You are here:Home/Resources/ Byzantine Seals/ Search the Catalogue/ Nicholas I Mystikos, patriarch of Constantinople (901–907, 912–925)

Nicholas I Mystikos, patriarch of Constantinople (901–907, 912–925)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.317
Diameter 37 mm
Condition Two-thirds of seal is missing.
Previous Editions

DO Seals 6, no. 115.1; Zacos, Seals 2: no. 11 (Basil I); Laurent, Corpus 5.3: no. 1629 (Basil I).


A representation of the Mother of God (now lost), as indicated by the remains of a circular inscription. Border of dots.


Ὑπερα[γ]ία θε[οτόκε βοήθει]


Inscription of five lines followed by a cross. Border of dots.

. . .
. . . ΛΑ
. . . ΕΠΙΣ
. . . ΝΣΤΑ
. . . ΛΕΩΣ
. . .Ω

[Νικο]λά[ῳ ἀρχι]επισ[κόπῳ Κω]νστα[ντινουπό]λεως [Νέας Ῥ]ώμη(ς)


Ὑπεραγία θεοτόκε βοήθει Νικολάῳ ἀρχιεπισκόπῳ Κωνσταντινουπόλεως Νέας Ῥώμης.

Most holy Mother of God, help Nicholas, archbishop [patriarch] of Constantinople, the New Rome.


Nicholas, born in 852, was either a friend or a relative of Patriarch Photios. After Photios was deposed, Nicholas, in May of 889, sought refuge in the monastery of St. Tryphon near Chalcedon, where he was tonsured (Janin, Grands centres, 55). Later Leo bestowed on him the position of mystikos (secretary; for the term see Oikonomidès, Listes, 324). Following the death of Patriarch Anthony II Kauleas on 1 March 901, Nicholas was appointed patriarch. He placed himself at odds with Leo in opposing the emperor’s fourth marriage. Leo accused Nicholas of treason and Nicholas resigned his position and secluded himself for a period of slightly more than five years in the monastery of Galakrenae in the region of Chalcedon (Janin, Grands centres, 55). Either a dying Leo or Alexander restored him to his throne. Nicholas’s second patriarchate was marked by strife with partisans of the former patriarch Euthymios, a situation that resolved itself in the Tome of Union (920). He died 15 May 925, and was buried in the the monastery of Galakrenae. See Jenkins–Westerink, Letters, xv–xxvii and ODB 2:1466–67.

Zacos and Laurent were inclined to read the first two letters in line one of the reverse as IΛ. In our opinion both letters are triangular. Balancing the number of letters in the first row with that of the last, it is preferable to restore the first as a cross with six letters (+NIKOLA), rather than with a cross followed by five letters (+bASIL). The possibility that the seal could have belonged to Theophylaktos (933–56) is refuted by a well-preserved specimen found in Bulgaria, on which the design is quite different from the present example.

Laurent mistakenly believed that the last line ended with MI, instead of the conjoined letters MH. The presence of a ligature at this period is unexpected.

On undamaged seals the Mother of God can be seen standing and holding Christ on her left arm. On a specimen preserved in the Vatican (Laurent, Vatican, no. 153 = Laurent, Corpus 5.1: no. 11) she is identified by a circular inscription reading Ὑπεραγία θεοτόκε βοήθει. No sigla are present. A similar example in the Athens collection, however, does contain sigla. See Laurent, Corpus 5.1: no. 12 and I. Koltsida-Makre, “Overstruck Byzantine Lead Seals: An Approach to the Problem with Three Examples,” SBS 2 (1990): 55–57.