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Glagolitic
Linguistics
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The Glagolitica Rite

[Source: John Mason Neale, Notes, Ecclesiological and Picturesque on Dalmatia, Croatia, Istria, Styria, Chapter V., p 48-66.]

I have said that one cause of my tour was an earnest desire of examining for myself the Glagolita rite. It will be well that I should dwell on its nature and history in the first place, — the rather that I cannot entirely agree, either on the one hand with its Latin supporters, as Ginzel and Berčič, (1) nor on the other with its Greek opponents, as Dr. Pavsky.

Every one knows that the gospel was first preached about the year 863, by S.S. Cyril and Methodius, in Moravia, under the auspices of the Emperor Michael III, and at the instance of the Princes Rostiloff and Sviatopolk. They, but chiefly S. Cyril, found the Slavonic a formed language, but invented an alphabet for it. — hence called the Cyrillic, — the same with that which we call Slavonic, and the parent of the modern Russ character.

Into this language, and this character, they translated the office books of the Eastern Church. It is [49] in vain that Ginzel, (2) to whose pages I must refer the reader, endeavours to show that the liturgy translated by these Apostles of the Slavonic tongue was the Latin; the arguments of Dobroffsky and others must convince every unprejudiced person, what, indeed, common sense would seem to teach, that Oriental Missionaries introduced the Oriental rite.

The rite then was Greek; the language, Slavonic; the character, Cyrillic. (3) But Cyril was soon taken from the scene of his labours. Called to Rome for certain explanations regarding his diocese, he there slept in the Lord, February 14, 868. His friend and companion, Methodius, was then, by the Pope, raised to the dignity of Archbishop of the Moravians, — and returning to his own province, he continued the good work with zeal. However, he had enemies, and their complaints ere long reached Rome. A brief, addressed by Pope John VIII to "Methodius, the most reverend Archbishop of the Pomeranian Church," and dated June 14, 879, accuses him, in the first place, of preaching doctrines not in accordance with those of the Roman Church ; and continues thus: —

"We have heard, too, that you sing masses in a barbarous language, namely the Slavonian. Whence we have already, in our letters directed to you by Paul, Bishop of Ancona, prohibited you from solemnizing the rites of mass in that tongue; but either in the Latin or the Greek, as the Church of God, dispersed through the whole world, and spread abroad [50] among all nations, is wont to do. You may, however, employ that language in preaching or speaking to the people, since the Psalmist exhorts all nations to praise God, and the Apostle would have every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

The archbishop is, therefore, commanded to come to Rome, — and a Papal letter of the same date, to Sviatopluk, Duke of Moravia, gives a similar requisition. Accordingly, Methodius went to Rome.

In the following June (880), the Pope had changed his opinion. We have a letter of that date, addressed to Sviatopluk, containing the highest praises of Methodius. The Pontiff informs that Prince, that he had, as requested, consecrated one Victrin to be Bishop of Nitria in Moravia, and was ready to consecrate a third when asked, so that the canonical number required for keeping up the apostolic succession might be furnished by Moravia itself. And then he continues, —  and this is the part with which we are more especially concerned: —

"As to the Slavonic letters invented by Constantine the Philosopher, in which the praises of God rightly resound, we highly commend them; and we exhort that, in the same language, the doctrine and works of Christ our Lord shall still be set forth. For Holy Scripture commands us to glorify God, not in three tongues only, but in all languages; as it is written "O praise the Lord, all ye heathen: laud Him, all ye people." ***** Nor does it in any way affect the sacred doctrine, and the true faith, to sing masses in the same Slavonic tongue, or to read the [51] Sacred Gospel and the Divine lection of the Old and New Testament, or to render the other offices in that tongue, so they be well translated and interpreted; seeing that He Who created the three principal languages, that is to say, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, created also all others to His honour and glory. Nevertheless, we direct, that, in all the churches of your realm, for the greater decency, the Gospel be first read in Latin, and then translated in Slavonic in the ears of the people, who understand not the Latin tongue; as we hear is already done in some places. And should it be more agreeable to you and to your judges, you are at liberty to hear mass in the Latin tongue alone."

Methodius died the death of the righteous in 885, — and I am not now concerned to pursue further the history of the Moravian Church. We turn to our more immediate subject.

The South-Western Slavs were the first of that family to receive the Gospel. In the seventh century, the Servs, Croatians, Dalmatians, and Istrians, had in large numbers, under their Prince Paga ,(4) given their names to Christ. The destruction of Salona by heathen Slavs, in A.D. 639, rendered Pope John IV, (639-641), himself a native of Salona, all the more eager for the evangelization of his native land; and when that good Pontiff was taken from the world, his successor continued anxious for the success of the holy scheme. Martin I (649-653), raised the new city Spalato, rising as it were from the ruins of [52] Salona, to an archiepiscopate. Henceforward the Latin rite took firm hold of Dalmatia.

But when Basil (867-896), in the time when Cyril and Methodius had commenced their holy warfare, had ascended, himself a Slav, the Byzantine Throne, he naturally wished that the Oriental rite should prevail in Dalmatia, and hence arose a vigorous contest between the east and west; and the Oriental rite, in the Slavonic letters of Cyril, was in many places adopted.

In A.D. 925 (5) — that is, only forty years after the final approbation bestowed by John VIII on the use of the Slavonic as an ecclesiastical language, and his commendation of Methodius, we find the following brief from John X to John of Salona and his suffragans. After dwelling on the Tu es Petrus, he continues: —

"But God forbid that they who worship Christ should forsake the doctrine of the Gospel, the volumes of the Canons, and the Apostolic precepts, and should fly to the teaching of Methodius, whose name we have never seen in any copy of the sacred authors. * * * * So that, according to the custom of the Roman church, no one, in the Slavonian territory, should perform the sacrifice of the mass in any other language but the Latin; and because the Slavs are the most special sons of the Roman Church, they ought to remain in the doctrine of their mother." He then gives commission for the uprooting the "evil plant" to John of Spalato, John of Ancona, and Leo of [53] Præneste. At the same time he wrote to Tamislaff, King of the Croats, and to his Zupans, to assist the ecclesiastics with the civil arm.

No doubt it was the introduction of the Oriental rite, in Cyrillic characters and Slavonic language, which rendered the Pope so inveterate against the use of that character and these letters in the Roman rite. Besides, it involved a translation of Missal and Breviary; no easy task in the most learned of ages, an enormous labour then. The National Council of Spalato (6) (A.D. 925), by its tenth Canon (which, however, has come down to us in a corrupted state), absolutely forbade the use of Slavonic in future, except in case of extreme necessity, and then only by priests already ordained. The canon gave rise to deep discontent, and sent many and many a Dalmatian to find a vernacular within the Eastern church; and not a few, it is to be feared, to the loathsome heresy of the Paterenes, then abounding in Bosnia.

For 140 years, nevertheless, partly connived at, partly secreting itself, the rite struggled on. About 1064 the Cardinal Archbishop Maynard held another Provincial Council at Spalato, in which those who should employ it were to be delivered over to an anathema. The poor Slav priests made an earnest but ineffectual appeal to Alexander II. He told them, what the council had said before, that Methodius was a heretic, and added, that he was an Arian; affirmed that the Cyrillic letters were Arian letters; that he could not have Arian letters in his church; [54] and that they must observe what his venerable brother Maynard had enjoined, or it would be the worse for them. This depends on the testimony of Thomas, who was then Archdeacon of Spalato, and who seems to have had a fellow feeling with the appellants. He tells us of the great grief caused by the Pope's decision.

But, in 1248 another attempt was made. Innocent IV was entreated to allow the performance of the Roman offices in the Slavonic language, but not in the Cyrillic character. No; "in a certain character invented by S. Jerome" (who, the reader will remember, was a Dalmatian) and known as the Glagolita, from the Slavonic Glagol', "a word." Before saying anything of this character, I will give the two Slavonic alphabets, Glagolita and Cyrillic.

Now, there are three opinions with regard to the Glagolita:

  1. That it is the primitive Slavonic character, and therefore far older than the Cyrillic. This is the general western view.
  2. That, by a pious fraud, some clever priest, wishing to obtain the Pope's sanction to the Slavonic Liturgy, invented this character, to render the employment of the vernacular possible, without the adjunct of the hated Cyrillic. This was Dobroffsky's theory, and is followed by most Easterns.
  3. That it was invented by Cyril for his Latin, as the other for his Greek, converts. This seems Ginzel's view, and it has, I believe, few followers. The first is decidedly my own opinion, and I proceed to give my reasons. [55]

I. The extraordinary clumsiness of the Glagolita — for in the modern Alphabet, as I have given it, that clumsiness has been very much lessened, — would have made it an Herculean task to write out a Missal or Breviary in it. "Why did not the missionaries, who must have had a certain amount of talent, frame, supposing it framed by them, an easy running character, instead of one so painfully laborious?

II. If we examine the two alphabets together, we shall see that some letters are the same. Which are they?

Look at the theory of Cyril. He first took the Greek alphabet, and used it up. He then had, somehow or other, to procure a set of signs for sounds not Greek, principally sh, tsh, zh, and dj, and for the soft beautiful mutes yer, yier, and yere. Now these are the very characters in which his alphabet coincides with the Glagolita. If Cyril's were the later of the two, how very natural that he should avail himself of already existing Slavonic letters for expressing Slavonic sounds! But if the Glagolita were the later, why should its author invent for himself those characters which were common to the Greek and the Cyrillic, but copy all those which were peculiar to the Cyrillic as distinguished from the Greek? Is not this the very opposite of what he would have done? He might, to save trouble, have taken the Greek, or at least the Latin characters, so far as they served his turn: but the special Cyrillic letters are those which he would specially have avoided.

I observe also, that there is a striking resemblance between some of the Sanscrit and some of the Glagolita types; a thing which could not, in that age, [56] have arisen from a Dalmatian Priest possessing any acquaintance with Sanscrit, and which can surely never be attributed to chance.

As to Ginzel's hypothesis, it is only founded on one argument, that the characters condemned by Alexander II, are called Cyrillic. But he takes them to have been Glagolita. Deny, as we unhesitatingly do, this belief, — and he has no other reason to allege. And even were this opinion correct, how easily might those who thought Methodius an Arian heretic, have also, with as little truth, thought him to be the author of the Glagolita! Dr. Ginzel adds, that the form of the Glagolita is easier to a hand accustomed to write Latin than is Cyrillic; if he had copied even only as much as I have done of the two, he would, and that speedily, retract his opinion.

Innocent IV was applied to by the Bishop of Zengh, where, I suppose, the feeling was strongest, for permission to celebrate in the vernacular tongue. His brief is not only extremely sensible, but expressed with great neatness. "Nos igitur attendentes, ut sermo rei, et non res sermoni subjecta, licentiam tibi in illis duntaxat partibus, ubi de consuetudine observantur præmissa, dummodo ex ipsius varietate literæ sententia non lædatur, auctoritate præsentium confirmamus." It is dated at Lyons, March 19,1248.

This brief gave, of course, a great impulse to the transcription of Glagolita service books; and nothing is more certain, than that this character and the Cyrillic were frequently used together. Such a MS. is the Codex, published by Kopitar, known as the Texte du Sacre, because formerly employed in the [57] consecration of the Kings of France at Rheims. Of this, the first thirty-two pages are Cyrillic; the last sixty-six, Glagolita. The former portion is said to have been written by S. Procopius; the latter is dated 1395.

Early Glagolita MSS. are of the extremest rarity. A fragment of the 9th or 10th century exists in the Capitular Library at Prague; it is a translation of some of the Greek offices for Good Friday. This yields another argument against the Roman invention of the character. It is in a good bold hand; but the letters are more rounded than they are at present cast. The Codex Clozianus, the most celebrated of all, on which Kopitar published a work at Vienna in 1836, and which is now at Trent, contained all (but now a part only) of the Bible, and some sermons of S. Chrysostom. The character is small and round; very difficult to read. The very learned Miklošić considers this the oldest of all. There is another (eleventh century) of the gospels, which was once at Athos, and is now at Kazan; and a similar one of the same date in the monastery, called Zograph, in Macedonia. A Praxapostolus of the twelfth, in the church of S. Clement of Okhrida. All these are of the Greek rite, — and of the rounded shape. I think it might be gathered that the round character belongs to the Oriental, the square to the Western MSS. At Birbino, in Isola Lunga (of which more presently) Berčić discovered a very curious fragment of a Breviary (twelfth century), and another at Tkon, in the island Pasman. A fine Breviary was written at Zengh, in 1359, and is now in the possession of [58] Prince Lobkovitch, at Prague. A Missal of 1368 is at Vienna. A Pasmanian Breviary, very curious, which belongs to Canon George Batchinstok, parish priest of Pasman, is of the fourteenth century. Father Berčić, who explored all the islands for Glagolita fragments, and incorporated his researches in the Chrestomathia linguæ Veteroslovenicæ, to which I am very much indebted, possesses more than sixty different fragments anterior to the fifteenth century.

I now come to the printed editions.

The Editio Princeps of the Glagolita Missal is that which appeared in Venice, A.D. 1483, but where it was printed is unknown. It is a very good square character. This is one of the rarest of books; I only know of one copy, at Vienna; but, I believe, there are one or two others. The Editio Princeps of the Cyrillic Liturgy did not appear till 1519; also at Vienna.

The second edition of the Glagolita Missal, — Zengh, 1507. This has a small round type. A ritual was printed at the same place and time.

The third, Venice, 1528. Fr. Paul de Modrussa, a Franciscan, was editor.

The fourth, at Fiume, 1531. Simeon Kozhitchitch, Bishop of Modrussa, a native of Zara, supplied the funds.

The fifth, (an abbreviated edition, and prefixed to the Breviary), Venice, 1562. The editor was Nicolas Brozhitch, parish priest of Castelmuschio, in Veglia: (in Illyrian it is Omishel) and the Latinised form, Castromusculum.

For seventy years there was no further edition of the Missal. "Whether the Pontiffs, in that interval, [59] were really opposed to the licence, or whether the state of Europe entirely turned their thoughts from the poor Slavs, I know not; but the want of books became excessive. Ferdinand II received a strong remonstrance from the Priests of the Illyrian Rite, that their flocks would not attend the Latin mass, and were in the habit of going to the Eastern churches, where they heard their own Slavonic. At length, Urban VIII resolved to remedy the evil, and the sixth edition of the Glagolita Missal appeared at Rome, under the care of Raphael Levákovitch, of Veglia, — a man altogether unqualified for the task. However, Urban VIII, by an apostolic letter of November 29, 1630, approved the edition, and enjoined its use to the exclusion of all former Missals.

The seventh edition appeared at Rome in 1708; the editor was John Pastrici, priest of Spalato. But he unfortunately, was not much better qualified for his work than Levákovitch had been. He says himself, in writing to the Dalmatian Bishops, on this subject — "When I was a boy of seven, I left my country for Venice, and after that fixed myself at Rome. With the characters named from S. Jerome I had been well acquainted from my infancy; but from thence till my fifty second year, I had had time enough almost to forget them. Whence I had to brush up my own learning, and thought it better to keep close to the old books."

In 1741, another edition was called for. Rome was certainly unfortunate. The Archbishop of Zara, the illustrious Vincent Zmaievitch, recommended Matthew Karaman, a priest of his own diocese, as the fittest [60] person for the work, and it was entrusted to him. But unhappily, he had resided for several years at S. Petersburg, and had there become acquainted with modern Russ, which he took to be the old church Slavonic, and had imbibed the idea, that the nearer he could bring the Illyrian dialect to the latter, the purer he would make it. Hence he produced a work, which was not only offensive to the Dalmatians, as obnoxious to the charge of being Russian; but has had a materially bad influence on the language. To give an example that every one can understand. The old Slavonic preposition for in is v'. In Russ this is now changed to vo, in Illyrian to va. Levakovitch had given the formula of the sign of the Cross correctly enough; va ime' Otza, &c. Karaman caused great offence by printing vo imja' Otza. However, his work was approved by four Russian church ecclesiastics (the very persons who ought not to have been consulted), and finally was authorized by Benedict XIV, August 15, 1754. In this the Pope expressly forbade the practice, then beginning to prevail of printing the every day portions of the mass in Roman letters. Karaman, as the reward of his labours, succeeded Zmaievitch at Zara. I now come to the Breviary.

The Editio Princeps is that of Venice, 1562; edited by the same Nicolas Brozhitch of Castelmuschio of whom we have spoken before. The alterations made by Pius V, and Clement VIII, and Urban VIII, in compliance with the Canon of the Council of Trent, made another Illyrian edition necessary. This was first put into the hands of Levakovitch of whom I have spoken before; and he was associated with Cyril Terletzky, [61] — the notorious deviser of the Slavonic Unia — Russian Bishop of Chelm. The result was, that the Breviary was full of Russisms, and not only so, but in some words showed a deficiency of Slavonic learning altogether. Take one example: — the proper word for temptation is napast; but a modern Russism made it iskušenye, which to Dalmatian ears meant attempt. However, Terletzky thought that being the Russ, it was also the old Slavonic expression; and the 6th petition of the Lord's Prayer, which up to this time had stood

I ne uwedi nas wnapast,

he gave

I ne w-wedi nas w-iskušenije

which, in Dalmatian meant, — "and lead us not into an attempt." But had Terletzky only taken the trouble to look at the great Ostrog Bible of 1581, the standard of printed old Slavonic, he would have found the word napast, which he rejected as Dalmatian, standing in the Lord's Prayer. However, this translation was authorized by Innocent X; it appeared in 1648, and Levakovitch, as his recompense, was made Bishop of Okhrida (Prima Justiniana) in Bulgaria.

The second edition then is this, Rome, 1648.

The third, Rome, 1688, under the editorship of Pastrici, who acquitted himself no better here than in the Missal.

The fourth and last, Rome, 1791. This is edited by John Peter Gocinić, Bishop of Arbe, with the help of Karaman; and it is that which is usually found in the Glagolitic churches. It is a rather handsome [62] octavo, large and long in proportion to its size, and forms two volumes.

There have also been editions of the Ritual, but in the Roman character. In 1640, a handsomely printed book in small quarto, was edited by Bartholomew Cassius; dedicated to Pope Urban VIII, and approved by him. Here Roman characters are alone employed, and there is not even an attempt at expressing the peculiar Slavonic letters further than by the ç for tch. It is a handsomely printed book, the rubrics in red; the music very boldly and clearly printed on red lines. But barbarous as Slavonic must always look when expressed in Latin characters, it is more barbarous than ever here from the peculiar method of spelling employed. Benedict XIV by his brief of August 15, 1754, forbade in future the employment of any character except Glagolita for ecclesiastical Slavonic. But this brief was a dead letter from the beginning; no Glagolita ritual ever appeared, and Cassian's translation, therefore, continued to be used till 1791, when an improved edition, but still in Latin character, was put forth by authority.

Within the last few years, indeed, a further step has been taken in the same direction. The Epistles and Gospels, the proper Prefaces, the office for Holy Week, &c, and the Sequences, were printed in 1857, in the Latin character, and received the imprimatur of the Bishop of Spalato. From this book I have more than once seen the Gospel read during mass. A remarkable peculiarity in it is this — that, whereas, as every one knows, there is no sequence in the Roman [63] Missal for Christmas Day, an original Illyrian one is here given, and is, as I am told, a great favourite with the people. I inquired in the Bishop's court at Selenico, how this publication could be reconciled with the Apostolic letter of Benedict XIV. To which the answer was: that, had Benedict XIV been as well acquainted with the wants of Dalmatia as its present prelates, he would have been the first to sanction such a publication; a remark, which I doubt not, is true enough.

Besides the writers I have already mentioned, the only others in Glagolita are two or three editions of spelling books — Azbukvidars as they are called.

It now only remains to compare the extent to which the Glagolita office was employed when first permitted, with its use at the present day.

In the chapter on Ecclesiastical Dalmatia, the reader will be told that that province now forms one archbishopric, namely, Zara; with six suffragans. But in the time of Innocent IV, when the ecclesiastical employment of Slavonic was first allowed, it contained four archbishoprics; namely, Zara, Spalato, Ragusa, Antivari, and twenty-seven bishoprics. In all of these, it would seem to have been, if not universal, at all events very general; while in the other four bishoprics of Istria, namely, Trieste, Capo d'Istria, Citta Nova, and Parenzo, it was also common. So it was in Bosnia, Servia, and Bulgaria. In the diocese of Zara, and in those of Arbe, Ossero, and Veglia, every single church was Glagolitic, except the cathedrals. In Spalato, out of thirty-six parishes, only eight were Latin. As late as 1733, nineteen churches in the diocese of Parenzo [64] employed the Slavonic rite. Zengh was the only cathedral of which I can find it absolutely stated that its services were vernacular.

Far different is the state of things at the present day. In the first place, the negligence which, from 1531 to 1631, left the Illyrian priests without an edition of their missal, drove many worshippers to embrace the Latin rite; many to the Greek Church; and some, I was assured on the spot, though it seems hard to believe, to the remnant of the Patarenes, who even then clung, as their last refuge, to the wild mountains of Bosnia. Afterwards, when Levakovitch brought out his edition, its corruptions rendered it very unpopular. People did not like to be told to pray — as I have said was the case — "Lead us not into an attempt." And so, day by day, and partly also no doubt from the greater facilities of intercourse with foreign nations, the Latin rite usurped on the Glagolita, till the latter was reduced to its present dimensions.

   

Parishes.

Souls.

Convents.

Priests in
Convents.

Diocese of Veglia.
         
Veglia Island
 

13

14,283

3

9

Cherso Island
 

1

1

           
Diocese of Zara.
         
Deanery of

Zara

7

8,075

1

2

"

Nona

4

1,793

"

Rasanze

1

329

"

Novograd

4

967

"

Albaemaris

1

180

"

Selbe

14

6,330

"

S. Euphemia

9

4,536

 

 

40

22,210

 

 

         

 

Diocese of Spalato.
       

 

Deanery of

Spalato

10

9,963

"

Trau

1

320

"

Segni

19

11,597

"

Makarska

3

3,077

"

Neretva

6

3,687

"

Imotschi

8

5,572

"

 Almissa

15

6,296

   

62

40,512

 

 

       
Diocese of Sebenico.
 

3

2,077

   
           
Total : —

Veglia

13

14,283

 

Zara

40

22,210

 

Spalato

62

40,512

 

Sebenico

3

2,077

 
 

118

79,082

 

So it will be observed, that the vernacular use has utterly died even at Istria, where, 150 years ago, it was the language of the ecclesiastical majority.

It may be interesting, as an example of the fluctuation of the translation, and its orthography, to compare a hymn from the Ritual of 1640, with the epistles and gospels of 1858.

Gloria, laus et honor tibi sit, Rex Christe, Redemptor!
Cui puerile decus prompsit Hosanna pium.
Israel es tu Rex, Davidis et inclyta Proles,
Nomine qui Domini, Rex benedicte, venis.(1640.)

Slavvà, hvàla, i cast tebbi buddi Kràgliu Isùkarste od kupittegliu,
Kòmu ditìnska dijka pievva Hosanna millo. [66]
Izraelaki tij kragl, Davidov plèmenit plood:
Koyi ù imme Gospòdinovo Kragl blagossovglieni prihòdisc.

(1858.)
Slavati, fàla, çast Karste Spasiteglju;
Kòm ùst ditinski slàst pivà: Hoxana xelju.
Israela Kràglsi, kavi castnà Davida:
U ime priscaosi Gospodgnè sadà.

Note:

  1. It will be well to inform the reader that, in Illyrian, —
    s  is sounded  as English s.
    c
    "
    "
    "
    ts.
    č
    "
    "
    "
    hs.
    z
    "
    "
    "
    z.
    ž
    "
    "
    "
    zh. (French j.)
  2. Geschichte der Slawen Apostel Cyril u. Method. Leitmeritz, 1857, pp. 107-112.
  3. Ginzel denies this: but see after.
  4. Asseman. Kalendar, ii, 294.
  5. Farlati, Illyr. Sacr. iii. 93.
  6. Farlati, Illyr. Sacr. iii, 97.

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