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  • Writer's picturepeter clings

Writing in the Romanian Language the result of a pecuniary conflict

There has never been a greater topic in the history of the old Romanian Culture than that of the beginning of writing in that language

The Romanian Language in writing came surprisingly late. Two centuries had passed after the establishment of the principality of Wallachia (or Țara Româneasca) before the first religious texts came to be translated in the language of the commoners

In the early part of the medieval times throughout Eastern Europe, the nobility or the boyars and the clerics used the more prestigious Old Church Slavonic language for writing and in the liturgy as a symbol of privileged as manuscripts cost fortunes and literacy rare. Only the high nobility or the rich Monasteries could afford to buy and to reproduce such text

Only at the end of the XV century, one generation after Vlad III Basarab (aka Tepes or Dracula) the first manuscripts started to written in Romanian too. The earliest manuscripts in the Romanian language such as Psaltirea Hurmuzachi, or Psaltirea Voroneţeană appear to be of rather humble origin, not from a rich monastery. This lead the leading philologist and historian, Petre P Panaitescu to a surprising hypothesis regarding the motivation for that cultural revolution

The origin of the earliest hand written texts can be deduced from the archaic Romanian language used. The text is of a dialect that was spoken in Northern Transylvania characterized by Rhotacism. Given the religious content of all and the relatively uncensored format for calligraphic quality, Petre P Panaitescu points to the monastery of Peri, in the historic region of Maramureș as the likely source

A group of Romanian families of nobility had participated at the establishment of the Monastery of Peri, most notably the two sons of Voievod Dragos, Drag and Balc. The two brothers upon visiting Constantinople in 1391, the Seat of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, had obtained the right of a Stavropighie or σταυροπηγιον, essentially a direct hierarchical subordination to the Holly Sea of the Eastern Church, giving similar authority of a Bishop to the Abbot elected by the founding families. The Monastery had grown over time benefiting from rich donations from the Drag family both in properties and prestige

King Matthias of Hungary had issued a tax exemption for the Monastery on May 20, 1479 reconfirming with that occasion its religious importance and authority over the Romanian Priests in most Northern Transylvania. In 1488 Luca the Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Nicolas in Munkachevo obtains a similar privilege from the King, but for a limited jurisdiction over the Rusyn community, and 3 years later, a Bishopric is established the same city. Shortly after that the new Bishop of Munkachevo in an attempt to expand its revenue base, clams jurisdiction over the rich Monastery of Peri making use of a forgery by inserting an extension to the Royal Charter of 1488

It follows a series of court cases and a bitter fight between the two parties over land and property rights which lasted from 1491 to 1494. The case eventually reached the highest authority in the Hungarian Kingdom, the King Vladislaus II. With the strong support of Voievod of Transylvania of that time, no other that Bartolomeu Dragfi a member of the founding family, the forgery removed and the case is resolved favorable for the Monastery of Peri in 1494. The Abbot of the Monastery had been assigned to a new hierarchical dependency to the Catholic Bishop of Transylvania in Alba Iulia based on the Union of 1452

The abuses of power from the Bishopric of Munkachevo such as illegal confiscations and tax collections from the local people led to a lot of bitterness and resentment. Starting with that event, the Old Church Slavonic under public pressure gave way to the language of the commoners. Shortly after that in 1497 or 1507 (according to the paper make), the oldest Romanian text for liturgical use Psaltirea Hurmuzachi had been written. One can also presume that many other manuscripts, of the same type but now lost, had been produced in the Monastery about that time and put in wide circulation in the Romanian speaking regions

The early manuscripts for Peri had inspired the next generations of Romanians at the grassroots. Thus, only two generations later in 1544, Filip Moldovean printed the Lutheran Catechism in Romanian, and in 1550 the Four Gospels in Sibiu, and Deacon Coresi printed also a series of Romanian translations of the Gospels in Brasov. All those early printed books are characterized by similarities of language of the manuscripts from the Monastery of Peri, an indication for the source of translation

Over the centuries, the Romanian language had completely replaced the Old Slavonic in the religious text. For the modern reader the utility of that move is obvious. It is just good to remember though that it took a struggle over jurisdiction at the border of two cultures in the North Western corner of Transylvania for the insight to get a ground. The extraordinary support and participation of the House of Drag should also be remembered

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