Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Additional Observations regarding the Phrase Religio Romana in a Transylvanian Document Dated 6 June 1574

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Additional Observations regarding the Phrase Religio Romana in a Transylvanian Document Dated 6 June 1574

Article excerpt

Abstract: After studying a Latin record issued on 6 June 1574 (referring to the Transylvanian Romanians), the specialists expressed different opinions regarding the expression romana videlicet seu graeca religio, i.e. "Roman or Greek religion" (which seems to be a nonsense, because "the Roman religion" is the Catholic and "the Greek religion" is the Orthodox denomination). The author believes that the issuer of the 1574 document only transposed into Latin a phrase commonly used in the Romanian Transylvanian environment, so that the "Romanian religion" became practically naturally, in Latin, religio romana, all the more so as we are dealing with an internal document, not intended for the Holy See or for other foreign institutions, where it may have created confusion. The matter of this unusual document is far from being settled, as the arguments raised are probably insufficient or not eloquent enough. However, they are just as consistent as those that suggest an interpretation based on the alleged Catholicism of the Romanians. Consequently, we consider that in the current stage of our knowledge it is plausible to believe that in the document of 1574 religio romana sive greca means "Romanian or Greek religion."

Key Words: Orthodox Romanians, Catholic, Protestant, religio romana, Transylvania, ethnonyms, ethnicity, early modern times


On 6 June 1574, Stephen Báthory, prince of Transylvania (and king of Poland after 1576), issued in Alba Iulia a document (known to Romanian historiography for more than a century) whereby "Friar Christopher (Hristofor), the priest" was appointed episcopum Valachorum presbyterorum transsilvanensium, romanam videlicet seu graecam religionem profitencium ("bishop of the Wallachian Transylvanian priests who follow the Roman, that is, the Greek faith").1 This unusual phrase, "the Roman, that is, the Greek faith" is repeated in the text, so we are not dealing with a mistake: ita tamen ut ipse religionem romanam sive grecam illis quibus interest, libere profiteri ac erudire... ("so that he, freely, to those interested in professing and practicing the Roman or Greek religion..." or universis et singulis discretis kalugeris, presbyteris walachis ac alterius cuiusvis status et condicionis hominibus grecam, ut premissum est, seu romanam religionem profitentibus ("to each and all of the wise monks, Wallachian priests or people of any other condition and station, who profess the Greek or, as stated before, Roman faith.")2 The historiography regarding the phrase in question and the message of this document has been surveyed relatively recently, an endeavor which therefore need not be repeated.3 Nevertheless, we must point out that there are basically two schools of thought: one initiated by Nicolae Iorga, who proposed the translation "Romanian or Greek religion" (both terms applied to the Eastern faith of the Transylvanian Romanians) and restricted the scope to the Orthodox faith, and another, which firmly associates the adjective romana with Catholicism, especially (according to Canon Augustin Bunea) in its "Uniate" form, later known as GreekCatholic faith (in other words, the document refers to two distinct denominations of the Transylvanian Romanians). In this second case, Bishop Christopher (Hristofor) would have had jurisdiction over both Orthodox and Uniate Romanians.4 Both interpretations continue to raise serious doubts, and the matter is far from being settled. However, a new analysis of the terms in the text, of the meaning of the ethnic and confessional notions featured therein, as well as of the historical context of the second half of the 16th century might lead to some partial conclusions.

The Ethnic Name of Romanians during the 16th Century. General Approach

Let us begin by looking at the ethnic designation likely to be applied to the Romanians in this official text from the second half of the 16th century. Today it is generally known that throughout their history, from the completion of their ethno-genesis (8th-9th centuries) and until the 19th century (in some cases, even until today), the Romanians had two ethnonyms, namely rumân/român (Romanian) and vlah/valah (Wallachian, circulating in a variety of forms). …

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