Ecumenical Patriarch Cyril I of Constantinople)

Cyril Lucaris

Kyrillos Loukaris or Cyril Lucaris or Cyril Lucar (1572–June 1637) was a Greek prelate and theologian and a native of Crete. He later became the Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria as Cyril III and Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople as Cyril I. He was the first great name in the Orthodox Eastern Church since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and dominated its history in the 17th century.

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. In 1602 he was elected Patriarch of Alexandria, and in 1621 Patriarch of Constantinople.

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 Greek language. 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.

In 1653 Patriarch Cyril opened a school called Athoniada at Mount Athos, but the Orthodox and Catholics insisted to the Turkish authorities that this should be closed. In 1659 the Athos School was closed. The next option was to send students abroad to study, as long as it was not Catholic thought. The Calvinists were appealing because their beliefs were thought to be very similar to Orthodox ones.

It is alleged that the great aim of his life was to reform the Church on 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 in 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 in 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 Mitrophanis 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 his orthodox opponents and of 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 in June 1637. His body was thrown into the sea, 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, thinking it expedient to gloss over his heterodoxy in the interests of the Church.


This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Preceded by Meletius I

Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria 1601–1620

Succeeded by Gerasimius I


Preceded by

Anthimus II
Cyril II Kontares
Athanasius III Patelaros
Neophytus III

Patriarch of Constantinople

1612, 1620–1623, 1623–1630, 1630–1633, 1633–1634, 1634–1635, 1637–1638

Succeeded by

Gregory IV
Cyril II Kontares
Athanasius III Patelaros
Cyril II Kontares
Cyril II Kontares


List of Patriarchs of Constantinople

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