You are here:Home/Resources/ Byzantine Seals/ Search the Catalogue/ Constantine metropolitan of Matracha (twelfth century)

Constantine metropolitan of Matracha (twelfth century)

Accession number BZS.1947.2.2132
Diameter 20 mm
Condition Corroded, half missing, broken along channel.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 1, no. 83.1.


Badly effaced. The outline of a facing figure is visible, and what appears to be an omega with an abbreviation mark above is visible on the left. Perhaps the image is of St John Prodromos or St George.


Inscription of five lines. Border of dots.


Κύριε βοήθει Κωνσταντίνῳ μητροπολίτῃ Ματράχου


Κύριε βοήθει Κωνσταντίνῳ μητροπολίτῃ Ματράχου.

Lord, help Constantine metropolitan of Matracha.


The first letter of line 4 is definitely an Α but from a certain angle can also look like an Ε. Another problem is the ending, -ου, instead of -ων. Matracha (Zichia) is mentioned for the first time as a metropolis in the Ekthesis of Andronikos II, but its elevation to this rank occurred before 1285 (Darrouzès, Notitiae, 165). Since it is difficult to see the present bulla dating any later than the twelfth century, and, since we know that Matracha was an archbishopric in 1169 (PG 119, col. 885), we are tempted to date the seal, and the (temporary?) elevation of Matracha to the rank of metropolis, to the end of the twelfth century.

Matracha (Tamatarcha) is the city of Tmutorakan located opposite Kerch on the eastern shore of the straits leading into the Sea of Azov.

According to Laurent, Corpus V/3, 166, Matracha and Zichia formed a united ecclesiastical province in the tenth century, but, in the first third of the eleventh century the see split and Zichia was an independent archbishopric until it was again joined to Matracha in the thirteenth century. The division between Matracha and Zichia is implied, in Laurent's view, by cases in which we find an archbishop identified by one or the other place name. But all this is open to question, since these variants could reflect a preference deriving, one might think, from the archbishop's actual piece of residence.

Both the political and ecclesiastical history of the area, however, is obscure, and the course of events in the region during the late eleventh and twelfth centuries is much debated. See G. Litavrin, "A propos de Tmutorakan," Byzantion 35 (1965) 220-3. One of the more controversial issues is the interpretation to be given a seal in the Berlin collection that was published by N. Bǎnescu, "La domination byzantine à Matracha [Tmutorokan], en Zichie, en Khazarie et en 'Russie' à l'époque des Comnènes," Bulletin de la Section Historique de l'Académie Roumaine 22/2 (1941) 58. The specimen, from the later eleventh century, is decorated on the obverse with a bust of St. Michael and has an inscription on the reverse reading: Κύριε βοήθει Μιχαὴλ ἄρχοντι Ματράχων, Ζιχίας καὶ πάσης Χαζαρίας. Bǎnescu believed that the seal proved the existence of Byzantine domination over these territories at the end of the eleventh or beginning of the twelfth century, that is, after Oleg Sviatoslavič left Tmutorakan in 1094 for Černigov. On balance, however, Litavrin's argument is far more convincing, that the seal was issued by a Russian prince, most likely the same Oleg (Michael) Sviatoslavič who governed Tmutorakan (for the second time) in 1083-94. Nevertheless, Litavrin adduced from literary evidence that Tmutorakan became a Byzantine possession between 1094 and 1118. See also G. Litavrin, "Novye svedenija o severnom Pričernomore (XII v.)," Feodal'naja Rossija vo vzemirnoistoričeskom processe (Moscow, 1972) 237-42.