Sophronius I of Jerusalem

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Our father among the saints Sophronius I of Jerusalem was the Patriarch of Jerusalem from 634 to 638. He was patriarch during the time that Jerusalem fell to Umar I and his Saracens in 637. He was a staunch opponent of the heresy of monothelitism. He is feast day on March 11.


Sophronius (Greek: Σωφρόνιος) was born in Damascus, Syria in the year 560. He was of Arab descent. Nothing is known of his early life. He was a monk and theologian. A teacher of rhetoric, he became an ascetic in Egypt about 580 and then joined the Monastery of St. Theodosius near Bethlehem.

During the times of the Christological controversies, Sophronius was a strong defender of the orthodox position. In his late teens and early twenties, he traveled throughout the monastic centers in Asia Minor, Egypt, and Rome, in company with his friend the Byzantine chronicler John Moschus. In 605, Sophronius fled to Alexandria before the Persians invading Palestine. Then in 616, again he fled from Alexandria to Rome ahead of the Persian invasion of Egypt. After Moschus' death in Rome in 619, Sophronius accompanied his body to Jerusalem for a monastic burial. There he lived in St. Theodosius' Monastery until the heresy of monothelitism arose with the patriarchs of Alexandria and Constantinople.

When Patr. Cyrus of Alexandria began to preach monothelitism, he traveled to Alexandria, Egypt to convince Cyrus against his acceptance of the heresy. Then in 633, he journeyed to Constantinople to press Patr. Sergius of Constantinople on the same issue, both times without success. In 634, he was elected patriarch of Jerusalem. He continued his stand against monothelitism in Jerusalem, dedicating his sermon on the day of the Nativity of Our Lord to strengthen the clergy to maintain the Chalcedonian view of God.

In those times the Arab Muslims were gaining control of Palestine. In 637, he was said to have negotiated recognition, in the Umaru Treaty, of civil liberties for the Christian population in exchange for tribute (jizya).

Apparently, disheartened over the fall of Jerusalem, Patr. Sophronius died on March 11, 638 in Jerusalem shortly after its fall.


A prolific writer, much of his work is no longer extant. His writings include an encomium on the Alexandrian martyrs Cyrus, a Melkite, and John done in gratitude for the cure of his failing sight. He also composed 23 anacreontic odes on the feasts of the church. He is remembered most as the author of the Life of St. Mary of Egypt as well as a life of St. John the Almsgiver, a martyred priest of Rome. He composed an anthology, that is lost, of some 600 texts from the Greek Fathers stating the orthodox tenet on Dyothelitism. His Anacreontica 19 and 20 consists of two poems that described a complete circuit through the most important sanctuaries of Jerusalem at the end of the sixth century, a time that has been described as the golden age of Christianity in the Holy Land.

Succession box:
Sophronius I of Jerusalem
Preceded by:
Patriarch of Jerusalem
Succeeded by:
Anastasius II
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