Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Litterae Missionariorum De Hungaria et Transilvania (1572-1717)

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Litterae Missionariorum De Hungaria et Transilvania (1572-1717)

Article excerpt

Litterae missionariorum de Hungaria et Transilvania (1572-1717), Vol. I. Edited by Istvan Gyorgy Toth. [Bibliotheca Academiae Hungariae, Roma, Fontes 4.] (Rome-Budapest: History Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. 2002. Pp. 756. 3000 Forint.)

This very thick first volume of a source collection contains the carefully edited letters, one ought to say reports, forwarded to the Congregatio de propaganda fide in Rome, by mainly Franciscan missionaries active in the regions of historic Hungary under the Turkish yoke, and of Transylvania ruled by Protestant princes in that time period. The originally researched and edited material is based upon written documents preserved in various archives in Rome. The first document printed in this first volume of a multi-volume set is the letter (report?) by Bonifacio di Ragusa, Bishop of Stagno, addressed to Pope Gregory XIII, dated in Ragusa on December 18, 1572. The last (n. 242) published document, the letter (report) by Archbishop Michele Magych of Antivar, sent from Nijemci (datum in Niemczi, diocesi Syrmiensi), and addressed to Cardinal Antonio Barberini, Prefect of the Congregatio de propoganda fide, is dated from July 14, 1636.

Professor Toth's most conscientious editorial work is similar in approach to Epistolae et acta Jesuitarum (1575-88), and to Annuae litterae Soc. Jesu de rebus Transylvanicis temporibus principum Bathory (1579-1613), Vols. II and V of Fontes rerum Transylvanicarum series, edited by Andreas Veress (Budapest, 1913 and 1921, respectively). One has to bear in mind that, at this time, from the 1540's to the 1690's, historic Hungary was broken up into three parts: the mid-section, occupied by the Turks, belonged to the Ottoman empire; the western part including the north and northwest formed the Hungarian kingdom under Catholic Habsburg rule and was regarded as a part of the Habsburg world empire, while the east became the principality of Transylvania, though its princes frequently paid their dues to the Sublime Porte in Istanbul. Therefore, the reports-sometimes of personal nature-sent by mainly Franciscan missionaries, or by Jesuits dressed as secular clergymen, to the Sacred Congregation in Rome about their activities in regions under direct Turkish rule, or in areas of Protestant Transylvania, essentially provide original, frequently eyewitness and honest records that depict the spiritual well-being, religious and social status, everyday living, economic and cultural conditions among the sparse population under Turkish rule and in the principality; they report on various ethnic groups, their number, their colorful folk and religious customs, even their pagan superstitions. …

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