Croatian Glagolists who were Latinists

Hrvatski glagoljaši latinisti

Darko Žubrinić, 2019.

Filip, bishop of Senj (13th ct.)

The Croatian Glagolitic alphabet has a long and interesting history of more than a thousand years. The Croats using the Glagolitic alphabet were the only nation in Europe who was given a special permission by Pope Innocent IV (in 1248) to use their own language and this script in liturgy. More precisely, this permission had formally been given to the bishop Philip of Senj. However, special care accorded by the Vatican to the Glagolitic liturgy in subsequent centuries (even by publishing several Glagolitic missals in Rome), shows that this privilege applied to all Croatian lands using the Glagolitic liturgy, mostly along the coast. As is well known, the Latin had been the privileged language in religious ceremonies in the Catholic Church until the 2nd Vatican Synod held in 1962-1965, when it was decided to allow vernacular national languages to be used in the Catholic liturgy instead of Latin. It is interesting that even today the Glagolitic liturgy is used in some Croatian churches.

In 1252 the Pope Innocent IV allowed Benedictine Glagolitic monks in Omisalj on the largest Croatian island of Krk to use the Croatian Church-Slavonic liturgy and the Glagolitic Script instead of Latin.

Juraj Slovinac (Georges d'Esclavonie, 1355/60 - 1416)

Georges d'Esclavonie (or de Sorbonne, Juraj Slovinac, born in Brezice in present Slovenia, 1355/60-1416), a professor at the University of Paris (Sorbonne) and a theological writer, wrote the first Croatian abecedarium of Christian science in the Glagolitic alphabet about 1400 (held in the Municipal Library in Tours). He wanted to show his renowned colleagues of Sorbonne that except Hebrew, Greek and Latin also existed a genuine Croatian alphabet, or alphabetum chrawaticum as he called it, having a great graphic and lexical value. In 1401 he defended his doctorate in theology. In 1403 his name was included in the big scroll of professors of the University of Paris. Since 1404 he was also a canonist-penitentiary in Tours, in the nun's convent Beaumont, until the end of his life. With his book "Le chasteau de virginite", written in Latin and French in 1411, he entered the history of French and European literature. There exist many of its copies from the 15th century, plus three French printed editions (1505, 1506, 1510) and one Latin (1726), thus proving its popularity in Europe. His manuscripts, some of them written in the Croatian Glagolitic, are held in the City Library (former Cathedral Library) in Tours. He was also very fond of Istria, to which he referred as a part of his Croatian homeland: Istria eadem patria Chrawati. Photos of some of his manuscripts can be seen at Juraj Slovinac (in Croatian). One of his original manuscripts is held at Yale University Library.

Istria: Glagolitic books, registers and inscriptions.

Benjamin, Croatian Dominican priest (15/16 ct.)

A Croatian Dominican priest Beniamin was editor in chief of the first Russian Bible (finished in 1499) written in Russian Church Slavonic. It was the first Bible also among all Orthodox Christian Slavs. It served as a basis of later printed Russian editions in 1580-81 and 1663, which had spread among Orthodox Christian Slavs. Beniamin's original translations of the Vulgata are even today left unchanged in many parts of the contemporary Russian Bible. It is interesting that the old Russian Bible has many Croatian characteristics in phonetics, morphology and vocabulary, for example,

  • kovac (blacksmith)
  • loviti (to hunt)
  • plijen (prey)
  • staja (stable)
  • stijena (rock)
  • nastojati (to strive)
  • puk (common people)
  • obitelj (family)
  • and even - gusterna (stone water cistern)!
It is clear that he originates from the coastal region of Croatia, probably from the city of Split (according to Vladimir Rozov), and according to Franjo Sanjek, from the Glagolitic environment in the area of Rijeka, Vinodol or Lika.

According to the famous Russian church historian Makarij, Beniamin was the chief personality in the creation of Genadij's Bible. This undertaking was of great importance for the Russian Church, in particular for the development of Russian spiritual literature. Beniamin also translated the 8th part of the latest 1486 Strasbourg edition of the famous work Rationale divinorum officiorum of Guilelemus Durandus - Spectator, which was devoted to calendar calculations and astronomy. In this way Beniamin influenced also the development of Russian astronomical terminology, in particular - Russian names for star constellations. According to Vladimir Rozov (Russian emigrant in Zagreb), Beniamin (or Venjamin as he is called in the Russian literature) represents the earliest humanist on the Russian soil, and furthermore, Beniamin was actually editor in chief of the first complete Church-Slavonic Bible among Pravoslav Slavs. Beniamin also had important role in opening new schools in Novgorod (until that time there were no real schools in Russia). The name of Croatian Dominican Beniamin is completely unknown among Croats in time when these lines are written (1999), except to several specialists. The Croats can be rightfully proud of this little known person for his great Ecumenical role. Beniamin's mission in Russia represents an important and almost forgotten bridge between Catholic and Orthodox Christianity.

  • Vladimir Rozov: Hrvatski dominikanac Venjamin u Rusiji, Nastavni vjesnik, knj. 41, sv. 8-10, Zagreb, 1933, 302-336. See also here.
    Vladimir Alekseevic Rozov
    (1876-1940), born in Kyiv, capital of Ukraine, in the family of professor of the Kyiv Spiritual Academy. In 1903 graduated from the Kyiv University (Faculty of Philosophy). In 1907-1908 investigated the Slavic manuscripts on the Near East. Professor of Slavic philology in the Nizyn Institute (1916) in Ukraine. Professor at the University of Tavrid (1918-1920; Tavrid is today's Herson in Ukraine). Lectured Russian language at the University of Zagreb (1920-1940), and died in Zagreb. Literary critic, culturologist, publicist, investigator of Russian-Croatian relations, author of many articles. [more]. Many thanks to Mr. Oleh Hirnyk, Lviv, Ukraine, for kind help.
  • Zarko Dadic: O hrvatskom dominikancu Benjaminu i njegovoj ulozi na dvoru novgorodskog arhiepiskopa Genadija, Croatica christiana, XIII, (1989) 23, str. 44-48.
  • Franjo Sanjek: Dominikanci u Rijeci i Hrvatskom primorju, Sveti Vid VIII, zbornik, Izdavacki centar Rijeka 2003.

Nikola Modruški (c. 1427-1480)

One of the most important Croatian humanists in the 15th century was bishop Nikola Modruski, the creator of the first known Latin incunabula written by a Croat author ("Oratio in funere Petri Cardinalis S. Sixty," 1474, Rome). At the same time he was a great promoter of the Croatian Glagolitic Script. He was also the papal nuncio at the court of the Bosnian ban (viceroy) Stjepan Tomasevic and at the court of king Mathias Corvin in Budim. His huge library, whose origin is from Modrus, was left to the Vatican. He wrote a treatise in defence of the Glagolitic Script in Modrus bishopric. It is regarded to be the first polemic treatise in the history of Croatian literature. It is interesting that Nikola Modruski was born in Boka kotorska. In 1474 he printed the first book among the Croats, in the Latin language. For additional information see here.

Bernardin Frankapan (1453-1529)

Prince Bernardin Frankapan, born and educated in the Glagolitic environment, was an important promoter of the Croatian Glagolitic literature. He founded the Glagolitic scriptorium for translating the Bible in the town of Ozalj. In his speech Oratio pro Croatia held in Nürenberg in 1522 he sent a dramatic appeal to the German State Council and to Europe to help the Croats in their struggle against the attacks of the Ottoman Empire. Simun Kozicic Zadranin wrote for him that "even under arms and with sword, all the time he writes and translates". For additional information see here.

Sigismun Gelenius (1477-1554), a Czech humanist, is the author of a Latin Czech dictionary Lexicon Simphonium published in Basle in 1537, where one can encounter Croatian words as well (in particular in its second edition from 1547; information by Mr. Ivan Dubravcic, Delft, The Netherlands).

Šimun Kožičić Zadranin (c. 1460-1536)

Simun Kozicic Zadranin (or Benja), the bishop of Modrus, was a humanist, Glagolitic writer and Glagolitic typographer with his printing house in the city of Rijeka. He is known for his speech about the insupportable pressure of the Ottoman Empire on Croatia to the participants of the Lateran Council in 1513. The same purpose had his speech De Corvatiae desolatione (On Devastated Croatia) held in the presence of the Pope Leon X in 1516. For additional information see here

1516 speech of Simun Kozicic Zadranin, Bishop of Modrus: De Coruatiae desolatione (On Devastated Croatia), published in Latin original in Paris, France, 1517

It is interesting that Kozicic's 1516 speech, held in Latin, has been translated into French already in 1518, published again in 1560 and 1561, all three times in Paris. In the French translation the author of the speech is described as "reuerend pere en Dieu leuesque de Modrusie, ambassadeur deuers sa Sainctete pour le pais de Coruacia" (reverend father in God from Modrus, emissary in front of His Holiness from the country of Croatia). It is interesting that his Kožičić's Latin words pauperes illi nostri are translated as "noz poures gentz de Coruatie" (our poor people of Croatia).

Bratislav Lučin: Kožičić na francuskom - 1518. godine!

Ivan Tomko Mrnavić (1580-1637)

A small table containing twelve Glagolitic and Cyrillic letters was provided by Ivan Tomko Mrnavic in his book Nauk Karstianski (Christian science, published in Latin and Croatian languages in left and right columns respectively), Rim, 1708.

Ivan Paštrić (1636-1708)

Ivan Golub: Ivan Paštrić, znanstvenik i književnik (1636.-1708.)

Dragutin Antun Parčić (1832-1902)

D. A. Parčić

Mala enciklopedija hrvatske glagoljice

Croatia, its History, Culture and Science