/||Dzělo||Zelo||very||Unknown, possibly Armenian ja Ձ|
|Ⰸ||З||/z/||Zemlja||Zeml(j)a||Earth / ground / soil||Possibly a variant of Greek theta θ|
|Ⰹ, Ⰺ||Ι, Ї||/i/, /j/||Iže||Izhe||which is / the||Possibly Greek upsilon Y or Greek iota with dieresis ϊ|
|Ⰻ||И||/i/, /j/||I/ižei||I/izhey||and||Possibly mimicking the shape of a fish|
|Ⰼ||Ꙉ, Ћ, Ђ||/dʑ/, /tɕ/||Djervь, ǵervь||Cherv, Djerv||tree / wood||Unknown|
|Ⰽ||К||/k/||Kako||Kako||how / as||Hebrew qoph ק|
|Ⰾ||Л, Љ||/l/, /ʎ/||Ljudie||Lyudi||people||Possibly Greek lambda λ|
|Ⰿ||М||/m/||Myslite||Mislete||think (2nd plural)||Greek mu μ. In squared glagolitic it was eventually replaced by a Latin/Cyrillic like form, partly due to its complexity|
|Ⱀ||Н, Њ||/n/, /ɲ/||Našь||Nash||ours||[unknown]|
|Ⱂ||П||/p/||Pokoj||Pokoy||calmness / peace||Possibly a variant of early Greek pi |
|Ⱃ||Р||/r/||Rьci||Rtsi||speak! / pronounce!||Possibly Greek rho ρ|
|Ⱄ||С||/s/||Slovo||Slovo||word / speech|
|Ⱅ||Т||/t/||Tvrьdo||Tverdo||solid / hard / surely||Perhaps from crossbar of Greek tau τ|
|Ⱆ||У||/u/||Ukъ||Uk||teaching||Ligature of onъ Ⱁ and izhitsa Ⱛ|
|Ⱇ||Ф||/f/||Frьtъ||Fert||Variant of Greek phi φ|
|Ⱈ||Х||/x/||Xěrъ||Kher||[unknown] (similar to glagoli Ⰳ and Latin h)|
|Ⱉ||Ѡ||/ɔ/||Otъ||Oht, Omega||from||Ligature of onъ Ⱁ and its mirror image|
|Ⱋ||Щ||/tʲ/, /ʃ͡t/||Šta / Šča||Shta / Shcha||Ligature of sha Ⱎ over tvrьdo Ⱅ|
|Ⱌ||Ц||/t͡s/||Ci||Tsi||Final form of Hebrew tsade ץ|
|Ⱍ||Ч, Џ||/t͡ʃ/||Črьvъ||Cherv||worm||[unknown] (similar to shta Ⱋ; perhaps non-final form of Hebrew tsade צ)|
|Ⱎ||Ш||/ʃ/||Ša||Sha||silence / quiet||Hebrew shin ש|
|Ⱏ||Ъ||/ɯ/||Jerъ||Yer, Yor||Possibly modification of onъ Ⱁ|
|ⰟⰊ||Ы||/ɨ/||Jery||Yerɨ||Ligature; digraph of either yer (Ⱏ) or yerь (Ⱐ), followed by either izhe (Ⰹ, Ⰺ) or i (Ⰻ).|
|Ⱐ||Ь||/ə/||Jerь||Yer`||Possibly modification of onъ Ⱁ|
|Ⱑ||Ѣ, Я||/æ/, /jɑ/||Jatь||Yat, Ya||Possibly epigraphic Greek alpha Α|
|Ⱖ||Ё||/jo/||Unknown: Hypothetical component of jonsь Ⱙ below; /jo/ was not possible at the time|
|Ⱔ||Ѧ||/ɛ̃/||[Ensь]||[small yus]||Greek epsilon ε, also used to denote nasality|
|Ⱗ||Ѩ||/jɛ̃/||[Jensь]||[small iotated yus]||Ligature of jestъ Ⰵ and ensь Ⱔ for nasality|
|Ⱘ||Ѫ||/ɔ̃/||[Onsь]||[big yus]||Ligature of onъ Ⱁ and ensь Ⱔ for nasality|
|Ⱙ||Ѭ||/jɔ̃/||[Jonsь]||[big iotated yus]||Ligature of unknown letter and ensь Ⱔ for nasality|
|Ⱚ||Ѳ||/θ/||[Thita]||Fita||Theta||Greek theta θ|
In older texts, uk (Ⱆ) and three out of four yuses (Ⱗ, Ⱘ, Ⱙ) also can be written as digraphs, in two separate parts.
The order of izhe (Ⰹ, Ⰺ) and i (Ⰻ) varies from source to source, as does the order of the various forms of yus (Ⱔ, Ⱗ, Ⱘ, Ⱙ). Correspondence between Glagolitic izhe (Ⰹ, Ⰺ) and i (Ⰻ) with Cyrillic И and І is unknown.
The Proto-Slavic language did not have the phoneme /f/, and the letters fert (Ⱇ) and fita (Ⱚ) were used for transcribing words of Greek origin, and so was izhitsa (Ⱛ) for the Greek upsilon.
The Glagolitic alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in March 2005 with the release of version 4.1.
The Unicode block for Glagolitic is U+2C00–U+2C5F.
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
The Glagolitic combining letters for Glagolitic Supplement block (U+1E000–U+1E02F) was added to the Unicode Standard in June, 2016 with the release of version 9.0:
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
Glagolitic script is the writing system used in the world of The Witcher books and video game series. It is also featured, in various uses, in several of the point and click adventure games made by Cateia Games, a Croatian game studio. It is also featured on 1 euro cent, 2 euro cent and 5 euro cent coins minted in Croatia.