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The Reformation in Croatia and in the South Slavic Lands
Introduction PDF Print E-mail

The spreading of the Reformation in Europe during the 16th century did not avoid Croatia. Reformation ideas arrived in the Croatian lands from the neighboring territories: Hungary, Germany, Venice, Carniola and Carinthia. German noblemen, clerks and military officers also played an important role in spreading the ideas of the Reformation at the grassroots level. Croatia was in a very difficult situation in the 16th century. The eastern border provinces were under Turkish occupation and all efforts were focused on defending the country. As a result, the Reformation took hold mostly in the northern and northwestern border areas, in parts of Slavonia, Međimurje, Zagorje, Istria and the Croatian Littoral. In spite of the large number of renowned Protestant intellectuals who came from these lands, Protestantism did not have a profound impact on the people in Croatia on the long run.

The Reformation in Various Regions

Important Protestant Reformers

Franciscus Patricius

The Spread of the Reformation

Istria PDF Print E-mail
The Reformation in Various Regions

The Reformation had a significant impact on Istria. During the 16th century Istria was divided between Venice and Austria. As a result of the political situation and the territorial division of the peninsula, the Reformation came here from three different directions: Venice, which was for a short while particularly favourable toward Reformation ideas; Trieste, where especially German merchants were very active; and from Carniola. Two bishops contributed to the spreading of the Reformation in the Venetian part of Istria by openly supporting the spirit of change: Bishop Giambattista Vergerio of Pula and Bishop Pietro Paolo Vergerio from Capodistria (today Koper in Slovenia). In the part of Istria under Austrian rule, the center of the Reformation was the town of Pazin, where the support of Bishop Pietro Bonomo helped its spread. Although the Reformation made a significant mark on the social and political history of Istria in the 16th century and it gave Croatia a number of outstanding intellectuals, it did not enjoy long-lasting success.


The Reformation in the Kvarner Gulf and Dalmatia PDF Print E-mail
The Reformation in Various Regions

One of the most outstanding figures of the Reformation on the territory of Rijeka and the Kvarner Gulf was Captain Franjo Barbo, who turned his castle in Kožljak (Wachsenstein) in eastern Istria into a centre for the Reformation. He was responsible for distributing books and other Protestant materials around Rijeka, the Kvarner Gulf and Dalmatia, which reached the masses of people. Pietro Manelfi described his visit to the castle in the summer of 1551 with the following words: “There are many Lutherans in Kožljak with whom I had conversation – I talked mostly to Lord Franjo, his brother and his mother. He has a large number of Lutheran and heretical books in his home, numerous works by Vergerio and books by father Baldo, a Lutheran, who has been imprisoned as a heretic in Venice for a long time.”  Barbo presumably protected Protestant preachers in Kastav, too, which he ruled until 1582.

Slavonia PDF Print E-mail
The Reformation in Various Regions

Apart from Istria and Dalmatia, Protestantism spread successfully in Slavonia, too. The ideas of the Reformation came to Slavonia primarily from Međimurje (an area in the northernmost part of today’s Croatia) and Hungary. Despite the fact that parts of Slavonia were under Turkish occupation, the Reformation found fertile ground among the people living there. One of the reasons for this was that members of the Protestant movement were not subservient to the Pope. Therefore the Ottoman powers viewed Protestants favourably on the basis of the maxim, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

One of the most commendable Protestant preachers in Slavonia was the former Franciscan monk Mihajlo Starin (Mihály Sztárai), who reformed 120 parishes between 1544 and 1551 by winning over a large number of local clergy and laypeople to the new faith.

Those parts of Slavonia which were not under foreign occupation were also impacted by the Reformation. Johannes de Zapolya (1487-1540), who had won the support of some of the Slavonian nobility and who was a rival of Hungarian-Croatian King Ferdinand I (1503-1564), played a pivotal role in this. The Reformation in Slavonia lasted about 150 years but because of counter-measures taken by the Croatian Parliament and the bishops of Zagreb after the expulsion of the Turkish forces, it was almost completely extinguished.


Primus Truber, the Slovenian Luther PDF Print E-mail
Important Slavic Protestant Reformers

Primoz TrubarThe accomplishments of Protestant Reformer and author Primus Truber (Primož Trubar, 1508–1586) are of outstanding importance for Slovenian culture. He was the author of the first books in Slovenian (Abecedarium and Catechismus, 1550) and the first translator of the Bible (Psalms, 1566; the complete New Testament, 1582) into Slovenian. Today Truber is considered to be the founder of Slovenian literature and of the modern Slovenian language, having developed its theological and juridical terminology.

He played an important role in helping to establish and run the Slavic Protestant printing press in Urach, where some of his books were printed. Altogether, he published about 30 works between 1550 and 1586, mostly in Slovenian but also in German. Among them was the first printing of Slovenian music.

Antun Dalmatin (Antonius Dalmata) PDF Print E-mail
Important Slavic Protestant Reformers

(First half of the 16th century – Ljubljana, 1579)

dalmatinIt is assumed that he came from northern Dalmatia (Zadar) or the Croatian Littoral (Senj). He was a Protestant writer, translator and publisher. He served as a Glagolitic monk in central Istria, where he was exiled from because he supported the Reformation. He moved to Ljubljana, where he started collaborating with the prominent Croatian Protestants Juraj Juričić, Grgur Vlahović, Matija Živčić and Stephan Consul Istrian. He soon became one of Consul’s closest associates, working on translations, editing and setting Protestant Glagolitic, Cyrillic and Latin editions of the Bible and other religious books. From 1561 to 1566 he served Baron Johann Ungnand and worked at the Slavic Printing Press in Urach. His responsibilities at the printing press included translation of the New Testament into Croatian (published in 1563).  There are thirty-two editions known that he worked on. He translated from Slovenian, German, Latin and Italian, he was the editor and proofreader of the religious books printed in Glagolitic, Cyrillic (Bosnian Cyrillic) and Latin alphabets, aimed to spread the Reformation ideas in Croatian countries. He translated Johannes Brenz’s Württemberg catechism from German. 

Paulus Scalichius PDF Print E-mail
Important Slavic Protestant Reformers

(Zagreb, 1534 – Gdańsk, 1577)
pavao skalicHe was the son of a poor schoolmaster from Zagreb. After his studies and doctorate in philosophy in Vienna and theology in Bologna he managed to make his way into various European courts, allegedly using forged documents and false titles of marquis, duke and baron. Due to forgery and other frauds he was occasionally persecuted by different European countries and their courts.
For a while he served as the court preacher of Emperor Ferdinand in Vienna, but he was exposed and left for Tübingen, where he accepted Protestantism. As a protégé of Duke Christoph von Württemberg and Baron Hans Ungand he started giving lectures at Tübingen University. For a long period of time he lived and worked as a theology professor in Königsberg, where he even became the prime minister for the Prussian duke, Albrecht (1490–1568). Because of his frauds he was forced to run away so he hid in Paris and tried to make peace with the Roman Catholic Church. He later moved to Münster and died on his way to Prussia, where he had been allowed to return.
Skalich wrote expositions on theology, philosophy, historiography and occultism in Latin, often plagiarizing others’ works. He published twenty-five theological and other books, and took part in collecting the sources for ‘The Magdeburg Centuries’. He also had disagreements with Primus Truber.

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